Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breast feeding...not for the faint of heart

During my stay at the hospital, a lactation consultant stopped by to talk and also passed along a book about breast feeding. The gist of the book is that breast feeding is a natural process that industrialized society has overanalyzed to make more difficult. According to them, breast feeding should not be painful. If it is, you are doing something wrong and need to correct the latch, position, etc.

All I can say about my experience in comparison to what the book describes is that -- it's a bunch of bull! Breast feeding HAS NOT been easy. The struggle to make it work combined with a bunch of assvice from the various nurses and practitioners about feeding in general drove me to tears several times over the last three weeks. (Can you believe my little man is three weeks old - cartwheels!!!) Most of the 'advice' was accurate to babies in general just not in relation to my child who was a late preterm baby.

Shortly after baby E was born, the nurses took his glucose level which was just one point off of the target. Because of this, they wanted me to try to feed him immediately which is fairly typical to do with newborns anyway. Baby E was not quite ready to nurse and made no attempt to suck or latch on. My body wasn't ready either as nothing was coming out! The nurses quickly went into crisis aversion mode and started telling us that feeding him formula was necessary at this point, but simultaneously trying to keep us from freaking out as I expect some parents do. We cut them off midstream to let them know we just wanted to get our child fed if that's what he needed. I think because so many things have been screwy in trying to get and stay pregnant, that I just didn't assume I would be able to breast feed. My hubby is really good about keeping us focused on the goal--in this case, getting E's glucose level up. So formula feed from a bottle (gasp!) ensued.

Over the next few days we were told all of these things by various hospital staff:

  • Your son does not need to eat regularly within the first 24 hours.
  • Your son was early, so he needs to eat every three hours within the first 24 hours.
  • Colostrum is liquid gold so any drop you get is better than nothing. 
  • 1 ml of colostrum is great!
  • Oh, you only got 1 ml?
  • Your son needs to eat 15 ml of formula past whatever you are able to pump.
  • Your son can eat as much as he will take in a sitting (Massive spit-up ensues).
  • You just need to try a nipple shield to be able to breast feed.
  • Use a nipple on the formula bottle.
  • Don't use a nipple on the formula bottle because he won't latch on later! You should use a syringe and a feeding tube.
  • Don't use a syringe and feeding tube, use it only through a nipple shield (S&S) so he gets the sucking idea.
  • Let your son go to the nursery at night.
  • Don't let your son go to the nursery at night because they'll feed him formula (duh duh duhhhhhhh!)
It seemed like every person that came in had a different opinion on what we should do to feed our son. Meanwhile we are sitting there in the hospital thinking, "aren't you the professionals?" A lot of the conflicting information was because he was early and didn't necessarily have the skills to act like a 40 weeker. Also because the hospital is certified "breast feeding friendly," all of the nurses have some sort of training in facilitating breast feeding which means a mess of different opinions and options. Sigh. They meant well, but the advice didn't mesh well together. Finally, we got a plan going with the lactation consultant that we felt comfortable with before we left the hospital.

Then, at our four day weight check at the military hospital, the VERY pro-breast feeding nurse adamantly insisted that I didn't need any of the above feeding methods and could just breast feed. Lo and behold she showed me a different type of hold (australian football hold) and wouldn't you know, he latched right on and was able to sustain his feeding without passing out from exhaustion. Go E!

Of course the fun just got started as I discovered that breast feeding is not for the faint of heart. Blood blisters, cracked nipples, white blood deprived nipple line, bleeding nipples, sore boobs, dripping boobs, engorged boobs combined with tears streaming down my face from pain followed. While breast feeding is great in terms of bonding with your baby and providing good nutrition for him, the pain of the first month is severely glossed over! Everyone assures me it gets better, but the first few weeks have been pretty tortuous for me. I'm so glad I have stuck it out thus far but seriously, I never understood how truly difficult it can be. 

Of course, I am incredibly glad that I am able to even go through the craziness of breast feeding as it's not always an option for women, especially those that have gone through IVF. However, I would feel remiss in my truthful blogging if I didn't tell you about the reality of wading through feeding in the first days and the pain of breast feeding. 

Now I must go feed my son. :) 



  1. To be honest, the BF thing is one of my biggest worries. I too have a feeling it won't be easy, but at the same time really, really want to make it work.

  2. I'm so there with you. While, I haven't had pain, we have gone through some hardships. While in the hospital we though our little guy latched on really well right from the start. We told the hospital's lactation ladies that we were good. They didn't take the time to actually watch us, and being a first-time mom, I didn't really know. To us he was sucking and getting food. Well, not so much. The pediatrician told us he was losing too much weight and we needed to supplement with formula, then the lactation ladies got mad when we told them and told me to pump and feed him that. The little guy was also super fussy, and they actually dropped him in our room from the nursery and said, "we can't get him to calm down so you have to take him" at about one in the morning. It's because he was starving, and we didn't know it. I felt horrible. We're good now pumping, and I'll be blogging about this eventually once I can write about it without crying.

  3. Ack...I am really nervous I won't be able to breast feed, and since I will only get 6 weeks at home that I won't get enough of a routine...please share more when you can!

  4. Oh my!

    Breastfeeding is something I am anxious about, and I have no personal experience to 'latch' on. Anyways, you seem to have been bombarded with North-South ideas about it.

    Thanks for sharing the truth.

  5. Hi
    If you have sore/bleeding nipples I would really recommend trying to see an IBCLC certified lactation consultant. That is not just normal got to get through stuff!

  6. Can I add to the assvice? I think that if your nipples are sore then the nipple in not going deeply enough into the babies mouth. That is what happened to me. You try to widen the baby's mouth by gently pushing on the chin. Sometimes it is just that the baby is small and as the baby gets bigger it gets easier.

  7. Yep, that is pretty much what is causing it to happen Not on Fire! The lactation consultant says we are latching on as properly as we can but his mouth is not big enough yet to make it work properly. So as for now...I just have to deal! Anonymous - thankfully all of that has stopped now, so I just have to wait for his mouth to get bigger so my tatas aren't so sore! Thanks!

  8. What on earth is the australian football hold??? I think I need a photo of that one.

    I've heard rumors that breastfeeding has a lot of challenges and it sounds so confusing to have so many conflicting opinions thrown at you. Makes you wonder if there really is a one size fits all approach. Maybe it's about trying everything until you find what works for you. Oh, I don't know, but it sounds like a painful process you've had to go through. Hoping it does indeed get easier from here on in.

  9. I'm sorry it sucks right now - in the end, we had to switch to pumping exclusively because the babies were losing weight and their mouths were too small. I'm glad you've stuck it out - it will get better!!!

  10. They told me to drink beer! Hang in there. Billy never got enough to eat and he tolerated formula well. At age 23 he is fine.