Sunday, February 8, 2015

Breastfeeding Sucks

No pun intended. I had no idea that it was possible to absolutely hate and love something simultaneously. If I had had a free minute to write this last week, it would have been another doom and gloom post but - SPOILER ALERT - this tale has a happy ending. Or least a happy middle. Hopefully our breastfeeding saga is far from over. And hopefully it remains a happy tale.

I  mentioned before that I had a terrible engorgement experience and that E was having a hard time latching well which led to some cracked and bleeding nipples. Those are exactly as awesome as they sound. It was all incredibly painful and ridiculously frustrating. Add on the anxiety of wondering whether or not E was getting enough to eat, the guilt about being unable to do something that is supposed to be so "natural" and the pressure from the "breast is best" campaign. All of that combined to make our first two weeks together a little bit miserable. I'm not sure who cried more often - me or E. Probably me.

I think it was mostly the guilt that got to me. It broke my heart when E was hungry and he would turn toward me looking for something to eat and I couldn't give him anything. I was sad that we wouldn't get to have that special alone time together that he could never share with anyone else. I was angry too. Getting pregnant was difficult enough, why did we have to have trouble with breastfeeding too? It just seemed unfair.

We finally got in to see a lactation consultant during the second week. She confirmed that E wasn't latching well and tried to help us figure out some positions and techniques that might help him. She also mentioned that E had a tongue-tie and that his tongue was tight. After going home and Googling it, I made an appointment with an ENT specialist to see if there was anything that we could or should do about that. I was desperate for anything that might help us with the breastfeeding. The ENT doctor said that E did have a tongue-tie, but that it was mild. He said that E would mostly likely grow out of it and that he didn't believe it would ever have any impact on speech later on. We still had the option of clipping the tie, but I knew that doing so would have been an emotional decision based on my desperation so we decided not to do it.

After a few more days of misery, I decided that I just could not breastfeed. I really wanted E to get some breast milk (mostly for the antibodies) so I threw myself into exclusively pumping. It was okay the first day. I was pumping enough milk to feed E through the day and night. The problem is that that shit is time consuming. You spend 20-30 minutes giving the baby a bottle. Then you spend some time getting the baby to lay down or settle in a chair or swing. Then you spend about 30 minutes pumping. And then 10 more washing your pump parts. By the time you're done, the baby is ready to eat again. I lost it on the third day. I just felt like I wasn't getting to spend any time with E because I was too busy trying to pump. It just didn't feel like the right solution for us.

That's when I got my second (actually it was probably my third or fourth) wind. I watched some more You Tube videos on latching and gave it another try. I was so determined for this to work. And for whatever reason - it did. We got through a whole day with E breastfeeding and me not feeling any pain. And then another day and another. Who knows what happened. I'm guessing that E just sort of grew into it. Maybe he just wasn't used to opening his mouth wide enough before then. I think I also got better at holding him in a good position.

It's been about a week now and we're still doing pretty well. We have good days and bad days. Some days, he latches on perfectly and eats well. Other days, he seems to fuss a lot or falls asleep after eating for only a few minutes. I still have some anxiety about whether he's actually getting enough. We have been bottle feeding him breast milk at night. That's working well for us because I can keep track of how much he's eating and I also think it helps him sleep more soundly at night.

Post-feeding snuggles are my favorite.
It's not perfect yet. E spits up a lot when he breastfeeds. Google tells me that we might have an issue with strong letdown/oversupply. It might be that he's getting too much milk too quickly and his little stomach can't handle it. Hopefully if that's the case, the problem will sort itself out when my supply regulates. The other problem I'm still having is my anxiety. I've always had some sensory issues and I really really don't like the feeling of full boobs. When they start to fill up, I'm hyper-aware of it. It's really hard for me to ignore the feeling and I get so afraid that I'm going to get engorged again or that I'll get an infection if they don't empty right away. I really hate it and I'm just hoping that it's something I will get used to.

Breastfeeding is great and I'm really grateful that it's starting to work out for us, but I do wish there wasn't so much pressure on moms to make it work. Maybe it's the "best" (I don't know) but that doesn't mean that the other options aren't great too. It sucks that so many people (myself obviously included) feel like they're failing or giving up if they can't or don't breastfeed. I need to work on be kinder to myself. It wasn't my fault that I couldn't get pregnant and it won't be my fault if it turns out that breastfeeding is not the best choice for me and E. For now, we're doing the best that we can and we'll just have to wait and see how things go!


  1. Hi lady, dp21 following you here :) I just wanted to weight in, miss G is 5 weeks old and we had breastfeeding struggles up until this past Friday. Breastfeeding is a steep learning curve and unfortunately not open in our society, so we don't grow up watching others doing it to learn. We are finally on track and it's great.

    We found a peds office with a lactation consultant/nurse practitioner, so it's just an office co-pay and less than 5 minutes from our house. We have had weekly appointments with her and finally had our last one at 5 weeks this past friday after trialing breastfeeding only for a week and my little one gained 8.4oz in a week!!!

    So at our weekly appointments, they would do a weight check (to see if gaining appropriate amount), a breastfeeding test (you feed baby and they weigh with breastfeeding scale before and after to see how much baby is taking in), and we would formulate a plan for the week until our next appointment. So they can tell you if he is getting enough!

    My little one was not taking in enough on her own the first 3.5-4 weeks. So I was "supplementing" with pumped breastmillk. She was inefficient at the breast, very sleepy, and liked to latch onto nipple only at beginning. I was pumping after every feed (offering her breast first then bottle to encourage breastfeeding). It was very time consuming, I also had cracked nipples and cried a I feel your pain.

    Around week 4, she started spitting up a lot and I was thinking maybe she was getting enough, so I stopped supplementing her with my own milk. Went to see LC and she lost weight :( But LC thought it could be due to all the changes, I wasn't supplementing & I stopped pumping. We did a breastfeeding test and for the first time she took enough off the breast alone 3 oz in 15 minutes on one side (before she was taking 34ml in 20 minutes off one side)! So we decided to try breastfeeding only for a week and see what happens. At our 5 week appointment, she gained plenty of weight (8.4oz in a week) and we finally graduated! I am no longer pumping and finally just breastfeeding only and it is wonderful. No more appointments for an entire month!

    So highly recommend finding a good LC that is easy access. I also kept a log of every feed/pump amount/diaper/bottle amount and handed it our LC/NP so she could see how she was doing/do calculations. Also for cleaning pump parts, you don't need to wash after every feed, throw in a ziplock bag and put in fridge (good for 12 hours).

    You are doing an AWESOME job. Keep up the good work momma!!!!! So proud of you. It is hard, you are not alone, but you will make it out the other end. I thought I never would, but with good support/help you can! Sorry for the long post lol.

    Have you seen this video:

  2. You are seriously amazing!! You are doing an incredible job and E is so lucky to have such a strong, determined, loving and caring mom. There really is a lot of pressure on moms and I feel like our IF history is tightly wound up in how I feel about it all - not wanting to fail (though I know logically that's not true), desperately wanting to be able to do something that's 'natural', something I should be able to do. It's hard, even though people don't seem to like to admit that. Your determination and willingness to keep at this is truly commendable. And if it's not for you (or me), I know we will still be making the best choice for our babies and our families.
    Big hugs lady <3

  3. I'm glad BF is going better now! I'm preparing to take on the challenge myself - and I am trying to get into a positive mentality about it but I know it is going to take a lot of hard work! Thanks for sharing your story about breastfeeding - I hear too many stories of women who just "took naturally" to it and I want to vomit. Also, he is adorable. Such a snuggly baby:)

  4. I think you have a good attitude about it! I'm sorry it's been so hard to get to this point but I really hope E will continue to latch well and you won't have pain. Just wanted to send you a hug. You are doing great <3

  5. I'm so sorry that it's been so challenging, and I can definitely see how it would pick at all the IF wounds. Hugs for you <3

  6. I'm also sorry to hear it's been difficult but am glad to hear that it is getting better :) Hang in there sweetie ((hugs))