I’ve been really hesitant to write about this, and haven’t actually talked about it with a whole lot of people. But here goes. Since I gave birth at a Baby Friendly birth center, breastfeeding was strongly encouraged (to the point that if you’re not interested in giving it a go, they encourage you to seek another place to give birth) and incredibly well supported. 7 weeks in, we’ve had a lot of issues, and sadly it’s still painful for me. But Andrick is gaining weight very well, and he seems to enjoy nursing, so I’m still plugging away at it.
Within the first few days after he was born, Andrick had jaundice and was losing weight quickly. For 24 hours, we were on a supplemental feeding schedule. I would feed him and then pump while Andy would give him my pumped milk through a syringe. My pumped milk was supplemented with human donor milk to give him 2 full syringes (I believe each one was half an ounce, and the most I could ever pump during that period was half an ounce) so he never received formula. We did this routine every 3 hours for a full day while Andrick was on a bili blanket at home. It was incredibly grueling, but he gained 4 ounces in 24 hours. From there, his bili levels went down and he has continued to gain weight steadily. I think this entire situation would’ve gone quite differently had we been with an OB practice, and I’m thankful we were able to overcome his jaundice without going to the hospital, compromising my supply, or introducing formula.
The other issue (and the one that’s the root of our current issues) was that Andrick was born with a tongue tie. He had it clipped by one of the midwives two days after he was born, but 5 weeks in nursing was still very painful for me. After visiting a lactation consultant back at the birth center, we ended up seeing an ENT for a deeper clipping to give him more mobility with his tongue. Again, he was gaining weight steadily and had figured out a way to nurse that worked for him but was painful for me. I’ve been working with lactation consultants to help him learn how to nurse correctly, and it’s slowly getting better. Then I got a clogged milk duct, and somehow that coincided with a little regression on the part of Andrick’s tongue because the getting better has stopped.
So, I continue to hurt during most every nursing session, and my nipples are incredibly sensitive in between. I’ve thought about giving up many times, but breastfeeding is just so important to me. I’m pressing on (maybe I’m insane). I’d love to do it for a year. And I am hopeful it will get better–maybe even become that amazing bonding experience that so many women talk about. I completely understand now why breastfeeding just doesn’t work out in a lot of situations. If it weren’t for the support I’ve had from the birth center, I think I would’ve given up a long time ago. For me, breastfeeding is so hard, and the least natural thing in the world. I think I am also continuing out of sheer stubbornness, because this is something I’ve always wanted to do.
While I am so incredibly disappointed by the breastfeeding experience I’ve had with Andrick, I can honestly say it hasn’t yet kept me from enjoying his infancy and taking good care of him. If that were the case, I would feel differently about continuing. But at this point, it’s like the other discomforts that come with having a newborn–lack of sleep, postpartum aches and pains, etc. I also know that I am not dealing with postpartum depression. If breastfeeding was causing or contributing to that, I’d like to think I would quit.
I guess I’d like to say, to anyone who may be reading this and is having a similar experience, you are not alone. Breastfeeding is not rainbows and unicorns for everyone who chooses to do it. And while I know I am under no obligation to continue, it’s still something I want to do. And I still have hope that it can get better.