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Breastfeeding Challenges

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One of my biggest fears regarding having a baby was the inability to breastfeed. Thank God that is not the case, but it has definitely been a challenge to successfully breastfeed.

Lila and I didn’t not have the easiest of deliveries and as a result, she was not able to immediately try to breastfeed after birth. In addition, the difficult birth resulted with Lila having a pinched nerve in her left cheek which caused it to sag. My lactation consultant and pediatrician both agree that this made it more difficult for Lila to suck.

After I got stitched up at the midwifery, I attempted to breastfeed Lila with no luck. She showed some interest, but never actually had a successful latch. We left that night with a bottle of donated breast milk and a couple syringes. The midwife taught us how to feed Lila with a syringe while she sucked on our finger. This broke my heart, but I was optimistic that it would only take a few more tries before she was nursing like a pro.

This was not the case.

After two days, Lila was done with the bottle of breast milk and still hadn’t successfully nursed from me. I was pumping what little I could and feeding her that along with the breast milk. I was really starting to get depressed about it and getting really discouraged. Our midwife gave us another bottle of donated milk and told me to meet with a lactation consultant asap. At this point, Lila had already lost 9.5 ounces and was down to 8 pounds.

I was finally able to get a hold of my consultant, Susan Sullivan, that evening and after learning about the situation and her pinched nerve, she suggested that I try a nipple shield. My parents were able to get one for me that night and to my pleasant surprise, Lila latched on perfectly to the nipple shield! This brought me tears of joy I was so happy. Of course, I would want to eventually ditch the shield, but this was the first positive sign of progress.

We stopped using the donated milk and I fed Lila with the shield on for close to 2 days. I didn’t even attempt removing the shield at first because I wanted her to get used to sucking at my breast before changing things on her again. The first time I removed the shield, Lila latched on without a problem. Oh happy day!

At this point, Lila was close to 4 days old. We had paperwork from our pediatrician that said after 5 days, we could stop forcing Lila to eat after every 2-3 hours and let her tell us when she was hungry as long as she didn’t go longer than 5 hours without eating. Since we had such a rocky start, we shouldn’t have followed this, but we didn’t know. As a result, Lila went 10 days without gaining any weight :( Now we are supplementing formula with most feedings until she is back to birth weight. Her next weight check is on Monday, and the pediatrician is confident that she’ll be at a good weight by then.

When the midwife first told us that we were going to need to supplement with some formula, my heart sank. I didn’t ever want to see that disgusting stuff enter her mouth. I even called the pediatricians that same day hoping that they wouldn’t agree with the midwife, but they did. It was such a hard day for me and I’d cry every time she had to drink it. I felt like I failed her. I’m still sad about it, but doing much better. I’m certain that when we go in for a weight check on Monday that everything will be great and that the pediatrician will tell us to stop the supplementing.

On top of letting her sleep too long between feedings, I have also learned that I wasn’t properly interpreting many of Lila’s cries. I assumed that since I had just finished feeding her, she wasn’t hungry. But I’ve since learned that she’ll often act as though she’s done, but not really be. Now that I’m feeding her more often and learning when she’s hungry, I believe that I could get her weight up without the formula, but we’re feeding it to her anyway because it’s what the pediatrician recommends. We usually only feed it to her for the day feedings though because all three of us are too exhausted for the middle of the night feedings. I absolutely hate waking her up so often. Many times I have to put a cold towel on her to wake her up and it makes me sad to do it to her. By the time I wake her up, feed her, and Dave gives her formula, it’s usually been well over an hour which means the process starts all over again in about another hour. It’s brutal on all of us. And since we believe Lila’s sleep is also important, we have decided to skip the formula in the middle of the night. She still gained 5 ounces in 2 days doing this, so I’m not worried about her not getting enough.

So yeah, breastfeeding has not been easy, but I believe we’ll be pros at it in no time. I’ll keep you posted regarding her weight on Monday!

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