Not all Breastfeeding stories are considered success stories. But... I can guarantee all breastfeeding stories end with a happy, healthy, well fed baby! If you ask me… that is success in and of itself.When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby… I never would have thought in a million years that breastfeeding would have been an issue for me. It just seemed natural. I watched my mom feed my younger sisters that way, I watched my Sister in Law feed her son every time he needed to be fed, and I watched how one of my co-workers excused herself every few hours to go pump so she could feed her baby when she got home! They all made it look easy. So no…. if you told me I was going to have issues… I would not have believed you! It wasn’t until my husband and I went to our parenting/childbirth class that we realized it may be an issue. She talked about several issues that cause breastfeeding to be unsuccessful. I remember thinking, “I won’t do any of those things”, and “that won’t happen to me!” At the end of the breastfeeding presentation. She demonstrated on diagram how to test your breast for inverted nipples. She said, one in ten women have this issue. With a class of 18 one or two of us could have this issue. If we did and planned on breastfeeding…. we needed to talk to our OB right away. Well… I wasn’t even going to try to test my breasts! I just knew I wasn’t the one person in the class of 18 women to have this issue. I did indeed give into to curiosity and discovered it was me! dang it! No big deal right!?! I will just talk to the OB and everything will be ok!
Kiana was only 4lbs and 15oz and looked like a 32 week old fetus when she was born. Thankfully, She was perfect in every other way! She had no birth defects or disabilities. The two biggest issues were her being underweight and not having enough fat in her body. I tell you what, I wish I had that problem right now but we aren’t talking about me! She could not regulate her own body temperature and she couldn’t suck. They had a very hard time getting her to try to eat. She just didn’t have the strength to suck and swallow… even though the natural instinct inside her was telling her to do so. We really thought they were going to put a feeding tube in her. Eventually we learned that she could eat through a syringe. So we did that for awhile and thankfully avoided the feeding tube. While still in critical care for pre-eclampsia (another complication we didn’t know about until the day I had her) the lactation nurse came in and helped me try to feed my daughter. I was very ill and medicated and don’t really remember that moment… but I do remember feeling like I was never going to be able to feed her. God gave me two perfectly good breasts, and I wasn’t going to be able to use them to nourish my baby. It was a devastating feeling. I worked so hard on the inverted nipple issue, that I was convinced I could breastfeed her. But it wasn’t working! She didn’t have the fat pads in her cheeks required to form suction. She couldn’t suck! and you know what!?! …that SUCKED!
When I spoke with my Dr. she insured me that it was going to be ok! If I was determined to breastfeed, I could totally do it! It was going to be a lil’ work, but it could be done. I went to visit a lactation consultant and she prescribed some supple cups to wear on my breasts as soon as I reached full term (37 weeks). I would wear them under my bra for a few hours a day, spread out through the day. They were not comfortable…. but at that point in pregnancy, is anything comfortable? I wore those suckers (haha, pun not intended… ok, maybe it was!) exactly like they were prescribed! My husband and I even had a pet name for them dear cups, we called them my Madonna’s (I know… hilarious, right!?!) I was excited and proud that I was doing something good! I was going to be able to breastfeed my baby because I was doing exactly what they told me to do. I just knew the problem was taken care of and now…I could worry about other things! …and then Kiana was born with a birthing complication I didn’t even know existed. She was an IUGR baby, Intrauterine growth restriction. She was born with failure to thrive before I could even try to nourish her!
The next day, when I moved to a regular room, they had showed me how they were feeding her. I was so relieved that she didn’t have a feeding tube… I cried! They brought her to me in hopes I could warm her up and she could bring my blood pressure down. We both were in danger of going back to the ICU. Thankfully, kangaroo care worked for both of us. It was great! The Dr even wrote it as an order! it was only thing keeping my blood pressure down, despite being maxed out on oral blood pressure medication. While doing skin to skin, she began to root. So we called the lactation nurse in to help me try to latch. It wasn’t going very well…. my milk was coming in pretty quickly, my nipples were inverted, and her tiny mouth just could get a good latch. A special nipple/bottle was recommended, but I was still determined to breastfeed! I didn’t want her to have a bottle. We syringe fed her again and they showed me how to feed her from a syringe to a tube that through a nipple shield. That way it simulated breast feeding and we could get into a grove. The problem was… my milk came in early and my breasts were engorged. I had to pump! One, to get the nipples to pop out, and two, to make my breast smaller so this tiny thing could latch. They realized I was pumping out important milk that Kiana needed, so we started feeding that to her through the syringe. When the specialist explained the importance of the special nipple. We agreed to use a bottle so we could help her exercise her cheeks and build the muscles she needed to suck in the future. Even though my milk came in early and my breast were engorged…. when I would pump, I would only get a lil’ bit of milk. It was frustrating! Finally, we figured out how to feed our baby… and now my milk is not enough.
We decided on using a little formula to supplement my breast milk. Kiana took to the Haberman feeder and was handling the formula very well. With my blood pressure doing much better and Kiana finally eating… we were ready to go home. Everyone was pleased that Kiana had only lost 2 ounces since birth. She was still so tiny, but everything was going to be just fine. When we got home, our breastfeeding issues did not get any better. It was a very difficult time. We were feeding her every 2 hours, but the process took about 1:30-1:45 each feeding. I would have to pump 10-15 minutes on one side to get my nipple to pop out and for the milk flow to start. I would stop and try to get Kiana to latch on, let her feed for 20 minuets, while trying to keep her awake and not frustrated. Then we would do the exact same thing on the other side. Then… when that was all done, we would feed her the lil’ bit of liquid gold that was pumped. Then to wrap the feeding process up… we would top her off with Formula. It was very exhausting and frustrating for all of us. We went to the lactation nurses at least twice a week. Thankfully Kiana was growing and her cheeks were getting stronger. At 2 months old, Kiana was getting mostly formula. I continued to pump every three hours and tried to breastfeed her as well. When she was 3 months old… I went back to work. I worked 12 hour shifts at a hospital and could not pump every three hours… my small milk supply became even smaller. We went back to the lactation nurse with the encouragement of Kiana’s pediatrician. There were supplements I could take to help with the supply… or we could decided to stop. With much prayer and consideration…Finally at 5 months we decided to stop.
At first, I cried! I felt like I fought so hard to breastfeed this baby… why give up now! But I have to be honest with you… After the initial disappointment wore off, I felt so free and started to really enjoy being a mother!!! I realized that a happy healthy baby who was eating well, growing well, and sleeping well was the most important thing! My decision did not affect Kiana in anyway at all. She adjusted very well to 100% formula and at 6 months she started getting baby food. She was a happy eater. She liked trying new things and was growing by leaps and bounds. She was still pretty tiny but reached almost every milestone early. The pediatrician would always say, she’s petite and perfect! I learned that I put to much stress on myself to breastfeed my baby. I had it in my heart that it was the only way to feed her. I believed that it was going to make her smarter and bigger and healthier. …Maybe it would have, But I am very pleased with the way things turned out! I didn’t realize until I quit, that I was 100% consumed by it. I felt like a bad mommy because I felt so stressed and exhausted and worn out. When we decided to quit… I realized that snuggling and feeding her a bottle was actually much more enjoyable. We both were much more relaxed. I really started to love being a mommy!
I am not saying that breastfeeding is hard and you shouldn’t do it. I am not saying that if breastfeeding is a struggle, you should quit. I am not saying if you have issues with your breasts, forget it. What I am saying is breastfeeding isn’t always successful, for whatever reasons. AND it is OK!!! Remember…. a happy healthy well adjusted baby is what we are after. If that means bottle feeding with formula… so be it! Don’t beat yourself up by the decisions you make. Don’t let your beliefs keep you tied to something that is difficult and makes you feel like a bad mother. Seek advice from books, doctors, professionals, friends, and family. But remember… It’s just advice! Go by your mommy gut and pray! You will always make the best decision for you and your lil’ one. Even if it means doing something you never thought you would do. Your baby just wants to be loved and fed and clean and snuggled. As long as you are doing that, you can call yourself a success!!!