When Breastfeeding Hits a Snag

WARNING: Lots of boob talk. If this makes you uncomfortable, choose this post instead where I talk about childhood playgrounds.

This is the tough part. I know this. Getting a good supply, latch, timing and rhythm take some time. We are still learning…but sometimes there are more than the usual woes. I want breastfeeding to work…because let’s be honest…newborns are kinda boring. They rob you of sleep and cry for no reason. My one bright spot is/was/can be nursing. The relaxation and bonding. It makes it bearable to me sometimes…and they are quiet then too. Maybe I am a bad person for saying that but it is.

So it isn’t going perfectly like I would have hoped. Definitely a case of the “every kid is different” cliche. It has been a struggle so far. I am committed to making it work. It makes me sad that some people get to this point and give up…and I can’t say I blame them. I just know what is on the other side.

It started with a chomping infant and some cracked nipples in the hospital. I saw 3 lactation consultants while there(standard care). 2 of them came after he was fed and we talked. I knew all the signs and what to look for. It would work itself out. The 3rd helped me latch lying down and gave me great tips on pumping going back to work. But no one really saw anything wrong with the latch. It was tender but I assumed the initial rough up period plus a few bad sessions withy the crack were to blame.

I was wrong.

On Monday after birth, we did a weigh check. He was up an oz since discharge. Awesome. Come back Wednesday for another check just to make sure he is gaining. Wednesday brought a 5oz increase! Awesome again. 7lb 8oz and growing. At this rate, he would be well over his birth weight in 2 weeks.

Now my only problem was me. My nipples still hurt something bad. I dreaded each latch. He was biting down. From the outside, the latch was perfect. Fish lips, right position, etc. But it hurt. Through my tears, Kevin helped me go to the bedroom to work with O on latching. He cried and I cried. I was making him relatch over and over. It was awful and still not better. My MIL came over and I texted with Poe about my issues. She recommended breast shells to help with healing and Kevin drove out at 9pm to get them. At least those let me heal. Also to note, you know you have made awesome internet friends when they offer you their breastmilk stash. I teared up at the sentiment alone.

Thursday morning I called for my free lactation consult at Wake Med. She watched him latch. Looked good. I needed to feed more tissue to him but otherwise is “looked” right but still hurt. She did notice his shorter tongue and that it rarely was going beyond his gums. She recommended a nipple shield to help with the pain and latch. Instant relief. I started to feed with the shield 24/7…which is where I made my mistake.

Tuesday morning Kevin, Oliver and I packed up and headed to a routine newborn behavior analyst exam at our work healthcare. It kinda didn’t work out because he was fussy or too sleepy to do parts of it but oh well. On our way out we asked if we could weigh him for curiosity. We put him on the scale and it said 7lbs 3oz. That’s odd. I was sure their scale was just off. We weren’t doing an apples to apples comparison. She recommended calling our ped anyway. So  we made an appointment for the afternoon.

Sure enough, 7lbs 1 oz at the pediatrician. WTF?!?!?! Cue concerned Brandy.

The pediatrician said he was concerned.  In my discussion, it came up that I didn’t have my nipple shield to  feed there in the office. Red flag! He said “that may be why we are seeing a loss”. Apparently it can restrict milk flow. Oliver is already a lazy nurser and this made him lazier.  He would get enough to be content and then quit. He was getting less and less. Enough to stop crying and go to sleep but not enough to keep him going. He said he was glad we had randomly weighed him. From his look and disposition, you would never know.  I then was told to nurse him there in the office and see how much he took in (granted I has just fed him maybe 1.5 hours before). We sat there in the office alone with me crying and him eating for 45 minutes while Kevin kept Landon entertained in the lobby.  At the end of the feeding, he had gotten .5oz.  Nothing. He recommended supplementing with pumped milk an oz or so after each feeding with a syringe. Then after each feeding, pumping for 10 minutes. Then when he was checking him out, he noticed a fleck of blood in his diaper. He thinks this is a intolerance to something in my diet. I am not off dairy and soy to see if that helps too. THEN he saw a little sore on his penis that we needed to treat.

That was it. I couldn’t keep the emotions hidden anymore. Tears filled my eyes as he talked. It was my worst nightmare. I went in for what I knew was a clerical error and here I am being given a list of things going wrong. He was very apologetic and made sure to tell me it would all be better but I was pretty far gone. He said he knew it was overwhelming but definitely all fixable. By the time Kevin got to the room, I was sobbing.

We went home to start the routine. Right off the bat, he wouldn’t just drink from the syringe. I had to “trick him” and put it along side my nipple while he nursed. It is a pain too. Trying to get it in the right spot so he is sucking out the milk and not just running out his mouth. So we did this routine every 3 hours for 48 hours. I did skip the supplement in the middle of the night for sanity sake and to get some sleep. Sometimes this process could take up to 1.5 hours…and I was feeding every 3. So you can see where my sleep was. It fucking sucks. I am covered in breastmilk with no time to take a shower usually. Rinse and repeat.

So Thursday afternoon came the big weigh in. All my hopes riding on that dumb scale with my naked baby. I didn’t even go over there. I let Kevin take him and read to Landon. Then I heard it, from across the office. 7 lbs 6 oz. He gained 5oz in 48 hours. The doctor said he was impressed. They were hoping for .5 or 1 oz gain. 5 was blowing it out of the water. PHEW! CAN I GET A FUCKING HIGH FIVE, PEOPLE!?

So the supplementing is coming easier. The pumping is getting better so I am ahead of what he needs and no formula should have to be given ( i gave him like .5oz to help beef him up but he HATED it…poor guys face). We are getting faster at feeding in general so I can get more sleep. Oliver is sleeping better too. Monday we have our 2 week exam and get a new plan based on what he gained. Please tell me I can stop supplementing!

I am calling SAS lactation again today to get another consult about the biting. Obviously he is eating just fine but it isn’t comfortable for me. The pediatrician noted his recessed jaw. It may just be anatomy but I just want to be sure. I am also going to rent a hospital pump for a month to build some excess supply.  I fortunately had pumped a few oz earlier in the week so we had enough for the supplementing…I just need to keep it up.

Moral of the story: it’s hard work…but it is hard work I WANT to do. Even if I am crying and cursing because the syringe won’t go, I WANT this. Fuck, I NEED this. Now that Oliver is gaining weight, I don’t think I am being selfish. He is thriving and we will get there. I will stop eating cheese gladly if I can have this bond with him. We will get there. It has only been 2 weeks, right?

 

55 Comments

  1. Pingback: What A Mighty Good Mann

  2. Hang in there girl! It does suck…more than anything I’ve ever done. It took 3 kids to get it “right” without the sore and cracked nipples. It gets better! Awesome job for sticking with it! They never tell you just how hard breastfeeding is and it makes it almost unbearable with bad latching and hormones…watch out husbands! *High Five*

    • Thankfully the cracking has gone. Now it is mild tenderness honestly. I feel like he latches well some of the times. Almost like he is just calming down and getting better on his own. Thanks

  3. I’m so impressed that you are hanging in there!

    My nipples actually retracted into my body thinking about cracked ones- I remember those days and they so hurt! It would be time for a feeding and I’d want to cry.

    Hang in there- hoping it gets much easier soon!

  4. Hang in there, Mama! It DOES get better. Easier. Dairy-free isn’t the end of the world (and truthfully, it’s what helped me lose my baby weight after Joshua, so there’s that) if that’s what you have to do. You are doing an amazing job! AMAZING. If you have to keep supplementing for a little while longer, ask the lactation consultant about a supplemental nursing system. The SNS might be easier than the syringe. It also might help to have him evaluated for a tongue-tie.

    I feel like I’m vomming in your comments. If you need me, g-chat me or FB me or email. I’m here even if you just need to go “THIS FUCKING SUCKS!”

    • Ha! I was just telling Kevin that I bet I lose more weight with no cheese :). I’m not bothered by it too much so far. Just really milk and cereal!

      The LC did check him for tongue tie. She couldn’t see much of a frenulum to clip. Hence the short tongue thing. I watched him last night and he is getting that tongue over the gum when we wants to. I think it may be something he matures into. He gets a right latch here and there but I can’t really explain why.

  5. I am so sorry you are having a hard time. My son was a lazy nurser. We had some similar things: he looked like he had a good latch then we found he was losing weight. We had to do the messy syringe thing, too. PiTA.

    The good news is that it sounds like your supply is good. My son’s lazy nursing never quite got mine going, so I ultimately took domperidone. (That alone was a hard decision since I didn’t even use drugs for labor.) Even then he ended up needed formula to supplement. The whole process was very frustrating. If only I could have converted tears to milk!

    Good luck, but realize that you can only do your best. That will be good enough whatever that ends up being. I am certain that you and Oliver will find a way to get him fed.

    BTW- I like the new profile pic. Yes, I was looking at your boobs. Sorry. (I hope they feel better soon.)

  6. I got halfway through this past & I teared up for you……just imagining what you were going through. I was in a very fragile state for a few weeks after childbirth, and if I ever have #2, I’m sure it’ll be the same way again!

    Take care of yourself & I hope it gets better with feeding Soon!!

    • Yeah and I think that is some of it. I know my hormones are all wacky. I’m tired. I’m sweating constantly to mix with the breastmilk everywhere. I am just a hot mess. Hopefully after my Monday appt, I can get a little more free reign. I think some errand running and lunches out are what I need too. Change of scenery.

  7. Breastfeeding was a constant struggle for me with A. CONSTANT. I had flat/inverted nipples and she had a poor latch and so we were completely dependent on a nipple shield for nearly 12 weeks. I came to LOATHE those things- always having to have one around to nurse (and being crippled without it), another thing to constantly wash and sterilize…and several times the dog chewed them up and those suckers are not cheap. All that to say that breastfeeding was not what I expected it would be and I shed A LOT of tears over it. I am already nervous about doing this the next time.

    Just know that you are rocking this. Your determination and dedication to sticking with it are bad-ass. If there is one lesson I learned from my first kid, its that everything is temporary. You’ll come through this on the other side. I just know it.

    • Yes…temporary. It has only been 2 weeks. This is a tough 2 weeks for this in any regard. We are learning and getting better everyday. My last feed, we did it all in 35 minutes…syringe and all. It is manageable now. I just had to survive that 48 hours. Tears and all.

  8. You are a rock star! Your commitment is awesome! I wish you didn’t have to go through all this yucky stuff to get to the good stuff but from the sounds of it, you’re gonna get there!

  9. You are an inspiration. I think it would be hard to go from one experience of it being easy to one that it’s difficult. Because all you know is the first one. Way to keep going.

    I also know what it’s like when something is “wrong” with your newborn and you effing lose it. And you have no sleep. And you feed ever 2.5 seconds.

    Thinking of you! Just keep in mind… he can’t yet talk back 🙂

    • Thank you. My main goal here is to get this down for other people. It is nice for me to piss and moan but at the end of the day, I hope another mom is googling at 3am for someone to relate to when she is in pain or frustrated. I know I needed it no matter how many physical people are around me.

  10. I feel your pain on the shields. My son had a bad latch and by the time I figured it out, both of my nipples were really bad. I cried every time he latched on. We ended up using the shields almost exclusively for 8 weeks (until I got an abscess in one breast from the cracked nipples). I had a really hard time with breastfeeding and the majority of my time with it was spent in physical pain. But I found it SO hard to give up. I felt so guilty and like I was a terrible (first time) mom. I look back now and realize that if I could have kept going, I would have–but I needed to forgive myself for quitting. It was ok to quit. Quitting meant that the abscess would finally go away without the need for surgery. Quitting greatly helped my mental and physical health. Which in turn helped my son to have a mom who could enjoy all of her time (even late night) with her sleepy, snuggly newborn, without being in physical pain. Anyway, I guess the point of this is that I feel like I learned that motherhood is made up of doing the best we can in any given situation. Good Luck!

    • Yes. And I guess I didn’t express this enough. I am not against giving him formula. I just wanted to give us the best shot in these first 2 weeks. After this, we can start to introduce bottles if we need to. I can pump. We can have formula…it doesn’t matter to me really but I just needed to give it my best shot. I can do anything for a short period of time if it helps. So that is what I am doing until something proves otherwise.

  11. Way to go, Mama!! You are right, it is very hard work. Your story is eerily identical to mine. My son was a “lazy sucker” and had the recessed jaw. He wasn’t gaining weight and after nursing for 20 minutes on each side he would barely get .5 oz!! Like you, I had pain with every latch which was confusing by how it appeared. Plus my son wasn’t fussing or acting like he was starving so it took me a while to figure out what was going on! To make matters worse our pediatrician didn’t recommend supplementing with my breast milk they suggested using formula! I was so worried about him gaining weight that I went straight home and did just that! Once the bottle of formula touched his lips he wanted nothing to do with me. 🙁 Luckily it wasn’t the formula he loved it was the ease of the bottle. To a lazy sucker it is like gold! So I exclusively pumped. It wasn’t ideal but it worked. As for the recessed jaw, it sounds strange but a pacifier really helped. And for the cracked nipples being that you are an experienced breast feeder and mom I’m sure you already know this but taking some of your breast milk and rubbing it directly on your nipples is a huge relief and helps to heal.

    I feel your pain and I am so happy that your story has a better outcome than mine did. I’m hoping the “every kid is different” cliché is right for my second since I had a hard time with my 1st. Plus I know more now and know where to go to for help and resources. Ollie is lucky to have a dedicated and loving mother like you. Hang in there! You are doing a great job! 🙂

    • Interesting about the pacifier. He hasn’t really wanted one so far but i can tell he is getting slightly better with latching. I am thinking a little more time will help him calm down at the breast and get on there better. He isn’t injuring me any longer at least. Just tender and manageable.

  12. I had a somewhat similar story with my second… my first was a champion nurser and conquered my flat nipples with no trouble. #2 was a very chill, lazy little nurser. His weight was dropping and our ped freaked – it was not a good situation at all. I felt so much like you did – that I had seen “the other side” of nursing and wanted to push through, I had nursed my oldest until 15mo so I knew my body was capable of it … we started nursing like crazy. What helped my son was to switch him as soon as the milk started flowing. I found that method on kellymom and it sounds crazy, but apparently switching at that point helped build my supply and kept him awake and nursing. So once the milk started to flow, I’d switch to the other side, and then back again, for several times in a session before I’d let him nurse and fall asleep. Anyway I am glad all is going better now.

    • Good tip. I have been switching the position now just to help with the syringe but good point. I also change his diaper between boobs to wake him up again. I have noticed as my supply is coming back up, he is doing a lot better. Noticed just this morning how much longer he goes.

  13. Just wanted to let you know I’m rooting for you and Oliver. It’s so tough, but you are a dedicated mommy & I know y’all will get it in sync soon. Hugs.

  14. Just hugs & I’ll bring more food. Seriously, I really admire your commitment to making BFing work. I would have been in tears in the doctor’s office too. I have no doubts you will get there; I don’t think I have met anyone with more single-minded devotion to achieve what she sets out to achieve.

  15. I have no advice for you as I was one of the ones who gave up when it got too hard. I admire your determination and dedication to breastfeeding. Best of luck to you guys. Hope you get a routine figured out soon.

  16. Good luck! I completely sympathize (and feel like I could written this word for word with my Oliver this time last year). I remember sobbing in the lactation consultants office and lots of “bonding” time with the pump instead of the bonding time I wanted with my little bitty O. We ended up exclusively pumping because he never got over the “lazy” feeding but at least he got breast milk, even if I hated it. He’s a big, exciting guy now and about to 1 next week! This too shall pass!

  17. I admire you so much for your perseverance. But saying “It makes me sad that some people get to this point and give up” has such a negative sound to it. I wouldn’t look at it as people “giving up” but instead, people realizing certain things work better for them or their child(ren). Like you said, with your PPD history, you need Kevin and you need sleep and you need to make sure you keep yourself together so that you CAN be a good mother. Some people just can’t do it all and some people also do not have the resources you have. Kudos to you for working for an awesome company and using every resource possible! I hope that it gets better and high five for the extra 5 oz 🙂

    • Sorry I didn’t mean it like that. I just mean there is so much propoganda saying “it shouldn’t hurt and it’s natural” that a lot of folks are tricked right out of the gate. By knowing the pleasure i got from it from L, I knew this is a hurdle we have to overcome but I can see it can also be a big brick wall. And even with my PPD, I didn’t want meds because BFing was what helped me calm down…it was the bright spot…so I don’t want to take that away either. It’s a rock and a hard place and hard to explain to everyone…also? I am stubborn as shit 😉

  18. I teared up when I read this. I’m so sorry you had such a hard time, but it looks to be getting better! I had one of those moments at the pediatrician’s office. My son also had an abrasion from his circumcision healing over and it sent me over the edge.
    I had no luck with BFing. As a matter of fact, I’m going to a surgeon today to be officially diagnosed with IGT, so that I’ll know for sure why I had such a low (practically no!) supply, and maybe feel a little better about my decision to stop nursing. Eighteen months later I still feel a little tinge of guilt for not seeing it through.
    I think you’re an awesome mom for sticking with it and being so determined to make it work. You’re definitely an inspiration and I hope to be as strong as you next go round!

  19. Oh i feel for you. I had nipple pain for 3 MONTHS and no one could figure it out- perfect latch blah, blah, blah. I finally diagnosed myself with thrush (after several medical professionals disagreed) and within 2 weeks I was perfect. Went on to nurse for 12 months. Good luck and you are a rock star. It drives me completely insane when people give up when there s so much help you can get.

  20. My dear sweet Bran Mann…….welcome to the world of having more than one; while some might read that as a snark; please know that it is far from it 🙂 my point….while every kid is different, here’s where I cue parenting isn’t a competitive sport….meaning, YOU have to do what works for YOUR family…….and before you or anyone that reads this thinks that I am implying you aren’t……cue the…….HIGH FIVE MF!!!!!!!!! Good for you and your hold clan; to push through, make it work, find your balance, keep on keeping on, because at the end of the day this is what YOU want for YOUR child 🙂

    and major fist pumps for you having the resources you do to support you in something that is clearly so important to you and Ollie both……hugs, kisses, smooshes……and keeping good thoughts all the way around that you know at the end of the day; you are being a rockin’ cool mom!!!

  21. You rock for posting this. I think people too frequently gloss over the hard times in blogging by just saying “we had a rough couple of weeks but now everything is perfect!”

    We’ve been in that position of losing weight and SNS and cup feeding and it’s just a ton of extra stupid bullshit and worry when you’re already exhausted. I’ve been that mom breaking down crying at the ped’s office with a baby losing weight and it just sucks sucks sucks. But then it makes the progress you are making feel so much better. And then when they’re 6, you’re like, “Do you remember that stupid ass cup feeding we had to do and it spilled breast milk everywhere? Shit’s pretty easy now huh?”

    Glad you are “back.”

  22. Hi Brandy! Recently found your blog via babycenter and have really enjoyed reading! I am 24 weeks pregnant with my first baby and will be breastfeeding as best I can. Helps to read about your experiences. You are doing a great job! Hang in there!

  23. This sounds like what happened to me with my first baby. He was a very aggressive eater and I did not have a lot of lactation support– the one LC I saw came in for five minutes mentioned something about a good latch, and then left. By about week 2-3 I was, as you are, cracked, bleeding, and dreading every feeding. What I ended up doing was exclusively pumping and bottle-feeding for a few weeks. I was lucky that my boobs put out for the pump because I know not all women respond to the pump. I was also lucky that Will didn’t give a shit what the container was so long as there was milk inside. Anyway, after a few weeks of just pumping and bottle-feeding, I had time to read up on latches and to heal from the nippular carnage that my kid had inflicted. We started nursing again and everything worked out, but there were some dark, dark days there. I never even had a tinge of pain with nursing my second son, which I thought was because my oldest had sucked the nerve-endings out of my nipples, but reading this makes me steel myself for the possibility that feeding #3 could be a challenge again. Anyway, way to hang in there. It’ll get better– it just feels like it takes for-damn-ever for it to get better sometimes.

    • That is so awesome he relatched! We are doing much better and even introduced a bottle over the weekend on a whim. He is still happily nursing and taking bottles any time. Now I don’t have to mess with that syringe and I know he will take a bottle. HOORAY

  24. Bless your heart… I had such a hard time with breastfeeding pain. H was eating fine, but his little mouth was so small he would really only latch around my nipple, and it felt like he was sucking my nipple right out. Ouchhhhh. My husband was sure H’s first word was going to be the f-bomb because it hurt so bad! H wasn’t gaining at first either, and when I looked at my nursing log I realized I really wasn’t feeding him enough (because it hurt and I was gun shy). So, he would cry to eat every 4 hours but probably really needed to eat every 3. I felt so guilty when I figured that out, but it did fix the problem.

    It got to a place where I could do it without screaming and crying, but it did hurt for several months and was never really awesome on one side. Sadly, the thing that helped was time – as he was a few months old he was eating for less time, so it wasn’t 45 minutes of agony. And of course, his mouth got bigger.

    One thing I did, my LC’s advice was to feed just on one side at a time. That worked for a while, because he would totally drain the boob and get all of that fatty after milk, plus it gave my poor sore boobs a little bit of a break. Not sure if that’s something to consider/talk to your LC about.

    Hang in there. You’re doing GREAT and he’ll be just fine!!

    • Thanks for the tips! I am finding even a little time is helping. he is getting better at calming down and opening wider. I think we are going to consult an ENT to make sure about his tongue for good measure too.

  25. Pingback: The Holy Grail of Sleep

  26. Oh, I am SO RELIEVED to hear this good news! He gained weight like a champ. So, so awesome. If it’s not too late, I have a double electric pump (Medela). I used it with both my girls, but minimally. Would you like to borrow it, rather than rent from the hospital? Or are the hospital ones stronger? Anyway, it’s yours if you want it. xoxo.

  27. Pingback: Oliver Feeding Update

  28. My baby is only 15 weeks but already the nightmare of those first weeks has faded. Like you, I was in constant pain for the first 6 weeks and cried every feed, my baby was losing weight and I felt like a failure. My husband was sick of milk all over the place and of me, constantly walking around with one or two boobs hanging out. I had cracked bleeding nipples, engorgement, one massive boob, one tiny boob, a blocked duct and thrush. I remember researching whether it was damaging for babies to consume mum’s blood with their milk! It felt like i was feeding him glass, not milk. My nipples refused to heal and it was only when I self diagnosed that the thrush had gotten into my milk ducts and took an oral medicine, that they began to heal. It took 6 weeks of torturous nights and nights before I finally got a pain free breast feed. I was so shocked! It was so amazing. Now I love the feel of his nursing and when he looks up at me with a smile while he’s feeding I get tears in my eyes. It is probably the thing that I am most proud of – my tenacity in cracking the breast feed.

    • That hurts just reading. I am doing 200% better now. He has stopped biting and my supply is kicking ass. So glad everything worked out for you. Fighting for it seems so hard but so worth it

  29. Thanks for all the awesome sharing from you amazing mamas! I am working with a babe who has a recessed chin, and looking for ideas, so read this blog. So many of you have demonstrated such an amazing amount of perseverance for your babies, love reading this! Just one thing I wanted to mention, I don’t like to see the word “lazy” associated with babies since it has such negative connotations, and makes it seem kinda intentional on the baby’s part.( like an older child can be lazy and not clean up their rooms! Laziness is learned) I understand the need to communicate what seems to be happening, but I strongly believe all babies are doing the best they can given the tools they are born with. Weak suck, inability to stay latched, falling asleep, all these happen! But not due to any laziness on the baby’s part. Sorry, just standin’ up for the babies!!

  30. I also had a rough start with breastfeeding. I appreciate your honest post…it’s comforting to read about someone else pushing through and continuing with breastfeeding even when it’s tough.

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