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My birth/ post partum story

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone and congrats on your babies!  Here is my story,  Please be kind.  I've beaten myself up enough already- anything negative you could say I've already said to myself.  I mostly wrote this as a way to process the past 6 weeks.


I knew I would breastfeed.  I just knew it- it was integral to my idea of motherhood.  My mom was a La Leche League leader while we were kids.  I grew up around boobs.  Everyone in my family breastfeed.  I remember the first time I brought my (now) husband to a family event- at least 3 of my aunts were breastfeeding.  And it was no big deal!  I could tell he was a little embarrassed, but I was proud that the women in my family breastfed.  It wasn't even a question- it was just what we did.

My baby, Amelia, was born on Valentine's day- I can't believe she's 6bweeks old already!  Long story short, she had a rough start and spent her first 48 hours hooked to IV antibiotics in the NICU.  The NICU nurses wouldn't let me feed her the first night until she had seen a Neonatologist.  And after 20 hours of labor
(uncomplicated, vaginal delivery) I was in no condition to fight with them- not to mention they scared me into thinking she was much sicker than she actually was.  Don't get me wrong, I'd rather they were overly cautious.  I knew it was important to stimulate breastfeeding right after birth, so I was set up with a breast pump and dutifully pumped every 2 hours.  Even if I couldn't breastfeed her right away I was not going to let this interfer with our long term breastfeeding.

  The next morning, I was ready to fight with the Neonatologist about the benefits of breastfeeding- I had seen Amelia's lab results and knew they weren't so bad (I'm a Social Worker and know just enough about lab results to make it sound like I know what I'm talking about).  But, I didn't end up having to fight at all because the Neonatologist told me she was a healthy baby and I could feed her- but he still wanted her on antibiotics for 48 hours.  I was able to start breastfeeding her, but she was still stuck in the NICU, so I was feeding her on their schedule, not on hers. I was feeding her every 2-3 hours and pumping after every feeding just to make sure I was covering all my bases.  I have a picture of me breastfeeding her in the NICU.  She is hooked up to IVs and monitors and I look exhausted.  But it is my favorite picture from our stay at the hospital because it signifies to me how hard I tried to make breastfeeding work.

Once we finally left the NICU, she seemed to be nursing like a champ- her latch was good and she was really eager to nurse.  But it seemed like my milk never really "came in". 
Even after we left the hospital and went home I never had any engorgement or leaking or anything.  I thought I was just lucky- that I would be one of the moms for whom  breastfeeding was easy.  My nipples never got sore, there was no bleeding or anything.  I had prepared myself for breastfeeding to be painful and I was giddy that it didn't happen!

 Amelia nursed and nursed and nursed.  I had read that babies wanted to nurse all the time when they are newborns, so I wasn't concerned.  Amelia also hadn't been having a ton of wet or dirty diapers but I figured  it was all okay- she's my first baby so I didn't really know what to expect.  She slept a lot at the breast, but again, I just thought that was normal.  My LLL leader mom stayed with us that first week and gave me suggestions and tips.  She checked my latch and helped with positioning- all the things a good LLL leader should do.  She agreed that everything was fine and my milk would come in soon.  But it never did.

Every baby loses weight when they're born, so when we went to the pediatrician the first week we were expecting some weight loss.  We were not expecting her to have lost even more weight the second week- she was down almost 15% of her body weight.  So the Pediatrician wanted me start supplementing with formula- which I was very wary about.  I knew it was a slippery slope- that supplementing would make it even harder to increase my milk supply.  But at the same time, my baby was not doing well.  She slept all the time and was hardly wetting any diapers. The Pediatrician assured me that as soon as she started gaining weight and being more alert, she'd be breastfeeding exclusively.  I talked to my mom about it and she was also wary but we agreed that getting Amelia healthy was the most important thing.  My mom told me what to look for so I could identify if Amelia was having "nipple confusion" and take care of it before it became a debilitating issue.

So we started supplementing half an oz of formula after every feeding. We started giving the formula to her in a bottle, but when her latch started to suffer, I insisted we see a lactation consultant at the hospital.  The LC set us up with a "lact-aid" system so I could syringe formula to her while she's still latched on to me.  The LC also made a "plan" for us: We were on a 3 hour rotation:  First, I nursed her for 30 minutes, then I use lact aid to give her 2oz of formula, then I hooked myself up to a breast pump for 15 minutes.  While I was fine with the plan, the LC made me cautious. 
I asked the her how long I'd have to do this, what she thought the outcome would be, etc and she kept giving answers like "I really can't answer that".  Finally I just flat out asked her if she thought this would work and she again said "I really can't answer that".  So I asked her if it didn't work if that meant we would just have to bottle feed and she said "well, you can always comfort nurse".   Then she sent us away with 5 canisters of formula.

  Her dismissal made me suspicious.  I secretly assumed she was working for the formula companies- why else would a LC give out formula??  I called my mom in tears.  We found a private LC in our area (who was also a LLL leader) and my mom offered to pay for the consultation.  I set one up immediately.  The new LC came to our house. 
She seemed really good and totally knew her stuff.  She started out really positive and asked me a bunch of questions about what we've been doing, my medical history, etc.  She was talking about how to decrease formula safely and what to say to the Pediatrician to get her "on our side".  But then as we continued talking, it kind of became clear that there was something else going on.  I had never had any breast changes during pregnancy- everyone talks about waking up one morning with HUGE boobs.  I wore the same bras my entire pregnancy. The LC watched me pump (which was horribly embarrassing- I already hated pumping and I hated having someone watch even more) and seemed concerned when nothing was coming out.   I told her I'd never produced more than 5ml at the pump- despite weeks of doing it every 3 hours. Ultimately she said the same thing as the other LC- I may just not be able to produce enough milk.  That there is a thing called insufficient glandular tissue and that people who have it don't have breast changes in pregnancy, don't experience engorgement, and can't hear swallowing when their baby nurses. All 3 of these things applied to me.  The LC continued her assessment- She checked my latch and checked Amelia's mouth and found no reason why she wouldn't be gaining weight.  She actually said it was "okay to mourn" not being about to breastfeed. 

So, at this point I've had two LC's and my own LLL leader mother tell me it's not working.  That the most important thing is feeding my baby.  I've tried Fenugreek, mother's milk tea, a lact-aid, weeks of pumping every 3 hours, skin to skin contact, beer, wine, breast compressions, oatmeal, lactation cookies, etc.  And still nothing is working.  My midwife offered to write me a prescription for Reglan, but due to my history with depression and anxiety I just am not willing to accept the potential side effects.  I've gone through every emotion- guilt, shame, anger, disbelief, rage, depression, anxiety.  I've read a lot on breastfeeding blogs that the people who formula feed are either A) lazy, B) selfish, or C) don't have the resources available to breastfeed.  I don't feel like any of those apply to me  As far as resources go- my own mother was a LLL leader!  If anyone should have been able to breastfeed, it should have been me. 

So now I'm just trying to figure out what this all means for my family.  I still put Amelia to the breast when she's upset or not sleeping and it seems to calm her down immediately.  I know she's not getting much food from me, but at least I comfort her.  I hope that she gets enough milk from me that some of my immunities are passed on to her.  I do what I can to maintain what little supply I have.  I secretly hold on to hope that I will wake up one morning totally engorged.  That for some reason it took over a month for my milk to come in.

I'm trying to look on the bright side.  There is nothing better than staring into her eyes while she's eating- even if it is from a bottle. It's great that my husband can get up with her in the middle of the night, and I love being able to drink wine again without worrying.  She's a thriving, happy baby who is gaining weight like she should.  She is bright eyed and beautiful.

But I still fight feeling like a failure.  I still feel like there is something "wrong" with me, that I'm "broken", that I'm dooming Amelia to a life of illness and lowered IQ.  And I'm terrified of having to feed Amelia from a bottle in public or at a family event. 
I'm just starting out on my motherhood journey and it's so difficult that this first thing did not work out.  I feel like I can't join mom groups or go to LLL meetings because I don't live up to their standards.  I'm afraid to talk to other new moms because they might find out that I bottle feed my baby.  I've been really isolated and afraid to go out in public.

  But I'm working on acceptance.  I'm learning that I'm not alone and that formula isn't poison.  Even though I still have greif and "mourn", I'm sure it's just one of many ideas about motherhood that I'm going to have to amend.  And we still have a breastfeeding relationship- it's just not what I expected.  It is based on comfort and bonding- not on nutrition. This has been such a humbling experience.  I'm used to making things work.  I'm really good at taking a crappy situation and figuring it out- that's part of what make me so good at my job.  And it is horrible that I can't do that in this situation. ut I can't and I have to accept that.  After having a breakdown and sobbing in the pediatrician's office, I decided I was not going to spend anymore of my maternity leave feeling anxious and depressed about this.  I am going to move forward and ENJOY my baby.  How I feed her does not define what kind of mother I am or how bonded we are to each other.  Like my mom put it, Amelia is teaching me how to be HER mother, not the mother I had envisioned. 

post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 

Here is our NICU picture I love so much


post #3 of 16

oh sugar, you did nothing wrong! i cannot imagine the grief you must feel about this, but whatever you do, don't feel guilty. you did everything that you possibly could. you are a great mother! bonding with your baby, comforting her, making sure that she is nourished and happy-those are the most important things and you're doing them! 

sometimes things happen that are out of our control. hold your head up high and be proud that you have a healthy beautiful baby! hug2.gif

post #4 of 16

wanted to offer hugs too.  There is no reason at all to feel guilty or ashamed.  I hope you do start making your way out of your house and into some mommy groups.  The support of other moms going through similar things (even if it is not exact), is so helpful.  I am glad she is healthy and growing well.  I love the picture too.  You should be so proud of yourself mama!

post #5 of 16

So good to hear an update from you, Kate! I was wondering about you :) Congratulations on your sweet baby girl!

I'm so sorry breastfeeding didn't work out. You did all that you could. You are a wonderful mama who is doing what's best for her baby stillheart.gif

post #6 of 16

Oh, mama I'm in tears for you after reading.  Lots and lots of hugs to you and your sweet, healthy girl.


I'm not real familiar with how the lact aide works, can you continue to use it long term as a delivery method for formula while nursing her?  

post #7 of 16
Sorry to hear about your struggles! You have obviously done the best you can and should not beat yourself up! You are a great mom!

How much fenugreek did you take? Just curious because I went on it to help my supply and took 3 pills 3x a day along with blessed thistle. You can take up to 4 pills of each 5 times a day. I really noticed an improvement after a week or so doing this. So just wanted to put it out there!
post #8 of 16

Thanks for sharing your story, Kate. You sound like an amazing mom and I completely agree that keeping Amelia happy and fed is the priority here. It is awesome that she's still on the breast some...even if it's just for comfort, that's a beautiful thing. And I am truly doubtful that your daughter will have a lower IQ just because you don't breastfeed exclusively. There are tons and  tons of factors that go into parenting, and breastfeeding is only a part of a very big picture. I am so grateful that in this country, there is an accessible and affordable milk substitute that babies can still thrive on. Congratulations on your daughter!

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the support everyone!  It felt really good to write it all down- it really did help me process. 


I was taking 3 Fenugreek tabs 3x a day- that was what my midwife recommended.  She said as long as my sweat started smelling like maple syrup I was doing it right orngtongue.gif   I took it for almost a month before I stopped taking it.


We stopped using the lact-aid around the same time I stopped taking the Fenugreek.  The tube was rubbing against my nipples and causing a lot of discomfort.  Besides, Amelia likes nursing without it.  I'm starting to figure out when she's hungry and wants a bottle and when she just wants to use me as a pacifier.


Here's a recent picture of her.  She's pretty amazing!!


Thanks again everyone- I feel so much better having your support.  Everyone I've talked to has been so supportive (even if it took my mom a little while to get on board- I send her the LC's write up and I think that helped explain it to her).  We really are blessed to have such a healthy, beautiful baby.


post #10 of 16

She is just beautiful.  I can't believe all that dark hair!!!


I think it is amazing that you are still nursing as well.  You are such an amazing mommy.  Congrats.

post #11 of 16

I can totally relate!!! its as if u wrote what happened with my first child, besides the NICU....... we ended up in the NICU 2 weeks after she was born because of dehydration. I felt like I tried everything but formula! and always wondered when my milk would come in as well! never engorged!!! same problem this time as well, just not as severe, I have more milk just not enough still. I would love answers but just glad not to be so stressed out this time, this time around I am just going to enjoy my baby!!! formula feed or breast feed.

Edited by becalive - 3/28/13 at 3:50pm
post #12 of 16

The only thing I thought when reading through your story was *gasp*!  please tell me you DID give her formula!  And reading on I'm so glad you did.  When a baby is losing that much weight there's obviously something going on.  Real medical conditions exist that make breastfeeding difficult if not impossible (and I'm super pro-breastfeeding).  You did EVERYTHING right and you are a GREAT mama!!  And you are not broken anymore than a mom who tears during birth is broken.  Our bodies do not always work to perfection like we'd like.  It's OK.  Let go and give you baby lots of snuggle time, you're doing great!

post #13 of 16
I looove that picture! I'm so glad you have that to remember the beginning of your mothering journey .. And I love what you said about Amelia teaching you to be her mom not the mom you envisioned - that is so how it goes.. You are an amazing mother, and the perfect mother for your sweet baby, I'm so so sorry that Breastfeeding didn't work out the way you thought it would but this is exactly what formula is for and there are still benefits of comfort nursing as long as you both enjoy it (everything from bonding time to jaw and speech development) you did absolutely everything you could, please don't feel guilty.. I hope you can find a moms group that isn't centered around feeding so you can get out and get comfortable with mommy-hood smile.gif
post #14 of 16
Originally Posted by iamkateiam View Post


We stopped using the lact-aid around the same time I stopped taking the Fenugreek.  The tube was rubbing against my nipples and causing a lot of discomfort.  Besides, Amelia likes nursing without it.  I'm starting to figure out when she's hungry and wants a bottle and when she just wants to use me as a pacifier.


Ah, yeah nipple irritation would be a problem.  And so great that she will nurse, too.  so special for you both!

The reason I asked was because many years ago an out-of-town mom visited our LLL meeting and was nursing her 2.5 year old adopted daughter with a supplementer.  I'm guessing they are not all created equal, for her to use it at every feeding and not have any problems.  She had tried to induce (I believe she adopted her as an infant) and was successful at getting a small amount of milk.


It is so amazing how we are all called to a variety of experiences, trials, ups and downs along the way ... this crazy motherhood journey.


I do hope you find a great moms' group!  

post #15 of 16

I think this issue is much more common where I live. They certainly were checking me out a lot for this when my milk took longer to come in. It sounds like you did an AMAZING  job of making it work despite the challenges in front of you. 

post #16 of 16

wow, mama.  what a challenge!  you definitely did what you had to do!


since i always have huge and overloaded breasts, i went ahead and posted on a facebook page about my expected oversupply and found a local mom expecting her second child and she suffers from IGT so we're sharing breastmilk.  i know not everyone can do that (she had to supplement w/ her first so we found each other while still pregnant) and the little one had a lot of problems early on w/ formula and reacted w/ vomiting to all but a soy formula which was still not an ideal match.  Thank goodness your little one does well on formula!  and that you could keep an eye on this and catch it early and keep your little lady healthy.  formula exists for a reason, and this is certainly it!


Blessings and rest and forgiveness for yourself in this!  enjoy your lovely Amelia.

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