I was going to have the perfect baby. He (actually in my head he was she, that should have been my first clue that I had no idea what was in store for me.) was going to contently come along with me as I lived my life. I was going to have a perfect, easy home birth and then my baby was going to latch and we were going have this blissful breastfeeding relationship. I figured there would be some rough days and maybe some challenges but we would figure it out and life would keep going as it did before I had a baby. I was never going to have to leave my baby to cry for 5 minutes while I calmed down. I was never going to loose my cool and I certainly wasn’t going to change my life. (all the moms can stop laughing now)
I was wrong. Oh boy was I wrong. I had the perfect baby but it was nothing like I thought it would be. The first 10 days were so easy. W latched and seemed to eat really well, he slept at least one 5 hour stretch each day. I was hurting pretty bad from a 4th degree tear, but I was managing. Then all of a sudden it was not good.
W stopped sleeping, he starting nursing for hours and never seemed satisfied. I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know what to do. At first I thought it was a growth spurt but he didn’t grow. He gained an ounce that week. I was told to watch him for a week and if he didn’t gain enough weight we would have to supplement and then I was rushed out of the office with no other information. I was terrifed. I wanted to breastfeed my baby so badly. I was trying as hard as I could and still failing my perfect little boy.
I went home and decided he was going to gain weight. I would feed him for 24 hours a day if that’s what it took. So that’s what I did. He nursed for hours on end. I switched him from one side to the other as I got raw. I stocked up on lanolin. I guzzeled gallons of water. I sat up all night and cried as the hours ticked by and I got more and more sleep deprived. I cried when he wanted to nurse again after only a short rest. I cried because he cried and I couldn’t make him happy. I knew that I needed to keep going if I was ever going to create the supply that he needed. I had been told that the first 6 weeks would feel impossible but if I could get through those early weeks things would get better so I kept going.
The next week he gained enough weight so suplementing was not brought up again. I still knew something was wrong. He was nursing for 1.5-2 hours, sometimes longer and just didnt seem full. I was not sleeping more that 3-4 hours in a 24 hour period. I was not doing good. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. He always wanted to nurse and would get frenized trying to get enough milk. I was terrfied of giving him a bottle and decreasing my already low supply or having him prefer bottles to breast and end our chances at breastfeeding before we really got started. I knew my body was capable of feeding my baby I just didn’t know how to get there.
One night while I was up searching the internet for help I found a breastfeeding support group (The Beastfeeding Cafe). So thursday morning I packed up my screaming baby and went over. One of the gals from my prenatal class was there. She told me she had been having some trouble and went to see a lactation consultant every week at the breastfeeding center. I felt like someone had just thrown me a life preserver. I didn’t know there were lacation consultants a couple of blocks from my house I could go see, for free, whenever I needed help.
When there was time for questions at cafe that morning I quickly asked a question about babies who nurse for a long time. I didn’t dare ask what I really wanted to or keep talking because I could barely keep my voice from cracking and my eyes from welling up. I don’t remember what anyone said but I do remember not feeling like was alone for the first time in my struggle and determination to succeed. I heard other moms asking question and offering support. I had found my lifeline.
I had heard about tongue tie before through a friend. She has sore, bleeding nipples and a lot of pain. I didn’t have any pain. I was a bit raw from nursing for hours on end but nothing a bit of lanolin couldn’t take care of. I had asked our midwife if she thought it could be tounge tie. She dismissed it really quickly and suggested breast compressions to help speed up the flow of milk.
I made an appointment with a LC. She listened to me. She agreed that things didn’t seem right. She checked for a tongue tie and noticed W had a heart shaped tongue. She gave me a plan that would help me meet my goals. She gave me tools and information I could use to move forward. We got a referal to a specalist who clipped W’s tongue and instantly I noticed a difference in his latch. I could feel him sucking and hear him gulping back milk in a way I had never heard before.
It took about 2 weeks after that for things to really get better. We used a supplemental nursing system and rented a pump to help stimulate my supply when W got too frustrated to keep going. He still didn’t sleep very well and I still broke down and cried at least once a day from exhaustion and frustration. But I felt like someone had finally listened to me and we were getting somewhere.
One day I sat down with a snack, the remote and my water bottle for a feed. I was always prepared because I knew once we started I was not moving for at least an hour and it’s not good when I get hangry. Before I even got to my snack W unlatched and looked up at me.. This had never happened to me before. I looked at the clock and it had only been 15 minutes. I burped him and tried to get him to latch again but he didnt want to. He wanted to play. He never wanted to play. I realized he was done eating. I was pretty sure we were going to make it.
And then he started spiting up. Fountains of spit-up all day and all night. I couldn’t keep up with it. He didn’t seem too bothered by it but I asked his doctor just to be sure. He told me it was a laundry problem and all babies spit up. I asked him about reflux but he didnt think that was the issue. He thought it was just his system getting used to the extra milk.
A couple weeks later I got strep throat and W developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. Being a paraniod first time mom I took him into the doctor. They weighed him and in 3 weeks he had gained 3 ounces (babies should gain 4 ounces a week at that age). We were right back at square one again. This time his doctor listened and gave him a prescrption for ranitadine (zantac for babies). Almost instanly the puking slowed down. He started gaining weight again. I decided to try cutting back on dairy to see if it would help. The puking pretty much went away after that. I was pretty sure we were good and things were going to go smoothly now.
And then he started to get frenzied about eating again. He started sleeping in 1-2 hour streches with hour long feeding sessions. He was about 3 months old at this point. I was so tired, I didn’t know what to do. We had a chiro appointment that week so I decided I would talk to his chiroprator and see what she thought. She sent us back to the ENT specialist for another look. We thought maybe his tie had grown back or needed to be cut a bit deeper. The ENT agreed and released his tie for a second time.
Now at 6 months I can say breatfeeding is going smoothly. We are working through pinching and I live in fear of the day he gets teeth. We have found a probiotic that seems to work for his tummy. He still goes to the chiropractor every other week and he still hates sleeping. I’ve accepted that for the forseeable future I will be sharing my side of the bed with W. I love waking up to see his perfect little face next to mine.
I have neer been able to pump more that a couple of ounces of milk. Thanks to the kindess of friends I have been able to use donor milk for the odd time I am away. W still doesnt gain as much weight as I would like but he’s holding steady to his growth curve. He has started eating solids and loves to eat anything I put in front of him.
My life has changed so very very much. I live by the schedule of my tiny dictator. I don’t get to go out when ever I want. Leaving the house alone now takes hours of planning, trade-offs and making sure my phone is on just in case I need to rush home. For now my life revolves around him. It won’t always be like this. I have surrendered to the chaos and I have accepted my new reality. It wasn’t easy to get here but I am happy where I am. When W unlatches and he looks up at me in a milk coma with a little smile on his face I am so happy I fought. For us it was the good fight.