If it wasn’t for my mother I would not be breastfeeding. My son is three months old and nursing did not come easy or natural for us. It was a surprise because I had breastfed two other children with no issues. From the start he had a hard time latching on, he fussed and pulled away. He seemed hungry all the time, but then would fall asleep after only a couple minutes on the breast.
I got nervous that I didn’t have enough milk (thanks to ‘helpful’ family members), so I tried to pump in hopes of increasing my supply. The first few times I pumped was horrible. After thirty minutes all I had was a few drops at the bottom, and sore nipples. Eventually I was able to express a couple ounces, then I was worried that I was taking milk away from the baby. I became a neurotic mess. I felt like a terrible mother because I was starving him.
I hated when people looked at him and said – he seems a little skinny. I felt like slapping them. Yeah. My baby is skinny, yours is fat. We all come in different shapes. It didn’t help that part of my neurosis was a hypersensitivity to any and all ‘looks’ from people. I felt judged. I was sure they were tsk’ing to themselves about that poor skinny baby.
At our six-week check the doctor said he was at a low percentile in weight, and said we may need to supplement (with breast milk of course). The doctor wanted us to come back in the following week to recheck weight. I called my mom from the parking lot of the doctor’s office in tears.
My mom was an OB nurse and lactation consultant. She was also a La Leche League coordinator. She encouraged me to keep trying. She assured me that babies gain weight on their own schedule, and not all babies are round and chubby. It’s ok. As long as he had wet diapers, and hitting his milestones he was fine. He was healthy and strong, he was already holding his head up, he was just shaped different, he was long and lean. She also said it’s fine to bottle feed too. She said the best thing to do, is what is right for YOU.
The only reason I stuck it out breastfeeding little E is because I KNEW that my boobs worked. I had already breastfed two other children. If I had been a first time mom, I would not have had that confidence, and would have given up.
We just hit month three last week. Things are much better. Breastfeeding is working like I remembered. Little E is gaining weight, he is eating fine, sleeping fine and overall a (mostly) happy baby. He still has some digestive issues. He is hard to burp, and when he does it’s like a 50 year old trucker. When he passes gas it sounds like it should fill a diaper, but nope, just gas.
During the worst part of this breastfeeding nightmare I was doing research every day trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, and what I could change to make it easier. I consolidated a short list of what I think might have helped.
1. I hope I don’t get hatemail for this – but he sleeps on his tummy. Yes, I know the thing now is ‘back to sleep’, but anytime I laid him on his back he screamed – like in pain. I tried every wrap out there, finally gave up and put him on his belly to sleep (like I did with both my girls). I’m not saying everyone should do this, but it worked for me.
2. Little E prefers nap time in his own bed. He was overtired and very fussy for the first couple months of his life. We tried co-sleeping , but it didn’t work for me. Once I started putting him down for naps in his bed (instead of waiting until he nursed himself to sleep and laying him down in the bassinet, or carseat, or anywhere else I could think of to get him to sleep more than 10 minutes) it seemed to work.
3. Latch issues – when he would pull off and cry, I immediately switched sides. He would nurse for a couple minutes and then do the same thing. I’d switch sides again. For a while nursing was like a circus act. But it seemed to help. I don’t have to do that anymore, but for a week or so it got him eating instead of crying. I don’t know why that worked, but it’s out there on the internet so I must not be the only one.
4. Breastfeed only on one side for several feedings, then only on the other side for several feedings. Something about hindmilk/foremilk. I did this for a few days.
5. Burping – don’t let anyone tell you that breastfed babies are less gassy! He has always been gassy. I finally learned to take him off the breast and burp him during feedings. Sometimes it takes 15 minutes to get a burp out – I keep trying. I can hear the bubbles in his stomach so I know they’re in there!
6. Diet changes – I just mention this because I tried all kinds of elimination and reintroducing, and nothing seemed to make a difference for us.
7. Gas drops – I used Little Tummys Gripe Water and Major brand gas drops. I used them together and it seemed to settle his stomach a little during the worst times. If nothing else it made me feel like I was doing something to help. Placebo effect maybe.
Maybe the most helpful thing of all was time, patience and a good support system (thank you mom). There’s nothing wrong with bottle feeding. But if you’re determined to nurse, and things aren’t going easy for you, don’t give up. Don’t listen to all the helpful family members who say “just give ’em a bottle”. It gets easier, and it WILL get better. Oh – one more piece of advice from my mom. Drink lots of water… and have a glass of wine, it will be ok.