When I was pregnant, I did a lot of research on breastfeeding and formula feeding. I knew that I wanted nothing more than to breastfeed, but I also knew that if it didn’t work out for us, we’d have to supplement with formula. Much to my dismay, the beginning of our breastfeeding journey wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, and we were supplementing right from the start.
The first time I tried to latch Ambrosia, I thought I knew what I was doing. She seemed to latch for a good 2 minutes and then she would fall asleep. After about an hour of having her with us in the room, one nurse came and told us they had to check on Ambrosia’s glucose levels. If they were normal, she could stay with us. However, if they weren’t, she’d have to stay in the nursery for another 4 hours. Unfortunately her levels were lower than what they wanted to see, so they suggested we give formula to make sure she was eating. I really didn’t want to have to resort to formula. I was so angry that I thought I knew what I was doing when in reality I was doing it all wrong. We ended up giving her formula every 2 hours after I attempted to breastfeed. Ambrosia’s levels were finally high enough for her to stay with us, so I wasn’t too concerned that we had to supplement. Though I knew that the first few days I would be producing colostrum, I didn’t care. She was eating and she was with me- that’s all that mattered.
After we were released and settled at home, I still couldn’t get her to latch for more than 5 minutes at a time. My milk finally came in on the third day, and it hurt so much! Since she wasn’t latching, I was so engorged. I didn’t have a pump yet so I needed to hand express the milk. I was so frustrated. Why couldn’t I feed her? What was I doing wrong? Why does she still seem so hungry? I was in pain. I felt defeated. I wasn’t able to do yet another thing a woman was supposed to be able to do! I would stay up for hours trying to get her to latch, and after I failed, J would give her a bottle of Enfamil because we knew she was starving. While he was feeding her, I would pump what I could. I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that I may not be able to breastfeed.
I would still cry at night and Joshua could see just how stressed I was. He would always comfort me and remind me that as long as our baby was eating, I wasn’t failing as a mom. Though the comforting calmed me down most nights, he still saw that not being able to breastfeed affected my mood drastically.
J then took it upon himself to find a way to help me. I remember waking up one morning to him staring at his phone with this serious look on his face. When he saw me, he kissed my head and told sleep some more since the baby wasn’t awake yet. After about 2 hours, I finally woke up and he told me about everything he was reading up on. J was looking for any and every way to help with my breastfeeding. He mentioned that he found this event called the “Breastfeeding Social” that was hosted by a Nurse Barbara at Sagua Managu Birthing Center. At first, I didn’t want to go. I was embarrassed at the fact that I needed to see a lactation consultant to help me feed my daughter. Then, I looked it up and decided that I would give it a try. I was still very frustrated, nervous, and just about ready to throw in the towel. But what did I have to lose?
At the first breastfeeding social I attended, I met Nurse Barbara. She introduced me to one of the other moms in the room, and then asked me what my reason for coming was. I told her about the latching issue, and she then told me to show her how I latched Ambrosia. After I finally got her to, Nurse B checked to see what was wrong. I learned that Ambrosia wasn’t fully latched onto my areola. Since she wasn’t latched correctly, her suckling didn’t get much milk out of me. Nurse B then gave me a nipple shield to try, and to my surprise, Ambrosia latched instantly! For the first time ever, she nursed for over 20 minutes. I was so happy that I started to tear. I couldn’t believe that I was finally feeding my little girl.
The next couple of days I still had trouble latching with and without the nipple shield. Fortunately, Nurse B gave me her number so I could reach her whenever I needed help. (Even when she was off-island at a conference and probably busy as heck- she still answered every single question!) We were still supplementing because she would cry so much even after I fed her. Though I felt a little better knowing I was feeding her, I was still upset that we had to give her even just a little formula. So, I continued to go to the breastfeeding socials when Nurse B came home. She then told me that if I wanted to stop formula completely, I just had to feed Ambrosia whenever she cried- even if I had just fed her 5 minutes prior.”Feeding on demand” is what they called it.
So, I did. And let me tell you… It. was. painful. Yes, Ambrosia finally got the latch perfect. And yes, she was finally eating for more than 5 minutes. But that was the thing… She was eating, literally, forever!!! My nipples were hurting so much! They were cracked and would bleed; I would cringe when I was about to put her to my breast. I used lanolin, coconut oil, and even my own breast milk. The pain eventually went away after my nipples got used to it, and we were both doing this “breastfeeding thing” like the pros. We went through three weeks of mix-feeding and pumping during the wee hours of the night because of an incorrect latch. Now, here we are: almost 7 months into our breastfeeding journey and not planning to stop any time soon.
I’ve read a lot of posts about how breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone. It’s true. Some moms just can’t produce enough milk for their babes, and some moms have problems with latching. I hope every mom knows that there is help. It is not embarrassing to contact a lactation consultant to try and assist with whatever problem you are going through. Trying to breastfeed can really affect how a woman feels about herself as a mom. Always, always, always remember that your well-being is important too. Though I strongly encourage breastfeeding and continuing to try, there is absolutely nothing wrong with formula feeding. I know some moms who have been through hell and back just trying to give their baby liquid gold and it really took a toll on them. How you feed your child does not define you as a mother. Hell, you’re feeding your child! Isn’t that what matters most? #Fedisbest. Always.
I really hope you guys enjoyed reading about our breastfeeding journey thus far. It’s not a story that I like to share because of all the trouble we had in the beginning; however, I felt that maybe it could really help another mom who is going through something similar. Don’t forget to check back for my next post on some quick tips for the tits! 😉