Friday, July 30, 2010

Breastfeeding Woes: Part 1

Mike and I stayed in the hospital five days.  I knew we were going to stay an extra day because of the c section, but had it not been for Elijah's problems, we would have left earlier than we did.

First, Elijah had some low temperature issues.  Apparently they want a baby's temp to be at least 97 degrees and he was coming up a little short of that.  I felt a little robbed because I think if he had been delivered vaginally and placed immediately on my chest after he was born, this might not have been an issue.  But que sera sera, so several times they had to take him and put him under the warmers to get his temperature back up.

But then once he finally got his temperature up, they said he had lost too much weight.  He weighed 7 lbs, 8 oz when he was born and most babies lose about 5% of their body weight after birth, but Elijah had lost about 9%.  Evidently, that was too much.

The problem was simply that Elijah was such a sleepy baby and he didn't want to breastfeed.  I could hold him against me and get him to latch, but then he would take two sucks and fall asleep.  Or sometimes I would do everything I could to get him to latch and he would just squirm and fuss until he wore himself out and then he would fall asleep.  And I didn't know what else to do about it.

I had read every book I could get my hands on about breastfeeding and had taken breastfeeding classes, but I still couldn't get him to feed from the breast.  Of course, I had also read everything there was to read about natural birth and that didn't end up happening either.

A few days into our stay there, Elijah's pediatrician came by to talk to us about how he'd lost too much weight.  She said that we needed to supplement with some formula and I needed to start using the breast pump for fifteen minutes every time he would eat so that my milk would come in.  I was feeling devastated and like a terrible mother who had let her baby lose so much weight that the doctor was now scolding her (even though in reality, the doctor was by no means scolding us).

She said there were three ways we could do the supplementation.  We could put the formula in a syringe and push it through a tube that would be near my nipple so he could associate getting the food with my nipple.  We could also do the tube and syringe thing but feed him with the tube next to a finger.  Or we could do a bottle.

Mike, being as exhausted as he was, said that he'd rather just try the bottle since it was the simplest way of doing things.  Well, that was the last straw for me.

Up until then I had been doing everything I possibly could to keep my determination to get this kid to feed from the breast and keep my patience with him when he wouldn't do it, but Mike's suggestion to me sounded like he was ready to give up and didn't think we would ever be able to feed Elijah from the breast.

Now before everyone goes and hates my sweet husband for this, remember this is just what it felt like to me.  This was, in no way, what Mike actually meant.  He just thought we could do the supplementing from the bottle and keep working on the breastfeeding.  But, of course, I was already fighting the urge to feel like a royal failure and riding the hormone wave, so that wasn't what I heard.

I insisted that I wanted to try the feeding through the tube next to my nipple and after the doctor left I got very angry with Mike.  At that point he insisted that he hadn't meant that he wanted to give up on the breastfeeding.  But like I said, there was no explaining it to me right then.  I was too mad.  I started to cry.

"I want my mom!" I shouted at him.  At which point he promptly picked up the phone and called her to come on out here.

My mom showed up about twenty minutes later.  She was at church with her brother and his family when Mike called her, so it took her awhile to get out of there and get over to the hospital.  I was still bawling my eyes out when she showed up.

I was trying to stop crying, mostly because it was making my nose stopped up and I couldn't breathe except through my mouth, which was getting very dry.  But I just couldn't stop.  The weight of the past few days was just overwhelming me finally and hormones bouncing around my body were making it much worse.

The lactation nurse insisted that I was doing everything right and that it was Elijah that was not doing what he needed to do.  But how could I blame him?  He's a baby; he's not supposed to know what to do.  I'm supposed to be able to coax him or help him and take care of him.  I'm his mother.

I felt like I was royally failing at being a mother already.  First, I couldn't birth him like I was supposed to be able to.  Then now I was letting him starve to death because I couldn't feed him.  I was getting sick and tired of my useless body letting me down.

It took several hours before I was finally able to stop the tears.  Our regular nurse brought in the equipment to feed him through the tube next to my nipple.  Once again, I tried to get him to latch--with the lactation nurse watching and assisting--but to no avail.  Instead he thrashed around and fought me until the lactation nurse put a glove on her finger and used the tube to feed him with her finger.  She told me I was doing what I was supposed to do, but that he was confused and didn't know what he was supposed to do.  What she couldn't tell me was how to explain to him what he was supposed to do.

After that we mostly stuck to the finger feeding.  Mike would feed him with the tube and his finger while I pumped with the hospital's breastpump.  We would also always try to get him to latch on to my breast and feed there, but the nurse admonished us not to try for too long because he would burn more calories fighting us than he was taking in, thus nullifying any feeding we were able to do.  In addition, I was wearing breast shells to pull my nipples out farther to help him pull the nipple all the way back to the back of his mouth where it needed to be.

After a few days of this, I started to produce more colostrum.  Eventually I was producing enough colostrum that we were able to feed him just the pumped out colostrum and didn't have to add any formula to it.  And a few days later, my milk was starting to come in.  I was producing more and more milk, which was still being fed to him, but unfortunately it was still being fed through a tube rather than through my breast.  He was still not interested in latching and drinking from the breast, even when I would hand express some milk into his mouth.

As the time grew closer for us to go home, my breasts were starting to get engorged and sore.  Even though this made me uncomfortable, at least it meant that I had the milk for him to eat, even if he wouldn't eat it directly from my breast.

The good news was that his weight was finally moving back up the scale, rather than down.  By the time they did send us home, he was back up to seven pounds.

Unfortunately, finger feeding with the tube was not really feasible at home, particularly if we were going to have to continue this long-term.  If we had to go somewhere public, people would probably be pretty confused by us using a tube and a bunch of syringes filled with milk to feed our baby.  Not to mention that it would be much more difficult for us than using a bottle.

So reluctantly, I agreed we had to start giving him the expressed milk through a bottle.  This also was contrary to my plans with him.  I had intended for him to have no bottles or pacifiers until breastfeeding was well-established.  But silly me, nothing ever goes according to the plan with babies, I guess.

In addition, this meant we needed to rent the hospital's breastpump to use at home.  I had a breastpump that I had intended to use eventually as a way to allow other people to feed him if I wanted to go out for the evening--after he was firmly established at the breast--but it was only a single pump.  The hospital's pump was a double pump and I would need that if I had to pump for fifteen minutes every 2-3 hours.  It would take twice as long with my pump.

I was afraid, though, that we would never be able to quit renting the pump.  We initially rented it for a week, and could easily change the rental to a month rental without incurring any extra fees.  But what if he still refused to nurse at the breast after a month?  Did we rent it for another month and continue trying to nurse him even if it wasn't working?  Or did we simply give up on the idea that he would ever nurse and just buy a double pump (thus negating the single pump we did buy--which is a non-returnable item, by the way, for obvious reasons) and decide he would just get all my milk through a bottle forever?

Would I never have the experience of actually nursing my sweet baby at my breast?

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