So many people told me, “breastfeeding is really hard”, “it takes awhile to get used to it”, “don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work right away”, “whatever your ‘breastfeeding story’ is, is your story”. Yet, I still had this idea of what it was going to be like to breastfeed my baby. I wanted him to latch as soon as I possibly could, so about an hour after delivery we tried. He latched, but something didn’t feel quite right. That night I tried again, with help of a nurse. Again, he definitely latched on (and was quite strong!) but it was not comfortable, he was pinching me and I just assumed I was getting used to someone sucking on my nipple. The first night at the hospital was restless as Braxton woke up every 2- 3 hours crying. As a new sleepless parent, I just tried to nurse him. I thought I was doing it correctly but it was really starting to hurt…
The next morning, I had a nurse come and help me. She finally latched him on deep enough to where it wasn’t painful but because I had nursed him all night my nipples were damaged and raw and I didn’t know what to do. I went to “latch hour” at the hospital (a class for new moms to get lactation support). The lactation consultant was talking to me for a few minutes when she said “do you mind if I take a look inside Braxton’s mouth?”. She had noticed that I am tongue tied. This is basically when the tissue under my tongue is too far forward causing me to not be able to stick my tongue out very far. She checked Brax, and sure enough he is tongue tied as well. This explains why he was latching so shallow and why I was in so much pain!! I put so much pressure on myself and wanted breastfeeding to be this “blissful” experience (you know those Pampers commercials where the Mom and baby are in a light filled room, looking angelic and peaceful…that’s marketing). Within the first 24 hours I was exhausted, sore and felt so helpless, SO far from blissful. Yet, I still was feeding him the best I could. Finally that afternoon I requested a lactation consultant to come to our room because I was hurting so bad and in tears over feeding this baby (who was also in tears because he was hungry). People say your emotions are all over the place after delivery, but I had no idea it would be like this. We went through another night of me just doing the best I could but wincing with every gulp Braxton took.
It was Thursday morning and we were set to check out and head home, but I felt so incomplete and emotional. I wanted so badly to breastfeed, but my nipples were so red and raw, chapped and bleeding I really didn’t think I could continue. The lactation consultant came by our room and said “oh, wow you really weren’t kidding about you hurting” when she took a look. She recommended that I take a break from breastfeeding and just pump and give Braxton a bottle. I broke down. Like full on tears shed. A bottle? On his third day of life?!
Not my child.
But then I had to face reality.
Well, my husband brought me back to reality and said “Kate, he is still going to be getting YOUR milk. He needs to eat. And you need to rest.” I knew he was right, but there was something just so emotional about not giving your baby what he needs from your body. Sitting in front of a pump, hoping there’s enough milk and then pushing this silicone fake nipple into your baby’s mouth. I hated it. I hated everything about it. I cried when I thought about the fact that I couldn’t breastfeed, but again I had to put my feelings to the side and remember that he was still getting what he needs. The lactation consultant at the hospital also told us that Braxton was tongue tied, however the pediatrician didn’t think there was an issue. After doing a little bit of research it seems like it is “out of practice” for doctors to diagnose tongue tie as they do not recommend getting it snipped. However, lactation consultants know what an issue it can cause for breastfed babies and so they do not hesitate telling people that they think their baby might have one.
Over the course of the next few days, I was pumping every 3 hours for 20-30 minutes at a time and producing a lot of milk. Way more than he could eat. I was thankful for this, but knew that it was just because of the pump (and the amount of water my husband was making me drink!!). I decided to find a lactation consultant because I was determined to figure out a solution (or at least keep trying to make it work). I couldn’t keep up this schedule of pumping so often. I wasn’t sleeping (between having to wake Braxton up to feed him, and then staying up later to pump. It just wasn’t sustainable). I found a lactation consultant and scheduled for her to come on Monday. Of course I was so worried that he wouldn’t latch after being on a bottle for 4 days, but I felt hopeful and was trying to not worry too much.
Monday morning came around and I felt anxious, excited and nervous about how this appointment would go. Leigh Anne arrived at 1pm and seemed very loving and nurturing like she was used to being around babies. I filled out a few forms, told her about the delivery and answered questions she had about us and Braxton. We woke Brax up and tried to get him to latch. My nipples had healed (thank goodness) but as soon as he latched I felt that pinching again. It was not comfortable. I immediately felt defeated again. We unlatched and she took a look inside of his mouth and sure enough confirmed (now, from the third person) that he is tongue tied. She gave me a nipple shield which saved me! No more pinching. We successfully used that for about a week and made an appointment with an ENT to get his tongue tie checked out (and potentially snipped!).
Flash forward another week. We got to the doctor and didn’t quite know what to expect. Dr. Dahl came in and examined Braxton. She told me that she was surprised I was able to give him any milk because he was so tongue tied. She recommended getting it snipped and snipping the tissue underneath his upper lip as well which would help him get a deeper latch. We decided to go ahead and do it because pumping or using a nipple shield every time I feed him was just not sustainable. It was so hard to watch, but it took a few seconds and after the initial tears and blood coming out of his mouth, he was okay and I had to keep telling myself that he would not remember this and that in the end it would help both of us.
All of this to say that it has been a journey (yes it has only been 2 weeks, but it feels like so much longer). I had no idea that we would have to do all of this just to get our little guy fed, but we became parents two weeks ago and we had to make the best decisions for our child. I have no idea why I was putting so much pressure on myself to have this “perfect” story. I didn’t feel successful. And every time anyone asked me how breastfeeding was going I would just start crying. I was incredibly emotional about it.
Moral of the story: breastfeeding is hard. Don’t let anyone fool you and tell you it’s not (except you know those “perfect people” whose babies just latch on with no issue and they end up looking like those Pampers commercials..but we all know they aren’t perfect and I’m sure at some point there was at least one hiccup). It’s important for me to share this and let other people know that it’s okay for things to not go the way you planned them (and for those of you who know me, know that this is a huge deal for me) but you have to remember what is important and make your best decision. So here’s to many more weeks (of hopefully painless) breastfeeding!