Most moms would hope and plan on breastfeeding their little one. I know I did. If anyone asked what my plan was I always answered with a strong “Yes, I plan to breastfeed.”
I had been financially preparing for baby, but I had planned to breastfeed so long that I even took out the cost of formula from our budget. But things don’t always work out like you plan.
Breastfeeding was hard for me and Baby from day one. I didn’t know what I was doing and the lactation specialist at my local hospital stopped by for a 5 minute visit. She tried to help, she said she would be back, but we never saw her again. So I was out of luck on getting any help. A nursery nurse came by and said if I had a nipple shield. I was told in that quick 5 minute meeting with the specialist that the nipple shield was the last resort. I was telling the nursery nurse I preferred to not use one, but it was too late. She grabbed it, stuck it on to “show me just in case” then put Baby on it. I was so confused, tired and really out of it after my C-Section so I didn’t fight it.
I was never shown how to make my baby latch and after several failed attempts I started relying on the nipple shield. I thought my baby was getting enough breast milk, but he wasn’t. That’s why he ended up at the NICU at only 5 days old. He wasn’t getting enough to eat and my body wasn’t producing what he needed. One night it was about 2 am and I was in tears trying to soothe him. I tried breastfeeding, which would work for about 20 minutes then he would start crying and screaming again. I tried rocking him, holding him, bouncing him – everything I could think of. I was just praying that I could figure out what was going on.
After hours and hours of this, I couldn’t wait until 9am. That’s when we went in for his first pediatrician appointment. 9am couldn’t come fast enough. I just remember watching the time tick by, it was going so slow and my baby was so unhappy. Looking back at it now, I probably should have called to get in first thing, but I didn’t know.
At his appointment the nurse weighed him, 5 pounds, 1 ounce. He dropped 15 ounces since he was born – 5 days ago. I knew that amount was a lot and I asked the nurse if it was normal, but I already knew the answer. The doctor came in and after a few brief questions about breastfeeding and his stools, we were rushed to the lab for blood to be drawn. I was told by the nurse to not go home or wait at the lab for results. I was to come immediately back to the doctor’s office.
10 minutes after leaving the lab, I heard the nurse’s phone ring. I heard her talk to the doctor and we were then given a bottle of formula and a bottle. I was told we could try breastfeeding, but he really needed to get his sugars up fast. They were way too low. Scared and worried, I skipped trying to breastfeed and just gave him the bottle. The doctor wanted him to drink an ounce. He gulped it down. So fast. I cried.
My baby was starving and I now saw how hungry he was. I hurt for him.
The doctor came back in once the rest of the results were in. He wasn’t in good shape. He was dehydrated, had jaundice, and his sugar level was too low. Not to mention losing over 16% of his body weight was more than worrisome. The doctor told me I had a few options at this point:
First, I could go to the hospital in town and be admitted to either the NICU or I could drive the hour and half to the next largest hospital and be admitted to the NICU there.
NICU?? My stomach sank and I squeezed my little boy closer to my chest. I asked her for her recommendation and she said the larger hospital would have the best support for breastfeeding. It was decided – J and I packed up a few nights worth of clothes and headed out of town as fast as we could.
Once we arrived, he was swooped up by the nurses while we scrubbed in. By the time we got back there he was already hooked up to all of these wires and monitors. They asked me the same breastfeeding questions and I answered the same way. But this time I knew he wasn’t getting enough and my emotions were running high.
The nurse requested a lactation specialist to come in. She worked with me on the pumping and breastfeeding. She said he had a good latch, but I need to work on my supply. So I was to breastfeed, formula feed then pump every 3 hours. I was exhausted after the first day. I couldn’t stop crying, I had barely slept and my body was hurting.
It was hard to breastfeed with all the wires and with him being so weak so I stopped. I would just pump after every feeding. When I had enough breast milk then I would feed him that instead of formula.
He was doing great, but my milk supply was not. I was barely getting an ounce throughout the whole 24 hours, but I was told to keep with it.
We came home and like clockwork I fed him a bottle of either formula or breastmilk then I would pump for 20 minutes. After 3 weeks, I was still barely getting enough for one bottle a day of breast milk.
He was doing good with the formula. He was growing and becoming more alert. He no longer screamed out of hunger, which was an amazing feeling to know I was keeping my baby satisfied.
I kept trying to pump breast milk. I read article after article, I talked to the lactation specialist once we were home, I tried herbs and teas and still nothing. My supply started dropping. Once he turned one month old I was getting less than 5 mL a day when I pumped. I tried an electric pump, a hand pump, manually expressing milk. I tried it all. I would sit with ice on my wrapped wrists from hand pumping all day.
I was stressing myself out, making myself sick. Yet, Baby was still thriving. He was still growing. At his one month checkup he weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces. He was doing great! I was the one that was a mess.
I felt like I failed my baby because I couldn’t provide breast milk or breastfeed. But he saw me as the provider of food. He didn’t know the difference, he just knew that when he was hungry I was there to make him feel full.
I tried hard for over a month to provide my baby with breast milk and I couldn’t do it. In the end I had to realize my sanity was better than 5 mL of breast milk a day. So I stopped.
Now he is a 100% formula fed baby and he’s happy, healthy, and growing like a weed. Does it make me less of a parent because of it? No. If anything it makes me a damn good parent for trying to so hard and making sure my baby is taken care of.
Should I be judged for not breastfeeding? No. Absolutely not and neither should any other mom who decided to formula feed their child.
Should I feel guilty? No. I did the best I could and am still providing my child with nourishment.