When I was pregnant I was honestly pretty excited to breastfeed. I knew it was going to be such a bonding experience between me and our new little one. I went to the class and learned the basics and didn't anticipate having any difficulties. I made sure to have a lactation consultant visit while we were in the hospital as many times as I felt necessary just to make sure things were going well and they were upon discharge! Reese didn't loose too much weight, she was down to 8 lbs on discharge (8 lbs 6 oz at birth) and the LC said her latch looked great.
However, I clearly didn't pay enough attention during the class or to what the LC was telling me in the hospital because we ended up incurring some difficulties when we got home that I didn't really realize until Friday (we were discharged about 11 pm on Tuesday). My biggest piece of advice to a soon to be mom would be to spend the $50 to set up a one on one appointment at your house with a LC a couple days after you are discharged to make sure things are still going well and you are able to ask any questions one on one.
We went to her first appointment on Thursday (a few days after discharge) to find out she was down to 7 lbs 10 oz, nothing they were too concerned about, but they made a weight check appointment the following Thursday just to make sure she was doing ok between then and her next appointment. By the next day, Friday, the feedings were starting to get very difficult as she was getting really fussy and crying while I was trying to get her to eat. I was starting to feel extremely anxious when I knew it was almost feeding time every couple hours. During the middle of the night from Friday to Saturday morning, the 4:30 am feeding, we couldn't get her to calm down and latch for over two hours. We decided to go back to sleep and try again in two hours at 8:30 am. When we woke her up again and couldn't even console her enough to calm down we decided to go ahead and pump and give her a bottle so we could get some food in her belly.
From then on for the rest of the weekend, I continued to attempt to get her to latch, then pumped and bottle fed her what I got for each feeding. I was concerned that I had flat or inverted nipples and that was causing her difficulties so I ended up buying a nipple shield that night (Saturday) and tried that. She would semi-latch on that for a little bit but was still not eating significantly so I continued to pump and feed her a bottle until we could make it to a breastfeeding support group Monday morning. We were doing this routine every 2 hours.
The emotions that came along with the difficulties were so intense. I was soooo worried about our little girl not getting food and I think I just felt so frustrated that things weren't working out like I thought they would. I was worried I was ruining our chances at breastfeeding by giving her the bottle so early and I felt so guilty that she hadn't been getting enough food over the past week. I realized by the end of the day Saturday that I really missed her since I was missing out on those feedings all day long. It sounds silly, but breastfeeding creates so much bonding between mom and baby, and I really felt the effects of missing out on that.
The group on Monday was wonderful. The LC immediately showed me what I was doing wrong and got her to latch immediately. She ensured me Reese's latch was great and that we didn't need the nipple shield. Basically I was pinching my nipple rather than cupping my whole breast, making it difficult to latch. Also I was just sort of trying to let her latch rather than shoving my whole breast in her mouth when she opened (sounds forceful but its how it works!). I also was only offering her one side each time rather than both!
She weighed 7 lbs 10 oz before feeding and only got 1 oz from both sides during the group, so the LC had me continue to pump and supplement her with 1 oz after each feeding, every 2 hours. We successfully did this process all Monday. It was pretty tiring since it took so long to get her to wake up and eat, pump, and bottle feed, usually about 1.5 hours for the whole process, leaving only 30 minutes before we needed to start again. She was worried about my supply a little so she suggested I take Fenugreek (an herb to help up your supply). I also realized at this time that I needed to start taking care of myself better. I needed to get more rest and make sure I was drinking enough water and eating enough food. That first week can be such a blur and I had trouble finding the time to eat and I think the stress just affected my appetite.
Tuesday I went to another group and Reese got 2 oz that time from just nursing. The LC told me I could change it to every 3 hours and go one 4 hour stretch at night. This process was still long and tiring and still stressful since their scale showed her weight still at 7 lbs 10 oz. The LC encouraged me to have a beer or two at night and let out plenty of cries so I could get out some of that stress!
Thursday we went to her weight check appointment and were sooo incredibly happy and relieved to find out her weight was up to 8 lbs 5 oz. (I'm sure there is a huge difference in their scales, but the doctor's one is really the only one that matters!) They suggested I keep doing what I was doing by pumping each time and supplementing her with the bottle so her weight continued to go up. I can't tell you how great this made me feel knowing she was on her way! I remember just sitting in the waiting room before the appointment praying over this verse: Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. I felt like after that appointment, all our prayers and hard work had paid off. God is so good!
That night I can honestly say I felt like my self again. After Saturday, when we started bottle feeding her, I felt hope that we were getting her fed and she was going to be ok, but worry whether breastfeeding was going to work out for us. After Monday, I felt hope that breastfeeding was going to work, but still worry about her weight. But after Thursday, I felt so much relief! Its crazy how much it felt like a fog during that first week, week and a half. But as one of my friends told me, this too shall pass. I am so glad I was determined not to give up on breastfeeding and that I had so much support from friends and family. It was incredibly overwhelming and the hardest thing I have ever done, but so so worth it.
By the next Monday she was refusing the bottle so we decided to just nurse rather than pump and supplement each time. Then on Tuesday at her next appointment, she weighed 8 lbs 14 oz! The doctor was very happy with her progress and told us we could go ahead and let her sleep as long as she will through the night (though I don't think I would let her go more than 6 hours)! Today is the following Monday, she's a day over 3 weeks old, and she is eating great! She hasn't gone past 4 hours yet, but I'm not in too much of a hurry.
Its so nice to allow her to wake on her own to eat rather than fight to wake her up each time. She is starting to get on a schedule during the day and breastfeeding is going so well! She latches automatically and is getting much quicker at nursing. I can honestly say that I love breastfeeding her now and am so happy everything worked out for us. I wanted to write this to encourage new moms (and myself for next time) that it does feel overwhelming and very tough for a few days, but things will work out! God has a plan, so be patient, because the outcome is so worth it! The most important thing is having a healthy baby at the end of the day!