Sunday, February 7, 2010

Breastfeeding Failure

Before I had Jack, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. There are so many advantages and let's face it, I am cheap. If I don't have to pay for something, I won't. I wanted to experience the bonding situation and all that jazz.

From the time Jack was born, immediately after he was handed to me, he had great latch and great sucking. Or so I thought. My nipples were hurting and starting to crack, but I knew it would take a while to get used to it. I also knew they would "toughen up" at some point.

I was informed the day after he was born that he had lost weight. Talk about a blow to the heart. I knew babies lose weight, but the amount of weight he had lost was slightly alarming. He was born weighing 7 pounds 13 ounces and by the next day, he was down to 7 pounds 5 ounces. I was told that if he went down more than 10% of his birthweight, other measures would have to be taken.

I continued to feed him not knowing that I could have a problem. Or that he could have a problem. By the second day after his birth, I had consulted a lactation consultant and she provided me with tricks and things I could to get him to latch. He is the type of baby who is a lazy eater. He will suck a couple of times and then get really sleepy. Or he will suck so gently that he isn't drawing milk. So much so that you have to tickle his face or ear to wake him up to remind him to suck. We noticed right after he was born that he had a fascination with his tongue. This could be that in utero, when other babies were sucking their thumbs or fist, that Jack was sucking on his tongue. This can lead to problems because then you have to "re-train" them to suck correctly.

The third day, I was informed by my night nurse (I didn't like her, but that's a different story) that he had lost too much weight and that I needed to consider alternatives. I asked what the alternatives were and was told: Supplementing. Keep in mind that I already felt like a failure. My baby was losing weight and I had absolutely no control over it. I suck as a mother. What kind of person am I that I can't feed my own child? I wish the nurse had explained the alternatives to me better. I heard supplementing and I immediately assumed this meant formula. I don't want to feed my baby formula, but if I need to do it to keep him healthy than so be it.

I had a very rough night after hearing that. My mother-in-law and husband were incredibly supportive of me. I was crying, worrying and hoping that Jack wouldn't have health issues from losing so much weight. By the next morning, I had talked to my day nurse (Larissa, who was an absolute angel) and she explained what supplementing meant. I could use my breast pump to pump additional colostrum to feed to him. I could try using a special bottle, called a Haberman, to teach him how to suck. We could do something called finger feeding which entails a tiny tube into his mouth and slowly plunging milk in, or we could do straight formula. Now there were some options! This made me feel 100% better. I didn't feel as guilty at this point.

We started finger feeding after many feedings. He would nurse for a while and then get a supplement of colostrum (I had started pumping at this point and my milk was starting to come in) in a small tube. I felt this was a step in the right direction.

On Friday, he was weighed again right before we went home. A different lactation consultant came in, weighed him and to check my progress and said to me, "He has now lost 10% of his birthweight". I immediately broke down. I was doing everything I was supposed to, including supplementing and he was STILL losing weight. I was essentially starving my baby. This was an hour before we went home.

I worked with the lactation consultant for close to an hour. She gave us a plan: Breastfeed as usual and then after each and every feeding, give him a supplement of breast milk in the Haberman bottle. The bottle is designed to help him suck. Depending on how much he takes out of the bottle, I would be able to determine if he was breastfeeding and getting any milk. For example, a baby typically eats 2 ounces every feeding. If I breastfeed for the alotted time and then he takes an ounce in the bottle, I know that he probably got an ounce off my breasts. The next step in the plan was to send us home and then back to the pediatrician the next day to see if the supplementing was working. They can tell if the baby has gained. The third step in the plan was for us to come to lactation clinic on Monday. I only had to make it through the weekend and then I would get some additional one on one help.

We arrived home on Friday and by the end of the night, Jack had stopped latching onto my breast completely. So much for the "plan" that the lactation consultant had set up for us. We determined that because my milk had come in, my nipples had gotten bigger and changed shape. He was no longer able to hold them in his mouth and then in turn, get really frustrated and cry. I had ANOTHER breakdown. We decided that Jack needed to eat and so we would feed him exclusively off the Haberman bottle. Of course, we still kept trying to get him to latch on, but after 20 minutes of screaming, heartbreak and Mommy getting upset, we ended up using the bottle at each feeding.

Saturday morning, Jack was weighed and he had gained! It looked like the bottle was working, yippee! Just overnight, he had gained almost 5 ounces.

Over the weekend, we continued to try and latch and use the bottle. I kept track of how much Jack was eating and how much I was pumping. I think my kid is part piglet because he ate almost 20 ounces both Saturday and Sunday.

Monday morning brought us to the lactation clinic. Jack and I worked with the consultant and with the help of a nipple shield and some tricks, we were able to get him to latch on again. Our new plan is now to breastfeed for 10 minutes each side and either use a feeding tube at the same time in his mouth (this trains him to suck harder and also get some additional milk if he's not able to off my breast) or use the bottle after each feed.

I am feeling hopeful now. Our first feeding yesterday with the plan worked. He didn't suck very much off me, but that's okay. We are trying. After each feeding, I pump. That way, he has some additional supplementation. Jason feeds him off the bottle while I am sleeping and when the two of us are awake, we work together to feed Jack. It's a two person job with a tube, syringe, breast, and positioning.

I don't feel like as much of a failure now. Yes, this is going to be a long road, but it's worth it. My insurance doesn't cover the lactation visits, but I don't care. My baby needs to eat and I am still wanting to breastfeed. We will both keep working and at some point, my "lazy eater" will catch on.

I am not crying as much, getting frustrated and now feel like I can enjoy my little boy. It was a very rough first week, but it is getting better.


  1. Hi,
    I found your blog through the My son just turned 2. I could have written your post two years ago. Wow so similar in the situation except in addtion, my son also developed jaundice too. I really hope that breastfeeding works for you, but if it doesn't please don't beat yourself up over it. I tried everything you did, lactation consultants, supplemental feedings, haberman bottle, nipple shields, pumping, and after the first two weeks I went straight to exclusive pumping..I pumped for three and half months and although I'm glad I was able to do it, I won't drive myself insane over feeling like "a failure". Your happiness is worth so much, and honestly breastfeeding is wonderful but if your baby doesn't have a good latch, how is that your fault? Don't cry, you a are wonderful mom for caring so much. It seems like such a big deal at the time, but looking back I wished I hadn't worried or gotten so frustrated! I wish someone had told me formula wasn't the devil and it's ok to try, and if it doesn't work out then your son will be ok. My sister breastfeed both my neice and nephew for 1 1/2 years and they both ended up with allergies, asthma ect (things that breastfeeding is supposed to help protect). Anyhow sorry about the rambling just wanted to let you know it'll all be ok :)

  2. How frustrating! I'm glad you're finding something that is working.