When I found out I was pregnant, I was filled with joy. I had visions of a beautiful little child in my arms. My first two kids are such wonderful children I was looking forward to raising a third little bundle of joy. I had such an ideal vision in my head. From the beginning I was determined to try breastfeeding and succeed this time around. I was adamant and determined.. so determined I refused to stock formula at home.
My little baby S finally came into the world on December 7. To my joy, he was very healthy, had strong lungs as evidenced by his strong cry and was absolutely adorable with a thick head of hair. He looked just like my two older children when they were born. For the first time, I was able to hold my child right after birth (with my first two children, the babies are brought to the nursery right away) and the nurses tried to let him latch on to me. For the first time, I felt the emotion of having a new child and burst into happy tears right at the delivery room.
Finally after 9 months of waiting and fretting, my little son is here!
Unfortunately, right after I gave birth, my uterus didn’t contract causing me to lose over 2 liters of blood. I was advised by my doctor that I needed 2 bags of blood in order to raise my hemoglobin level which has gone dangerously low. As a result, while I was waiting for the blood transfusions, I was in a haze.. it was hard to open my eyes and stay awake which made rooming in the baby an impossibility. I wasn’t allowed to sit down on my own until I had my two transfusions over 36 hours after the birth. I wasn’t able to breastfeed or even see my new baby. I never felt so weak in my life.
I was discharged on the third day even though my hemoglobin count was little more than half what was normal.
Despite that little setback, I was still set on breastfeeding. I knew of a support group I could turn to and I was optimistic about my chances of success.
However, despite all the support, it’s an understatement to say I had the most difficult time. Breastfeeding is HARD! If someone tells you it comes naturally and easy they are LYING. Imagine a relentless, albeit small, little person sucking sucking sucking endlessly on a very delicate and sensitive part of your body. It’s painful and uncomfortable.
Childbirth was easier in comparison.
Prior to leaving the hospital I had my latch checked by Mylene from L.A.T.C.H. who kindly took time off to see me and make sure I was starting off on the right foot. Even though my latch was declared correct, I suffered from cracked and sore nipples. I found out that my baby’s mouth was very small which made it painful for me to latch and I had to wait for my baby to get a little bigger for the latch to become less painful. In the meantime, I was told to drink pain meds when necessary.
On the third day, I encountered a very bad case of engorgement. I tried pumping but nothing was coming out at all. I suffered badly through the night and I called (practically crying actually) out for help online. Luckily, Dr. Marini saw my message and was quick to offer to see me in the morning. Mylene also came to my house that afternoon, staying for hours and massaged me to ease the pain, which helped tremendously. It turns out I had blocked ducts so despite repeated massages and expressions little to no milk would come out.
My husband and I were so determined to breastfeed that he decided to spare no expense and he decided to fly in a lactation masseuse from Manila that Mylene recommended who massaged me for two straight days in order to unplug my ducts. With her magic fingers, she was able to unplug my ducts and I was able to feed my baby.
From the start, my milk wasn’t enough, probably due to the anemia. I have had to supplement with breastmilk that was donated by my good friend Ellen and other kind-hearted mothers Lohriz and Kristine.
My baby would cry into my nipples. I was experiencing cracked nipples and had milk blebs. It was very painful and despite all my efforts my baby was never full or contented…. I always had to supplement and I was at a loss at what to do.
After 3 weeks of attempts at direct feeding and still the baby was losing weight, I started pumping regularly on top of feeding and was practically sleepless. And my milk (both pumped and direct fed) still wasn’t enough to satisfy my baby. The donated breastmilk was used up very very quickly.
As a result, I was in tears .. every single day. I felt inadequate and frustrated. I was compulsively tracking my feeding and pumping times in the vain hopes of seeing an improvement in my milk output and satisfy my son.
My husband couldn’t stand to see me so sad, listless and tired. He kept reminding me that breastfeeding doesn’t make a mom… I needed to relax and be happy and enjoy my child. I needed to bond with my child.
One day, I found myself cringing when my son wakes up and cries for milk… that’s when I realized this wasn’t healthy anymore.
So I decided to stop asking for donors of breast milk because it wasn’t something I can do long-term anyway. I decided to just pump what I can in between feeds and supplement the rest with formula. It felt like a failure on my part and it was a wrench to do it but I was through with making myself feel bad and being unable to enjoy my adorable son.
I still didn’t give up on breastfeeding but I decided feeding my son without worrying where his next meal would come from would be the best for us at that point.
Immediately, it felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders.
I still hadn’t given up but I at least wasn’t worried about starving my child and it took the edge off. I still kept reaching out online looking for options and directions on how to proceed with my breastfeeding.
Dr. Marini gave me a great option of SNS feeding as a form of supplementing while waiting for my milk increase. She actually came to my house to give me a feeder and demonstrate what needed to be done. I was very thankful (and greatly relieved) that she didn’t judge me but instead provided me with a solution to supplement but at the same time stimulate my breasts so the milk will start to increase.
This made me relax even more about feeding my child and without the stress of whether my child was getting enough, I started enjoying the experience of watching him feed at my breast and the latch also became less painful as he was no longer starved. I really believe the SNS feeding helped in what comes next.
After a few days of SNS feeding, I finally was introduced to Kristy by Hubby’s Aunt Julie and cousin Kathy.
Kristy was and still is an answered prayer.
Kristy came to my house to watch me and the baby feed. She demonstrated a lot of tips on how to sleep while breastfeeding without discomfort. She gave specific instructions on what to do in certain situations to decrease my stress. She told me to stop obsessively pumping, focus on direct feeding alone and allow myself to rest and sleep. She stayed for over three hours calmly watching, allowing me to cry and air my frustrations, and giving me tips all the time on what I need to do.
After that meeting, I quit supplementing cold turkey…. and by the grace of God and the supreme unbelievable patience of Kristy (because I made multiple tearful texts and calls to her and she has had to make more visits since the first one) I haven’t supplemented (either formula or expressed breast milk if I’m at home) since….
It hasn’t been easy……
I don’t think I have done something that has made me so insecure and unsure of myself my whole life. No amount of reading could have prepared me for this. All logic goes out the window.
I have experienced wailing like a banshee from my son who refuses to latch because my flow is too slow compared to bottles.
He went through a bout of tummy pains as he tried to pass the last formula meal I gave him and resulted in an explosive poop session before he was able to calm down.
As timing would have it, baby had a growth spurt a few days after I went cold turkey and his insatiable appetite for milk made me question, time and again, if I had enough milk to sustain him. It got to the point that I wanted to pull my hair out in frustration.
I’ve experienced fears because he hasn’t pooped in 7 straight days and the eventual relief with the coming of a poop session that overflowed the diaper.
Just last night he was crying for most of the night because I tried pumping at the wrong time and he woke up to feed just 30 minutes after and he was unhappy that the flow was too slow.
On top of that I feel trapped in my own home because baby’s need for the boob keeps me on a short leash. I can’t take him anywhere for fear of the Measles outbreak.
The only thing that keeps me going is three thoughts: 1) this is good for my baby; 2) the assurance that it gets easier and it won’t be this tiring forever; and 3) multiple moms assertions it’s worth all the tears and effort.
I steel myself for the inevitable occasional seemingly unstoppable wailing and the assumption held by people around me that my milk just isn’t enough.
I steel myself for the moments that I feel like I’m nothing but a breast that I want to scream at the top of my lungs because I see the work I can’t find the time to do is piling up.
But the most difficult thing I need to bear is seeing the disappointment in my daughter and son’s faces when they find out that I can’t do stuff with them because I’m feeding once more.
I don’t know if I’ll be able continue breastfeeding like this for very long given the difficulties it brings but the 10 days of no supplement has been a huge step forward for me….
And to be honest at this point, I’ve sacrificed far too much and put in too much effort and tears to just give up with no success to show for it.
Who knows what road I will take during my unique breastfeeding journey. All I know is I will take the path that works for me and my family…
I can’t force it if it stops making sense anymore.
I’ll just take it one day at a time.