Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dairy Queen

I'm behind on my blogging... guess that is to be expected since the little guy occupies most of my time now. Anyway, here goes nothing. Remember this post?

Well, I am there. I even just broken down got the bra (thank you Amazon), I look forward to its scheduled arrival tomorrow when I can be hand-free and not a slave to the pump.

Let's chat about this whole breastfeeding thing...brace yourself, this is a SAGA (my apologies). My main reason for sharing this saga is to educate a little on this whole thing and that maybe I'll  be able help someone else out there in a similar place.

So, from day one in the hospital Ian refused to latch on. Lucky for me the hospital I delivered at has lactation consultants that they provide you with to get things going. So, instantly I was set up with one. Remember how I said that your privates are no longer private after birthing a child? Well believe me that is VERY true if you plan to breastfeed. The lactation consultant (Chris) came into my room at the hospital, and within seconds she had me sitting there with both boobs out, and as if that wasn't enough she then proceeded to flick and tug on my nipples all while squeezing my boobs. Well, hello. No, I wish I was lying. Then she stuck her finger in Ian's mouth to investigate the shape of his mouth, tongue, and sucking capability. The first words out of her mouth after checking him out were "Oh, he's going to be a tricky one. He has a small palette and his tongue and chin sit far back."

{Hum, small palette?? Crap, he totally got this from me. I distinctly remember that horrid retainer I wore for the better part of 3rd grade that was supposed to widen my palette by turning a "key" in it every Sunday that widened it... better start saving for orthodontics...ah, I digress}

With that she took Ian and tried to force him to latch onto me from a million different directions. All ended with a scream baby. The more pissed he'd get the less promising this seemed. Now, this is where it starts getting good...  as a way to try to trick Ian into sucking she would take a syringe and syringe a little of my pumped milk into his mouth like feeding a bird at the zoo, and then she squeezed some on my nip in hopes that he would then latch. Nope, he was having no part of it. After trying every method and trick  in her repertoire for quite sometime, she looked at me at said "Ok, time for nipple shields."

Um what? They didn't tell me anything about nipple shields in my breastfeeding class  I took. She then returns with a plastic nipple cover that goes over my boob. Long story short it adds some length to your nipple to hopefully get the baby to start latching to that and sucking through it. Since Ian's tongue sits back far he needs something L O N G to get him to suck.  She then puts this shield on my boob and starts syringing some formula and milk through the shield and then gets Ian to suck it out of the shield. This is not what I envisioned for my breastfeeding experience. I mean, I was terrified about being stuck in the middle of the mall and having to nurse and here I am with a nipple shield on and a lactation consultant syringing formula onto my nipple through some shield while my son screams and unhappily sucks it out.  At this point the lactation was as frustrated as I was with Ian's lack of progress... she resorted to feeding him with a syringe and had me pump. She told me she'd be back in a few hours, but the plan for the rest of the day was to use the nipple shield and syringe and feed him what I pump through the shield on my breast. Awesome. The rest of the day was essentially a repeat of what was described above. A slue of additional nurses also came to try to help (unsuccessfully) throughout the day. Ugh. They all said the same thing... "Sweetie, it's often a challenge and you think it's suppose to be natural."

It got me thinking.... how did people survive back in the day? At this point my kid would probably be starving. This explains why there were wet nurses. And Ian would have been in search of the wet nurse with the 10" long nipples dripping milk.

The following morning my OBGYN doctor came in (she was supposed to be doing Ian's circumcision) to let me know they were going to postpone his circumcision another day because she heard he wasn't latching and she didn't want to have him upset about something else when trying to get him to latch.  Great, he was notorious for not latching as word had already spread to my doctor... Then Chris my lacatation consultant returned for another day of breast work. On command I pulled my top off (modesty out the door) and allowed Chris to tug on my boobs once again. We stripped down Ian as they suggest that you lay there skin-to-skin to encourage the baby to nurse (I don't know why... I guess this is the "natural" part).  Again we tried every nursing position ...football hold, cross cradle, and on and on. The really frustrating part is that with each hold Chris would say "Good, you're doing it perfectly." Yet the little man would not latch on.  How was I doing everything right and we were making zero progress?? This just isn't right.

I had flashbacks to back in college when my friend, Elizabeth Vereker, told us girls a story about her mom trying to breastfeed her and she wouldn't latch on, so her mom would drizzle things like honey and chocolate on her nipples to try to get her to do it. At the time Elizabeth told this story us girls in college thought it was hysterical that her mom would try things that seemed "kinky" to get her latch. This story seems hysterical no more...At this point I was about to ask the lactation consultant to wheel in an entire sundae bar to drizzle on me.

Instead Chris called in the "Big Guns" the head of the lactation department, at the hospital.  She did all the same sucking tests on Ian (sticking her finger in his mouth), and she looked at me as though she was telling me something I didn't already know, "Oooh honey, he is going to be very difficult."  Great.  She then asked to to take my hospital gown off so she could, and I quote, "see what we were working with." After she observed what I had to offer and giving me a few complimentary squeezes, Big Guns instructed me to do the cross-cradle hold while she observed.  Mind you, at this point  I have Chris, "Big Guns,"and my mom all surrounding my boobs trying to help and watch. Of course Ian just cried.  She tried maneuvering him a million different ways and rubbing under his chin to encourage sucking. No luck. Then, "Big Guns" wanted to try her technique called the "switch-a-roo" where she takes a bottle sticks it in his mouth for one suck and then puts my nipple in his mouth. I wil admit, the switch-a-roo was the closest we had gotten to a latch. In fact he did latch for one suck and we all cheered and high-five'd as though we won the lottery. Big Guns considered this BIG progress for the day, and then  had me go back to the shield and syringing the colostrum (aka the liquid gold milk) I had pumped through the shield.

The following morning (Friday) we were being discharged and I was having anxiety beyond belief about the fact that I'd be going home to do this breastfeeding thing on my own when the Big Guns couldn't even get it to really work beyond one suck. Chris returned the morning of our discharge to help me again... unfortunately it hadn't gotten any better despite her help. She told me to continue pumping and try the shield and syringe method until we could get him to latch.

Once getting home breast feeding remained a 2 man job... one person to fill the syringe and hand it to me while I hold Ian up to my boob. At one point my mom was helping me by filling the syringe....

mom: "I hate that shield. It's so stupid." (as though she is the one with it on her nipple)
Me: "Um, me too. Do you really think I was to use some big plastic nipple thing with a freaking syringe?"

Of course at this point we both just broke into laughter. I mean really, what are you going to do?!

On Saturday my milk came in. And I have to tell you people IT WAS HORRIBLE. I do not understand why no one warned me how awful this is. IT IS AWFUL. Consider yourself warned!! This for me was worse than labor. Where is the epidural for my boobs? Both boobs became completely engorged which means that they blew up (literally both became the size of a small watermelon),  became tight as rocks, and burning hot (as though they had a fever). The pain got so bad I had to sit with bags of frozen peas and corn on my boobs. I was miserable and for what?! He still wouldn't latch.

This night I went upstairs to my bedroom to try to get him to latch again. A few minutes in I called John in to help me as it was not going well. He sat there giving me the milk in a syringe while I squeezed it in the shield. I figured I'd ditch the shield and give it a go trying to get him to latch again... and once again screaming bloody murder (I might add that he isn't a big crier otherwise). I'd scream if someone put that huge watermelon up to my lip too... lord, my engorged boobs were surly bigger than his head.  And suddenly it wasn't just Ian that was crying. I had completely cracked. Your hormones after giving birth are pretty much going wild, my boobs were KILLING me beyond words, and despite all the pressure I was feeling to make this breastfeeding thing work it clearly wasn't. There was no way I would be able to sustain feeding my child by pumping and then syringing that though a nipple shield hoping he'd figure it out eventually and latch. For starters I couldn't even do this type of feeding on my own (it takes more than one set of hands)...what would I do when I was alone next week? And he's a baby not an abandoned animal at the zoo who is being syringe fed. I am pretty sure John had no idea what to  do as I sat there with tears rolling down my face and our week old baby screaming crying. Perfect, everyone is crying.

Moments later my mom came in to see how it was going (knowing it wasn't good since the baby was screaming). Nothing like mom to shake some sense into you and remind you that you don't suck at life when you feel like you're failing. She reminded me how difficult this is... I mean hello, there are how many jobs that have been created to help people with breastfeeding because this isn't so "natural" after all.  She also pointed out that I have a happy, healthy baby boy which is such a miracle, so who really cares how he gets fed as long as he does. Good point mom... I am so lucky to have him an that's what is important. Ultimately after this complete metal breakdown I decided I had to give him a bottle with my pumped milk until Monday and then go back to the lactation consultant at the hospital's breastfeeding class. The La Leche League will probably come find me and stone me if they read this, but I was out of options and not going to starve my baby hoping he'd take my nipple. The argument with giving a baby a bottle prior to like 3-4 weeks of age is that they have "nipple confusion" and can't go back and forth from a bottle to the breast. Also the breast is a lot more work for them than the bottle (it flows much more easily) so they also struggle with that when going back and forth.  Frankly at this point I was option-less, it was time for a bottle.

Monday my mom and I went to the breast feeding class with the lactation consultant. We walked in and there were about 15 girls (and a bunch of grandmas also there for morale support) sitting at tables trying to breastfeed (ahhh.... I was not alone).  But the best part was that and the "Big Guns" was there! I felt like I saw a saint when I saw her there... I knew she would be able to give some sounds advice. No surprise she instantly remembered us and came over to help. I told her my struggle over the weekend and she was shocked to hear that I tried the whole syringe thing as long as I did. I told her I had gone the bottle route and she couldn't have been nicer about it which was so reassuring. She had me put the nipple shield back on and wanted to see him try to nurse that way. Within seconds she was like "Ok, that isn't going to work." Then we tried it without...again no luck. Then she examined Ian's mouth, tongue, etc again. Then the Big Guns grabbed my hand and asked "Sweetie how important is it to you that he gets the milk directly from breast feeding?"

To be honest for me the most important thing is that he is getting the breast-milk, and I can pump and give him that milk. Sure it's 2x as much work... I have to pump and then feed him a bottle... so it's double duty (which really sucks in the middle of the night). As for the whole "nursing is a bonding experience" I believe I can find a million other ways to bond...Really I think that is the biggest load of crap that I'll be less bonded if feeding doesn't happen at the breast (I'm going to lock my doors the Lache League is surly on their way to get me now).  I have A LOT of friends who were not breast fed and are very close with their mothers (myself included, and hell I only given formula... better lock your doors now too mom), and consequently I have a lot of friends who were breastfed and aren't close at all with their mothers. I'm not about to be made to feel that if he isn't getting it directly from the the "tap" that I'm doomed to be some shit mother with a crappy relationship with my child.

Obviously I told the Big Guns a much nicer version of that... and she looked at me and said "I'm so happy to hear you say that because I just don't think this is going to work right now, and I think that is your best option is to pump and bottle feed that for now. You are doing everything you can and you're doing such an amazing job...and thankfully you are making a ton of milk, but your nipple and his mouth shape just aren't a match..." She hugged me and told me to keep trying now and then... he might decide to do it one day... but it's not going to be today.

Amen. She was so nice about it and made me realize I was doing the right thing for me and my baby. Since leaving that consultation I have felt like a huge weight was been lifted off my shoulders... I have a plan I can handle... I can pump and give it to him in bottle and I'm not going to mom hell. NAMASTE.

Don't get me wrong I'd still love to breastfeed him directly, and we've tried to latch a few times since without luck, but I am pretty convinced he'll decide to do it week before I return to work. Until then, I am a pumping and feeding machine. There is milk everywhere... if you come to our house beware when you open the frig or the freezer. My baby might not latch, but I am in fact the Dairy Queen.  Ian is doing great and had exceeded his birth weight at his 1st check-up (which is the goal), so it's working.  No doubt though, the sound of the pump will haunt me forever.

So that's my story about that... sorry for the saga, but in a world where there is a huge amount of pressure and judgement around this topic, I felt it was important to share my situation. A huge thanks to my friends who also helped talk me through this whole ordeal by sharing your struggles with the whole breastfeeding thing too. It was so reassuring, and made me feel much better!  I've learned from many people that it's isn't so natural, and is often a challenge.  The other fun fact I learned from the lactation consultants is that as a culture Asians tends to have really long nipples, but poor milk supplies.... things to know and tell....If only I had Asian nipples with my milk supply, I'd be a wet nurse for sure.


  1. Hey girl, first I want to say congrats again! Ian is absolutely beautiful, and motherhood suites you well too my friend:)

    Breastfeeding is the most unnatural, natural thing ever! I breastfed and pumped Jackson until he was 20-months. I had to stop when my sister had Amelia and I had to fly to her rescue for a week. Both Jackson and Amelia were shitty nursers at first. No one told me about the pump or the shields - so we just had to figure it out the hard way. My sister was a bit luckier and the shield were her savior (or I was going to have to be her wet nurse, lol). I'm saying all this because the first 3 weeks suck, the next 3 aren't great...but they do get better. And by 6 weeks, when it's time to go back to work, everything gets better. I promise.

    And that hands-free pump bra is amazing, and life changing:)

    Hang in there, and please email if you need anything!

  2. Ha! OMG I am so sorry... oh dear. I hope it's getting better every day and can't wait to share this story with my mom! Looking forward to skyping with you and the boys soon!

  3. Thanks Kristen!! Yeah, it sounds like everyone has "their story" with the whole breastfeeding thing. I don't think I've talked to anyone who has said "Oh it was so easy and came totally natural." It's so nice to know that there are others out there for support, and know that I'm not the only one with some struggles. You cracked me up with you being a wet nurse for Meghan...That would have been a story for Amelia someday :) Congrats to you on being an Aunt soon again! And Tell Meghan I say congrats as well.

    EV - you tell Diana I feel her pain now. You and my kid are stubborn.