Breast Is…Best?

As I’m sure you gathered from the title, this post is about breastfeeding. If that’s not your bag, by all means, skip it!

Before Colette was born, I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding. But I swore that if it didn’t work for me, I wouldn’t get crazy about it and I would stop. I didn’t understand why mothers agonized over it.

Until I became one of those mothers. I am breastfeeding and it is not going well. And it’s making me kind of insane. But the thought of stopping is also making me kind of insane. Actually, the thought of stopping is kind of heartbreaking. I worry that I won’t have a connection with my daughter anymore. I’ve heard that weaning can be “traumatic” for a baby. Baby trauma? Oh, sign me right up. Just what every mother wants to hear, right? One site described weaning as “the long goodbye.” Um, that makes me really sad. I don’t feel ready to stop, but I’m not sure how much more my psyche can take.

Here’s the deal. Breastfeeding in the hospital seemed to go fine. The lactation consultant there told me my latch looked great. But once Colette got home, she fell asleep after five seconds. But still, I thought everything was ok…until I went to the pediatrician and she had lost over 10% of her body weight. And then the next time we went back she had lost even more. The doctor evaluated her and said her sucking reflex wasn’t developed and basically she wasn’t able to get much milk out. The effort was too much for her and that’s why she was falling asleep.

We saw a lactation consultant. She said the same thing. The doctor and the consultant agreed that her frenulum (membrane under her tongue) might be too tight. So we had that snipped. They said it could take up to four weeks to see any signs of improvement from the procedure.

We have to do daily exercises to keep the frenulum from growing back. We also do “suck training” exercises several times a day.

On top of that, I’ve been pumping every three hours after every feeding to maintain my milk supply. While I’m pumping, Tim gives her a bottle of expressed milk and, if I don’t pump enough milk, some formula.

I can handle these things, especially since Colette seemed to be improving a lot over the last week. But then I started getting plugged ducts every 48 hours, which my lactation consultant said is definitely not normal. And then I got mastitis (breast infection). So that means antibiotics and a several-times-a-day dose of acidophilus to try and avoid getting thrush. And hot compresses every time I nurse to try and loosen the clogs. And lecithin supplements twice a day to try and prevent the clogs from returning. And now my skin is irritated from all the pumping, so I’m pretty much in pain all the time.

I saw a lactation consultant for the second time yesterday. She said Colette was still gaining weight too slowly, so we have to increase her supplement. All well and good. My baby needs to be healthy and gain weight. But now that we’ve increased her supplement, she’s not as hungry, so any improvement we’ve gained in the nursing department has tanked. She’s just not that into nursing because she’s not that hungry before each feeding. I feel like we lost all of the ground I fought so hard to gain.

I know this is not sustainable, especially not after Tim goes back to work in two and a half weeks. But even with all of the craziness, the thought of not breastfeeding anymore kills me. I know no one would judge me if I stopped. But, as always, I am my own worst judge. But there needs to be a balance. Breast milk is undoubtedly best for baby. But a strung-out, half-insane mom is not best for baby.

So, peanut gallery, I would love it if you would share your personal stories. Did you have any breastfeeding struggles that you overcame? Or did you make the switch to formula and, if so, how did you make peace with that decision? I could use some perspective either way.

Note: I’ve been trying to write this post for four days. Kudos to all of those bloggers out there who post regularly with a newborn. Don’t know how you do it.

14 thoughts on “Breast Is…Best?

  1. Oh, Tanya, thank you for sharing your experience! Basically no one I know has had an “easy” time breastfeeding — it is really difficult and everyone experiences some of the issues you describe above. But for some reason it seems like you are getting all of them combined! The lesson I learned through our breastfeeding struggles was: listen to your baby more than the “experts”. I had lactation consultants and pediatricians telling me really conflicting things, and, as you described, I felt like I was totally losing my mind. When I slowed down and just listened more to Olive’s cues than her weight, and fed her in the ways that made sense to her even if the consultants told me I was “ruining” my supply that way, it worked out. You have to find the balance that works for your family. It will never be perfect, but there are *moments* of bliss both with breastfeeding and bottle feeding. We ended up supplementing with formula, and I kept up with all the pumping and everything to give her as much breastmilk as possible. It was sometimes disheartening, how long I had to pump for those “drops of gold”, but I ended up feeling like it didn’t need to be all or nothing. I didn’t have to totally stop breastfeeding, and we just gave her as much formula as she needed. That sounds really simple, but it wasn’t. It was really complicated, and a lot of work, but I don’t regret the way we did it. WhatEVER you choose, I pray that you will find peace with it. That is what matters — a fed baby, and a mama who can accept the way that baby is fed. Sending you love!

  2. As a humble childless woman, maybe my opinion doesn’t matter here. But when I think about all of the loyal fathers raising child on their own, and all the adopted children or those with loving foster parents, I know a connection to your girl will not be lost. If I had a child I would do exactly what you are doing, whatever it took to breastfeed. but there comes a point where if it isnt working out and its causing more harm to you then good to her, then its time to move on. Not everyone breastfeeds and the children are no worse for the wear. Is a stressed out mother with constant clogs and infections who breastfeeds, somehow better for her child then one who isnt and uses formula?

    I know a mother who never breastfeed and that child’s development is well above the curve, and I know a mother who simply did it when she could and mostly gave formula. Do what you need to do to be healthy for yourself and there for your child in a way thats within reason.

    There is no wrong way to love her or take care of her.

  3. Seriously, Tanya, what you are going through is no joke. I had a difficult time nursing Abby, but you make my experience look like a cake walk. Abby couldn’t latch for the first 10 weeks of her life without a nipple shield. Similar to Colette, she fell asleep while nursing and it would take an hour and a half for her to finish a feeding. There was pumping and formula and waking every three hours. It was insane for a while. I also thought I would lose my mind, but like you, the thought of giving up was heartbreaking. But she did finally latch at 10 weeks old and the rest was history. So I will say that if you can hang on a little longer, your relief may be right around the corner. But get support. I went to a lactation consultant or a bf support group every week and that made all the difference in my sanity. And if you decide to stop, please be kind to yourself. You’re a wonderful mom who is trying to grow a strong baby and keep herself healthy in the process. I am thinking of you and happy to talk more if you want!

  4. I never really wrote about my choice to formula feed on my blog because I was truthfully worried about being judged about my decision. I wanted my daughter to come into this world in a peaceful and anxiety free atmosphere and for me I knew that would be much more possible if I shared the load with my husband. I can not deny the benefits of breast milk, but no one could ever tell me that I don’t have just as much of a bond with my daughter as a woman who breastfeeds. My husband also benefitted from being a part of her feedings and we so often worked as a family to feed her and he just didnt feel like an observer.

    you can take what I say with a grain of salt since I opted for formula right away, but I will say that I know you are doing a wonderful job as a mom. trust your gut and NO ONE else. your mental and physical health as well as collette’s are priority and if formula can get you there then be kind to yourself. If you want to continue to fight the good fight then just make sure you have a way to find peace and serenity in what is an incredibly difficult but selfless decision to continue.
    much love xoxoxo

  5. Hi Tanya, When I was prego with Britt I thought I was going to have an easy time with breastfeeding because I started leaking when I was at 32 weeks. Fast forward and to my surprise reality hit hard. To start off everything hurt!! I wish I would have followed some advice that a very old lady had told me while I was prego which was to “scrub the hell out of your nipples every time you shower” she said that it would help the baby and myself have an easier time. I just laughed and I remember thinking she was crazy. The pumping was painful. I left the hospital with Britt thinking that I had the breastfeeding down. WRONG! I ended up taking Britt to the pedritician everyday for three weeks to have her weight checked and charted. She was having trouble regaining the weight that she had lost after birth. Finally I was sent to a lactation specialist. Britt and I received a nipple sheild which helped greatly because I was so big and her little mouth could not open wide enough. I pumped as much as possible but had mastitis I think it was three or four times before Britt was even two months old and she was still having trouble packing on the pounds. The last time I had mastitis one of my milk ducts had to be cut out which honestly hurt. When the surgeon told me that I had to make sure to continue pumping on both breasts until my breast was completely healed. I decided to change Britt to formula full time even though they( the lactation specialist and surgeon) told me that I could give her the breast milk that I was pumping. Gross! Britt has had two ear infections, flu only 4 times, a few colds, and one broken pinky finger(which was a freak accident with a ball) since she was born. Her pediatrician and I have always joked that we only see her once a year for the yearly checkup. Tanya, Britt is a very healthy kid that just comes from a nutty family. My breastfeeding with Christian a different story. This time I scrubbed the hell out of my nipples for months before I had him, I massaged my breasts like my OB/GYN told me to do this time, and one of the nurses in the nic unit told me to drink three extra glasses of water each day and to pump after he breastfed for 10 to 20 minutes on each side to prevent mastitis this time. It worked great!! When Christian was 2 1/2 months old he stopped taking the breast he preferred the bottle. I had so much breast milk in the freezer that he was being given in the bottle all the time. He was switched to formula because of his special needs with his immune system to see if his counts would change. They did not. Christian has been labeled failure to thrive and still is because of his medical issues. Know matter what he was given or how much, he has been very slow to gain weight. I helped him survive by the attention, stimulation, and the main thing LOVE, which he has been showered with constantly. I would not change a thing. Tanya, you are Colettes mom and your love and attention is worth its weight in gold. Please do not make yourself feel one ounce of guilt for any decision that you make as a mother. You need to let your mothers intuition take over. You are an incredible woman, wife, and mother trust yourself! Love Ya, cousin Lisa

  6. Hey lovely mama, to add to the positive moments of your day, I nominated your blog for a Reader Appreciation Award! I really love reading your words and following your journey. Here is the post that tells you how to accept it, if you’d like to be involved: xoxo

  7. you know my story 🙂 before i had colin i wanted to breastfeed because i thought it would be convenient and money-saving. after i had colin it was my main connection to him, especially in those first weeks when he mostly cried and slept and never smiled or engaged with me. it really was heartbreaking to stop and i think it’s so funny now to just say ‘i stopped breastfeeding after 3-4 weeks’ because the experience and decision was SO MUCH more than that simple sentence. that decision was days of crying, days of pain (physical and emotional), days of discussion with drew, lactation consultants, friends and doctors. but if you hit your breaking point, you’ll know it. i agree with commenter above who said follow your baby’s cues, and follow your own instinct. i reached my breaking point, and no one can tell me if that was right or wrong because no one went through what i went through. you are your worst and best judge, only you know your breaking point. i’m praying for you and that this gets better – it will get easier no matter what decision you make!

  8. I definitely had the opposite problem. Amber would latch on and not ever let go. She refused to let us put any rubber nipple in her mouth until she was eight months old. However your connection with your daughter is not going to be based on wether you breastfed or not. It will happen because you ate a kind and loving person. My only concern is alot of formulas first ingredient is SUGAR. So please pay more for the most natural formula you can find. You have to feel well and up to par in order to be thr best mom you can be. Absolutely nobody who loves you will judge you. Do whats best for you mama ❤

  9. So, with my son Liam, breastfeeding was never easy, but it worked. He latched, gained weight, sucked from both breast and bottle, and overcame various hurdles along the way (cracked and bleeding nipples, me getting mastitis, either of us being sick, teeth, clogged milk duct). I pumped in weird places, breastfed in awkward places, and we made it through together. My goal was six months but after the first six it had gotten so much easier, so we kept going to 13 months. I thought, “Why doesn’t everyone do this? It’s such a fabulous bonding experience!”

    When Teagan arrived, I refused the free samples of formula at the hospital. I’ve got this in the bag, right? Wrong. She seemed to eat well in the hospital and for a few weeks, but at some point my supply began to go down (and/or her latch wasn’t right) and we got out of sync. She was starving, and I wasn’t making enough to keep up with the demand. She started to fuss at the breast, then scream, and then she was screaming nonstop. I brought her to a lactation consultant at five weeks, which was too late. My supply had gone down and she had lost too much weight. Thankfully, I had a wonderful lactation consultant who dealt with me throwing a screaming baby and emotional pre-schooler at her and immediately melting down. She calmed me down and we put a plan into place – I rented a hospital-grade pump and tried to get my supply up, and we supplemented with formula in the meantime to get her weight up. It worked fairly well, but my supply never came all the way back and she had grown to love the consistent pleasure of the bottle. I had a ridiculously hard time with the whole thing because I felt my identity as a mom was that I breastfed my babies. Even if I did everything else wrong, I knew I had done that right for my son, and I didn’t want my daughter to have anything less. Teagan really made the decision at that point, though, and I had the support of Rob and the lactation consultant who knew it was time to throw in the towel. So she was formula-fed, and everybody lived, even me. I was in the process of moving 900 miles away at the same time and I had another kid, so I had to do what was best for everyone. It was hard.

    You and Colette together will figure it out. Either path gets the baby fed, and that’s what has to happen. Hang in there!–Molly

  10. I think that when you are pregnant people generally do not share how very difficult nursing can be in the beginning! I know for me it was very hard for the first couple of months, and then it got so much better.
    I agree that the supplementing keeps her from being hungry and then makes her not want to nurse- like a vicious cycle. When I brought my girls home from the NICU I decided to cut out all bottle feedings and make the breast the only option. It worked for us, but not without the bumps of terrible nipple pain, etc.
    My suggestions: clean shirt, clean bra, clean sheets, clean everything changed a bit more often than you usually would, to prevent infections like thrush. (New shirt and bra every day- easier said than done in the newborn days.)
    Lanolin is amazing on painful nipples.
    I did a trick where after nursing I would fill a cup of warm salt water and hold it on my nipples for a couple minutes per side.
    If she is falling asleep before getting a long feeding in, wake her up to the best of your ability. The hind milk, or the milk in the second half of the feeding, is the highest in fat and will beef her up.
    Let your nipples air out as much as you can. Yes, hang out topless.
    Keep going at it! It WILL click! It takes time.
    Trust your gut. If something is recommended and it doesn’t feel right, second guess it.
    I basically nursed whenever they cried.
    And finally, read about it as much as you can (which I am sure you already are.) Become an expert, read and post on message forums, the ones helped me immensely, as well as KellyMom.

  11. Tanya,
    I have 3 children. 2 boys that I nursed ( and sometimes bottle fed) and 1 daughter who is adopted and I did not even meet until she was 7 months old. They are now 13,12 & 9. They are all happy, healthy and terrific. Don’t worry, everything turns out ok when a child has loving parents.

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