Caution: this is a long, woeful one.
Albie’s tongue tie snip was Monday. The instant fix I was expecting didn’t quite come. The doctor told me “throw away the nipple shields and the formula otherwise you’ll never get him solely on the breast”. The breastfeeding counsellor said to do whatever works for now, particularly regarding the nipple shields and we could wean him off them in due course.
He seemed to feed quite well initially, when the counsellor was on hand to help him latch properly. He seemed done so I went to put him in his carseat on the pram to exit the room but he started crying again, but in my hurry to leave the room and vacate it for the next lady who was going through the same thing (the hospital didn’t have enough available rooms) I dropped the nipple shield so I was forced to try and get him to the breast without it. By this time the counsellor was helping the next lady so I struggled on my own for a bit which was painful and he fell asleep so we left.
As an aside, we also had to pop to A&E since I’d discovered a sore swelling on my leg and wanted it to be checked out. We were quickly referred to the DVT clinic who did blood tests and arranged an ultrasound for me on Thursday – the DVT nurse said she didn’t think it was a DVT but best to be on the safe side. Later that night my leg started to itch like crazy and I realised it was actually very likely to be an insect bite that I’d had an allergic reaction to. Oops! As the week went on it became itchier then the swelling subsided, and the ultrasound came back clear so I knew it was likely the case. I’d called the hospital on Wednesday to tell them and they said come in anyway so I didn’t feel like I was wasting anyone’s time. Slightly embarrassing but the hospital were very good to follow it up anyway.
I digress. Monday went ok but I still wasn’t convinced of the latch, or any difference in his feeding cues at all. From my recollection though I didn’t give him any formula although it’s pretty hazy now.
Tuesday was D’s first day back at work. We woke up at 5am and Albie fed from me for 2 hours with a bit of a fuss. At one point when he pulled away I decided to take him for a walk in his pram to get him to settle and sleep. This didn’t work, he cried most of the way. Once home, he fed for more than another two hours (still screaming and still painful for me) then eventually fell asleep just before the health visitor arrived. She then needed to strip him off to measure him so once again he was awake. She used the weight measurement taken at the hospital the day before and said she was happy he was getting enough from breastfeeding although I pointed out he’d only been exclusively breastfeeding for 24 hours since the measurement was taken. I continued to feed him without being able to put him down all afternoon, bar an hour that he finally slept on my dad (and I spent an hour frantically running around with my mum tidying up, when i probably should have been napping). Other than that my mum had to spoonfeed me my salad as he was feeding all day. The minutes ticked by so slowly and by the time D was due back from work I was exhausted and emotional and upset by this baby who’d slept for about 1 hour out of the last 12. I put him back in his pram and took him for a walk to the station to meet his dad, both of us crying all the way. When we met D I just broke down and said we needed to go and get more formula and I couldn’t do it any longer. I felt so upset.
On Wednesday I gave him the milk I’d expressed through the night and some formula and tried breastfeeding again. There were lots of screaming fits and pain but I had company from my Mother In Law and a friend from up the road who shared her experiences with her 9 week old going from bottle to breast and it gave me some hope. By evening though I was so sore we put him back on the formula and I kept on expressing.
On Thursday, after my ultrasound we went to the breastfeeding support group where I met one of the other ladies whose daughter had also had the snip on Monday and she felt much the same, she was formula feeding mainly as she couldn’t give her little girl enough. Her general demeanour was calmer than mine though as she was a second time mum!
Albie’s turn to be seen came but he’d stirred by the time they’d got to us and for a change I’d managed to get him to the breast before the screaming had started and latched ok for once. Typical they’d see him at his best though we agreed it was probably the reclined position we got from the beanbag,our sofa at home is very upright. He then needed a nappy change and screamed the place down. When I offered the other breast he had screaming fit at me again but with some help we managed to get him there, although it needed the counsellor getting him there and then propping umpteen cushions around me. She said I just needed to pick a day and devote it to establishing things over 24 hours though it could take up to 6 weeks to establish breastfeeding, though they don’t tell most women this – this was pretty daunting.
When he came off the breast and appeared content-ish made our getaway as the centre was closing, though he grizzled but eventually settled in the car so we legged it to the retail park to try and find a decent beanbag, to no avail. Once home I settled in on the armchair and ordered a beanbag, but he screamed at me so much I gave in to formula again, feeling like a failure, again.
On Friday I rather hastily decided this was the day. I was just going to stay in bed with him, do loads of skin-to-skin and Make This Happen. There was screaming, there was some feeding but there was mostly pain and gnawed-on nipples. Though he slumbered for an hour on me and I dozed too, he seems to go from 0-100 immediately upon waking and just scream at me once more. By the time my mum arrived late morning I was on my last nerve. She gave him some breast milk in a bottle that I’d expressed overnight and I called the GP and told her how much I was struggling. She told me that if they medicated me I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed and would have to stay on meds for 6 months and that she believed it was just regular baby blues that would shortly pass. She said not to try to breastfeed til I was feeling more on an even keel and to formula feed and express in the meantime. Albie stayed asleep long enough for us to go into town and grab some more formula and as the afternoon went on I felt marginally better.
When Saturday came I was having (or inventing?!) more problems. How was it express when I could never find 20 mins to put him down between protracted feeds? It seemed every time I tried, he’d cry, and when I did get to pump, I hardly produced anything so that would go into his next bottle 20 mins later, I’d never be able to stash it up at this rate. I called my friend S who had her baby in Jan as I knew she’d had trouble feeding too.
S had expressed and bottlefed breast/formula for 2 months and then tried latching him again and it just worked, and she’d continued breastfeeding by day and bottle feeding by night. At 4 months he started refusing the breast altogether and she had happily moved him to formula only, satisfied that she’d done her best and got him 4 months worth of breast milk. She told me she’d gone through exactly the same hormone stuff and phone calls to GP, and relentless tears. She advised I just bottlefed for a couple of days to give myself a chance to build up a stash and gave me some advice generally which made me feel marginally better.
The low production was undoubtedly down to stress and diet – I hadn’t eaten breakfast and had only some soup and a roll for lunch. We got a Chinese takeaway and had a relatively chilled evening. I even managed to enjoy a cuddle with my boy, which I was struggling with because the sound of him crying was so distressing to me that I’ve been trying to hand him over wherever possible, even feeling resentful towards him at times, particularly when he interrupted the pumping schedule, or if his long drawn out feeds clashed with my pumping time and we missed a window to go out and get some air.
On Sunday (today), I found a new reason to stress. He’d been eating a lot but I realised that between the hours of 4am and 11am Albie had guzzled 4 x 4oz bottles of formula, and the box said a baby his age should be having approx 5 bottles over 24 hours. This was 4 bottles over 7 hours! My production was again pretty low and again my emotions got to me. I was worried that when I took Albie for a weigh in, if he carried on at that rate, I’d be told off for overfeeding him and making him obese. I called maternity liaison who got a midwife to get in touch. She advised me to give him hungry baby formula (which we’d bought a couple of bottles of as emergency stash but that I was too scared to use because I am an overthinker!) and that she’d be out in a couple of hours.
She and her student accomplice were again fantastic. She told me I didn’t have to breastfeed at all if I didn’t want to, that she had struggled herself and had horrendous feelings about it, like how could she even be a midwife if she couldn’t breastfeed?! What she told me really took the pressure off. She examined Albie and said it looked like he did have a small tongue, perhaps not the right shape to be conducive with breastfeeding, but his weight is fine, he’s packing it on and that we should give him the hungry baby formula and breast milk when it was available, if I was up to it. I said I didn’t want to make a snap decision to give up trying to breastfeed altogether while I was feeling so low and she again advised I keep on expressing where I could but to try and relax, and eat and drink enough until I’m in a better place to a) produce more and b) make a call on what I want to do longer term.
5 mins after she left, Albie threw up all of the hungry baby formula we’d given him! The 4th time he’s thrown up ever! Not quick enough on the burping, evidently. We quickly bathed him and I changed and I dashed to Mothercare to get the new formula before the shops shut.
Since then it seems he’s still ridiculously hungry. Should it kick in straight away? Will it take time to settle? I know I need to stop looking at the internet and fixating on the numbers written on the box. But I’m hormonal and sleep deprived and seemingly predisposed to overthink.
I wonder if I’ll ever manage to breastfeed successfully. It seems so immeasurable for my numbers-driven constitution. Babies aren’t transparent so you can’t see what is going in. And do I have the patience? I know breastmilk is amazing and means no equipment and pesky sterilising is required and it burns loads of calories. But is it ok for me to choose formula for convenience of being able to measure how much he’s had? Because I like going outside? Will I forgive myself if I choose to stop expressing now, or a week or month down the line? All of this is unknown which means I need to carry on trying to do it even though it’s exhausting and I often feel about 5 minutes from giving up especially after a pumping/expressing session which yields 10ml. I’ve been hand expressing I’ve pumping as it seems less sore bit I’ve bought a hands free pumping bra which should help me to do the compressions and massage while the pump works. How does anyone sleep when the baby sleeps with all this going on?!
I hoped this was going to be a two part tale with a happy ending contained in this post, but it looks like the saga may continue a while longer after all. But that’s because I’m keen to make it to a happy ending.
Corr – all dem WORDS, where’s the pictures? HERE’S ONE!