Tuesday, January 21, 2014

F Word

So I feel like there is this "F word" in the mom world.


It's like this evil word, where you immediately feel guilt and condescension and judgement being passed. Or is that just me?

Even pre pregnancy, I picked up on it.

"Oh. You don't nurse her anymore? She's only, what, 5 months old?"

"Oh what happened? Did your supply dry up?"

And I don't think people mean offense. Or maybe they do. I'd like to think they don't. But either way, it's freaking stressful to think of having to use the F word. Of the "failure" that means for you as a mom. And that's not including the stress of the cost. THAT is a whole different situation!

When Kaycee was a day old, I was talking to her nurse after we fed her what I had pumped {not much at all} about how to get her off of her IV. They said that we needed to get her eating lots, to maintain her sugar levels on her own. I was worried because I wasn't making enough, so we decided to start giving her formula. Because we didn't want it to affect my supply, we had the "contraption" - we would fill a large syringe with formula and have a little tube run down to a shield I would wear to nurse her {Kaycee hasn't been able to nurse without it, I've been wearing a shield the whole time except her very first nursing after she was born}. The nurse would squeeze the syringe as she sucked, since I was holding Kaycee, and then the nurse would also squirt a smaller syringe into Kaycee's mouth with formula to encourage her to suck. Otherwise, she'd just cry and not do anything. She doesn't latch on her own - only has the 1 time. She needs something to encourage her to suck, and once she is sucking, she wants it NOW. Instant gratification already, she's just like her mom haha.

We realized pretty quick that set up wouldn't work once I was home - I only have so many hands. And even with Jake being home the first week, we knew that it'd probably be the "set up" we used for a while, so we needed to figure out a way to make it work without anyone helping me. We ended up taking the top off of the big syringe and pinning it to my shirt. I would fill the syringe on my own, and have to be very careful of it spilling anywhere. Then I'd need to balance her, and shoot the smaller syringe into her mouth. It worked. Not well, but it worked.

Our first night home was hell. I got formula all over both of us, a TON of blankets and burp cloths {every time I would spill, I'd get a new one out. Bad idea!}, the couch & the rocking chair and probably the carpet. And she wouldn't sleep in her crib or her pack n play. She wanted to be held. So I'd fight putting her down to sleep, hurry and pump to get my supply in, and then have 5 minutes before she was crying and wanting to be held. So I'd hold her and try to get her back to sleep, and before I know it's been 3 hours and it's time to eat and do it all over again.

I was exhausted the next day, and kept reminding myself how badly I wanted her to not have formula, that I wanted her to be nursing and it would all be worth it. I decided to stop pumping and just nurse her, and make her do it and my supply would come in faster and all would be well. Except I could tell she wasn't getting enough. And she'd get frustrated nursing without any immediate gratification, like with the syringe. During the day wasn't so bad, but that night was insane. The shield the hospital gave me stopping working {they gave me a smaller size because she has a little mouth, but because of all the pumping I did, it no longer was fitting me} and she would just scream and scream. I ended up just giving her formula all night and didn't pump once. Screw this whole thing, it isn't worth it.

Jake came out at 3 AM and we talked once I had her calm and I was bawling. I felt like the world's worst mom. She's 5 days old and I already can't feed her, and this stupid "contraption" for nursing with the syringe and tube wasn't working anymore and it took too many hands and I hated pumping at 3 AM and I just can't do this and would rather do formula. Jake was amazing and told me that formula wouldn't kill her and although it's not what we had wanted, our goal is for her to be healthy and alive and for me to not go insane so that I can be a good mom and at that moment, I wasn't feeling capable of taking care of her. I was insanely overburdened and didn't want to deal with it anymore. Every time she would flinch in her sleep I would FREAK out thinking she wanted to get up to eat AGAIN because it was so dang stressful having her eat. And newborns eat 8-12 times a day. I was a NERVOUS wreck those couple days.

So having Jake tell me it'd all be ok and we'd use formula and I could feed her whatever I pump, when I do pump, so that she gets some of my milk and other then that use formula made me feel better. The rest of that second night went MUCH better.

But the decision made me feel really guilty, and sad. I was so anti formula. I didn't want to use it. I took classes! I can do this! People in 3rd world countries do this, why can't I?!

I had set up an appointment with a lactation consultant at her pediatrician office for that next morning, but because we decided to just go to formula, I almost cancelled the appointment. My mom suggested I still go and see if she recommended anything to help get my supply up so that I could give her as much of my milk as possible. I wanted the bonding experience of nursing her, but she just would not latch and the stupid shield didn't work anyway and I was just so freaking frustrated. And I was scared of the lactation consultant. I was worried she'd judge me for giving my baby formula at 5 days old.

But she was amazing.

Seriously, I owe Cathy A LOT.

She told me that it takes a lot to put aside my feelings about formula to make sure that my baby is getting enough nourishment. That the "contraption" is not a long term solution. And that pumping is a great idea. I was super surprised.

She came up with a plan for us. I would give her a bottle, of what I had pumped, formula or both, and then have her "practice" nursing for 10 minutes on each side after she has calmed down because she has had something to eat from a bottle. Then, after she's practiced and had enough to eat and is asleep, I pump for 10 minutes. I needed to be pumping 7-8 times a day, skipping one time in the middle of the night so that I can get some extra sleep. And I needed to get a hospital grade pump, just rent one, to help get my supply up. She gave me a different, better shield. One that fits and will work for us. And she encouraged us to never use the "contraption" again. HALLELUJAH!

I figured this wouldn't hurt anything to try, and if anything practice nursing would help with the bond with Kaycee, since I had been frustrated up until that point. Especially if she wasn't crying when we did it because she would have already eaten something. So starting last Wednesday {6 days ago} we started the plan.

The next day, my lactation consultant from the hospital, Jill, called and wanted to see how things were going. I explained the situation to her and what the LC at the pediatricians office had said, and she said she agreed with everything we were trying to do. She also suggested I add a supplement called Fenugreek to help my supply, taken 2-3 times a day, and that I "power pump" at night. Basically, that means I feed her, practice nursing and then put her to sleep and pump for 10 minutes, then take a 10 minute break, pump for 10, break for 10, pump for 10, break for 10 and pump for 10. So I am pumping for 70 minutes with 3 10 minutes breaks. She recommended I do it in the evening and to make sure I take Fenugreek 45 minutes before I start pumping and make sure one of the times I take it is when I power pump. The point of power pumping isn't to get crazy amounts out - it's to signal my body that it needs to be making more.

So far, everything we are doing is helping.

I hadn't been making ANYWHERE near enough to feed her when we came home. We are almost exactly even now with how much I produce and how much she eats, she just eats what I pumped at the last feeding.

The Fenugreek seems to be working, it has just given Kayc some gas but I have been using a DoTerra oil diluted on her tummy and it totally solved the problem. My friend Jaelyn suggested 2 oils to help my supply and I started taking those yesterday. Hopefully that helps too.

I've been making sure I don't forget to eat, since when I don't eat, I notice I make less.

And she's nursing better. Ish. She definitely doesn't nurse yet. She did a 6-7 minute span yesterday and I was thrilled. And she did a 15 minute span the day before and I cried I was so happy. Other then that, she's very passive with it and will cry for the few minutes we practice before she has a bottle, and then fall asleep or suck softly like a pacifier instead of how she sucks when she eats.

But we are getting somewhere. The hospital grade pump ROCKS and I am SOOOO glad we rented it. We have it for a month, and I will keep it longer if needed. It's TOTALLY worth it. I had the "older" version for the last few days, but today the one the hospital was letting me use became available so I went down and got it. It's MUCH better than the other one, I can already tell, so hopefully that helps too!

I'd heard breastfeeding was hard. I knew it would be. But I didn't think it'd be hard like this. I was expecting engorgement, or cracked/blistered/bloody nipples. Nope, just not making enough and having a baby who doesn't want to latch period. But latch is getting better with time, it's only been 6 days of "the plan" and supply has DEFINITELY improved. I don't notice the separation of my milk when it's pumped with creaminess on top, so I am hoping the oils I am taking will help get more hind milk - that's the part she really wants :)

I am not quitting. This is VERY important to me. I want to nurse her. My original goal had been 12 months. And that would be beyond awesome to be able to do that. But I am breaking it down into smaller goals {thanks Kort for the idea!}. Goal for right now is 3 months. When she turns 3 months, I want to still be nursing her. It'd be AWESOME if I wasn't pumping anymore at that point because she was doing it on her own, but if we still are pumping that's ok too. I just want her getting it from me and not formula.

I'm grateful I want this so bad - it makes it easier in the middle of the night to go through the routine. It takes about an hour to do the whole process, with washing the bottle and the pump and prepping for the next feeding, but it's all worth it. And I don't work, so I can sleep the next day when needed. I am grateful my supply is coming in. For the interest she is showing in nursing, slowly but surely. For the support Jake has given me, especially while I power pump. She has gotten fussy the last 2 nights and he has taken care of her so I could finish. I'm grateful that I have been pretty dang reassured that the first 3 weeks are hell for everyone, and that it does get better. No baby is born a pro with a mom who has an abundant supply at day 1. Every mom/baby duo has complications and it takes work to get through them, but it's possible.

And if it doesn't work out, and she won't latch or whatever, and I end up using formula, that's ok. Yes, I want to nurse. Yes, I want to save money by not buying formula. Yes, "breast is best". But I want a living baby more than I want the mindset of knowing that I am giving her "the best". Food is best. And I am not determined enough to avoid formula that I will let her starve. I'm not going down without a fight, but if it comes down to it and she needs formula, I'm going to give it to her.

Hoping for tomorrow to be her first "formula free" day - she is close so far today, only had 1 ounce of formula but she has had a little. Compared to the 14 ounces a day she was having 5 days ago, I will take it!! I'll be sure to update again in a few weeks on her progress. She's learning quick at things, I'm pretty dang sure I'll have a good report in a few weeks!


  1. Whew!!!! That sounds intense Ashley. I'm sorry nursing has been such a pain!!! That sounds like so much work and stress and I hope and pray it gets easier for you. Formula is not horrible and you are NOT a bad mom for giving it to her! You are an amazing mom!!!

  2. Nursing can be hard and stressful, especially when you've never done it before and you don't know what's right and what's wrong! Ruby was a really sleepy newborn, and I had a hard time waking her up enough to nurse. I thought things were going ok, but I worried about her being so hard to wake up.

    When she was 3 days old, I couldn't wake her up to eat at all. It was so scary! And my milk had just come in so I was engorged and in pain, and I was just crying trying to get her to wake up. When it had been 6 hours since she'd last eaten (and you know how long that is for a newborn!) we ended up taking her to the ER. They said she was dehydrated and her blood sugars were low. She ended up staying in the NICU for 2 days so that they could make sure she didn't have an infection. Fortunately, she got better with an IV and didn't have an infection--the bottom line seemed to be that she wasn't nursing well. It was a good thing we listened to our instincts and took her to get help when she needed it. I got a nurse at the hospital who saved my butt on nursing, and things got better after that, but it was scary!

    Sorry this is a little long, but I'm just trying to say that nursing and having a baby generally is hard for everybody, and it's hard in different ways. You'll get through this and it'll be ok, no matter how she ends up eating. You can do it!