This post will be a continuation from my last post seen here.
Just to quickly recap, I had some issues with getting my daughter to latch properly and went home with the ‘ok’ from Natalie’s pediatrician to exclusively breastfeed (EBF).
The first couple days at home were a nightmare. Natalie barely latched on, and she seemed like she could suck forever with her shallow suck. I eventually remembered that I had the nipple shield and started using that (in the wrong way). This made feeding tolerable for the time being. My left nipple was still pretty sore and wasn’t really improving. It had been recommended to get Canadian Nipple Cream so I was using that, but it wasn’t cutting it. Natalie was also just sucking and sucking and sucking. I felt as though she was never fully satisfied.
On Friday, the day after we got home from the hospital, we went to the doctor to check Natalie out. Well, she had dropped down to 6lbs 3oz (from her birth weight of 6lbs 14oz and leaving the hospital weight of 6lbs 8oz), which was definitely not acceptable. At this point my milk still had not come in. The pediatrician told me the one thing I didn’t want to hear – I had to supplement with formula. I basically broke down crying in the doctor’s office after she left the room. All I could think about was how everything I read told me not to introduce a bottle until breastfeeding was well established, which they recommended at least 2 weeks. All I could think about was how I was failing as a mother by not being able to provide the nutrition that my daughter needed. My husband was my rock throughout the whole appointment. He reassured me that I wasn’t a failure and that everything would be ok.
The short car ride home was terrible. I was on the verge of tears the entire time. Even now as I write, remembering how it felt, how it still feels, I tear up. And I am not the crying type. I never cry. But having this little person rely on me, and me failing her, really got to me. During our ride, my husband said something innocent to Natalie, like “how come you are so small and cute?” to which I broke down crying that she was small because I couldn’t feed her properly. Yup, I was a total mess.
So we started supplementing after every feeding. I continued to nurse 10 minutes on each side, and then topped Natalie off with 2oz of formula. By the next day, my milk had started to come in as evidence by some leakage and a heaviness in my breasts. The doctor called that morning to check up on us and said that we could reduce the supplementation to every third feeding. By our next appointment on Monday morning, Natalie had gained 5oz in 3 days, which was awesome. And so the doctor reduced the supplementation to just two bottles a day.
The next week we went back to the doctor. Bad news. Natalie only gained an oz in an entire week. They really want babies to not only be at their birth weight by two weeks but also gaining at least an oz a day. We were back to supplementing every other feeding and waking her up every three hours to eat. Obviously something wasn’t going well, and even though my milk had come in, it was either not being removed effectively and/or my supply was too low. And so I was recommended to a lactation consultant, Kathleen.
By the time that I got into contact with Kathleen, she couldn’t see me until Thursday of the following week. So in the mean time I was struggling trying to get Natalie to latch on without the nipple shield because I had read that nipple shields can cause your milk supply to be low. This was extremely painful since Natalie was still clamping down on my left nipple. I also started a regimen of Fenugreek, an herbal supplement that I had read about and been recommended by others as a catalyst to increase milk supply. I was taking three capsules, three times a day, but it so far wasn’t helping. At this point, I was feeling extremely hopeless. Any time I talked about breastfeeding or heard others talk about how great their supply was, I just about burst into tears.
I finally met with Kathleen, and she was such an encouragement. She encouraged me to continue with the nipple shield for the time being since it was providing less pain than without. And if I was having less pain, then I would be more likely to continue. She also informed me that the studies that said that women using nipple shields had a decreased supply were taking subjects that had something else going on with them that was the root cause of their supply issue. In short, she didn’t think that it was causing my supply issues, but I was using the nipple shield incorrectly. Like I said before, no one actually showed me how to use the thing. So I was simply placing it over my nipple and having Natalie suck on that. Kathleen showed me that I needed to turn it inside out to a degree and then roll it over my nipple so that as much of my nipple was in direct contact with the shield as possible. The only decent analogy I know of is that it is kind of like putting a condom on, except that it isn’t rolled up to begin with.
Kathleen also recommended that I pump after every single feeding. This has been quite a challenge since it seems like I never get the chance. As soon as I’m done feeding Natalie, she is instantly cranky or doesn’t want to be put down. It is a constant battle to try and make the time to pump. So instead of pumping close to eight times a day, I’m getting two pumping sessions max when I can.
Finally she had me switch from Fenugreek to More Milk Special Blend, another herbal supplement. That didn’t have much of an effect either. And so now I’m taking a prescription called Reglan. Reglan is an anti-nausea medication that has the unique side effect of increasing prolactin, a hormone involved in milk production. So that is what I am currently doing, 3 pills of Reglan a day plus 4 pills of More Milk Special Blend. So far I’ve been on this regimen for 2 full days, however it takes about 3-4 days for the Reglan to really kick in. If I don’t see a change soon, I am going to substitute GoLacta for More Milk Special Blend.
Thanks for reading my saga, and I will make sure to update everyone on my progress!