Ashley's Breastfeeding Journey
When I got pregnant, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wanted to breastfeed...
It wasn’t even a question really, I just assumed – baby & boob… done. Now before I get started, I am NOT going to be discussing breastfeeding vs. formula-- do you mama! I am simply going to be sharing my own personal experiences with the hope that it resonates with someone out there.
I am a planner by nature. I made sure I took a birthing class that covered everything from how to count your contractions and preparing to go into labour, to what to do with this tiny little babe once he arrived. One thing the instructor talked about quite a lot in regards to breastfeeding was a proper latch. She demonstrated on a little crotchet boob how the baby is supposed to latch on “nipple to nose” and she told me to think about how you take a bite out of a hamburger.
Ok fine, that all made sense at the time. And once again, forgive me for being ignorant, but I just assumed my baby would latch on right after birth and away we’d go. But I was wrong... my baby didn’t want to eat the hamburger.
Mason was delivered via c-section. I vividly remember him being placed on my chest and the nurses reinforcing the importance of skin-to-skin contact; we had so many hours of skin to skin and I so clearly remember the feeling. So when it came time to try and nurse Mason, I felt like I knew what I was doing. The nurses helped to position him (since I had a c-section we didn’t want to place added pressure on my stomach) and I was ready! Turns out Mason wasn’t, he just wouldn’t latch.
We continuously tried: tried to reposition him several times, tried to adjust my positioning… but this tiny little babe wasn’t having any of it. Eventually we got to a point where I was expressing colostrum (or liquid gold as they call it), and we were spoon-feeding Mason, but we also needed to give him a little more-- enter in the formula.
I honestly didn’t want to feed him formula. I felt like yet again, my body was failing me. My body failed me when we were trying to get pregnant, and now it couldn’t get its you-know-what-together to feed my baby. Of course I blamed myself! Even though I was producing colostrum and doing everything “right”, it just wasn’t working.
By day two, we were still spoon-feeding Mason formula and colostrum, as he hadn’t latched. The nurses kept trying. I kept trying. They finally sent a lactation consultant in to see us as Mason was losing more weight than they were comfortable with, and they didn’t want to discharge us until we had a game plan in place.
Enter in the miracle worker lactation consultant who quickly got Mase to latch! It took a few tries, but she was able to figure out what the issue was and correct it (his tongue kept pressing to the roof of his mouth). We all sat down and went over how much formula we would have to give him if the issues continued to make sure he was gaining enough weight, and we practiced the latch several times before we left the hospital. I was able to nurse Mason on my own a couple of times, and I was so happy.
But when we came home, Mason continued to have issues with his latch. He was “bobbing for boobies” as I liked to call it, constantly wanting to look for the boob and wanting to nurse. Yet for whatever reason, it just wasn’t happening for us.
The first two weeks were hell, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Every three hours, I tried to nurse Mason (or sooner if he was showing any hunger cues). I think during those first two weeks he latched maybe 10 times if that. I was already a hormonal mess from just giving birth, but now I couldn’t feed my baby and every time I tried to nurse him, I would break down. I felt like a failure. Which I know now, in hindsight, wasn’t fair. I was doing all that I could.
When Mason wouldn’t nurse, we were feeding him formula from a cup, from a bottle, and “finger feeding, which is where you put the formula in a syringe and push it through a tiny tube that is attached to your finger that the baby sucks out. Honestly, it was all so exhausting. Thankfully, my husband was the biggest help. When Mason wouldn’t latch and we needed to give him formula, he would feed Mason while I went to pump to try to build my supply. I was pumping 8-10 times a day on top of trying to nurse Mason every few hours. I was exhausted, exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. I got so desperate that I called a private lactation consultant to come to the house. Though she couldn’t get Mason to latch on his own, we did have success with a nipple shield. Again, I don’t want to get into the issues/pro’s vs cons about nipple shields here. For me, I was happy SOMETHING was finally working, but I knew I wanted to be able to nurse without one.
When we went to meet Mason’s pediatrician, one of the first questions he asked was whether he was breastfed or bottle fed. Queue the next meltdown. I completely broke down in his office and told him how hard I was trying but that it just wasn’t working. He kept telling me it was ok and to forget about the pressure I was putting on myself. He reinforced the importance of my own mental health and well-being, and advised me that if I was THIS distraught and stressed out about trying to nurse, to strongly consider going to formula. It was so refreshing to have Mason’s doctor tell me it was ok to stop. Ok to let go of that pressure and expectations. Ok to let go of the fear of failure.
We left the doctor’s office and I told myself I would give it until the end of the weekend and if it wasn’t working, I was done trying...
Then miraculously on my birthday, 13 days after I gave birth, Mason decided to latch.
I’ll never forget that moment because we were getting ready to head over to Kayla’s to meet Wynn who was born six days prior, and I figured “what the heck I’ll just try”. I was shocked and oh, so happy. Then at Kayla’s, I tried to nurse him again. I had Kayla come into her nursery with me and watch me to help! Once again…Mason latched. All of a sudden, Mason decided he was ready to nurse and from that moment on, we had a beautiful nursing experience.
I am so happy I made the choice to keep trying. For us, it worked. But mama’s, if you are out there and it’s not working, it is OKAY. You are NOT giving up, you are NOT throwing in the towel, and you are NOT a failure if nursing doesn’t work for you. I so badly wish someone would have told me in the beginning that trying to breastfeed might be hard. That it might not work. That not all babies latch with ease. No one talks about how hard it can be.
I really hope that this post helps someone out there who has struggled, or is struggling, to know that they are not alone. If you have made the decision to breastfeed and you are having challenges, there are resources that can help.
Hang in there mama, you’ve got this.