Breastfeeding has been a struggle for us for many reasons- but the biggest was because Eliana was born at 34 weeks and was in the NICU for 6 days after birth. The important thing was to get her fed and gaining weight at that point. She had a hard time even bottle feeding with her suck, swallow, breathe reflex. She dropped below 5lbs in the NICU, so it was not only needing to get her to gain weight- but my breasts were literally almost the same size as her.
In the picture above, we are in the NICU trying breastfeeding for the first time. A nurse was helping me, not a lactation consultant. It didn't work out for many reasons including what I mentioned above, plus she had a nasal cannula on at the time. The day before we left the NICU, a lactation consultant came by and we were able to do the football hold, but once we got home she would just SCREAM at my breast every time I would try to feed her. So for the first 6 weeks I exclusively pumped and we didn't try very often... because having your baby scream with hunger and frustration at something I should be able to do for her... kind of hurts your feelings.
At my 6 week postpartum appointment, my doctor suggested that maybe we see a lactation consultant again, if breastfeeding was something I still wanted to try. So I made an appointment and the following week we went and spent an hour with a lactation specialist my doctor recommended.
My husband came with Elli and I up to Redding (going places with a newborn as a first time mom is super overwhelming mmmmkay) We brought our boppy pillow and nipple shields. The lactation consultant was so sweet and made me feel so comfortable and confident in my ability to DO THIS. Like, there was no question as to IF we could do it. It was just figuring out how to do it, for both Elli and I.
We talked about what we've tried and how it usually goes (screaming hungry baby). We weighed Eliana before feeding, and then I got set up in a big recliner chair the consultant had in her office. **note, Eliana was half asleep during this whole set up because of the car ride** The consultant had swaddled Elli to keep her hands from interfering, we got into position (We did the football hold, because that's one of the easier positions for bigger breasts and short arms) she showed me how to use the nipple shield, how to get Eliana to latch and...
She latched! I could not believe it. And she ate on my left breast for about 20 minutes. When she seemed done and needed to be burped, we weighed her and she had eaten one ounce! We then switched to the other side. She ate on my right breast for about 20 minutes, and once she seemed full we burped and weighed her. She had eaten 2 more ounces! (My right breast is a superstar that makes more milk anyways)
I was in absolute awe. I was so happy and excited. I felt on top of the world. She had eaten her first full meal directly FROM ME. I finally felt that connection that breastfeeding moms must have.
We got home and when it was time to feed her again, we went to breastfeed.
It was a big screaming no.
We figured out that we had to be prepped and set up while she's still asleep, and then get her latched when she's half asleep so she doesn't have time to get pissed off yet. So I began trying to breastfeed her in bed in the mornings, laying down. But other than that, I was still pumping and bottle feeding for most of her meals.
I have been mostly exclusively pumping for 10 weeks. Since meeting with the lactation consultant, I'd only been able to get her to latch a few times on my own since then (turns out Eliana HATES football hold).
But something changed this week. I've been more consistent about breastfeeding in bed in the mornings, when she's mostly asleep still. And then I've just added trying a few times here and there, and I don't know if it's her new neck strength, or it just clicked, or consistency, or this new position I figured out with the right pillows and bra- but we breastfed 5 times the other day! And we have been breastfeeding most of her meals during the day ever since. I keep pumping and having milk for Theron and I to feed her at night. It's gotten easier and we both get a little better at it each day.
Is it the breastfeeding journey I was expecting? Definitely not. Did I ever think we were going to be able to breastfeed? Nope! Did I have "mom guilt" over not being able to breastfeed? Definitely. But I am thankful that I have been able to pump, and produce twice as much as she eats, for the past 10 weeks. I've been able to build up a stash of frozen breast milk, and I've come up with a routine that works for us. Don't get me wrong, pumping consistently with a newborn is hard. But thank goodness my supply is pretty stable now so I can even go a little longer between pumping and I'm still producing enough.
I'm so excited and proud of us for not giving up. I didn't know if it was even possible, to switch to breastfeeding at 10 weeks. But we're doing it!! And it's so nice to be able to feed my baby if I forget to bring milk somewhere (cause I've accidentally done that and it is stressful). It's allowed us to have that connection I really wanted, especially since we didn't get skin to skin at her birth.
If you're struggling with breastfeeding due to circumstances that are out of your control, you are definitely not alone. If you just don't want to breastfeed because you know it's not for you- that's perfectly fine too! You are feeding your baby one way or the other, so you are still providing your baby with nutrients to grow and thrive. Whether it's nursing, expressed breast milk, or formula. Your baby is fed, your baby is healthy, your baby is loved.
A reminder to myself as well as to you: try to have grace with yourself. As hard as it is sometimes... try not to compare yourself to other mom's journeys. This is YOUR journey with YOUR baby, and we're all doing great.