On Monday our lactation consultant came to our house. She was a woman in her early 30s and was 36 weeks pregnant with her own little one. She had such a quiet, calming spirit, which really helped my crazy anxious spirit at the time!
She weighed Victoria and I was dismayed to see that she had lost an entire pound since she was born. I felt like a failure! She said that it was more weight loss than she typically wants to see, but that we were going to see it as rock bottom. Only up from here! It was also nice that my baby was 9 pounds at birth, as that pound of weight loss didn't affect her that same way it would have affected a 5 pound baby.
She examined Victoria's mouth and her bite and said that she had a posterior tongue tie, but that it wasn't extreme. She recommended I try to make it work with the tongue tie and see if it would stretch on its own. If we couldn't figure it out within a week or two she recommended we go get it clipped.
So then she took me into our nursery and I showed her the issues we were having. As usual, Victoria made no show of latching or having any idea of what to do. I would put my nipple into her mouth and she would do nothing but struggle against me. The consultant gave me a nipple shield, which is like a little silicone disc with a nipple on it that you suction your own nipple up into. It essentially brings the nipple up far enough for the baby to pull it into the mouth and massage the milk out with the tongue, which is what babies with tongue ties struggle with.
|A nipple shield|
The reasoning is that a nipple shield is a barrier between you and baby, so it prevents the necessary skin to skin exchange that tells my hormones to produce the right amount and proper type of milk for her. So she told me that my goal is to get rid of the nipple shield within 2 weeks by slipping it off during feedings.
I am so happy she told me that because I had a friend who was given a nipple shield in the hospital and used it for months, struggling with supply and a baby who wouldn't natch without plastic, before she learned she was supposed to wean him from it asap!
After 2 hours with this amazing angel lactation consultant, I got Victoria to breastfeed with the aid of the nipple shield. It was such a feeling of victory! We were making progress!
**** I want to note that we did have to pay this lactation consultant, but I submitted the amount to our insurance and it was covered 100%. New healthcare laws in the US require that insurance covers breastfeeding supplies and consultations fully. So take advantage of that if you are having any issues! I know I never would have had 2 hours of one-on-one time with a hospital consultant who has other mamas to see, especially in the comfort of my own home.
I continued to use the nipple shield and my midwife came to visit. She was able to help me actually get Victoria latched once without the nipple shield. It took FOREVER to get her to do it, and only lasted 20 seconds or so, but we did it! It was so encouraging to see she could do it! My midwife reminded me that it was all new to her as well as to me. We were all figuring it out together.
On Tuesday I took Victoria to see the chiropractor who works closely with my midwifes. She had told me before I had Victoria that I should bring her in if I notice any breastfeeding issues, as sometimes a baby will refuse to breastfeed because of pain from the birth. So we brought her in and my chiropractor noticed that Victoria had a slight aversion to turning her head one way, so she adjusted her and we all hoped it would help her breastfeed better.
After that chiropractor appointment Victoria was 100% breastfed until 7.5 months old, when we started giving her some solids. She also started putting on weight quickly and shot into the 100th percentile.
It was not easy. Those first few weeks were a test in endurance as I used the nipple shield to teach her how to nurse, but in the end, Victoria learned how to do it. And when I ripped off the band-aid and forced us both to stop using the nipple shield at 2 weeks, we got through it together. It would sometimes take 10 tries to get her latched (which is the LAST thing you want to deal with when you are exhausted in the middle of the night), but after a few days it only took 5 tries, then only 3 tries. Before I knew it, she was latching like a pro.
I have been meaning to write this story for a long time because I hope it helps another mama out there who might be struggling. I can say without reservation that breastfeeding has been the single most emotionally bonding experience I've had with my baby. It isn't just feeding, it is comfort. I often call it "touch time", and Victoria still needs that touch time with me now at 1 year old, although she is much more independent now. Seeing her enthusiasm for breastfeeding now, you would NEVER guess that she had any issue with it in the beginning.
After my experience, here are a few of my observations and lessons from the entire ordeal:
--Breastfeeding is a learned skill. It is something neither you nor your baby really know how to do (unless you've nursed other children). Like with any skill, some people get lucky and get it right the first try with no issues. But most don't. You will have hiccups. But like with learning any skill you need to surround yourself with resources to help you succeed.
--ASK FOR HELP. Even if you don't particularly need it. Take advantage of that healthcare coverage for breastfeeding and find a good lactation consultant to come and help you in your home. If you are having any issues (supply, latch, etc) have the consultant help you put together a plan to fix the issue, not simply put a long-term band-aid on it.
--Be wary of breastfeeding advice from doctors or hospital professionals. Don't get me wrong, many of them are helpful and there are some great nurses out there. But hospital professionals are also bound by the rules of the hospital or their profession. Their number one goal is for your baby to gain weight, and many times they don't particularly care how it happens.
--Be tenacious and patient. You baby is learning, and you are learning. Set the ultimate goal of 100% breastfeeding and work toward it, even if you have to take baby steps. Because when your baby is waking up in the middle of the night during sleep regressions later on, you will be so thankful to have everything you need attached to your chest!
--Do no worry about anything else besides the breastfeeding relationship for at least the first 4 weeks of your baby's life. Seriously. This is probably the #1 thing I learned, and I learned it the hard way. I had so many friends recommend certain sleep training and scheduling when I first had Victoria. Early sleep training and scheduling is ONLY applicable for babies who have zero nursing issues. And even then, you want to really focus those first weeks on establishing the skill in both you and your baby. I would have struggled with supply issues if I hadn't just sat down and pretty much breastfed my baby constantly those first weeks, because she was such an inefficient sucker she wasn't getting enough. So sit down, hold your baby, read a book, and breastfeed as much as possible. Even just allowing your baby to sleep on your breast and lazily nurse in sleep. It helps establish the skill and your supply. Only after all that has been accomplish should you start thinking about things like schedules and sleep. My baby is an amazing sleeper now and she was not at all when she was tiny. It's ok to focus on one issue at a time, and nursing is always the priority.
--Ultimately, healthy babies are the goal. I would argue that breastfeeding makes for healthy babies, but even my amazing lactation consultant says there are very rare situations when it just doesn't work. And that is ok. But don't give up until you exhaust all your options and try for at least a couple months. My good friend had a very jaundiced and tongue tied baby who took about 8 weeks to fully figure out nursing, and she only just weaned him at a year because she is pregnant again. Her doctor and even a lactation consultant at her doctor's office told her to give up, but I encouraged her to give her baby some time to figure it out. She stuck it out and her little guy figured it out!