I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. My mom breastfed all of us and my sister breastfed her two kids. There has been a lot of research conducted showing how beneficial breastfeeding is. That being said, breastfeeding doesn’t work out for all women for a variety of reasons, and the important part is that babies get fed. Knowing I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, my biggest concern prior to William’s arrival was having a sufficient milk supply. Besides that, I didn’t really worry too much. Like everything else with being a first time momma, breastfeeding hasn’t gone exactly as planned. William is getting my breast milk exclusively, which I am happy about, but the actual nursing part is much harder than anticipated.
I’ll share my experience of my first week of breastfeeding. Since William was born at 6:17 on Thursday evening, I’m calling that day “Day 0.”
Day 0: I put William to my breast within the first hour of his birth during our skin-to-skin time and I’m happy to report he latched on right away! It wasn’t for a long period of time, but he did it and I felt immediate success!
Day 1: Breastfeeding went well and I was feeling confident. I was utilizing the nurses in helping me have William latch on and I met with the lactation consultant. She was impressed by William’s strong sucking ability. I knew he was strong as he had bruised both my nipples and breastfeeding actually hurt. I thought it was painful because I was just getting used to it, but it turns out he had an improper latch, so the consultant helped me fix that. Jonny and I kind of laughed (immaturely) as she explained how to get a proper latch. She explained that you need to kind of squeeze your boob (using a “c-grip”) to compress your nipple and make it like a “submarine sandwich.” (her words, not mine) Then you really shove the whole thing in his mouth when itz open ensuring it goes back far enough and he doesn’t get just the nipple part. I felt like I was getting the hang of it, but still asked the nurses to help as I wanted to learn as much as I could from the experts while we were in the hospital.
Day 2: Different story than day 1. William was super fussy all day (later we learned he was pretty gassy), so he was not nursing very well. This was a domino effect because he was fussy, so he wasn’t nursing. Then he was hungry and getting frustrated which made latching even more difficult. I met with the lactation consultant again and explained I really didn’t want to formula feed, if possible. She suggested I start pumping to ensure he was getting enough. This was especially important for William since he was born so small (5 pounds 2 ounces). While I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of pumping so early, I preferred this instead of formula feeding. Per her suggestion, each time I tried to feed, I nursed William for as long as he wanted and then pumped for ten minutes and gave him everything I produced. At this point, I literally was pumping just a few milliliters and we fed it to him out of a bottle nipple, so he could practice sucking. It seemed as though every time I put him on me, he fell asleep. He didn’t have the energy to nurse which can be typical for early babies.
Day 3: This was our first day at home, and I was growing concerned as William wasn’t feeding from me very well. It was obvious he was preferring the bottle since itz easier for him to get milk from and I was worried this pattern would last. My mom kept reminding me that the important thing was that William was getting enough to eat. I tried googling how to get him to feed from me better, and something I read said to put him on your boob every two hours. So all throughout this day and night, every two hours I tried to nurse him, pumped for ten minutes, then fed him what I got. Talk about exhausting! This literally consumed every moment and I was frustrated, worried, and upset. Throw that in to an already hormonal mix, and lots of tears were shed. I could tell my milk was starting to come as I had been pumping greater amounts and the consistency was changing.
Day 4: My milk officially arrived! It came fast and I was super engorged. My boobs were HUGE – bigger than just typical nursing breasts. They were rock hard and so sensitive. It felt like I had a boob job. It hurt to do everything, even walk or raise my arms. I tried using a hot compress on them; I tried icing them. I felt no relief from anything and was miserable. This was also our first doctor appointment with William’s pediatrician. I explained him my breastfeeding situation and told him how I was mostly bottle feeding my breast milk. When I told him how I was trying to nurse and pump every two hours, he told me that was not practical to sustain and to relax a little. He said William could go up to five hours without eating, so if he’s sleeping, let him sleep.
When we left the hospital, William weighed 4 pounds 10 ounces and on this visit he weighed 4 pounds 14 ounces and the doctor was very happy with his gain. (This is also why he said I didn’t have to wake him to feed him.) This made me feel a little better about bottle feeding because I knew he was getting enough. I went to google again to see how to reduce engorgement because I was so uncomfortable. Something I read said that you don’t want to pump too much because that signals your body to continue making more. Since I was so full, I decided to reduce pumping time to five minutes instead of ten.
Day 5: I called the lactation consultant because my engorgement was still present and I was not happy. When I told her how much I was producing after just five minutes of pumping, she said I had to pump longer as five minutes was clearly not giving me any relief. They usually suggest people pump for fifteen to twenty minutes. Increasing the time to ten minutes was magical and I instantly felt relief! I couldn’t believe how much milk I was producing, but was happy as I know some women struggle with this aspect. I was still very upset and frustrated by the fact that William wouldn’t nurse from me. My sister Stephanie suggested I take a break from breastfeeding and only give him bottles – just at night, so I could get some sleep.
The lactation consultant also explained that because William was born three weeks early, his suck-breathe-swallow reflex may not be completely developed yet (our pediatrician mentioned this, as well). Typically, when babies are in the womb, their sucking really develops between weeks 38 through 40. Since William was born at 37 weeks, because of his gestational age may have had something to do with him having trouble nursing. She told me to keep trying and just because I was bottle feeding did not mean that he would never nurse. He may just need a little longer to learn.
Day 6: My engorgement was under control and I was really hoping William would latch. I was producing a ton of milk and began freezing bags as I wasn’t going through as much as I was pumping. I tried to put William on my breast again without much luck. I kept giving him plenty of opportunities to nurse, but it was hard to find a good balance since he was sleeping so much. When he was really hungry, he wanted nothing to do with my breast since he was mad and screaming. It was almost worthless to try during these periods, so instead I tried to put him on during the few times he was awake throughout the day. Sometimes he would take a suck or two, but mostly he would just fall asleep on me. It was as though he was using my breast as a pacifier and would just sleep with it in his mouth.
Day 7: Pretty much the same as day 6. William wasn’t really taking me, but I was pumping a crazy amount and William was eating like a beast. His pediatrician called to check up on him and asked how much he was eating. When I told him almost two ounces at a time, he was very impressed and confirmed that bottle feeding was the right choice at this time. He also encouraged me to continue putting William to breast to let him try which I did keep up… just without much luck.
That’s my first week of breastfeeding, but I’m going to give you a few extra days of progress because itz just that – we’re making progress over here!
Days 8 & 9: Pretty much the same. William would latch on for a couple sucks and that’s about it. However, on day 9 William did nurse for a solid SEVEN MINUTES! This was huge and I felt on top of the world. It was in the evening time and just before I was going to make him a bottle when he was still calm. I still made a bottle, but he took barely any of it which meant he probably got a decent amount from my breast. YES!
Day 10: Not many good latches, but still eating like a champ from bottles.
Day 11: (Yesterday) We had another doctor appointment and William weighed a whopping 5 pounds 8 ounces! Our pediatrician was very impressed with William’s weight gain! This made me feel good about my decision to bottle feed as William gaining weight and eating enough has always been my primary concern. Funny enough, William nursed much better yesterday than he had been! He had another good seven minute stint on the boob before falling into a very deep and peaceful sleep. TWICE! Several other times throughout the day, he nursed for a minute or two which doesn’t seem very long, but it was longer than just a suck or two as he was doing before.
My whole point of this post besides writing it down, so I can remember my journey in the future? DON’T GIVE UP! I knew breastfeeding would be something I had to stick with, even if it didn’t go as well as I would have liked – which it didn’t. I’m feeling more confident, and as William grows older and bigger I think he’s getting the hang on if it more. Like all good things, for me it just took time. If you’re someone dealing with some of these same struggles, don’t give up, keep at it, especially if your baby was early like William.
Whew, long post. I’m done, friends!
I love you so much, little man!
Thoughts or advice for breastfeeding?