In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I wanted to give a shout out to moms that are breastfeeding or have breastfed their little ones! Breastfeeding is hard work but definitely worth it. Props to you for sticking to it during those difficult times. I want to encourage all moms-to-be or new moms that are breastfeeding to seek advice and help when needed. Don’t feel like you are in this alone. It’s time society begins normalizing breastfeeding so that more women are comfortable about doing it and are not afraid to ask questions.
Breastfeeding has been quite the journey for Emerson and me. Started with all nighters, a painful latch, and a baby who never seemed to stop nursing. I remember thinking there was no way I could do this. The thought of mixing up some formula was so tempting. But I didn’t give up because I knew this was the best I could give him. I made short-term goals in the beginning and sought help and advice from others who kept me going during those difficult times. As time went on, the pain never went away. After much research and a trip out-of-state to see a tongue and lip tie specialist, it was determined that Emerson had both a tongue and lip tie. He had a laser revision done to remove the ties, which I will post about later to share his story. After the revision he was able to nurse and I noticed immediately that it no longer caused me pain. I was so glad we had this problem corrected and I could now focus on breastfeeding pain-free.
The problem wasn’t completely solved there. Now, Emerson had to learn how to effectively use his “new” tongue. Since he wasn’t able to move it freely before he was not actually using it correctly while breastfeeding. After many visits to a craniosacral therapist (I didn’t even know about this before!), Emerson finally started to nurse correctly. At this point he was around 3 months old or so. Finally things felt like they were in place. I never imagined we would go through all of that just to be able to breastfeed but now things were great and breastfeeding was better than ever. Or so we thought.
Around the time Emerson was 4.5 months old we began having other issues. He was incredibly distracted while nursing to the point that even if I locked myself in a silent room with him he still managed to get distracted by the littlest things, our nursing sessions would last at least 40 minutes and consisted of him latching and un-latching constantly. It became concerning because I felt like he wasn’t eating enough. People reassured me that it was just a stage and eventually he would be able to nurse despite the distractions. Well it continued and I started noticing a decrease in his wet diapers and then a drop in his weight. I knew something was not right. I made calls to his doctor and to local lactation consultants. They suggested different things to try to see if the situation would improve. It didn’t. We began meeting with lactation consultants weekly and I started nursing him around the clock. He still wasn’t gaining weight. I felt desperate and afraid because my son was not getting the nourishment that he needed.
After weeks of trying different things it was obvious that the main issue was my supply. Now I had to work on increasing my supply. I tried everything that was recommended, spent the majority of my day dedicated to saving my nursing relationship with my son (which is why I hadn’t blogged in awhile). I began nursing and pumping every 2-3 hours and I began feeling like that was all I was doing. It was consuming our lives and was very stressful. I spent countless hours seeking advice and help and feeling like my body was a failure. It is incredibly difficult to feel like your body can’t provide for your child. The lactation consultants were at a loss because nothing was working. It took me a long time to finally come to accept that my supply was not going to increase. During this difficult time I had to make the decision about what I was going to supplement with. My pride of “breast is best” kept getting in the way, I just could not imagine giving my baby formula packed with crazy ingredients. But I had to look past that because in the end, fed is best.
I ultimately made the decision to go with donor milk. A personal decision my husband and I made after much research. I cried the first time he drank donor milk, knowing that I couldn’t provide enough for my son. It was very difficult but in the end he was being fed. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my supply issues especially since I don’t have solid answers as to why this happened. Another breastfeeding challenge I never thought I would personally have to face. Emerson is happy and healthy which is what matters the most. Currently Emerson is 7.5 months old and has only ever had breast milk. He is entirely on donor milk as of a few days ago. If it wasn’t for the donors we would not have made it this far. My goal is to keep Emerson on breast milk until the age of 1. This will be a challenge considering we will continue to need donor milk to reach this goal. We have been blessed so far so I believe it is possible.
I hope that some of you that have faced challenges while breastfeeding find my story as motivation to continue through any more difficulties you may encounter. Breastfeeding is not easy but it’s definitely worth it. You may be presented with some hurdles or several but don’t let it stop you. Just know that there is a network of people out there to help you. I know that I could not have made it this far if it wasn’t for my support group which includes my husband, some close friends, lactation consultants, and our donors. You are not alone and remember everything that you are doing, you are doing for your baby. They make it all worth it.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week =)