Wednesday, July 18, 2007

breastfeeding woes gone terribly awry

i've been hearing a lot of stories about women having problems with breastfeeding. when i was pregnant, i dreaded the thought of it (even more than the delivery), although i was determined to do so. the little one had a nasty case of jaundice, thanks to the bruising from the vac-assist. even though his latch was strong, he was extremely sleepy and we struggled to keep him awake to eat.

it went downhill from there. just as we thought we were about to be discharged, we learned his level was getting higher and he needed to be put into the incubator, full-time, except to eat. running on very little sleep, adjusting to a new life, and feeling trapped in the hospital, emotions and stress levels were high. since the baby and incubator were in the room with us, me and my husband were lucky enough to be able to get a private room, but the feeding problems got worse. i was going through a lot of pain when feeding due to sore nipples and engorgement as the milk started to come in; could hardly even sit to feed thanks to a sore tailbone; and the baby wasn't interested, or able, to stay latched long enough to properly eat. i started pumping and my husband and i began to feed the baby with a tiny cup. to our amazement, the baby took to this right away, slowly but surely... but a true test of patience, esp. at 4 a.m.!

after 40+ hours in the incubator and 5 days in the hospital, we were finally cleared to go home!

my husband had taken a couple weeks off - week 1 was basically spent at the hospital. week 2, at home, we began to adjust to our new life as a family and tried to settle into a routine. riding high from our new addition, finally being at home, and lots of visitors stopping by and marvelling at how cute the baby was, made everything pretty groovy. then hubby went back to work and i had to learn to do everything by myself. looking back now, this was probably when reality sank in. i had a screaming newborn on my hands and, for the most part, had to go it alone till late evening. i'd been dreading this adjustment and perhaps the stress was affecting me in more ways than i knew.

last friday afternoon, it came time for the baby's one-month check-up. the pediatrician asked me a bunch of questions about his general well being (i said besides some fierce crying here and there we we fine), then came time for the weigh-in. suddenly the mood turned somber as he told me the baby wasn't gaining weight (in fact, he'd barely regained his birth weight), asked how the feeding was going, how much i thought i was producing, etc, etc. it was then that he informed me we would need to be admitted to the hospital to bring his weight up. i was to go home to grab some items and go directly there. do not pass go, do not collect $200. i was in shock. i left the office, loaded the baby and myself into the car, and foggily drove home. it wasn't till i got home and called my husband that i started bawling.

to make a long story short, i was essentially forced to start supplementing with formula, had to show even more people my boobs, our feeding "technique", etc. the doctor and lactation consultant put me on a med and two herbs to bring my supply back up, and i fed the baby every three hours on the nose. first i'd breastfeed for 10-20 mins. per side (the amount of time i was to do it kept changing according to every doctor and LC that came to see me, then top him up with expressed milk and formula, then pump again for the next session. pretty grueling and relentless. he was weighed every morning and gained quite a few ounces by the time i convinced the doctor and LC on sunday that i could just as easily be doing this at home.

the hubby and i joked about our weekend away, but we had both been scared shitless. it was an emotionally draining experience but it felt slightly better to know there were four other women admitted with their babies that week. unfortunately i never got to meet any of them, but it got me thinking what and why the hell this was happening to so many of us.

anyway, i'm glad to say that my visit to an LC clinic showed he was steadily gaining weight and that our technique was fine, then yesterday's appointment with the pediatrician confirmed he was just about at the weight he should be for his age (a few more ounces to go), and, thankfully, no setbacks with his development had occured. in the meantime, i'm producing way more milk, and we continue to follow the (slightly altered) routine until his next appointment in a couple of weeks. even though we're temporarily continuing supplementing with formula, i think i've finally gotten rid of a lot of the guilt that was plaguing me and bringing me down, affecting way too many aspects of my life. for the sake of my family - and myself - i had to let it go.

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