As I write this, I can proudly say I have been nursing for 3 1/2 months. That’s 15 weeks, 109 days, approximately 872 nursing sessions, 218 pumping sessions and roughly 600 oz of frozen breast milk. Nursing in a nutshell has been… HARD WORK!
When my son was first born, we immediately did skin-to-skin contact and tried our first session of nursing. It was a challenge at first as we struggled with positioning and latching, but my amazing labor and delivery nurses helped me.
When we were transferred up to the Mother and Baby floor, my son’s blood sugar was checked and was reading fairly low. It was thought that since I had nothing to eat that day after my water broke at 3am and he was born around 2:30pm, that that was likely why his sugar was so low. It was also considered that my gestational diabetes was playing a factor here. I tried latching immediately when we got settled into our room but it wasn’t working. Since his sugar was low and he was exhausted from the birth, he was getting lethargic rather quickly. I became very frustrated and discouraged.
After a few minutes my nurse recommended that we try an alternative so we could get some nutrients into his body quickly. She suggested that I request some formula or some donor breast milk. I was on the fence for doing either of these alternatives as I was worried about nipple confusion. I took a moment to discuss with my husband, and we decided to go with the donor breast milk option. I decided that it was better for my baby to be healthy over latching on to me. I had my preference of course but when it came down to it, I didn’t mind how my baby was fed, just as long as he was happy and healthy.
Thankfully my son took the bottle of donor milk just fine. I felt some relief briefly only to worry about how his next feeding would go, and his next one and so on. My nurse encouraged me to try and feed him every hour to hour and a half in order to help keep his blood sugar up. They stressed that if he doesn’t wake up to eat then I needed to wake him.
Every hour from about 5pm to 2am I tried feeding my baby. Every hour we would struggle to latch for 10 minutes or so. My baby would seem disinterested and I would start crying. feeling like a failure as his mom. At one point around midnight I called my nurse in to see if she could guide me in positioning my baby so I could try and get him to latch. I had just seen her about a half hour before hand and before leaving she said “Let me know if you need anything. Don’t hesitate to hit your call button.”
When my nurse came back in, I asked if she could help me position my baby again to see if I could get him to latch. She seemed rather irritated and came over to the bed to help. Charles was doing his best to get some sleep so that I could hopefully get sleep later. After my nurse helped us latch she left the room saying “You know this is when Dad needs to assist you because we can’t keep coming in here to help you.” As she left I felt so hurt and embarrassed. I never intended to bug her, she literally just got done telling me to call if I needed help. After that I felt like I was on my own when it came to figuring out breastfeeding.
Throughout my time in the hospital, I decided to start pumping. I had read that pumping would help me increase my supply so that I could produce more milk for my baby. As my baby’s blood sugar numbers improved, his feeding schedule was moved to every 2 hours. So every hour I was either pumping or nursing. I tried latching every chance we got but during our entire time in the hospital he only successfully latched 3 times.
On the second day of our hospital stay, my son was scheduled for his circumcision. As the doctor came to take him to his procedure she did a quick exam and paused. She looked at me and said “Is he having any issues latching?” I told her that we had been struggling. She said she noticed as my baby started sucking on her finger that he had a tongue tie and that could very well be why he was struggling so much to latch. She explained that the procedure to correct it could be fixed at the same time as his circumcision. I felt some relief as she explained all of this but also fear as he had to go through another procedure, even if it was only minor. I called my husband and talked it over with him (since he was running errands) and we agreed to have it corrected.
On January 4th, we were discharged from the hospital. I was totally and completely terrified of leaving. Were we ready for this? Could we really take care of a baby that was less than 72 hours old? I was still struggling with this whole nursing thing. What if I couldn’t feed my baby? What if he needed formula? There weren’t nurses, lactation consults or doctors to check in on us and measure his weight everyday. I was fearing the worst and started down a hormonal postpartum spiral.
I think the only thing that stopped me from completely losing my mind was that my parents came to our apartment the day we came home. With the strict covid guidelines at the hospital, the only family members I had seen since being in labor was Charles and Alli. I felt some relief as my parents arrived and got to meet our baby. He was sleepy but he was happy. They instantly fell in love with him and I felt like I was doing something right.
To Be Continued…