While it hasn’t always been easy, it was important to me to get breastfeeding to work for us. We’ve had our share of bumps in the road, but I’m delighted to say we’ve made it to 16 months with no signs if stopping.
This is our story.
The day my son was born a lactation consultant visited our hospital room and taught me how to hand express colostrum and feed it to him with a flexible little cup. Throughout our stay various lactation consultants helped us learn about proper latch and gave us bottle/nipple recommendations for a breastfed baby who was still getting the hang of it. They taught me how to use a breast pump and got me set up pumping for 15 minutes every 2 hours, around the clock.
I am exceedingly grateful for lactation consultants.
Since he was jaundiced we had to set alarms to wake him up for feedings. And we had to keep him awake long to get enough to eat. Tickling him or removing his swaddling blanket.
We had to use donor milk for a couple days, to help get his bilirubin levels down, while waiting for my milk to come in.
I’d wake up my husband and have him start warming a bottle while we’d try to nurse. He’d usually get too frustrated and need the bottle, but sometimes we’d get a good latch and he’d nurse for 15 minutes to an hour.
I continued pumping for about two weeks. I was so exhausted I remember closing my eyes, for just a moment, while pumping and instantly dreaming. I also recall feeling a bit like a cow, hooked up to that machine when I just wanted to hold my baby. (My hat’s off to exclusively pumping mamas).
12 days after his birth, he had a bottle in the morning then successfully nursed the rest of the day. And he hasn’t had a bottle since.
At first I could only nurse sitting up, with the football hold, but we gradually transitioned into the cradle hold and I was excited to learn about laid-back breastfeeding from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. That was a game changer for us. Especially at night. Being able to nurse while lying down meant I could latch him on and go back to sleep, barely having to wake at all.
Once we got on a roll, our biggest hurdle was managing my over supply and overactive let down. My little guy would often arch his back and cry while nursing. It was awful not knowing what was wrong or what to do to make it better.
My husband and I tried to determine the issue and remedy online, but found contradictory advice.
In desperation I called the WIC breastfeeding line and left a voicemail for the WIC peer counselor. She returned my call shortly after, listened to my story and gave me some suggestions to try before our appointment.
I also made a lactation consultation appointment at BABS. It was there we discovered my little guy had a tongue and lip tie. Fortunately it was minor enough that he was still able to get a good latch and, since he was gaining well and nursing wasn’t hurting me, we decided not to have it lasered. It merely caused him to nurse more often, since he’d get tired with the extra effort of moving his tongue.
I learned that block feeding was the answer to our oversupply issue. (Keeping him on one side for a time, still nursing as often as he wanted, then switching to the other side for the same length of time). I had been trying that at 2 hour intervals already, but I had to gradually increase the time I kept him on one side until I was at 5 hours. I think it took about a month to get my supply under control after implementing my block feeding plan with my lactation consultants.
You might think that oversupply would be a good problem to have, (FEED ALL THE BABIES), but in addition to a fussy baby, it made for plugged ducts and mastitis. Luckily the remedy to those issues is more nursing, (and antibiotics for mastitis). What a beautiful design!
At 16 months, we’re still nursing on demand, often to and during sleep. Not only for nutrition, (along with solids), but also for comfort and bonding.
My soft goal is three years. That’s how long my mom nursed me. We’ll continue to nurse as long as he wants to.
My story is not meant as a substitute for professional advice. Everyone is different. If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty breastfeeding I highly recommend making an appointment with a lactation consultant.