Why Isn’t This Working?! {One Mama’s Struggle to Breastfeed her Babies}

Disclosure :: This post is part of a series for World Breastfeeding Week and is sponsored by Women’s & Children’s Hospital.

Why Isn’t This Working?! {One Mama’s Struggle to Breastfeed her Babies}

I have big boobs.

I just thought I should put that out there. And if I thought they were big before I had kids, they scaled to gargantuan proportions when I was preggo. But these bad mamma-jammas gave me some false confidence and unrealistic expectations as to what my breastfeeding journey was to be. 

Breastfeeding is God’s way of providing adequate nourishment for babies. Breast milk is this amazing, ever-changing substance that provides ALL the nutrients babies need to grow and thrive. It’s antibodies change rapidly to ensure baby has the best protection from whatever nastiness lurks about in the air. It bonds baby and mother together, and gives mamas a little hormone boost to help them cope with motherhood. It’s a perfect system.

Except when it isn’t.

My first birth was rough.

breastfeedingA labor-all-night, epidural-doesn’t-work, baby-stuck-in-the-birth-canal, vacuum-doesn’t-work-x3, forceps-used, rip-from-front-to-back kind of birth. When my baby was finally pulled from my birth canal, where she had been residing for what felt like a million years, I had lost enough blood that I faded in and out of consciousness while my OB stitched me up as quickly as possible. The nurse put my baby on my chest to give me something to focus on during my lucid moments, and that skin-to-skin time helped me stay in the real world. The lactation consultant was called in to help me figure out just what to do with this baby, because that breastfeeding class info flew out the window with a baby who fights every attempt to latch. By the time we left the hospital, my baby was successfully nursing every hour or so, but our sessions were lasting an hour at a time. After two weeks at home with a baby who was screaming basically all the time and a mother who was crying basically all the time, I called the best lactation consultant in town — it was time for a house-call. 

My IBCLC came into my home and spent two hours with me and my baby. We worked on my latch and hold, and she suggested that maybe baby was suffering from reflux. She got me on supplements to help support my milk supply that baby wasn’t taking advantage of, taught me about power pumping, and I felt so confident. I spoke with my pediatrician about the reflux, and we decided to try medication to see if things improved. They did! Not miraculously so, but enough to think we had solved the problem. Baby was dubbed a slow feeder, so our feeding sessions lasted 60 minutes. Then she had to remain upright for an additional 45 because of the reflux. Babies eat every 2-3 hours y’all, and so that left a whopping 90 minutes of “please let my baby sleep” time before the cycle started all over again. But I did it. I slept with baby in the K’tan to keep me from dropping her as I slept upright in a chair to help with her refluxing. I nursed all day, every day because she was my first and damnit I was gonna get this right. Each visit to the pediatrician saw weight loss, not gain. Eventually baby fell off her nice 60th percentile curve all the way down to the 5th. My pediatrician said she was ok if I continued breastfeeding, but only if I scheduled another in-home consult with our lactation consultant. 

My IBCLC came into my home again and spent an additional two hours with me and my baby. At the end of the visit, we talked for another hour about everything that had been done and where to go from here. There was a medication available that could increase milk supply. I had prior experience with it and suffered from the side effect of increased anxiety (like feeling NUTSO) on a significantly smaller dosage than what is required for lactation benefits. We had exhausted every possibility, and my sweet consultant suggested it was time to move on. Things were serious. Within a week of having baby on formula, she was gaining weight, her reflux calmed down, and she was sleeping for two hours at a time. I think I cried that whole first week because I felt SO AWFUL for basically starving my baby for two months. 

I learned my lesson.

Our next child nursed like it was his job. I felt confident in our nursing relationship and things trucked along smoothly. Until that two month mark. My supply went to 1 oz per side (measured by weighing baby before and after feeding) and stayed there for a week. I was already on supplements and doing power pumping because I was so scarred after our first. At the end of that week, our son had already dropped off of his curve, so I said sayonara to my Medela and hello to Gentlease. He was a happier baby after that.

Our third child nursed through 9 months of age. At that point, she was so dang distracted while nursing, I just said “forget it” and switched to formula. Nursing in a quiet room does not happen with a 2 and 3 year old at home. It is actually unsafe, but that’s a story for another time. 

Our fourth child hit that same bump at two months, so we switched to formula and never looked back. 

I still have guilt about our first child.

Looking back at pictures of her during that time are startling to me now and bring tears to my eyes. She was so skinny! The bones in her little face protruded and her eyes looked like an anime character. I was so hell bent on nursing that I ignored those signs because I wanted to do what was best for her (I also couldn’t believe that I had been lugging around these tetons all this time for them to let me down like that). I was so afraid of being criticized for “not trying hard enough” or “not seeking support” that I let my baby starve. 

While I still ALWAYS attempt to breastfeed, we are so blessed to live in a time when formula is available.

A fed baby is best, and a mother’s heart knows her baby best. Let’s support one another in whichever way we choose to feed our children. 

Sarah Keating
Sarah is a 30-something mom of four children under six and wife to her high-school sweetheart. She returned to Acadiana two years ago following her husband’s completion of medical school and residency in Shreveport. After the move, Sarah switched gears from full-time pediatric speech-language pathologist and working mom to full-time stay-at-home mom to her brood. Her current hobbies include “speech-therapizing” her children, re-reading the Outlander series, catching up on her Netflix queue after the kids go to bed, completing XHIT videos at naptime, and taking her medication every morning. She loves and respects the sacredness of motherhood, but sometimes you just have to let go and laugh it out. Motherhood has been the most humbling, and empowering journey she has experienced.

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