When I was pregnant, I built up breastfeeding and nursing into this wonderful experience I’d have. I was so positive about the entire thing, that I didn’t even prepare myself for the fact that it might not be easy for me. I didn’t buy an electric pump. I didn’t research what to do when things go wrong. I didn’t do anything.
So when Adele wasn’t getting enough food from me at 5 days old, I didn’t know what to do. Unfortunately, she was on her way to becoming dehydrated, so the pediatrician had us supplement with formula (2 ounces after every feeding on the breast) to get her back to where she should be. I was heartbroken. I did not want my baby drinking formula when I had milk for her! My milk came in that day, but it was too late for her. She was so frustrated with my breasts that she’d scream every time I put her up to eat. We’d both sit there crying for a half hour while I tried desperately to feed her. And then she’d eat calmly from the bottle filled with formula. It was devastating for me.
When we brought her to her first appointment the next day, I cried in the pedi’s office. Of course he was awesome and so encouraging about nursing still working for us and how if it didn’t, she’d be just fine. He even mentioned exclusively pumping (EPing) so she’d still get my milk if I didn’t want her to have formula. He even said that some babies have a tough time nursing between a week and 10 days old, so maybe that was the issue. He said to keep trying, so I did.
By this point, I had started pumping my breasts with the hand pump I had bought. I’d get about 2-3 ounces out from my breasts. It would take me a half hour to 45 minutes to get that at first. But I’d get her what she needed for each feeding. Of course I didn’t always get that out, so we still had to supplement with formula a few feedings a day (mostly at night). I tried to nurse her every time I fed her for a few days, but the screaming didn’t stop. It was heartbreaking. I cried a lot.
After a lot of consideration and conversations with the Mr., I decided to stop nursing completely. I would go buy a double electric pump (time to research those!) so I could give her my milk. By that point (4 days later), I had an awesome supply, but it was so hard to get out with the hand pump. In fact, the hand pump was losing its suction; they aren’t meant for daily pumping. So I went out and bought my pump. I have a love/hate relationship with that thing. It allowed me to feed my baby girl my milk, and it even allowed me to store up over 200 ounces in the freezer in one month!
But it hurt, physically and emotionally. I never realized that EPing would hurt my nipples, too! So while I was hurting inside by not being able to nurse my baby, I was also hurting physically. It sucked, to put it lightly. I was so sad that I couldn’t have that special bonding time I had built up so much in my head, but I had decided to EP so that she could still get my breast milk.
Every once in a while I’d try to nurse her, but she wanted nothing to do with it. She was thriving on the bottles of breast milk, so why wasn’t that enough for me? And then right around Adele’s one month birthday, I decided that I had had it with EPing. I hated it. It hurt and wasn’t what I wanted for me and my baby. She was an awesome nurser up to 5 days old, so why couldn’t she be now? So, I tried again. But this time I came more prepared. I bought a nipple shield, placed it on my breast, and brought Adele over to me. She latched on! I can’t tell you how excited I was to have her nursing again. It was about time!
So I kept trying. At least once a day she nursed instead of having a bottle. Then I upped it to twice a day. And then, when she was exactly one month old, I decided to dump the pump. My baby was going to nurse all day. If she could do it twice a day, then she could do it every feeding. And she did! After that day, I didn’t EP anymore; I exclusively nursed! It was so exciting to me.
It took some practice to get things going again, but Adele did so well transitioning from bottle to breast. Now, all we needed to do was ditch the nipple shield. That took about a week or so to do. She wouldn’t latch on without it. Or she would sometimes, and then realize it wasn’t there so she’d fall off again. It wasn’t easy. I always had to have it handy, just in case. And she wouldn’t eat without it at all at night. And if she had a bottle? She wouldn’t latch on to me with the shield the next few feedings either.
But the day we lost it for good was the day of her one-month appointment. I had forgotten the shield (ugh) and she was inconsolable after her Hep B shot. So, I put her up to my breast to hope to comfort her, and she latched! She got frustrated a few times and fell off, but she was always able to latch back on. It was wonderful! Ever since that day, we haven’t used the shield.
Nursing has been a wonderful experience since then. I love the time we spend together when she’s eating. I absolutely LOVE nursing. I love it so much, I’m tossing around the idea of becoming a lactation consultant in the future. She loves it, too. I know she prefers nursing to the bottle, which makes me feel good. Thankfully we can go back and forth as needed, though. Since I stopped EPing, she has only had maybe 5 bottles altogether, and I love that.
I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on nursing. I finally have that wonderful experience that I had built up in my mind. I just won’t forget the difficulty in getting to this point. I feel like we earned this experience, and that makes it that much sweeter.