I have so many emotions running through me while writing about my breastfeeding fail. I feel rejected by my son, angry at the hospital, stupid for not doing something sooner, guilty for trying to force it on my baby for so long, sad that I’m missing out on that part of the motherhood journey but most of all, I feel relieved that I can now happily feed my baby while he looks lovingly into my eyes.
If you aren’t up to date I wrote a previous post about how breastfeeding was a bitch which you can read here.
I went to the child health nurse at our 6-8 week appointment and as soon as she asked how everything was going I burst into tears. I said he was a fussy feeder and I was having to top up his feeds with expressed milk which was fine but the breastfeeding was getting shorter and shorter and I was feeding with bottles more and more. I suspected that the milk flow had slowed so it wasn’t just pouring into his mouth through the nipple shields. During that appointment I was able to get him to feed for 25 minutes without crying but I was standing up and rocking him at the same time so not ideal. I knew he hadn’t emptied the boob but he started to reject it, I tried to swap him over to the other side but he started to scream. It was suggested that he wasn’t hungry and I was told that babies at 6-8 weeks are in their peak crying time. I was told he was a healthy weight, he had enough wet diapers a day and that feeding for 25 minutes was probably enough for him. I asked to see a lactation consultant anyway so was told someone would call me. I left feeling good that someone would at least call. I got home and my little angel continued to cry. I knew something was wrong, this was not like him to cry for no reason so I offered him expressed milk and he drank 170ml! There’s no way he should have drunk that much after feeding for 25 minutes only 20 minutes before. I knew we had issues.
I went and met with the lactation consultant over a week later. I was told that I was anxious and needed to calm myself before feeding. I was even told to try feeding while rocking on a fit ball or in a nice warm bath – I find it hard to get in and out of a bath on my own let alone with a little baby so I thought this was a little ridiculous. They weighed him and I was told he drank 35ml in 15 minutes which was fine but after that he wouldn’t feed anymore. Again it was suggested that maybe he wasn’t hungry. I asked about a possible tongue tie and was told she wasn’t sure but he had a few signs so it was worth getting a referral to a pediatric surgeon.
I was convinced he did have a tongue tie, I left that appointment both relieved because there seemed to be a solution to the problem and furious because I asked the pediatrician on the day I left the hospital if my baby had a tongue tie. I even asked him if he was sure because a midwife told me he had one. Here I was, almost 9 weeks later stressed because he didn’t do his job properly.
I had to go to my GP to get a referral which took another couple of days. He told me that some babies just don’t breastfeed but wrote the referral anyway. By this stage I was only bottle feeding because the baby would cry every time I even flashed him a boob. I rang to make the appointment with the pediatric surgeon and was told that she only worked on Fridays and was booked out the following week so finally at almost 11 weeks it was confirmed he had a tongue tie. I’m so glad my husband was there when it was cut because I was crying just listening, I couldn’t watch. I was told the baby would need to learn how to latch again.
That night I could tell he was in pain. My poor darling cried and cried and was so upset like he had been really hurt. I felt like the worst mum in the world. I tried to breastfeed the next day but he still screamed. I thought maybe it was too soon so waited another day and he managed to feed with the nipple shield but it was exactly the same as before. I could tell he wasn’t latching properly and was swallowing so much air from crying he developed a wind problem.
At 12 weeks I decided to give up. Every time I went to try and feed him I had a rush of anxiety which made him even more upset and it was obvious that at this late stage he was used to the bottle and couldn’t latch properly. What was the point of forcing him to feed from my boob when he clearly didn’t want to. I was doing it for me not for him, so I wouldn’t be inconvenienced by washing, steralising bottles and pumping. He was still getting breast milk, just delivered in a different way.
I think back to the beginning now and where it all went wrong. In hospital when he latched on it hurt, like really, really hurt but I was told it was normal to hurt at first. A midwife in hospital even suspected a tongue tie. When a different midwife came to visit me at home and gave me a nipple shield she watched him feed and even said – ‘don’t be lazy’ and pushed his head so his mouth covered more of the nipple shield – I don’t think he was latching then.
I have so many regrets. I wish I had asked for a second opinion on the tongue tie in the hospital. I wish that I had ignored the bitchy midwife and insisted on a lactation consultant. I wish that the hospital had never given me nipple shields which masked the issue! I wish I’d called the Australian Breastfeeding Association at 4 weeks when I was worried about nipple shields and I wish I had gone to the hospital breastfeeding clinic instead of waiting for the lactation consultant to call me.
As it stands I’m now bottle feeding expressed breast milk with a top up of formula at night if needed. There are some things I’m proud of though. I’m proud that I expressed from the beginning so my milk supply didn’t go down. I’m proud that I topped up his bottle feeds when I knew he was still hungry so his health wasn’t affected. I’m proud that I persisted to find out what the feeding issue was instead of accepting that 6-8 week olds cry. I’m proud that I’m persisting with expressing breast milk even though it’s double the work. I’m trying to commit to 6 months and then will see how I go after that.
Hospitals really shouldn’t discharge women until their milk has come in and they are confident with breastfeeding. My husband and I said so many times in the hospital I was worried about breastfeeding but brochures were shoved in my face and I was shoved out the door. Whilst there are a lot of services out there, as a new mum you don’t want to be a burden on the system and waste their time. If I had any advice for new mums that are concerned with breastfeeding – make the call to your hospital breastfeeding clinic or child health nurse as soon as you’re concerned, don’t wait like I did.