Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Beginning...

Baby latched perfectly the first time! Nursing like a champ! I can't tell you how many times I've heard stories like that. Which is why I felt like a total failure when I had such a hard time nursing in the beginning. Some recent nursing related posts on other blogs have inspired me to write about my own experience and let some of the moms-to-be out there know that it's not always that easy.

My kids had the unfortunate luck of being born late on a Friday night. The hospital where they were born does not have lactation consultants on duty on weekends. WTF?!? When I was checked into the postpartum room in the wee hours, a nurse asked if I planned to breastfeed, and I proudly said yes. I was expecting that would get me some help learning to breastfeed from someone at the hospital. Or at the very least, that it would get my kids a little sign in their bassinets proclaiming that they were breastfed and should not be given a bottle. No such luck.

The nurses who I asked for help all gave different information and advice. One told me to remove some layers of blankets and clothing from my sleepy baby to help her wake up enough to latch on. Another scolded me for not having her bundled, and wisked her away to be put under a warmer. When my boy refused to latch at all, the nurse just shrugged and said "boys are difficult". When my babies had been taken from my hospital room for yet another checkup, and I was being given yet another post-partum depression survey, the nurses fed them bottles of formula. Without asking me. Then they told me that if my babies lost 2oz by Sunday, that I would not be able to take them home. And they handed me some backpacks loaded with free samples of formula. I felt exhausted, ashamed and defeated. I felt like I had failed my kids by letting them have formula. Tail between my legs, I took the free samples of formula and did what I had to do to make sure they could go home with me the next day.

When I got home from the hospital, I had a bit more luck with my baby girl. She was happy to nurse, but based on my output with the pump, I was afraid she was not getting enough. Knowing that the pediatrician could order them back to the hospital if they didn't gain weight terrified me. So she got bottles of formula in addition to nursing. The boy still refused to nurse at all. Screamed bloody murder when he got near the boob. He got bottles of formula, mixed with the few measly teaspoons I was able to get using the pump. We scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant, but she was not able to come until the babies were 5 days old. It felt like an absolute eternity. She was able to get the boy to latch for the first time. But it was through some crazy trickery involving a nipple shield, dripping formula down my breast, then removing the nipple shield. It was a 2 person job, and it only worked once. Eventually my milk supply kicked in and we only did formula bottles at night. But he still refused to nurse, and screamed until he was red in the face any time I tried. It was the worst rejection I had ever felt, even though I knew deep down that I shouldn't take it personally.

Maybe I liked to torture myself, maybe I was just optimistic that something would work out, but I continued to try to nurse my son every few days for the fist 6 weeks of his life. And then one day, it just happened. It was like things finally clicked for him. Just when I had started to come to peace with the idea that my son would be a bottle fed baby, he got it. When he started nursing, my pumping output increased, and we were finally able to ditch the formula. We like to joke that he is making up for lost time. He went from the boy who wouldn't nurse, to the boy who co-sleeps and nurses half the night.

Given our rocky start, I never imagined I'd make it to a year with breastfeeding. Now I'm just a few weeks away from that milestone. It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable writing a post like this. I still fear being judged as a failure by moms who didn't need to resort to formula. I still feel upset about being let down by the hospital, who provided no support. Nearly a year later, and I am still working through my issues and guilt over the beginning.

13 comments:

shroomie said...

What a great post. I have been thinking about my days bfeeding our duo and what a journey it was to get to a point where it felt 'easy'. I too would have had a tough time with a hospital staff that gave formula without your knowledge - but congrats to you for sticking with it! Well done mama. I remember having the goal of making it to 6 months...once that magical date in the sand came, I remember thinking, it just got easy!

anofferingoflove said...

oh hon...i know it's easier for me to say than for you to do, but you REALLY shouldn't feel guilty. breastfeeding twins is HARD and it sounds like you did/are doing an amazing job. i'm in awe, honestly.

also, im a bit outraged by the nurses at your hospital...

thanks for sharing this post with us. im working on a bf'ing one myself...

nutella said...

You have done great! There were so many things working against you (horrified by your hospital, btw!), but you stuck it out, and look how far you've come! Don't feel guilty about the formula, even though it wasn't your first choice, the outcome is still wonderful. and NO ONE should be keeping score on formula and breastfeeding!

poppycat said...

We had a very similar story but you did a better job than I at keeping it going. Both my babies were exclusive on BM, one from the breast and one from the bottle. My girl would never latch on and feed. We tried all the crazy contraptions too but even at 10 weeks she still wouldnt do it and I finally gave up trying. The rejection you mentioned was crushing. It is painful to feel like I failed her in that way even though she was getting breast milk from the bottle. When I started having to travel for work at around 8 months the pumping and BFing had to come to an end and they both went on formula. Even just admitting that out loud is making me tear up at my desk. Its one of the biggest disappointments I've ever had to cope with so I completely understand how you could feel so sad even though you've had a great BFing relationship with your kids.

I'm so happy for you that it worked out well in the end :)

Baby Mama, too said...

Congrats to you for sticking with it. We had a similar experience with C not wanting to latch once we were home, we continued to try her at the breast until she finally decided it wasn't so bad and now she easily switches between bottle and breast.

mamaandmummy said...

Oh my goodness, you have NOTHING to feel guilty about. You breastfed twins for (going on) a year! That's amazing! I am appalled at the treatment you received at the hospital. They were actively working against you, weren't they? I think you dd amazing, and I really appreciate your post and its candor-- thank you.

somedayisnotadayoftheweek said...

isn't it crazy how much guilt is attached to breast feeding? I definitely struggled with my two and they still get a bit of formula. sounds like you have done an incredible job! congrats on your perseverance despite the lack of help.

tbean said...

Rock on with your badass self! When I read the sentence about how you tried to get your son to latch repeatedly for 6 weeks, I fully expected the next sentence to read: "before I gave up entirely." I was shocked and so happy for you all that he finally "got it" and became a boob man in the end. Bfing twins is very intense but it sounds like you all have done an awesome job at it. Brava!

Lex (Crazy Lesbian Mom) said...

Inspiring - thank you for this.

rachelbk said...

I admit, I am on the fence about BF'ing my twins this fall. I definitely want them to have the benefits of breastmilk, and I have bought a good pump, but I'm not 100% sure about the actual bf'ing. Thank you for posting a positive experience about it with twins, I need to hear this kind of success story right now!

Joy said...

What a great post! I love reading real stories of the joys and challenges of breastfeeding, especially twins! You did an amazing job persevering in light of a number of challenges. That fear and lack of support you received from your medical care team is heartbreaking, but your journey is all the more impressive.

Pomegranate said...

You should be proud, not ashamed. You've done an amazing job nurturing/feeding your twins.

There's nothing to brag about when it comes easily, just luck.

I got lucky. Even after 10 days of nicu and formula feeding or expressed breast milk through ng tube or bottle, bunny took to the breast. But guess what? I still feel guilt. I feel guilty that I don't love breastfeeding. I feel guilty when he's crying and wants to nurse and i don't feel like it because i just got done feeding him maybe 30 minutes before. I feel guilty when i have a drink and give him a bottle. I felt guilty about giving him bottles while i was on painkillers this week. And this is not guilt yet, but i am scared to death of what will happen when i go back to work in a month.

I don't think it matters what the details are. We just always come down on ourselves. It's what mothers do. It's what women do.

geekandlawyer said...

It's only been 10 days and we've already had problems with breast feeding. I am sooooo grateful that the hospital we stayed in had a midwife who was trained in lactation, my OB saw that we were having troubles and organised us to stay an extra day and we got to monopolise the time of the midwife. We're now having more success with breastfeeding and C has put back on a lot of the weight she lost due to poor feeding.
I wish more attention was given to breastfeeding mothers in those first few days because they are key to good feeding.