I am devastated, but I’m also desperate. R is five days old and has dropped in weight more than what the pediatrician is comfortable with. She wants us to start supplementing with formula. After 37 hours of labor, not being able to keep food or water in my system, and a C-section, I have been very out of it. I’m not thinking particularly clearly and am at the mercy of everyone around me.
R’s bilirubin was high in the hospital. Not to a worrisome level, but enough that we were told we needed to keep an eye on it. She was very sleepy and had a poor latch because of this. I was having to wake her up to feed, and most of the time she snoozed during feedings. I had tried different positions, skin-to-skin, massaging her while feeding, breast compression – anything to help stimulate her.
By the time we had gone home from the hospital, my milk wasn’t in yet but I was hopeful. The doctor had scheduled an appointment for her fourth day of life to check her bilirubin again. Somehow, in my haze, I had missed that this would also be a weight check. It didn’t click with me that feeding was something we would talk about. I don’t know why, but I thought we were doing okay because I was working very hard at it. I didn’t realize that I was starting out behind.
The first night home is awful – she cries so much and won’t go to sleep until around 3:00 am. I didn’t have any rest or energy to begin with, so it is a very hard time for me. On her first doctor’s visit, her bilirubin is lower and the pediatrician says she isn’t worried. If R keeps having regular bowel movements and wet diapers, it will work itself out. She then talks to me about how feeding is going. I mention R’s lethargy, and that my milk isn’t in yet. She says we’ll give it another day and then do a recheck. In the meantime she suggests that I pump at the end of feedings to encourage my milk to come in. A lactation consultant comes in and helps with position ideas and ways to help her latch. R thrusts her tongue, so the consultant prints off exercises we can do to help with that. I can do this. I have hope. The night is still a hard one, R seems overly hard to calm. I do the best I can.
Well, day five is here and I’m being told to supplement. I’m so tired I just agree to it. The lactation consultant comes in, and we talk about how to go about supplementing. She suggests I use a syringe instead of a bottle. I think it is a good idea, to keep nipple confusion from happening. The doctor has gone to get us some already mixed formula samples to take home. When she gets back, I mention the L.C.’s idea about the syringe. She says, “Oh, don’t worry about that, just use the bottles the formula comes in.” Since she’s the doctor, I go with this. The syringe might be hard to use anyway. To this day I wonder if it would have been different if I had just used the syringe…
That night is drastically different! R sleeps better; we all sleep better. We have another weight check two days later, and I am anxious. We go into the appointment smiling, and the pediatrician notes that we look like a completely different crowd. R seems to be doing much better, and we learn she has gained a few ounces. I am glad she’s doing well and gaining – but I also feel guilty. Why can’t my body provide for her on its own? It also takes up so much time. It takes her an hour to feed, then I have to pump, and she eats every two hours. This doesn’t leave much time for rest, or eating, or much of anything else.
The plan is for me to supplement until I feel that I have a good supply, then slowly take the formula away.
R turned three months old last Thursday, and we are still supplementing. No, it is not what I had in mind. Yes, I’ve tried to stop.
I came to a place where I know I just have to do what I have to do to keep her healthy. She is a good baby. She started sleeping through the night at six weeks old. At around ten or eleven weeks, I saw an increase in my supply (thanks lactation cookies and tea!) and during the day had gotten her down to only two or three bottles – she had several feedings without supplementation! And then, about a week before she turned three months old, it all went out the window. She started freaking out when I would try to nurse, but she also seemed hungry ALL. THE. TIME. She was going through a nursing strike and a growth spurt all at the same time. She stopped sleeping through the night, too, which was hard since I had just gotten used to sleeping again.
I wanted to nurse as much as possible, but she would refuse and flip out so I would have to give her a bottle. All my hard work building up my supply, and then this happens. I don’t even have much expressed milk – I do not get very much when I pump, and originally I tried using what I pumped as supplement rather than formula. It also gets hard to find the time to pump after every feeding. I do the best I can. Occasionally she will still have a feeding or two without the need of formula – it was that way this morning, in fact.
This feeding journey has been quite a trial. Some days, I am just fine with the way things are. I say to myself, “Whatever I need to do for her to be healthy, that’s what I’ll do.”
Other days are hard, and I feel a piece of me die inside each time I mix a bottle. The Nerd encourages me by saying that it’s great that even though we use formula, I am still able to nurse quite a bit. We still use the same amount of formula we did at first, which means my supply has grown. He says many women would have given up by now. I try to focus on these positive things, but every once in a while the what ifs and negativity hit me hard:
I should have fed her every two hours in the hospital instead of every three.
I should have read more about breastfeeding before I had her.
The first time the lactation consultant came to see me in the hospital, too many guests from my family were in the room and I had to tell her to come back later. I wish I had let her stay and told them to leave!
We had too many visitors in general in the beginning and I felt overwhelmed, but was too tired and too worried about offending someone to say anything. I should have stood up for us more.
I should have used the syringe instead of a bottle.
I should still pump more than I do.
Formula is way too expensive and The Nerd works so hard as it is.
Focusing on these things isn’t helpful, I know, but this is a really hard struggle for me. I think I’m just trying to work it all out in my mind.
Right now, I’m looking at my beautiful girl as she sucks her thumb and plays with her zebra rattle. I see how her cheeks are full and she’s growing every day. And I know she will be okay. I know one day I will be too. I try not to be sad. I do what I need to do. I trust the Lord with my daughter and hope to be a good mother to her. She is my sweet Boo-Bear.