When Norah was born, I barley had a chance to look at her before she was rushed to the NICU, much less have an opportunity to attempt breastfeeding. While she was in the NICU, and later when she was transferred to Children's Hospitals CICU, she was fed through feeding tubes. At some point in her stay, I think at the end of the first day, they took her off the feeding tubes and had my husband feed her her first bottle. I think she drank something like 2 or more ounces of milk from said bottle. Which is a TON.
If you know anything about breastfeeding (which at the time I didn't), you know no mother on earth produces 2 ounces of colostrum (milk) on a baby's first feeding. Despite Norah being fed this huge amount of formula before I got to her, when we did reunite on her 2nd day of life, she latched on like a champ. I spent very little time with the lactation consultants because it appeared both she and I were "naturals" at breastfeeding.
And then everything went to hell.
One thing the LC did stress to me was that I should NOT give her any more bottles. She clearly could breastfeed, so I should wait for her to latch again no matter what. Nipple confusion and all that (which I am not even sure if that's a real thing). She'd eat when she was hungry.
Several loud, stressful, tearful (for me and baby), attempts at breastfeeding- and seven hours later- Norah had not eaten since her last bottle given that morning before my arrival. When the nurse realized how long it had been since she'd eaten, she quickly threw the LC's advice to the wayside and insisted Norah needed a bottle of formula immediately. We quickly complied. I was too exhausted mentally and emotionally to make my own decisions at this point, and I was listening to whatever the latest nurse or doctor or LC (there were a lot of them) told me, without question. This was my first mistake. But anyway, we complied, and she sucked down a few more ounces of formula, making me feel like I'd been starving her all day. It was horrible.
I'd starved my baby, had no idea what I was doing, literally could not breast feed to save my life, and my daughter was clearly in extreme physical distress every time I tried to feed her. Screaming, red faced, arched back, the whole bit. On top of it all, every time I tried to pump, I'd get barley a few drops to save in a pathetic little container to mix with the formula we'd feed her. I remember the first time I got about a fifth of an ounce, it was like gold.
Anyway, by the middle of the night, 12 or so hours into this ordeal, I was breaking. Our nurse was young, maybe early 20's, and I don't think she had any children. She was really friendly, but couldn't really offer me any personal advice every time she came in and saw me sobbing because I was chained to the pump with nothing happening, or trying to nurse my baby as she threw a huge tantrum, the wires she was attached to flailing all over the place. They'd tried to summon a lactation consultant to help me again a few times, but there wasn't one available. That's what I get for giving birth on Labor Day Weekend I guess. The hospital was very short staffed.
But after seeing how pathetic our situation was becoming, the nurse had asked her supervisor to come have a talk with me. I wish I knew this woman's name and could send her a thank you card, a bottle of wine, and 200 dozens of cookies. She was so encouraging, nice, supportive, and informative- I wish she could have stayed in our room all night. She assured me that breastfeeding was hard, it wasn't just me, and that it would get better. She promised me that things would turn around once we got home and out of the stressful environment of the hospital and over the unknown of everything related to Norah's heart condition.
Most importantly, she assured me it was OK to supplement with formula if that's what it took. We had a really helpful LC come the following morning who gave me the same advice. I will never forget her words "As a mom, your number one job is to feed your baby, whether it be through a bottle or through breastfeeding. Just feed your baby". I really needed that validation for some reason. I'm not a doctor, and I can't say medically what is best or who out of all the people I spoke to at the hospital were the most knowledgeable, but that advice lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. It allowed me to relax, freed my emotions up to be strong for our daughter, and most importantly; get her the nourishment she needed.
Luckily, that head nurse was right. Though we continued to give her formula the rest of our hospital stay, I was still set on breastfeeding. Just in case, we went out and bought a bunch of formula assuming we'd be supplementing. We didn't even end up needing it (though we've used it here and there). My miracle nurse was right. As soon as we were home, everything fell into place, and Nori has been breastfeeding like a champ ever since.
That's not to say that there hasn't been ups and downs. Breastfeeding is hard. Really hard, and a ton of work. I can totally see how people give up before they even really get started. Or how they can't make it as long as they initially intend. People warned me it would be challenging, but frankly I think I can do anything I set my mind to, so I thought I wouldn't suffer from the issues others did. HA is all I can say to that.
My goal is to breastfeed 95% of Norah's "food" for at least 6 months, and some days I don't know if I'll make it. I keep myself motivated by not only the fact that I know it's best for the babe (and our wallets), but by just reminding myself that I have a supportive husband, a great breast pump, a good supply, and the time to make it work- which many people don't.
If for some reason though, I had to stop breastfeeding tomorrow, I wouldn't feel guilty. I do NOT believe in feeling bad about myself because I wasn't able to meet some standard that society or whoever sets for moms. I love my baby and will be the best mom I can be, and if breastfeeding can't be a part of that, it is what it is.
Six and a half weeks and going strong. I've started pumping a lot more and feeding her bottles of breast milk during the day, and then just feeding her regularly through the night so I don't have to come downstairs. That works really well for us. It allows me to not feel as pressured, because I know I have bottles ready in the fridge- but still keep up my supply and enjoy the benefits of actually feeding her the old fashioned way at night.
I read somewhere that of all the people in the world, you sure can't look at them as adults and tell who was breastfed and who was not. Though I think it's best/important and is working for us, I really feel for women who suffer for months the way I did those first few days. What kind of breastfeeding journey did you have?