If you have been reading my blog from the very beginning, you had read all about Penelope and I’s nursing saga. For a long time, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell the story, because it was still so raw and hard to think about. Every time I sat down to type, I would well up and start to cry and then shelve it for another day.
I have told the majority of the story already. I wrote about what I did to correct Penelope’s negative association with my breast and make my boobs a happy place. I wrote about the all the techniques I used to get her back to the breast after I made my boobs a happy place. I wrote my pumping journey, here, here and here. I wrote about my success in getting her comfort nurse here and here. Mothering Magazine even printed a little snippet of our success story.
What I have written about is what exactly was the problem. The perfect storm of breastfeeding struggles that led to our EXTREME breastfeeding difficulties. It was quite the process to even find out what was wrong, let alone to fix it.
So, deep breath, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, here I go. The final installment of our saga.
Like I have said in my birth story, I had a pretty standard, perfect home birth, water birth. Penelope was put immediatly to my bare chest and she did not leave that area for several hours.
Once I got out of the birth tub, I took a shower, while my midwife gave Penelope a once over to make sure everything was ok. I don’t remember if she checked for tongue tie.
I got set up and comfortable in my bed in a semi-reclined position. I tried to nurse Penelope. She was rooting around and active and even latched on for a minute, but it was not a deep latch. In that moment, I had flash backs of all the births I have attended as a Doula and how stressful this first connection can be. Mama or a well meaning nurse is often jaming and shoving a nipple into the newborns mouth. I did not want to do this. I just wanted to have her lay there skin to skin and smell me, root and latch if she wanted. I was very relaxed. Looking back, I was too relaxed. Too confident, things would be ok. It never occured to me that sometimes, just sometimes nursing is actually not possible.
My midwife assistant checked her as she was rooting/attempting to latch. She asked if she got a good latch. I said, I think so, I don’t really know. I think I mentioned my flat nipples (breastfeeding problem number 1) at this point, but I don’t remember any advice being given about how to get a better/deeper latch with flat nipples. And that was it. They both left in a few minutes after that. Then Penelope fell asleep, for the next 10 to 12 hours. She was just asleep. And again, I was trying to be this perfect, Zen Mama, letting her do as she pleased, letting her come into this world at her own pace.
That first day, I remember trying to get her to latch and nurse, but she was so sleepy that I still thought everything was ok. But by the grace of God, I had my husband call my dear friend and IBCLC over to the house to make sure everything was ok.
She came over about 5p and stayed for almost 2 hours. After an hour, she asked me to get out my pump. I remember, not wanting to get it out. I didn’t want to learn how to use it. I was afraid of it and I didn’t know why. My higher self must have known what was to come, because just getting the pump out of the closet made my stomach hurt.
Finally, in the last thirty minutes we got Penelope to get a good enough latch to stay on. She took a look inside Penelope’s mouth and said she thought she might be tongue tied, but she wasn’t sure. She kept popping on and off and I had to hold my nipple squeezed a certain way to help her keep the suction. My husband had to pinch, I and I mean f-ing pinch my nipple to draw it out enough, for Penelope to have something to latch onto. At the same time, I had to hold her head in one hand to guide her, quickly, to my breast when she opened up wide. With the other hand, I was squeezing my boob, to help Peter pinch and later when she latched to make sure it stayed at a good angle in her mouth.
I remember my arms and shoulders just ached and ached.
For a full week we did this routine. Every single time she needed to nurse. The three of us got into position. By the end of the week, Penelope was getting pissed and hungry and tired and we were having a harder and harder time getting her to latch. My milk came in on Saturday night. I remember waking up and seeing milk just dripping down my shirt. I was so happy to see that. I never felt engorged and painful, so it was nice to actually see the milk.
My nipples were bloody and raw, chunks missing from them and I not knowing if they were ever return to normal. I remember I would clench my teeth when she latched on. And then I would just sob. Tears streaming down my face it hurt so bad. It hurt a million times more than pushing her 9 pd 1 ounce head out. That was easy as pie next to this. I remember Peter would just sit with me sometimes and hold my head up and stroke my hair and thank me for enduring for Penelope. Those first two weeks he was an amazing support system. After that, real life set in, exhaustion, stress, depression and all that came into play and I didn’t really have him for support anymore.
Over the weekend, I had an energy healer come over to the house and do a healing on Penelope. I thought maybe she just had a weak suck or weak digestion. We went to the acupuncture Dr. the next day. I laid Penelope on my chest and got a treatment to help with digestion and nursing. We were thinking at the time that the reason she wasn’t pooping regularly had to do with bad digestion. I can’t believe I didn’t relize it was because she wan’t getting any milk! She didn’t have anything to freaking digest!
Penelope was born on a Wednesday morning, so by the next Monday, we were back at the IBCLC’s office. We undressed her, weighed and got her on. She took in about an ounce from my right side, and nothing from my left. She mentioned again, that she thought she was tongue tied. We tried a nipple shield, she got about another ounce with the nipple shield. We made an appointment with our pediatrician that day to take a look at her mouth. And we headed home.
When we left, I was high as a kite. My nipples didn’t hurt with the nipple shield, they would have the opportunity to heal and it helped Penelope latch on without Peter involved. I thought, everything is going to be ok! Everything is going to be fine!
Boy, was I wrong.
The next morning, Tuesday, day 6 of Penelope’s life. We went to our beloved Pediatrician. He performed a frenotomy, right there in his office. I almost passed out watching it. There was crying, but no blood.
Again, I walked out, ok, things are going to be fine! Tongue Tie fixed!
At home, still using nipple shields, there was a deep panic beginning to rise up. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something was really, really wrong. After she passed all her meconium, her digestion slowed way down. She was very lethargic and VERY CRANKY. She wanted to nurse all day and all day.
I thought the issue was the nipple shield. I was anxious to get off it, because I knew that there was a possibility of it decreasing my milk supply. I just wanted off it, I wanted to do things the “rigth” and natural way. I didn’t want to use any contraptions. But, oh, that nipple shield was only the beginning of the many, and varied silicon contraptions I used.
We went back to the IBCLC on Friday of that week, day 9 of her life. We weighed her again, she had lost over a pound and was still loosing. Not pooping, very cranky. She was getting about a half ounce to an ounce when she nursed on the right side, nothing on the left.
At this point, she recommend 50 million herbs to increase my milk supply. We thought maybe the nipple shields were a big culprit and my supply just tanked. Looking back, the milk was there, she just could not get any out. She also told us to rent the scale and to start pumping. We were to pump and finger feed her. Prioroity number one was to get her weight back up and have her get some strength back.
We were given a syringe and a tube. We were instructed how to tape the tube to our finger and have Penelope suck from our finger to get milk. The syringe only held 10 cc’s. So every 10 cc’s, we had to fill it back up. It was a NIGHTMARE. I was pumping with too small flanges, so my nipples ached. I had to hold them to me and lean forward, since I hadn’t yet even heard of hands free pumping. So for 20 minutes, I sat hunched over, watching tiny droplets of milk, slowly drop into medela bottles. If I see a medela bottle, to this day, I shudder. My back ached. My bottom ached. There was so lounging on a bed, sidelying to nurse my baby and just enjoying our babymoon. Oh no, not for me. I was in a war, a battle. A battle to breastfeed. There was no rest for the weary at my house.
At first Peter finger fed her, we were told this would be better so I could pump while she fed, and I could get some help. But sitting on the couch, next to my baby, while someone else fed her. Was like Chinese water torture. It was like someone was ripping off my finger nails, the pain in my heart was unbearable. So I decided to do everything myself. I would feed her, change her, get her to sleep and then I would pump. Then I would clean all the bottles and get everything ready for the next feed. I might have time to run to bathroom. Then she woke up and I did it all over again.
We did this for 72 hours and then went back to IBCLC. Her weight was up, she was pooping, things were looking up. She showed me how to get her to latch, by myself with no nipple shield.
Again, I thought, things are going to be ok! Her weight is getting back up! She can nurse with no nipple sheild. She was getting a decent amount of milk, 1 to 1.5 per feding, mostly from the right side. We topped her off with the syringe if we needed and I stopped pumping.
After two days of semi normal nursing, Then she just stopped. Just had just had enough. Knowing what I know now, this when she was just in pain. On top of my flat nipples and her tongue tie (that still wasn’t totally fixed at this point), she had severe TMJ from her atlas vertebrae being out. It is why she prefered the right side. It was less painful for her to lay like that.
I had to go back to pumping and finger feeding. I called the energy healer again. She recommended I take her to a cranial sacral therapist. So a little less then 2 weeks old, she was not latching on at all, or screaming bloody murder anytime I tried to latch her on. I took her to the cranial sacral therapist.
He did the treatment and was able to get her to uncurl somewhat. She had what looked to be tortucolis, her head was bent toward her right shoudler. But he said something seemed out of aligment, or something was off, that he just couldn’t put his finger on. He recommened that I take her to see the local cranial sacral master in town.
And so, we made an appoinment, and went. And let me say here. At two weeks, I am still bleeding, exhausted, pumping my brains out, going to all these appointments was traumatic. I had no help, and when I should have been home relaxing, resting, bonding with Penelope. I was driving all over town, to germy offices and going to appoitments. It SUCKED.
This woman was not only a cranial sacral therapist, but a physical therapist and energy healer. She sort of combines the three into this very interesting and effective practice. She was able to get some of her jaw muscles and neck to relax. She also said her digestion was on fire. And recomended I sprinkle tumeric in her bottles to help her digest. Looking back, I think digestion kept coming up in the intuition of these practioners, because I had started a round of antibiotics the day before I went into labor. So on top of everything else, for the first 10 days I was taking antibiotics for a sinus infection. So I am sure I killed off her good bacteria. Huge lesson learned. Who knows how much damage I did to her digestive lining by doing that.