I recently have been asked by some readers to explain what I did to get Penelope to comfort nurse at 5 months.
The picture above is my daughter latched on and nursing for the first time since she was a newborn. The day before she turned 5 months old.
I am STILL not ready to tell our story in full detail, I attempted to last night and started crying and could feel the anxiety rising, so I put it away for yet another day.
But I really feel the need to at least tell this part of the story, in case it can help just one Mama going through something similar.
I feel like I could pass the damn IBCLC exam after all the research I have done and professionals we have worked with. That said, I can’t promise that anything I recommend will work or that it will be all inclusive. This is simply things we did and what helped us.
If your baby will not breastfeed, click on this KellyMom.com link. Read it in its entirety. Then read it again. Then call an IBCLC. If you have already seen an IBCLC with no success, call another one.
And while you are trying to get your baby to nurse, you must also focus on protecting your supply. I like the word protecting because that is really what you are doing. Your milk is your baby’s birthright and even though the stars aligned for your baby to not be able to nurse, you can still breastfeed. So this is really your priority. THEN you can start working on making your boobs a happy place. You must pump like a crazy person to maintain a perfect supply. Pump as many times as your baby would be nursing, I am talking 10 to 12 times in a 24 hour period if you have newborn. And try to simulate cluster feeding in the evenings as well, just like a newborn. It’s a shitty card you have been dealt, I know, but putting in lots of hard work in the beginning to establish and protect your supply will be worth it for your long term breastfeeding goals. Exclusive pumping, or EPing, just gets easier and easier. You can do it.
Here is KellyMom’s page about exclusive pumping and here is a link to the yahoo group of the most amazing group of women who are all exclusive pumping, and not by choice, they are a WEALTH of information. Without them, I would have not made it this far.
Ok, NOW, you can start reading my post! 🙂
Make your boobs a happy place.
I’m serious, make them a HAPPY, HAPPY place for your baby. This is your numero uno priority and the very first step in getting your baby to latch. Penelope stopped latching on at all about 3.5 weeks. It was because not only was she frustrated she wasn’t getting any milk and she was in physical pain, I was beyond stressed every time I tried to nurse her.
She developed a negative association with nursing, to the point that she didn’t even want to be held in a cradle position.
I would get into a full on panic even thinking about the next feeding time. As I picked her up and got her in position, my heart would race or I would hold my breath in sheer terror of what was to come. When she wouldn’t latch, my heart would sink into my stomach and I would feel devastated, rejected and so, so sad. Then the tears would come and I would literally beg her to nurse. My boobs were anything but a happy place for her. They were actually painful to me as well. I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to have huge breasts full of milk and not be able to nurse your baby. The pain was not only emotional, it was physical. I know she felt everything I was feeling.
Our biggest turning point at 12 weeks was working with an IBCLC from New York through Skype sessions, and making my boobs a happy place was the main thing she taught me.
The second your baby cries or makes a stressed face, or you start to panic or stress, STOP trying to nurse. Redirect her, comfort her in any way you can and come back to later when you both are calm and happy.
Think of it as if you are “pouring” your love into them. And if you are not in a loving, happy mood, you are “pouring” poison into them… and our babies are smart, they don’t want to drink no stinkin’ poison.
One of the most helpful things I learned to be able to stay in a mental “happy” place, no matter if my daughter was making any progress or not, was taught to me by a dear friend. I asked her if I should just give up trying to get her to nurse (again this was around 12 weeks). I asked her if I should just focus on pumping and stop trying, because the trying and rejection were so hard on me, I couldn’t take it anymore. She told me that instead of looking at it as black or white, as in Try or Not Try, to look for the gray, softer alternative-The Middle Road. At that point, I stopped trying at every. single. feeding. and instead only tried when I felt a “calling” or felt that the moment was perfect.
She also told me to unconditionally love my daughter and to let her choose her own life’s path. She told me that it was Penelope’s choice not to nurse, that for whatever reason this is what she needs and wants and I needed to honor her path.
This helped me to detach the from the outcome and know that if she never nursed it wasn’t my fault.
I would keep trying, but I was no longer desperate. I was at peace, at least at more peace than before, and this eliminated any stress or pressure I was putting on Penelope to nurse.
Once I realized I needed to get Penelope to have a positive association first and foremost , I stopped actively trying to get Penelope to latch and I focused on these things:
1. Wearing her in a sling or wrap with no top on so she was getting skin to skin with no pressure of having to latch.
2. I took a bath with her every night. I didn’t try to latch her, I just bathed her, held her, massaged her, just enjoyed her. To this day, those moments in the bath are my most treasured. It was a time where all I had “to do” was enjoy my baby.
Taking a bath kills two birds with one stone, because its great skin to skin time, which will help your supply, but also its just a lovely thing to do with your baby. In the bath, with the water and all the skin to skin, her rooting reflex is stronger. Lay baby on your chest and don’t offer the nipple. Just lay her there and let her smell you and see what she does. She may bob her head up and down. That is the first thing they do when they are starting to root. Just see what she does, even if she bobs her head up and down, don’t offer. See if she will try and find the nipple herself. Everything I am suggesting to do requires the patience of a zen master on your part. Be happy with any little progress she makes and focus on the good. Later on once you have made the nipple and boob a happy place, you can start to offer your nipple in the bath. And don’t forget to give her lots of positive reinforcement.
3. Play games with her at the breast and give her lots of positive reinforcement. I would hold her in a cradle position with my boob out and her head resting on my boob or just being near by. Then I would hold my boob so that my nipple was kind of tickling her cheek or mouth and smile big and say, “Yay! Penelope!” Or I would have a clutching toy for her to look at while I had her in a cradle or side lying position, and we would just play “in position” and that helped let her guard down about being “in position.” I would also use the toy to get her to turn her head towards my nipple. When she did turn her head towards me I would say, “Yay! Penelope!”
Before I could get her to be held in a cradle position, I would do this laying down next to her, or sometimes even on top of her on all fours and let my boobs just kind of dangle and I would sing songs and smile. I would do anything I could think of to make her smile while my boob was near by. It was EXHAUSTING. Remember to only do this when she is totally happy, fed, new diaper, not tired, etc.
Ok, so that is basically it as far as making your boob a happy place. I have a million other tips and techniques to help baby latch, but making your boobs a happy place is where you need to start before you try anything else. So muster all the patience you have and do this first.
Good luck! And please, email me if you have any questions. I am always happy to help.