This week has been our hardest yet!
Norah was fussy for several days after she got her vaccines. She has always been such a calm, happy baby as long as she’s fed, so we really didn’t know what to do with her.
On top of that, we’ve been having really difficult breastfeeding issues. This is a bit of a long story, but I will start from the beginning. Don’t read this if it makes you squeamish, or if you just don’t want to know.
When Norah was a newborn, she had trouble latching on to me, and it hurt me when she did. So as soon as my milk came in on day three, we bought a nipple shield on the advice of my midwife (see below).
It really was a great tool to have. I’m not sure what we would have done without it. Norah was able to nurse fine with the shield, and it didn’t hurt (much).
I was, however, annoyed with having an extra step and trying to be discreet while putting it on in public, etc. So I started trying to wean her off of it while we were in Pennsylvania. For some reason, one side hurt more than the other, so I started nursing her without the shield on the side that didn’t hurt as much. She soon got the hang of nursing without the shield and all was going well.
Things started going south about a week and a half or two weeks ago, around when we got home from PA (no pun intended, about the going south…).
First I noticed that after she nursed she was still acting hungry. This had never happened before. She would always eat for a long time, maybe 45 minutes, and then usually fall asleep. Now she was eating for a shorter amount of time and then getting squirmy, and finally pulling off and crying. I’ve had to supplement with formula almost daily, which I hate. I also was getting less milk when I tried to pump, and everything I pumped I just ended up giving her later the same day.
Over a week ago now I started the More Milk Plus capsules. A couple of times I could tell they were working, but I did not consistently have more milk. In fact, overall it seemed like I was producing less and less milk, despite my efforts to increase my supply.
At the same time, Norah was starting to refuse the nipple shield altogether. She decided she liked nursing without it better, I think because she can get the milk out easier without it. She has made it very clear that she doesn’t like it. Several times in the past week, this has been the scenario:
I nurse her without the shield on the side that doesn’t hurt, which, incidentally, is the one that produces much less milk. (I am told this is very normal. However, I don’t feel like it’s normal to be quite as lopsided as I am. She will only nurse for five minutes on that side, if I’m lucky. It’s usually more like two minutes.) Norah fusses while I switch her to the other side and try to nurse her with the shield. She will suck a few times, and then pull off and scream angrily because it isn’t coming out fast enough. After trying to get her to latch on several more times, we offer a bottle of pumped milk instead. She refuses it and keeps screaming. (She is beginning to show a distaste for bottles.) I finally give in and let her have what she wants: to nurse with no shield on the side that hurts. Now I’m the one who is holding back screams. Remember how I said labor and delivery was a 13 on the 1 to 10 pain scale? Well, this is at least a 9.5.
It is SO sad for me to let her scream and cry, knowing that I can give her what she wants if I can stand the pain for just a few minutes. The hardest thing is when I’ve already pumped and she either has to take the bottle or go hungry for a while. I’ve been trying to avoid that, but I also need to pump when I can to help increase my supply (the more milk you remove, the more your body makes).
On Sunday I had a lactation consultant come over. She looked at Norah’s latch and got me to put her in an ideal nursing position. For a while I thought it was a bit better, but now it’s back to unbearable.
I really don’t get it. I don’t know why it hurts on one side and not the other, and it really figures that the one that hurts is the one she gets most of her food from. There is nothing wrong with the way she’s latched on (which is usually the cause of breastfeeding pain, aside from infections), at least not that you can see. She does not have tongue tie either. At this point I’m wondering if there’s some kind of numbing cream that would be safe to use, but I doubt it. It is really stressful never knowing how the next feeding is going to go. Is it too much to ask to be able to feed my child without being in excruciating pain? There is SOMETHING wrong – I just wish I knew what it was.
Tomorrow I am meeting with a La Leche League leader who helped me when Norah was a day old. I SO hope she can figure out what’s going on. (I just reminded myself of another interesting point: when she (her name is Leslie) came to help me back then, she actually nursed Norah herself for a few minutes to teach her what to do, and also because Norah hadn’t eaten at all in a day and a half. Leslie had no pain. So the problem has to be with me. But it doesn’t hurt when I pump, so the problem has to be with Norah…do you see the conundrum?)
At least I am starting to see an increase in my milk supply. The other night I finally decided to double the suggested dose of the More Milk Plus supplement, which is just herbal. I figured if it wasn’t safe to take more than they suggest, they would have a warning on the bottle. And the bottle really does say “suggested use”… I also read that you have to take a lot of fenugreek (one of the ingredients) to see an improvement in milk production. More specifically, it said, “You know you’re taking enough if your sweat smells like maple syrup.” Strange, I know.
I think my milk supply dropped so low because of the nipple shield. Norah can’t fully empty me out with it, so I think I just kept making less and less milk because my body thought she didn’t need what was left, when really she just couldn’t get it.
The hardest part for me in all of this is that Norah really wants to nurse. If she didn’t care, I’d be likely to just pump and give her bottles, since, as I said, pumping doesn’t hurt. But I’d really like to nurse her, too. And I’m afraid that by the time we get this figured out, she’ll have already given up. That would be devastating to me, if finally we got everything worked out and she just wanted a bottle. I want her to want to nurse.Speaking of bottles, we’ve been using them so often that we finally decided to get some better ones. The ones we had (Tommee Tippee) were supposed to be the best for breastfed babies, but they aren’t that great, despite their high price.
The nipples also flow much slower. The milk will not just drip out – she has to suck to get any. I don’t like the nipple shape as much, but it’s not bad. She seems to do better with them and milk isn’t constantly dripping down her chin and being wasted. They’re also cheaper, and since they use bags you don’t have to have a whole bunch of bottles, just a whole bunch of bags. You can also store milk and freeze it in the same bag you put in the bottle. Much easier.
I’m keeping a couple of the Tommee Tippees in case she can use them when she’s older, but I’ll sell the others at a consignment event or something.
I could talk about more stuff for this week, but this is pretty long already so I guess I’ll just post a few photos from the week and let this be the end. Hopefully next week I’ll have a positive update on breastfeeding.