Thank you to everyone who stopped by from LFCA. I appreciate your taking the time! And thank you to the person who submitted my posts.

I have so much to say about breastfeeding. So much. I live in an area where formula feeding is common, and as I mentioned before I was very nervous about breastfeeding since my body had let me down so many times before. I wanted to do it, though, and I had been assured by my OBGYN that the hospital staff would help me get established with nursing.

The first thing Cayenne ate was sugar water via a tube down his throat. This was while he was getting supplemental oxygen, and the idea was to get him some nutrients while working on the more acute problems.

The second thing Cayenne ate was formula. A NICU nurse gave him a bottle when he was 15 hours old. He drank an ounce; I watched it happen from my wheelchair. I was not consulted on whether this was a good idea. (I actually think it was, considering how difficult it would have been to nurse him from a wheelchair in the NICU — but I did find it a little strange that no one even asked me.)

I started pumping the night he was born. The nurse wheeled a pump into my room, turned it on, and handed the flanges to me. She said “10 minutes every 3 hours” and left. I didn’t know until two days later that the reason I wasn’t getting anything from the left side was that the tubing wasn’t attached properly. I also didn’t know what to do with the colostrum I pumped — I had no way to get it to him in the NICU, as I couldn’t walk, and I had no refrigerator. I ended up throwing out most of the colostrum I pumped.*

When he was released from the NICU he came to stay in my hospital room, and suddenly everything I did was wrong. He ate very little over the next few days, which I later found out was common behavior for a late-preterm gentleman like himself, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was panicking and I asked every shift nurse for help.** These are all things I was told by the people who were supposed to be providing care for me and Cayenne.

  • “He’ll eat when he’s ready. Just keep trying.”
  • “You really shouldn’t try to feed him so often — he burns more calories trying to eat than he takes in.”
  • “Don’t worry. You’re going to be able to do this. You’ve got great breasts.” (I appreciate that she was trying to encourage me, but seriously, what does that even mean?)
  • “You can always feed him pumped milk from a bottle if he’s not ready to latch.”
  • “Don’t pump. You will end up with oversupply and he won’t be able to latch because you’ll be too engorged.”
  • “Don’t pump. You can’t build supply by pumping, and besides you don’t want to cause nipple confusion. Just keep putting him to the breast.”
  • “You need to prime your breasts by pumping a little before you try to feed him.”
  • “You need to put a little pumped milk on the nipple to encourage him to latch on.”
  • “No, really, you shouldn’t be pumping. You should stop now.” (When a nurse came into the room while I was pumping.)
  • “You should supplement with formula until he’s ready to nurse.”
  • “Of course he won’t nurse! You gave him formula. That stuff just sits in his stomach like glue, you know.”
  • “He’s lost a lot of weight. Keep supplementing until he starts gaining again.”
  • “Oh, people are too concerned about a specific percentage of weight loss. Don’t give him any more formula.”
  • (about my Boppy) “You won’t be able to use that. They’re made for super skinny people.”

By the time we were discharged from the hospital I was a wreck. I felt like a total failure — I couldn’t conceive him, I couldn’t carry him to term, I couldn’t deliver him, and now I couldn’t feed him either. I didn’t know what to do, and as usual my husband was the voice of reason. I tearfully asked him how I could possibly know what advice to listen to, and he said “I’m going with the one who fed my child” (the lactation consultant we finally saw, who looked at how he was behaving and how long it had been since he’d eaten, and immediately fed him some formula). Yes. Of course.

When we got home I kept pumping and kept attempting to nurse. It was over a week, two pediatrician visits, and an additional lactation consultant visit before he got the hang of nursing, and if I didn’t have a completely supportive spouse I know I would have given up long before he learned how to eat. Nearly five weeks in and he is gaining weight, nursing on demand, and taking an occasional bottle of pumped milk from Daddy.

What I’m trying not to lose sight of is that this is Not About Me. It’s not about my feelings, it’s not about whether I get my Exclusively Breastfeeding Merit Badge, it’s not about how I feel when he does or does not nurse, does or does not take a bottle, does or does not eventually need supplemental formula. It’s about my son, and whether or not he is getting enough to eat, and whether or not he is growing. I don’t get some kind of cosmic brownie points for feeding him only from the breast, and I don’t get demerits when my husband gives him a bottle.

* Clearly this is a problem I could have solved by advocating for Cayenne better. I could have insisted a nurse take the colostrum to him, or I could have insisted someone wheel me over to see him more frequently, or I could have asked again for some nipples so I could feed him what I was pumping after he came to our room. I certainly don’t blame the hospital for my failure to think of these obvious solutions. When I finally saw the lactation consultant she looked absolutely stricken to hear that I had thrown out colostrum — she said it was “liquid gold.”

** I asked for a lactation consultant right away, but unfortunately Cayenne was born on a Friday, so that wasn’t possible till the following Monday. When I finally saw her, she told me part of the problem with the conflicting advice I’d been getting was that the nurses had been treating Cayenne like a term baby and not like the preemie he was proving himself to be.



9 responses to “eat

  1. OMGEEEEE! I can’t even believe half of this post. OK I get it, there are different theories on feeding babies, but as a NICU nurse and a mom who struggled getting her daughter to latch and became an exclusive pumper, I’m actually appalled at your treatment. No LC coverage on the weekends? This shocks me in todays world. And to not have a nurse actually show you the pump, how to assemble and disassemble it and encourage you to save your colostrum for your visits to the NICU. As for the bottle in the NICU, it is standard practice, even in my hospital which is going for baby friendly. As the baby has struggled with breathing issues, we assess their ability to use the suck swallow breath reflex before putting baby to breast or allowing parents to feed. But this should have at least been explained to you. I really can’t believe the conflicting advice and back and forth you had while in the hospital. I’m really shocked and could go on forever on this.

    Most importantly, you have established nursing and bottle feeding. This is not an easy achievement and I commend you and your supportive partner for sticking with it. My daughter did NOT ever really learn to latch. I’m actually kind of jealous of you for that 🙂

    So so SO sorry you had such a poor hospital experience with your nursing establishment….but you showed them all you could rock it!!!

    OH and the nice breasts? Yeah I didn’t get that, but my sister was told she had perfect nipples….talk about awkward LOL

  2. HOLY SHIIIIIIIIIIIT. What you say at the end is so so so so so completely and utterly spot on, and brave and smart. But it doesn’t mean that everything you had to endure isn’t important or completely horrible. And, just, FUCK, how can they get it so wrong. Breastfeeding is all the rage here and the hospital where I had my babies is working hard to be proactive about breastfeeding, and still, I got a lot of the same bullshit advice. Of course, I didn’t get the part where my baby was in the NICU. I feel like NICU parents need to be treated like they are made of crystal, or something incredibly delicate and precious. Being separated from your newborn and worried about his health has to be one of life’s top hellish experiences.

    My heart totally stopped when you wrote about tossing the colostrum. But then I remembered: you are raising a baby in a first world country and have good habits and enough money to buy good food. They hype about the “solid gold” is overblown. Which doesn’t mean that doesn’t totally suck.

  3. Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! I had a similar experience BFing my son. The hospital had NO lactation program (which I didn’t realize until after the fact) and I got similar conflicting advice. Which led to nipple damage from a bad latch. This led to approx 10 weeks of various BFing problems before we got back on track. And my baby wasn’t even a preemie! I vowed it would never happen again–if I was lucky enough to have another baby.

    I just had my daughter 3 weeks ago and the difference has been night and day. I picked the hospital for the lactation program they had, as I now know a good start to nursing is so important. That and prior experience helped immensely. I’m so sorry you got off to a rough start. I am shocked that they gave you a pump and a) didn’t show you how to use it and b) didn’t tell you what to do with the colostrum you pumped–I gasped when I read you had to throw it away. :-(((. There is absolutely no excuse for that. The hospital CEO deserves a letter letting him or her know how disappointed you were in your experience there and how it failed both you and your son.

    I’m happy to hear your nursing relationship is back on track, but you are right. In the end it’s about your baby getting enough to eat and thriving.

  4. I felt like a total failure and I didn’t face nearly the same challenges. E was given formula before even getting a real chance to ever latch. I resorted to a nipple shield until she was 6 weeks. Failure. But, then around 3 months, I felt like I got the hang of it, and by 6 months we were in a groove.

    I want to hurt someone over those comments. I had a similar experience as a Friday delivery, too. But the sweet pepper, he is here and if he takes a bit of formula now and then, it will not make him less perfect in any way.

    My only BF-ing tip is that when E dropped a nursing session and started to sleep longer at night, I kept my pumping at that 8 o’clock hour. Really, because I was terrified of losing my supply and felt like I barely fed her as it was, but 2, it gave me the beginnings of a small stash that helped when I needed to be away for a few hours.

    I was always an inch away from giving up BFing. My husband really made the difference. You are blessed.

  5. I am absolutely gobsmacked that ONE of those things was said to you, let alone all of them. Here (in So CA), breast feeding is priority #1 (and I delivered at two different hospitals). I just can’t imagine. But, gosh, GREAT for you that you stuck with it, mama!

  6. No wonder formula feeding is so popular in your area: if women deliver at that hospital and get that kind of advice/support, it’s a wonder any woman breastfeeds at all!
    I am totally impressed that you kept at it and found your way there with your son. You are very determined, G&L. I also admire your very pragmatic approach and your ability to see clearly through the very emotional aspect of this situation. You, of all people, always seem to be able to cut through the crap and get to the heart of the matter. And in this instance, it’s about Cayenne eating and growing. I’m so glad to read that you are able to breastfeed at this point, despite the very rocky start.
    And also, I’m so glad you have continued to write. I appreciate your perspective and thoughts so much.

  7. I hate that you had such a horrible experience in the hospital. You are fortunate to have so much support from your husband and the LC. The important thing is that your little one is eating and thriving!

  8. I’m annoyed on your behalf. How can they give you a pump but then neither explain how to use it, nor take care of your colostrum (which, I naively though, was the entire point of getting the pump to you…) This shouldn’t be your job. I’m glad and impressed you made it through all this confusion and are breastfeeding Cayenne now. I’d give you brownie points for perseverance, lots of them.

  9. You know what, some of those pieces of advice, properly contextualised, make sense (have a bit of milk on the nipple to rouse him, find the balance with pumping, because oversupply is a bitch, suckling is a lot of work for a newborn, and so on). But just dumped like this, over the shoulder, between short visits – they did more harm than help.
    A good LC is worth her weight in gold. I had that, when I had my first son, I went and asked for her help, because George was not doing all that well, and I was a new, scared mum, and she was just fantastic! She empowered me, gave me advice, showed me how and what to do, told me the signs to look for and made me trust myself. Of course, all that went through the darned window once I got home, but then luck made it so I live in country where a midwife comes to check on mum and babe during the first weeks, if all is well, she is out of your hair, if not, she comes again and makes sure everything is fine.
    Breastfeeding is hard work, especially in the beginning. It gets easier as time goes by, but it is so hard to want to do it and lack support. I am happy for you that you got lucky too and made it through the hard times. And yes, there is no badge for breastfeeding, but if there was such a thing, I bet it would show a mum and babe in a bubble – because there is really nothing else that matters when you nurse your baby, it is just you and him and that is all that matters.

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