07 3 / 2014
My little birthday boy has nursed for an entire year. At around nine months I was so fed up and ready to quit. I’m happy that I hung in there until now, and we’re taking it one day at a time at this point.
Hang in there ladies. I utterly failed at nursing my first, but my second baby nursed for a year and onward.
31 1 / 2014
I want to share with you the journey of breastfeeding my first son E, who is now about to be three years old. This is a story of hardship, confusion, frustration, and feelings of failing miserably. If I only knew then what I know now. Of course.
My little E was born on a Monday at a hospital in Phoenix, AZ. I had agreed to an induction from my OB, who wanted to do it at 39 weeks, but I managed to push it back. And then the hospital had no room for me on that day, so I waited an additional two days. I was admitted to this hospital and they started all manor of methods to get him out, including cervidil and prostoglandin gel, and finally pitocin. I was on pitocin for 12 hours with almost no change to my cervix, and the nurses were talking about sending me home, when my water broke and labor finally started. It was a full 24 hours later that my son was born. The whole experience left me a bit traumatized and regretful of my ignorance going into the situation. They cleaned my baby and weighed him, wrapped him up, and handed him to me. I fell in love.
At eight pounds and one ounce, and twenty-one inches long, he was a big bigger than I had anticipated, but absolutely perfect. Nurses busied themselves cleaning up the birthing room and preparing to move us to recovery. One of the nurses eventually came over and asked me how I wanted to feed him. I had taken a LLL breastfeeding course prior to birth, so that was my preferred method. She made an awkward face as she began trying to instruct me on how to get my baby to latch. He didn’t seem too interested at first, and we had to keep trying, squirting milk into his mouth to get him to suck. Finally he latched. What a bizarre feeling. They wheeled us off to the recovery suite, where I continued trying to get my baby to nurse. What he didn’t know was that I had never done this before, and every nurse that walked in had something different to say. I asked repeatedly for a lactation consultant to visit me, but she was too busy and never came. I struggled onward alone, accepting formula for him when the nurses offered. They could see my frustration. Due to blood loss on my part, we stayed in the hospital three days after his birth.
At his first checkup, he had not yet regained his birth weight, but the pediatrician did not seem concerned. I felt like a blind woman stumbling around in the darkness, trying to take care of an infant, constantly wondering if all his little expressions and sounds were normal. By two weeks he had still not quite gotten back to birth weight, but he was very close. His mild jaundice cleared up, and my pediatrician assured me he was perfect.
At two months I had a long list of questions for my pediatrician. I continued breastfeeding and also offering formula when I felt too frustrated. My nipple started to bleed and the pain was unbearable at times. I cast around my sleep deprived brain to remember the tips I had learned at the class. Roll the nipple into the mouth. If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong. Make sure the lips are flipped outward. We seemed to be doing all right though. He was up to twelve pounds at this appointment, and over 23 inches. My pediatrician continued to tell me he was perfect. I asked why he spit up so much, and was told he was just a happy spitter. I asked why he would sometimes make this raspy breathing sound after meals. No idea, probably normal, he said. We went home and continued on with life.
At four months he only weighed 13 pounds. In two months he had only gained one pound. His percentile dropped from 36th to 10th. My pediatrician told me he looked perfect. We were still stumbling along with breastfeeding, and at this point I had eliminated formula from his diet. I was eager to start feeding him solids, but the pediatrician recommended I hold off until six months. I had a few more questions. Why did my baby cry so frequently? Why did he arch his back or raise his hands over his head all the time? Why couldn’t I get him to sleep? Why did he often choke while eating? All normal baby behavior. I was just a new and inexperienced parent. He continued to make the wheezing noise after eating. And he looked so skinny.
At five months, I took my son to the nearest children’s hospital, Banner Thunderbird. His wheezing was really bothering me. They looked at him, x-rayed his chest, and sent us home. Nothing unusual at all. I felt frustrated and fed up with struggling to nurse this baby, who vomited everything he ate and cried constantly. Under pressure from my friends, I decided to switch back to formula, and gradually started to wean.
Just before E turned six months old, I woke up one morning. It was later than usual for me to wake up. I heard an odd sound over the baby monitor, and I knew something was wrong. I ran to his room and nearly burst into tears. My baby lay in his bed, motionless, with a distant glazed expression, while his face began to turn blue. I panicked, pushing on his chest and picking him up to firmly pat his back. He gasped in a breath and began crying. I ran to the car and carefully strapped him into his seat, jumped in the driver’s seat, and sped down the road at full speed. I called my husband’s work on the way, asking to speak to him and letting him know that E had stopped breathing and that I was taking him to Phoenix Children’s. Then I called my best friend to let her know too. I was shocked at how fast my little camry could go, and thanked God for the car pool lane on the I-10. I made a 45 minute drive in 25 minutes.
E had another breathing episode in the ER after a nurse had examined him. I threw open the door and screamed frantically for people to come, and nurses rushed into the room. They began the admitting process. We stayed in the ER for five hours waiting for a room. They fitted him with an IV and began tests, doing an EEG and hooking him up to an apnea monitor. My husband arrived from work, and a couple of my friends came. Finally we got to our room. The doctors wanted to observe him having an episode again, so we waited. Eventually we realized they were connected to his eating. I tried to breastfeed him, but he choked horribly and stopped breathing again. They immediately said he would have to go on all formula, and started thickening it with rice cereal. He drank the bottles slowly and his episodes decreased.
He underwent an upper GI test and barium swallow test. He drank the barium liquid as if he were starving, and the observed him aspirating up to nectar consistency. We then had to thicken all of his formula to honey consistency. He also went on zantac for reflux, which I believe caused his dysphagia in the first place. We couldn’t afford the expensive thickener he needed, and so we used rice cereal. We had to carefully measure each scoop, four tablespoons per ounce of formula, every single bottle.More than a half hour would pass and he would still not be done eating. But he gained three pounds, putting him in the middle of the charts. Our breastfeeding days were over.
Sometimes I look back on this time in my son’s life and regret most of the decisions I made. I could have breastfed longer. I could have pumped and found ways to buy the Simply Thick and thicken my pumped milk. I could have refused formula at the hospital, and maybe his reflux wouldn’t have been so bad. I should have made the pediatrician listen to me and treat him sooner. But my son is absolutely amazing. He is so smart, his brain blows me away every day. I wouldn’t change a thing about him. I just hate that my breastfeeding journey had to be a failure and a learning experience instead of a success story.
Soon I’ll post my journey with my second son, which was also fraught with frustrations and failures, but is ultimately a success. He will be one in March and we are still going strong. It can be done.