Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sour Milk: Breastfeeding De Ja Vu

I really wanted to breastfeed this time around. Really, really, REALLY wanted to. Even though last time was a complete and total disaster (blood, sores, disfigured nipples), I thought this time was going to be different. This time I knew what to look out for regarding tongue tie. I was an experienced mama at this point and much more in control than last time around. I was confident going in and just 100% positive everything was going to work perfectly. WRONG!

Things actually started out pretty smoothly. As soon as I could get a good look at Baby Deacon, I checked his tongue. It looked a little bit tethered, but not nearly as bad as Paige's was. So I put him to the breast and he latched on immediately. SUCCESS! For the next few days, things were going great. Lactation consultants, nurses... basically everyone said things looked textbook and my milk should come in "any time now". But it didn't. I figured it was just because I had a c-section and my body needed to catch up with the sudden delivery of the baby. The colostrum was there - I was able to hand express it - but definitely no milk.While in the hospital I supplemented with formula so his weight wouldn't drop below the 10% mark (it had dropped 7%). I went home on Day 4 still feeling super confident. But as the days passed and my milk still didn't come in, I started to think that something may be wrong. He would still latch on without a problem, but it started to feel like he was sucking with all his might (like sucking the last bits of a chocolate milkshake through a straw) and I started getting really sore. Still - I was confident things would turn around.

Well... they didn't : (  I began pumping and finally my milk came in a little bit. But then I ran into a another problem... I had milk, but it was obvious Deacon wasn't able to get it out. After he was done "feeding", I would get sharp, shooting pains in my breasts. Plus, just 5 minutes later, he was crying for food and would scarf down a good 4oz. of formula. Still - I had faith things were going to work.

At the two week point, it hit me like a ton of bricks that there was a major issue. That no matter how hard I tried, hoped, projected positive vibes towards my boobs, something wasn't right. I decided I better take Baby Deacon to the Pediatric ENT specialist for a consultation. Unfortunately, it was 4th of July weekend and I couldn't get in until Tuesday the 5th. Four more days of frustration... I kept pumping.

On the 5th it was determined Baby Deacon was tongue tied - just like his sister was. While it wasn't as severe as Paige's (her tongue was tether all the way to the tip) it was still restricting the tongue's movement and ability to compress the milk glands. His tongue wasn't able to extend past his gum line, which meant his tongue couldn't cup the nipple (as it is supposed to). But there was also another issue - Deacon also had a short tongue. Which Paige also had. So even if we clipped the frenulum to also for greater movement and mobility, the doctor (who is amazing and I totally trust after his amazing work on Paige) said there was only a 50-50 chance he'd be able to feed from the breast. Clipping the frenulum will help Deacon move his tongue around in his mouth - that if not fixed would lead to severe speech impediments in the future and problems with eating - but it wouldn't increase the tongue's length. We decided to move forward with the procedure... I'll take the 50-50 odds and hope for the best.

Well, we fell on the wrong side of 50%. Deacon's tongue mobility was instantly improved. It was actually amazing to see that little tongue moving around for the first time. But his tongue still wasn't long enough to stimulate milk letdown. And so - on day 20 - I officially transitioned to formula. By that point I had resigned myself to the fact that it didn't really matter what I wanted to do or had hoped to do - my baby needed to eat, and that fact was more important. I was going to keep pumping and giving him breastmilk via bottle, but that turned problematic when I couldn't find time in the day to pump and became engorged.

This time around I felt a lot less guilt about formula feeding. I remember the first time it didn't work, I felt like a total failure. Like I was being selfish for not being able to tough out the pain (which looking back, was more than just pain... blood and chunks of nipple falling off isn't normal). But this time I felt at peace with the transition to formula. Bummed? Yes. Annoyed? Yes. But I knew I wasn't a failure. I knew what I needed to do, and haven't looked back.

I think breastfeeding is a wonderful thing. I really admire women who do it. But if you are a mama who isn't able to for whatever the reason, or maybe even chooses not to breastfeed because it doesn't work for you - don't feel guilty. As the commercials say, "Breast is Best!" But the bottle is good too. What matters most is the maternal connection and emotional bond you have with your baby. The quality time spent feeding your baby - whether from the breast or from a bottle - gazing into your little miracle's eyes, stroking their hair, kissing their chubby cheeks... that is what is going to matter down the road. Of course I'm not contesting the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding... but the emotional benefits can be achieved no matter what your feeding method of choice. And that is the beautiful thing about being a mama.