Emma’s Breastfeeding Saga

DSCN2653When I was pregnant, I had lots of thoughts about my future breastfeeding life. I was planning on being one of those out-on-the-town moms–baby nursing happily while in a sling or sitting together under a tree in one of Seattle’s local parks. My biggest concern was how long to breastfeed–not if I could breast feed. But things turned out differently.

Solomon was a sleepy baby and didn’t breastfeed regularly. When he did breastfeed, it was very painful. The nurses told me pain was normal. The pain was so bad I would make my husband stand on my feet during feedings to counteract the nipple pain Still, I was determined to breastfeed.

At the first pediatrician visit, we learned that Solomon was jaundiced. He needed to be on a light bed. After one day on light thereapy, his jaundice was worse and we had to start supplementing with formula. We met with a nurse “lactation specialist” and she suggested supplementing at the breast with a feeding tube. She showed me how to feed Solomon with a tube taped to my breast. The temporary supplementation helped Solomon gain weight and eliminated the jaundice problem so we stopped.  Breastfeeding was still excruciating.

After a week of exclusive, frequent breastfeeding, my nipples were badly damaged AND we learned that Solomon wasn’t gaining weight. I was so discouraged! Finally, at the urging of our doula and pediatric clinic, we hired a lactation consultant to help us. Renee noticed tension in Solomon’s jaw and neck. She pointed out that his jaw was slightly asymmetrical. She suspected that he was tongue tied and explained how all these things contribute to poor feedings. Finally, after watching Solomon breastfeed, she determined that my milk supply was low and that he wasn’t doing a great job of taking the milk that I had. No wonder he wasn’t gaining weight!

Renee urged me to temporarily stop breastfeeding and use a pump to allow my nipples to heal and increase my milk production. She referred me to a Dr. who specializes in helping babies who are tongue tied. In addition, she recommended a physical therapist to help Solomon with his tight jaw and neck muscles. I fed Solomon as much breast milk as possible and took a combination of herbs and medications that support milk production.

Solomon’s latch got better immediately after the frenotomy (clipping the frenulum to release the tongue) but it was still slow progress. The body work helped relax his jaw. And, gradually, my milk supply increased to meet my baby’s needs. Finally, at 2 months, I was ready to breastfeed full time, but every time I did, the pain increased.

At Renee’s suggestion, I began to feed Solomon at the breast one feeding a day, then two, and so on until I was totally able to completely breastfeed without pain. I still have worries about losing my milk but so far, into month three, he’s gaining weight and I’m beginning to store milk for when I return to work.

Looking back, I wish I would have hired Renee right after Solomon’s birth. I know we could have gotten off to a better start. We could have identified his challenges and resolved them sooner. I would have been able to focus on being a mom and enjoying my baby.

I’m so happy that we persevered through those early, dark days. Thank you, Renee, for helping us become a success story!

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