Breastfeeding is beautiful, right? Well, breastfeeding can be hard too. District Baby (and Dad) and I have had quite the journey, and at five months we finally have things figured out. It doesn’t involve much breastfeeding anymore, but DB is healthy and that is what matters.
We have used nipple shields, seen lactation consultants, had a lip & tongue-tie corrected, struggled with bottles, and even fed with a tube (Supplemental Nursing System, for those of you familiar with the term). I feel like if there’s a hurdle we’ve been through it. If you’re struggling, maybe something in here will help you. If you’re not, I’m also including a list of products I’ve found helpful at the end, so feel free to scroll ahead and check that out!
In the hospital after delivery, the lactation consultant gave me a nipple shield to help DB latch after noticing a bit of struggle, and District Baby seemed to catch on with the shield pretty quickly. By our first week appointment, DB had gained enough weight that we got the OK to stop waking her every 3 hours to feed. She breastfed a lot, but that was normal. She was gaining weight.
By week seven of using the nipple shield and not having any success with bottles, we decided to see a Lactation Consultant (if you’re struggling even a little bit, make an appointment now!). Our plan was to get a consult and a referral for a pediatric dentist to address what we hoped was our only issue — a lip and tongue-tie. We got our referral and it turns out DB’s tie was pretty bad. We were so relieved to get this corrected, and we hoped she would soon latch without a nipple shield and successfully take bottles. Unfortunately, it was not the magic fix we were looking for.
I still needed shields and DB still refused the bottle. District Baby’s feedings started getting longer and longer; we were up to 45 minutes on each side every two hours or so. That left essentially no time between feedings for naps/play/chores. Despite of all her time at the breast DB’s weight gain plateaued. By 2.5 months I was visiting our Lactation Consultant weekly as DB dropped into the first percentile for her weight. We did weighted feedings at each visit – weigh baby, feed baby on one side, weigh baby again, this helps ascertain just how much your baby is taking in.
Somewhere between her second week of life and her ninth DB stopped getting what she needed from me. As this sweet girl ABSOLUTELY refused to take the bottle our options seemed limited. Our LC suggested adding a supplemental nursing system as I nursed (a small tube attached to a bottle that I snuck into DB’s mouth as she ate). This meant that between the hour and a half feeding sessions I had to pump a few ounces to put into that bottle. My entire day was consumed with some step of feeding our baby. Either the feed itself, the pumping, the preparing the equipment or the cleaning of the equipment. It was exhausting, and District Baby was still not gaining weight.
At 3 months it was time to return to work and I was terrified. My baby, underweight and struggling so much, still did not take a bottle. We had tried every suggestion we could find online or get from a friend. Dad feeding. Dad feeding with me in the other room. Dad feeding with me out of the house altogether. Different bottle brands and different nipple sizes. Nothing worked. I started working, and after a full week’s worth of fighting with that sweet girl my mother-in-law and husband got her to take a bottle. All it took was 6 different types of bottles and me being out of the house every single day for a week. Hallelujah!
I was now able to pump on a regular schedule at work, and it turns out my supply was a bit low in addition to baby girl’s feeding struggles. We bit the bullet and decided to add formula to her diet. This took three tries due to her sensitive stomach. Elecare, the most broken down, she flat out refused. Apparently it doesn’t please her refined palate. Alimentum upset her stomach. The third try was a charm and Nutramigen has been a Godsend.
At five months postpartum I breastfeed in the morning, and pump 3-4 times throughout the rest of the day. I am able to get enough breastmilk for two or three of the bottles she will need each day and the rest we supplement with formula. It may not be the vision every new mom has, but it works for us and we have a healthy girl for it.
If you are struggling, know there is a solution out there and it is OK to seek help. And, for the love of all things in Heaven don’t let anyone make you feel like you are doing anything “wrong”! Do what works for you and your baby… you’ve got this, Mama!
District Mom’s Nursing Faves:
- Medela Nipple Shield
- Pumping/Nursing Combo bra:
- Nursing tank tops (great because your tummy is still covered when nursing in public):
- NUK Simply Natural Bottles (the only bottle DB would take! If you are struggling keep trying, there’s something out there)
- We bought the preemie nipples for these and still use them. She drinks so quickly & with her reflux that’s not always the best!
- Medela Supplemental Nursing System (please talk to your LC or doctors before resorting to this, it’s definitely worth the opinion of a professional)
- Medela Hands Free Pumping Bustier (if you have a Medela pump you may be able to get one of these for free, check before buying)
- Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington (Jenna was an absolute gem!)
- Smile Wonders, Dr. Rishita Jaju in Reston, VA
- No-Bake Lactation Bites (booby balls) by the Baker Mama – a friend of mine recommended these and they DEFINITELY work! They are quick and easy to make and actually taste delicious too.