Breastfeeding is natural. I've seen the videos of babies, only minutes old, crawling from their mothers stomach to the breast and latching on. And it looks so easy.
It hasn't been that way for me.
The nurse in the delivery room attempted to get Bug latched on as soon as she was cleaned off and assessed. This relative stranger, who would later help me put on underwear and watch me pee, grabbed at my breast, manipulated my nipple and tried to shove it into Bug's mouth. She didn't show me how to do anything, and quickly proclaimed that we'd try to get a latch later.
The next nurse, who met me in the recovery room, did the same and then told me my nipples were just too big for this newborn baby. She then instructed me to try to get her to latch on every 1-3 hours and write down how long I spent trying. She returned one time during her shift to take Bug's temperature, but didn't offer any more help.
Not all of the nurses were the grope and leave type. A few did show me how to hold Bug myself and how to yank on my own boobs, but nothing was happening in the latching department.
Bug, however, was doing quite a bit of work. She peed, she pooped and she spit up a ton of amniotic fluid. When the nurse weighed her that evening, it was no surprise to me that her weight was down, but her weightloss alarmed the staff. She'd lost over 7% of her body weight before her first 24 hours of life.
The next morning, they had me meet with the verbally abusive lactation consultant, or VALC. Okay, maybe she wasn't verbally abusive, but she was abrupt at best and I might have been a little hormonal. She assessed Bug's latch and proceeded to tell me everything I'd been doing wrong.
Then she dropped the big bomb. According to the VALC, Bug was born tongue tied. This meant her lingual frenulum (the thingy under your tongue that holds it in place), was short and preventing normal movement. I tried to get a picture of Bug's, but getting a baby to hold her mouth open long enough to get a picture is virtually impossible. Hers looked a little like this.
The VALC explained that this would prevent her from being able to breastfeed until she had surgery. She also pointed out that I had been starving my newborn baby and we'd need to get her started on formula immediately. All I heard was starving baby and surgery.
DH had also been tongue tied, but since he's so freaking old, he grew up during a time when women almost exclusively bottle fed. He didn't have surgery until 2nd grade, when one of his teachers noticed a speech impediment. He remembers the surgery, in detail, and said it was awful. After his tongue was clipped, they had to sew it down to prevent tearing and several days and he was unable to eat, drink or speak. It sounded like torture to me.
VALC didn't explain how simple the surgery is for newborns or do anything to put me at ease. Instead, she hooked me up to a breast pump while she retrieved formula.
Now, by design, you only produce very small amounts of colostrum in the first 48-72 hours after childbirth. I now realize that even if Bug had been able to latch, her weight loss would have been the same because no one produces more than a few teeny tiny little drops per feeding. All babies are "starving" until their mother's milk comes in and a more understanding, less abrupt lactation consultant would have explained this in detail to a frightened, sleep deprived new mom.
Instead, I was conviced that 1) I was the worst mom ever and 2) I was starving my baby and 3) she needed major surgery and 4) she'd never breast feed. And aside from the worst mom ever thing, DH pretty much thought the same thing.
After pumping for 10 minutes, I was able to fill a 1 mL syringe with colostrum and feed it to Bug.
Definitely not enough to do anything about her weightloss.
There was still a teeny tiny bit left in the bottle, so I returned to get it and somehow managed to knock the bottle over. There was a teeny itsy bitsy puddle of colostrum on the counter and in that moment I think I thought that the little itsy bitsy puddle would make the difference between my baby thriving and starving to death.
And I started to cry.
DH came over to see what I was upset about, saw the little puddle, and said, "What did you do that for?" Not good timing.
I sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed.
This would be the first of many times that I would cry about breastfeeding. For me, this has been the most challenging aspect of being a new mom. It has been 90% terrible and 10% wonderful, as each day Bug and I are hopefully moving forward to becoming a breastfeeding team. The good news is that she hasn't starved to death, and though her weight did drop to 7 pounds 9 ounces (down 1 pound 2 ounces from her birth weight), she's gained back 14 ounces. The bad news is that we are mostly pumping and bottle feeding, but we are still working toward breastfeeding.
I am going to continue to fill you in on the major ups and downs, including Bug's first surgery, the even more terrible lactation consultant from hell, and the things that we have done to make this who process a little easier.
If you have a similar breastfeeding horror story, share a link below.