When our son was born, he weighed 6 pounds 5 oz., and we had issues with him latching from the start. Part of the problem was me having flat nipples, so the nurse gave us a shield and showed me how to use it, and he seemed to do much better. He seemed to be a very content and alert baby. During our hospital stay he lost almost 10 percent of his birth weight and we were discharged to see our pediatrician for follow up.
We continued to use the shield because he really struggled to latch without it and were told to put it back on if he got really frustrated trying to latch. I started to notice that the shield would be full of milk when he finished. I also noticed that he wanted to eat for very long periods of time and didn’t seem to ever be settled during or after feeds.
My friends in Facebook mommy groups said this was pretty typical behavior, and that he was just cluster feeding, so I continued to let him eat as often as he wanted, for as long as he wanted. I also never felt like my milk really came in, at least not the way my friends had described it. He didn’t get back up to his original weight by his 1 week visit, but the doctor didn’t seem overly concerned at that point because he was having wet and dirty diapers.
At his 1 month appointment he only weighed 6 pounds 5.5 ounces. He had only gained ½ of an ounce and his pediatrician suggested I talk to the lactation consultant. I went the next day to a group class, but the class was so large that I felt very overwhelmed and left early. I decided to go to the class offered at the hospital where he was born, where two of the nurses we had met would be teaching the class. The first thing they had me do was weigh him, feed him, and then weigh him again. When we weighed him after his hour-long feeding, the lactation consultant told me he had only eaten 20ml!
She suggested I start supplementing with formula and put me on a pumping schedule to try and increase my supply. We went home and immediately began the routine and at the next week’s visit he had gained nearly 2 pounds. The nurse’s response was, “Wow! He must have been hungry.” He wasn’t just hungry, he was starving!
We continued the routine and he continued to grow and thrive, but my supply didn’t seem to be increasing, and he still seemed so restless while nursing. The restlessness turned into full on screaming after he nursed or drank a bottle of breast milk. I called his doctor, and she said it sounded like he had reflux. She prescribed Zantac and suggested that I cut dairy out of my diet. I met with my own doctor for my 6-week postpartum checkup and told her about having to cut out dairy. She had experienced the same thing, so she sat down with me and went over things I could and couldn’t eat and what to look for on food labels. I also had a friend who did the same thing, so I followed her food plan, but he still would get so upset when he had any breast milk. After nearly a month of pumping every two hours, not eating, not sleeping, and trying to grieve the loss of my father, who had passed away two weeks before our son was born, I was an emotional mess.
My mom called me one day, and I was on the verge of a mental break down when she said, “he needs you to be healthy and sane far more than he needs breast milk.” It was in that moment that I felt a little bit of weight lift off my shoulders. I made an appointment to talk to his doctor about not breastfeeding. I was having a really hard time accepting it and was worried that she might push me to keep breastfeeding.
Her beautiful response:
“You’ve tried harder than 99% of the moms I’ve worked with to make breast feeding work, and it’s totally OK if you stop and exclusively formula feed.”
I cried in her office because that was the validation and permission I was looking for. I tried so hard to breastfeed my baby, but it was certainly not what was best for either of us. By his two-month appointment, he had more than doubled his weight and at 6 months he is back to being a happy, observant, content baby and so far meeting his milestones right on schedule.
I have felt so guilty, and it took a tremendous amount of courage for me to write my story. At the same time, I am so thankful my baby is now thriving and feel it is extremely important for other moms to understand that if your baby is not gaining weight, it is critical to figure out why and not assume everything is normal, no matter what popular breastfeeding mom groups on Facebook might say!
Bottom line: I could have lost my baby and my own sanity. For me and my baby, #fedisbest
I will be forever grateful for finding the Fed Is Best Foundation, and I am now committed to working with their advocacy team to promote #SafeBreastfeeding.
#FedIsBest Advocate Mandy D.
Please look for our follow up blog where we will point out what went wrong and how to prevent unintended consequences of insufficient milk intake while exclusively breastfeeding your baby.
For more information on how to protect your baby from feeding complications due to early exclusive breastfeeding, please read and download the Fed is Best Feeding Plan, a way to communicate your feeding choices to your health care providers.
In addition, please read and download the Fed is Best Weighing Protocol to prevent newborn dehydration and failure to thrive.
Lastly, for more detailed information, please watch our educational videos on Preventing Feeding Complications.
Our full list of parent resources can be found on our Resource Page.