As mothers, we always want the best for our babies and we worry what we do is never enough. 6 years ago, I had my first child when emergency C-section delivered her. She was 8 pounds 12 ounces and healthy. I was immediately told by my OB-Gyn to supplement her since she was such a large baby for 37 weeks. The hospital had LCs and we requested to see her several times but she was a no show. We figured out fast we were on our own with breastfeeding, however we did take our OB-Gyn’s advice and started supplementing right at the start to maintain her glucose levels. She never perfected her latch, so I exclusively pumped and she got everything she needed and we both liked our routine.
6 years later, I delivered my son early for pregnancy complications at 36 weeks but he was much smaller weighing 6 pounds 11 ounces. This time breastfeeding protocols were very different. Formula was considered evil and no one could supplement their babies and exclusive breastfeeding was the only way to breastfeed my baby. However, after day one things gradually started going downhill. My son latched very well and it was determined he was nursing perfectly. He nursed every one to two hours and we even had the second night “cluster” feedings we were informed about.
Little did I know, he was starving and not cluster-feeding and I had no idea! But as you can see in this photo- he. was. starving!
We had tons of breastfeeding help this time around or so we thought. Every nurse was well informed and almost more helpful than the LC’s. We saw 3 different LC’s while in the hospital and another 2 after we left. At the end of day 1 he was diagnosed with jaundice. At first it was mild but then it spiked and by the time we were discharged it was moderately high. They asked us to return on Christmas Day to have it checked again since our pediatrician could not see us for several days because of the holiday. When we were being discharged our last nurse very discretely asked us to supplement him and threw two packs of pre-made bottles in his discharge bag. She was the only nurse who ever mentioned supplementing or formula. Of course, at the time, I did not realize what she was trying to tell us. Supplementation saves lives
For those few days home he slept a lot, we would have to wake him to feed and he really didn’t cry too much. I remember being worried because he wasn’t pooping and peeing enough. Looking back, now I can see how yellow he was and lethargic he was.
The decision to have us return Christmas Day saved my baby and I still can’t think too long about what would have happened if no one saw him until days later.
At our appointment, they told us his bilirubin level was 17.8, he was lethargic and he had lost 10% of his birth weight. At this point my milk had been in for 2 full days. They started acting worried and I feel overwhelmed and trying to not burst into tears, my mind is racing with all sorts of panic “How could this be happening? Why isn’t his jaundice getting better? What are they not telling me?” It was decided he would be admitted to NICU for phototherapy. His blood test revealed his blood sugars were low and he was slightly dehydrated. How to know if your baby needs urgent supplementation
We followed up with our pediatrician after discharge and his jaundice was almost completely gone. We had been supplementing and nursing since coming home from NICU and was a different baby since he was being well fed. I continued trying to increase my milk supply for 3 months and in doing so I abused my breasts, body, and mental health in a desperate attempt to increase my milk supply to give my son what was “BEST” — to no avail. His Pediatrician finally told me it was ok to exclusively formula feed. She reassured me that I did everything in my power and he was going to be just fine without my milk. I stopped pumping and I never had any pain and drying up was like I never had milk to begin with. Up to that point I was pumping at best, 10 ML every 2 hours between both breasts. I had weight loss surgery between my kids 2.5 years prior to my son and some doctors speculate that could be the reason. The BFHI hospital knew my health history risks and still did not protect my baby from suffering. We desperately need systemic change to protect all babies and their mothers. No mother should have to live with this guilt, and no baby should needlessly suffer because somehow our medical professionals have come to believe that breast feeding cannot fail even when NOTHING about the human body is 100% perfect for anyone!
Written by: Marissa Risser
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