My 6th Lactation Consultant Saved Me When She Focused On My Needs First

 

When I finally got pregnant via IVF with my son Ike, I decided that I wanted to breastfeed him. Why?  Immunological benefits, possible lower obesity and diabetes risk, possibly smarter… As a scientist, I didn’t quite buy the higher IQ selling points of breastfeeding, but the immunological benefits seemed plausible to me. My two siblings, who seemed to have far fewer instances of illness and health issues, were breastfed while I was exclusively formula fed, so anecdotally, it seemed that breastfeeding made a positive impact on health. I delivered my son at a hospital that was touted to have one of the best birth centers in the Bay Area.  One of the key takeaways from the birth center tour was that breastfeeding was specifically embraced and emphasized, so I put on my birth plan that I planned to breastfeed.   

Labor and delivery was difficult. After 27 hours of labor, nearly 4 hours of pushing, and a failed vacuum extraction, Baby Ike was delivered via C-section. When the nurse handed Ike to me to breastfeed him, he would not latch, but would push me away and scream like I was trying to murder him–and this would happen each time I tried to breastfeed him.  Despite this, the nurses had me adhere to a breastfeeding schedule every 2 hours (because, they reminded me, my birth plan stated that I wanted to breastfeed). Each time the nurse or my husband handed Ike to me to breastfeed, I was filled with dread. I fought the urge to break down into tears as Ike pushed me away and arched his back while screaming as I tried to coax him into latching onto my breast.

 “I think our baby hates me,” I said to my husband after the umpteenth failed breastfeeding attempt.

My milk did not come in while I was in the hospital recovering, and did not come in until 9 days post-partum. Since my baby wasn’t latching, a breast pump was delivered to my room to help stimulate milk production.  I was not given instructions on how to use the pump and I used the wrong size flange and made the mistake of turning the suction power all the way to the highest level.  I also was pumping dry breasts for over 45 minutes which led to sore, cracked nipples and not a drop of milk!   So I hand expressed as much colostrum into a 1 cc syringe and fed my newborn whatever I could squeeze out of my breasts.  

Postpartum depression and anxiety crept up on me while I was in the hospital recovering from the C-section, although I didn’t realize what was happening at the time.  Being confined to a hospital bed after the C-section, with a catheter inserted, an attached BP cuff intermittently squeezing my arm, and sequential compression devices squeezing my legs exacerbated my claustrophobia, and I found myself frequently fighting off panic attacks.  I resisted sleeping and would lie awake gripped in fear and anxiety about my baby.  The two hour feeding intervals had me constantly watching the clock with apprehension.   

During my recovery at the hospital, I had 4 brief visits by 4 different lactation consultants (IBCLCs).  They were all very lovely and nice ladies, but some of their suggestions and advice conflicted with each other.  Little to no progress was made with breastfeeding after their visits.  

“Use a nipple shield to help with latching.”

“Don’t use a nipple shield! It will negatively impact your supply.  It may lead to nipple confusion and you’ll have a hard time weaning the baby off of the nipple shield later.”

Try the football hold.  It is the best hold for C-section moms.”

“Try ‘biological nursing!’ Let gravity assist the baby in the latching.’”

Try SNS so that the baby will stimulate your body to produce milk.”

Coping with pain from a major abdominal surgery, sleep deprivation, excruciating nipple pain, postpartum depression, and severe anxiety regarding breastfeeding made it difficult to absorb the information given to me by the IBCLCs.  

 

At 48 hours postpartum, my son had lost 11% of his body weight and had a touch of jaundice.  I was struck with guilt that I allowed my child to go without nutrients/fluids for two days.  A LC reassured me that babies were built withstand no fluids for that long–even longer!  So instead of simply giving my son formula in a bottle, it was suggested that we try SNS along with a nipple shield, which was an arduous 2 person job to set up each time.  After the usual bout of screaming and fighting, my son would finally latch onto the nipple shield and only take about 5-10 cc of formula through the SNS at each feeding and continued to lose weight.  At day 3, the pediatrician ordered formula  to get baby’s weight back up.  I felt both relief and tremendous guilt–relief that Ike was finally fed, and guilt for failing my son. 

Ike starved for 2 days and I let it happen. My failure to breastfeed my child compounded my postpartum depression.

We were released from the hospital with a small supply of formula, a couple of nipple shields, the SNS, but still with no clue on how to breastfeed.  I’m not sure why, but I still wanted to try breastfeeding Ike despite all of the anxiety associated with breastfeeding.  So we continued to seek out assistance from additional LCs.  The 5th LC that we consulted put me on a breastfeeding-followed-by-pumping every 2 hours regimen, no formula supplementation allowed.  This was the only way to establish breastfeeding and increase my supply, and formula supplementation would derail the establishment of my milk supply, she explained.  She suggested a follow-up appointment 3 days later to weigh the baby and to make sure I was following the regimen.  She also recommended that the baby see an osteopath, since the birth was “traumatic” and likely “tweaked his body out of alignment.”

 An osteopath was supposed to put Ike’s body back into alignment, which would facilitate better latching.  Looking back, I don’t know why I agreed to such a thing, especially being a scientist, but I was desperate to try anything.  The osteopath put her hands on Ike, closed her eyes, and breathed deeply…  Oh, and she used this strange looking vibrating device that looked like something you’d use to wax and buff a car on Ike’s body.  For that, we were charged $240 (private pay) per session.  We did two sessions before I decided that it was too ridiculous and expensive to continue.  

Things finally started to turn around when we consulted a 6th LC, Sheridan Ross.  We still weren’t able to get baby to latch without a nipple shield during the first consult (more screaming and back arching), but she left me with a wonderful multi-page care/action plan full of great information and resources (how to align the baby with the breast, how to assist latching with the “breast sandwich,” how to properly use a pump, baby sleeping patterns and growth spurts).  In her care/action plan, Sheridan suggested that I attempt getting Ike to latch twice a day as a starting point and work from there, and only attempt latching when Ike and I were both feeling calm.  She didn’t want breastfeeding to be associated with a traumatic event for either of us. I think Sheridan was the only LC that really recognized my PPD, while the other LCs really only focused on Ike and my milk production.  Sheridan saw that I was at a tipping point with the depression, anxiety, post-C-section pain, and lack of sleep.

The most important part of her approach in helping me was that she didn’t take an “all-or-nothing” attitude to breastfeeding: She didn’t tell me that I should avoid formula at all costs.  She didn’t tell me that using a nipple shield would doom my breastfeeding relationship.  She didn’t push a strict 2 hour feeding-pumping regimen that could have broken me as a mother with PPD. 

At 3 weeks postpartum, I was finally able to successfully establish a breastfeeding relationship with Ike (sans nipple shield!).  Because of Sheridan’s balanced and gentle approach to breastfeeding, I finally came to see my breastfeeding relationship with Ike as a positive one, and I breastfed Ike to 33 months.  In those 33 months,  I had to supplement with formula every now and then, but I no longer saw formula supplementation as a failure.

 

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We’ve created a feeding plan template to assist you in setting goals for your little one, by understanding your baby’s needs based on their birth statistics and what options you have (but may not know to ask).

Some of the information needed will be available to you by asking your healthcare provider directly, or requesting that they fill out your newborn’s data at birth.

Using this guide, you will be able to judge how best to hit your feeding targets, and be able to clearly inform your medical team what you would like to do if problems arise during the course of feeding. Downloadable and Free Infant Feeding Plan

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I Stopped Pumping and People Were Mad, Spewed Hate, Judgement and Called Me Selfish.

When I was pregnant I had already decided to formula feed my baby.  My family (even some cousins) thought it was strange and tried to talk me out of it, and I had family delete me on social media because we disagreed on this topic. My midwife was amazing and encouraged me to consider breastfeeding, but if I didn’t want to, that was perfectly okay. By the time I was 30 weeks pregnant, I changed my mind and wanted to try to see if breastfeeding would work for us.

 

I delivered after 2 days of labor, 2 hours of pushing followed by 5 hours of waiting then some more pushes, a vacuum, and then some panicked doctors who rushed me to an emergency C-section at 41 weeks plus 2 days. My daughter was immediately sent to the NICU from the stressful delivery.   I saw my baby following the surgery about 6 hours later and she was being tube fed. The next evening, they let me begin to try to feed her which went wonderfully! She latched, it didn’t hurt, but she was still hungry. My colostrum came in quickly, followed by my milk within 3 days in full.

But something was off. I ended up getting ill every time I breastfed her. I would get a fever, chills, and extremely tired every time I nursed her. I would have to sleep about 6 hours to feel normal again. The NICU asked if during the times I was sleeping they could supplement with formula. I said of course! If she needs fed, we feed her!  Putting essential vitamins and nutrients in her tummy is what needed to happen.  Over the course of her five day NICU stay, she breastfed, got breast milk from a bottle, and was supplemented when there wasn’t enough breast milk. I believe that supplementing her was what made her healthy and strong enough to recover and come home with us.

I was “encouraged” to keep pumping, so she could have “liquid gold” and that led to having no time to do anything. I was eating once a day and drinking very little.  I became so ill, my husband spent multiple nights feeding her because I was shaking and couldn’t move due to weakness. I was not healthy at all. I couldn’t be a mother to her; I hated being a mother to her at that time; I regretted her. It was awful. Finally, at 3 weeks I decided I had enough and my health and sanity was crucial for my daughter to have the mother she deserves. I stopped pumping and switched her to formula completely and never touched that pump again.

This was the Best. Decision. Ever. She continued to thrive, continued to eat just the same, and my body and mind healed. I loved feeding time with her and that magical bonding of looking at her, each time, was so very special to me. But people were mad! People argued that I wasn’t doing what was best for her, only for me. People continued to judge and spew hate about making a deeply personal choice that worked best for me.  This is when I found the Fed Is Best Foundation. In their support group, which is private to keep it safe, I found the Foundation encouraged breastfeeding, pumping, supplementing, tube feeding, and formula feeding! They encouraged putting baby’s and mother’s health above an obsession to breastfeed. I fell in love with the information and the people surrounding this movement. I would come to find mothers in similar predicaments were being “encouraged,” but really, they needed a solution – not encouragement to continue something that wasn’t working for them. I brought many struggling mothers to our private support group.  I continue to advocate for #fedisbest because until every mother can achieve the goal of a thriving, healthy baby in the health care system by whatever form of feeding suits their own family and babies the best, we have to work to make changes!

TiffanyFIB1

Tiffany22Meet Tiffany, a new mama to her sweet baby girl and both are thriving and celebrating her first birthday!

Do you need genuine help and support for yourself and your baby?  Please send us a message on our Facebook page.

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST

There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
  2. Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
  3. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals
  4. Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
  5. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.