From Formula to Latch
I've skipped over a few posts that I would like to complete that are focused on pre-labor and labor, accompanied by some helpful hints. However, I know a lot of my followers are approaching their due dates and I want to give you my 2 cents on breastfeeding so you can prepare. I was not prepared, regardless of what I read. I am a nurse, but by no means an expert on breastfeeding (or children in general). I wanted to share my story so you know your options and to make the transition to breastfeeding mom a slightly smoother one, or help you normalize the decision to formula feed if you are feeling guilty (as I did).
This post is not just for the breastfeeding mom. It is for the formula mom as well! I want to start off by saying FED IS BEST. I don't care how you do it, you are doing a great job mom! I felt pressured to breastfeed. So we need to support each other when it doesn't work out (or if that option simply is not the right one for your family). The guilt I felt with my daughter was undeniable. I remember being in the family newborn unit crying because she would not latch. I was told at first it was normal. The next day it wasn't and I needed to get her to latch. I was brought a pump to ensure stimulation was occurring every two hours to bring in my milk. I was barely getting anything from that, so the nurses brought me formula. Between everyone grabbing onto my breasts and shoving babies mouth uncomfortably onto them, let's just say it was not going well. I was even held back in hospital to ensure she was latching before we left. It was not happening. Please mind you, everyone had the most well of intentions. The lactation consultants and nurses were great. They were trying to normalize formula, while I wanted to so badly have my girl latch on. They could see the tears and were trying to support me the best they could. However, having 134234 different people give their opinions on breastfeeding is extremely overwhelming. I would try someone's suggested technique to be told by the next person I was doing it wrong.. and to try it this way. I didn't know how to take care of a baby, much less worry if my latch was the best technique to use. So again, I pumped and pumped. I was sent home with a nipple shield, NG tube and syringe to try to "funnel" milk to the baby through the shield to get her to gain interest. Let's just say I didn't have the hands home alone to be able to master that craft. So I continued to pump and no milk came in.
The most upsetting part of trying to breastfeed and being told to use formula is that you feel like a complete failure. Again, there is nothing wrong with using formula. But as a new mom, I felt like it was my fault baby would not latch. I must be not doing it right, or trying hard enough. But as I continued to try to latch, then pump, then top up with formula.. I realized this was not the lifestyle for me. After 2 weeks, I still had no milk, no latch, and formula was starting to be more tempting. Hubby was able to help me, and baby was sleeping. The mom guilt sunk in more when I was pressured to keep pumping to at least give baby that breast milk. Some moms do so well at pumping and I praise them. I could not handle being attached to a machine with a femme bot bra. (I highly recommended to get a pumping bra with slits to be handless when pumping if you go this route). So I quietly stopped answering the public health nurses calls. When my doctor asked how breastfeeding was going and I told her we switched to formula, she was extremely supportive. I realized that I should not be this stressed to feed my baby, and just enjoy the time with her.
Let's forward three years to present day. More confident as a mother, I was ready for round two breastfeeding. I had a beautiful baby boy, and what boy doesn't love boobs? This was my time to shine! My labor went well, baby came out safely, and we made it to the family newborn unit. Baby wasn't interested in feeding when we did our hour of skin to skin, but I wasn't worried. We made it upstairs and settled in. I continued to try to latch with no success for the first 24 hours. The nurse was supportive and told me to continue to express and she would have the lactation consultant come in the next morning. The lactation consultant was also supportive. It was only 24hours of baby being born. No need to worry. Keep trying. I was shown different techniques, baby was checked for a tongue tie, and she showed me how to get baby to suck on my finger to get him interested in sucking. By that evening the nurse was getting concerned we still were not having a latch. Every nurse who came on showed me their technique. That night nurse was the most effective. Everyone grabs baby and your breast to try to get them on. Baby is crying and it made me upset that he was upset. She gave me the pump to get baby some more milk and recommended the pumping every 2 hours.. here we go again. The lactation consultant came back in the morning, and still no latch. Now the concern set in that baby was not getting enough to eat. We were pumping off enough at that point to go home, but were offered the chance to stay until he latched. With a toddler at home, we were already packed to go. The great thing is the IWK now has a breast feeding clinic that you can return to so that you can weigh baby and discuss your feeding plan. I made my appointment for the following day, was given a list of places to rent breast pumps (don't worry about purchasing one right away, and keep the kit the hospital gives you to save a few dollars), and was told I would need to top up with formula if baby was still hungry after pumping.
Let me tell you, it was a tough road. Again, luckily I knew how to take care of baby this time so that anxiety was gone. We could focus on feeding. If you are the first time new mom, set yourself up for no expectations. Don't plan to go anywhere but stay home until you feel comfortable with your latch. I updated my mom group every few hours (thank you ladies!), which helped normalize what I was going through.
It was one week from birth until my milk came it (well a solid 6 days). As I previously stated, I started pumping every 2 hours in hospital (I say this loosely. Don't beat your self up if you need some sleep and do every 3-4 hours through the night). When baby was awake, I would try my latch (for an extended period of time. I tried a good 30 minutes before giving up. I am stubborn haha). When baby would not latch I would feed him formula, pump and then feed baby that milk (I was never able to "get ahead" to get a supply to feed baby after I tried to latch). I pre-purchased Brewer's Yeast off Amazon to add to smoothies and bought lactation cookies (also off Amazon) to help bring in my milk (be careful you don't take too much. I did one night, and had an access of milk.. ouch). You can feel when your milk is coming in (breasts will be harder feeling and more "full"), so back off once you start to get this sensation on the yeast and cookies. Then one day, baby just started to latch. First on one breast, then after a few days, on the other. I made myself a rule if baby was not satisfied after an hour and a half of feeding, it was time to top up with formula. I had it down to one bottle of formula in the evenings to keep him satisfied (if baby won't settle, he is not satisfied). FEED YOUR BABY. It is stressful with a newborn. Love them. Enjoy them. Don't stress yourself or you will stress baby. You know when your baby is not happy. So address it and move on. By the end of the week I had gotten rid of the formula all together. Again, I didn't do anything special. Just keep going and don't look back. Get yourself a comfy nursing pillow, some good nursing bras, and enjoy! (Don't worry, I'll do a separate post for all my nursing "must have" items).
1. If baby is too hungry, he will not latch easily. Once he wakes up, offer him food.
2. Get Jack Newman Nipple Cream before you have baby (needs a prescription). It is MAGIC to help heal sore nipples.
3. If your latch is hurting, rotate sites. My baby would not use a nipple shield. Football hold is one of our new favorite positions for feeding.
4. If your latch continues to hurt after 2 weeks... My experience was my let down was intense. Baby was trying not to latch on fully until my let down came in because he was choking on the intensity of it. Try expressing some milk before you latch (hand expressing works for me or use of my Haakaa). This made the difference for us.. but it was about 6 weeks before the pain on one breast stopped. I was new to the breastfeeding game, so I am aware this may not be "normal", but rotating sites worked for us until we were able to get it down pat.
5. Buy a comfy nursing pillow. It made the difference for our comfort, and my back.
6. Ensure you have nursing bras and tanks BEFORE you have baby. Bring them to the hospital (although, as a second time mom, I didn't care who saw what). I didn't have these ready to go for my first child (I had one bra and one tank). This is not enough. I have three nursing bras and at least 4 "nursing" tops. Or if you have the nursing bras, you can wear those with loose shirts. Again, not "necessary" but it will make your experience easier when you have visitors or go out into the world before you figure out your latch (I think me and baby were flailing around in the doctor's office before we had our latch down pat.. the poor teenage boy beside me). Or you know.. no bra at all.
7. Nighttime attire helps. I have nighties that are tank top style so that you can easily feed baby at night without having to take clothes off or change. I have one maternity nighty that I LOVEEE. However, expect that these will get ruined if you start to leak. I know, the dreams of motherhood.
8. Get nursing pads ahead of time.. again, the leaking..
Every experience is different, so if yours doesn't match mine, don't worry! Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant for help.