So here is an update:
I am feeling a bit better - Monday was a very bad day and I was seriously thinking I would have to give up. But yesterday I decided to just take one situation at a time and not think long term (e.g. I have to feed, then pump, then feed, then pump...) as it was too depressing!
We also decided yesterday that we really needed to get him back on the breast and cut down on the bottles. Although the lactation consultant we have been seeing said bottles should not cause a problem, I have never really been comfortable with this, especially considering his latch actually seems to have got worse (he went from latching painfully to barely latching at all). Whether this is due to the bottles, the tongue tie operation and him needing to relearn to latch, or that we just haven't been practising enough and have been using the bottle as a crutch, I don't know. Anyway, we decided to try the Medela Softcup feeder, as I have read this is a better alternative to bottle feeding.
Does anyone have experience of cup feeding, and is it indeed better than bottles? He seemed to cope ok with it - he complained a bit at first, but once we had got some down, he finished the whole feed :) However, when my husband tried again later there was lots of screaming - I don't know if he was just too hungry and frustrated, although when I took over he did calm down. I had the same experience today and ended up giving him a bottle, but he only took a little bit and fell asleep, so I'm not sure he was really hungry and that may have been why he was complaining (I had nursed him several times so he really shouldn't have been that hungry!).
I don't know if it is a coincidence, but he does seem to be latching a little better - we are getting back to where we were the first couple of weeks, when he was latching but it was painful and I had a lipstick shaped nipple (instead of the situation for the past couple of weeks, when he has barely been latching at all and my nipple has come out practically flat). I am still having the dilemma though of whether to let him carry on nursing, even though it hurts me :confused:
Obviously we are still using some bottles, mainly in the middle of the night, or if he is just too hungry to use the cup feeder. Does this sound ok, or will it confuse him even more?
Finally, I have had a SNS suggested, but they look pretty hard to use, and I really would prefer not to go down that route. If he already has a poor latch, how will this help him improve? And what about nipple shields? I have tried these but his latch just seems even shallower as they seem too big for his mouth - how are they meant to improve latch?
I would continue to nurse at least part time. Babies- even tongue-tied babies- almost always eventually outgrow their latch problems. Babies grow fast, and a bigger mouth can latch on more deeply even if there's a tongue tie. And if you keep on nursing at least some of the time, your baby stands a better chance of remembering how to latch and being willing to latch. I always feel rotten when a mom comes to the forum and says "I had sore nipples so I just pumped for a few days and now the baby won't take the breast, what do I do?". Because if she had just kept the baby nursing a couple times a day, it wouldn't have worsened the nipple soreness that much and it would have kept her breastfeeding options more open.
The SNS is a good tool for a mom with low supply or whose baby is having trouble transferring milk (due to prematurity, or a tongue tie, or some other problem), and who wants to keep her baby on the breast as much as possible. It allows mom to feed the baby without using bottles, and trains the baby to equate the breast with being fed. It's not a fabulous tool for a mom whose primary problem is soreness or cracks, because she may want or need to limit the amount of nursing the baby does and give her nipples a chance to heal.
Nipple shields do not improve a baby's latch, but in some instances they can reduce soreness and allow mom to nurse. However, they can also negatively impact milk transfer, so they should be used only with guidance from a lactation consultant.
What I think an SNS might be useful for is retraining a baby who needs some suck training. When baby is on there right, let him have milk. If not, crimp the tube and readjust. And actually, the Lact-Aid one won't let milk out unless baby is sucking. You can also use it for finger suck training.
If you want to not get trapped into EPing hell, keep trying to nurse him, finishing feedings at the breast. This keeps your options opens for after getting TT snipped again or after baby grows up a bit more.
I wish I had not gotten my baby stuck on bottlefeeding. I might have had a better chance of nursing him post palate repair. It's a very real risk. I can't emphasize that enough to any mom.
I'm late to this thread - but just wanted to say I'm super amazed and impressed with what a great job you are doing! You are awesome! :cheer
I had a really rough time with sore nipples, poor latch, etc., too, but baby and I are still going with nursing at 9+ months. I remember thinking at 6-8 weeks, "There is NO way I could make it through all of this to a year," and feeling really stressed and sad about that. But you just take it one day at a time, and know that every single ounce of breastmilk you give your LO, however it is given, helps! And then later, when you aren't thinking as much about it - an amazing thing often happens; things get easier as your LO gets bigger and stronger. Once it got easier, my memory became blessedly fuzzy about the tough times in the early months (and I only have flashbacks when I read all the poor mama stories on here!). If you can get through these difficulties, it really is worth it. I know that may be irritating to hear over and over right now, but from the other side, I can confirm it has been true! In retrospect, I think our early struggles helped me to greater appreciate the good parts of our nursing relationship later, and made me passionate about sharing what I learned and helping other mamas whenever I could. I say that humbly, as others here have MUCH more experience and information than I do - but it feels good to pass on the info that helped me out!
On that note - you also mentioned you are still having nipple pain - and I sound like a broken record, because I've said this same thing to moms in pain on other threads - but try organic coconut oil on your nipples. It's more soothing and is healing (the major difference from some of the other topical stuff), and safe for the LO. It was the main thing that helped me recover from damage and pain due to poor latch.
Also, we used an SNS and were able to get past it and continue without it eventually. I'm not sure if that's what you need in particular (your LC should be able to advise in that dept, right?), but I think using it instead of only the bottle (which we starting also using 1-2x/day when our LO got to be 5-6 wks old) did help keep the breastfeeding relationship up. It is not easy at first (i.e., you may want to curse every time it pops out while you're trying to use it), but it gets better as you go along. However, like PP mentioned I'm not sure if that's what your particular situation requires. For us it was a way to improve our LO's weight gain.
Thank you all for your replies, and for the moral support :) It is good to know that most babies can improve their latch as they get bigger, and far from it being irritating, it really helps to hear people's experiences of how things improved for them. These stories keep me going, so keep 'em coming!
One good thing that happened this week is Toby had his 6 week check up and his weight gain is fine, the doctor was happy with everything, so he is getting enough milk and is healthy :)
We saw the lactation consultant at her clinic yesterday and she is happy with how Toby's tongue is healing (I don't know if I made it clear but she did snip it again last week). She said I've done really well to keep going, and to keep my milk supply up, and that I should persevere for as long as I feel able to. Toby also had a session with the osteopath, and we have another booked for next week.
I'm not sure if things are improving or not - his latch is still shallow, but I am breastfeeding more than I was this time last week. My nipples aren't too painful most of the time, although if he has been chewing them a lot they get quite pink and sore. I will try the coconut oil :) One big achievement was that I breastfed him through the night, the night before last, and I haven't done that for weeks (he was getting bottles instead and I was pumping). He has done a couple of reasonable latches, though nothing to write home about yet! We had to give up on the cup feeder because he really hated it and it was just too traumatic. We are now using the Medela Haberman/SpecialNeeds feeder, which seems like a good compromise and is better than a bottle as he has to work to get the milk. One of Toby's problems is that he doesn't use his tongue properly, and the Haberman teaches him to do this - if he just sucks on the nipple nothing happens, he needs to use his tongue too. It takes him ages to drink, but he is getting there. It doesn't solve the other problem of him not opening his mouth wide, but hopefully that will come with time.
We have a routine now that I breastfeed him first and he only gets the Haberman if I am too sore, or if he simply is unable to latch at that particular time. In the mean time I continue to pump as much as possible.
I mentioned I was worried he'd forgotten how to latch, but I think I have worked out what it is - when he is hungry, he does latch most of the time (although it is shallow), but if he's not that hungry then he can't be bothered and slips off. I realised this because there have been a couple of times when he didn't latch and I offered him the Haberman, he took a few sucks then fell asleep or started smiling! So he couldn't have been that hungry. However, I know if I'd offered him a conventional bottle he probably would have drunk it.
As for the SNS, I don't think we will go down that route, I think it would just upset me if I couldn't do it, and it would restrict the positions we could nurse in (e.g. lying down). Hopefully we can manage to improve things without it.
That's it for now, will update soon :)
Interesting about the Haberman, as we used those, and he learned to chomp on it to get milk out and destroyed his ability to nurse. It could be because my baby had no suction ability. I would be very careful IME with those and plan to ditch it as soon as possible. Plus they are horribly expensive. I spent $150 every 6-8 weeks on the replacement nipples for almost a year.
You can nurse with a Lact-Aid laying down, just in case someone else is thinking of trying it.
Thanks :) The Haberman seems to be working for us so far, but I will keep an eye out for any signs of chomping. We are also using the Breastflow bottles when the Haberman isn't convenient (e.g. we are out, or we don't have very long - he takes ages to feed using the Haberman) and he does have to suck using those, so hopefully this will counteract the fact he doesn't need to suck using the Haberman. He seems to have a pretty strong suck, so I'm not too worried at the moment.
It's not ideal using bottles/feeders but we do have to feed him and we feel these are the best option at the moment.
Aprilsmagic, I'm just curious - how did you find out the Haberman was responsible for your baby not being able to nurse? I'm still not sure what is causing our problems - whether it is the tongue tie, bottles, slightly receding chin, small mouth, the shape of my breasts (quite round with small nipples that don't stick out that much - not flat though), something else, or a combination of all of them!
We are still managing to nurse quite a lot of the time, although some days are better than others. Some days I get quite sore so can't do it as much, other times he seems to do better than others. For anyone who did struggle and it got better eventually, did you find that your baby had 'good days' and 'bad days'?
I'm still not sure if things are improving but I'm trying not to think about it too much and just concentrating on keeping going. If we keep this routine up it's not ideal, but at least I am feeding him and he is healthy :) I've started taking fenugreek and I think it is helping my supply, there suddenly seems to be a lot of milk in the fridge! Which is good as it means we don't need to give him formula so often. The downside is that I smell of maple syrup, and I think it makes the milk taste weird, but Toby doesn't seem to mind :)
I would still really like to hear from anyone who struggled and it got better with time, and how they coped.
Oh, I forgot to say - yesterday we tried the rebirthing, and it was lovely :) I put on the relaxation music I listened to when I was pregnant, had a soak on my own to relax, then my husband brought Toby in and put him in the back so he could sort of float on his back. I talked slowly to him and stroked him, telling him this was how his birth was meant to be, and then we put him on my chest. He made his way to my breast (the opposite one to which he usually goes for) and latched - I couldn't tell how good it was, but it didn't hurt, he was on there for a while, and my breast felt soft afterwards.
What is interesting is that when we got out of the bath, he was very calm, but then I lay down on the bed and put him on my chest - he went to the other breast (his usual one) and couldn't latch well, and got quite upset. In other words, there was a big difference to how he was in the bath. It was also interesting that the breast he went for in the bath is not his usual one, but it's the one he went for just after he was born, the first time he latched. It did seem that the bath reminded him of his birth! I also wonder if he associates our usual breastfeeding with the stress of the first couple of weeks.
Anyway, it seemed to be a success, and we will definitely do it again :)
I think most of the moms on this forum struggled to some extent. I think moms who have an easy time nursing tend not to look for online support!
With my first kid I had torn-up nipples and low supply from her awful latch, and needed to supplement with formula and pump round the clock in order to boost my supply and get milk to supplement with. It took a few months, but eventually I healed and she turned into a nursing champ. I nursed her for 3 years, and then had a much easier time with her little sister.