This is my first post although I have been reading the forum for a few weeks now. I hope someone can offer some advice, apologies for the long post but a lot has happened.
My son (first baby) is 6 weeks old today and we have struggled with breastfeeding from the start. His birth was quite traumatic – a lot more painful than I had expected, and not the natural water birth I had hoped for. His heart rate was dropping with each contraction and the doctors said he really needed to be born quickly, once labour was established it was very quick (I went from 5 cm to fully dilated in 1 hour) and I ended up having a spinal block and he was delivered by forceps. He was fine though, great APGAR scores, and he latched on 20 minutes after he was born. I remember all the midwives saying what a great latch it was, and although it was a bit painful, that was to be expected.
I fed him all that day and night, and the next morning my nipples were bruised, so he clearly hadn’t been latched properly. I showed a midwife and all she said was ‘oh, he’s given you a love bite’ – nothing about him not latching properly or what to do next. We asked a lot of people for advice while we were in the hospital, and the general consensus was that it does hurt at first but would get better, though when I rang a breastfeeding helpline they said that was rubbish and it shouldn’t hurt.
Anyway, it didn’t get better, and the first 2 weeks were very painful, with sore, cracked and bleeding nipples, and me dreading every feed. It felt to me like his tongue or gums were rubbing the underside of my nipple, and when it came out it was shaped like a new lipstick. I could also see that his cheeks were sucking in, although the midwives and health visitors kept saying it looked fine. I also discovered he was tucking his bottom lip in (I have tried flipping it out when he is feeding but this causes his latch to become even more shallow). He got weighed 2 weeks after he was born and he wasn’t quite back up to birthweight, and I was still in constant pain – this was when I was advised to express and bottle feed, and top up with formula if necessary. This really upset me but I was so tired and in pain, and worried I was starving my baby, so I followed their advice, although I was worried it would make his latch worse.
Over the next week or two I went to several breastfeeding support groups but just kept hearing the same advice on how to latch him on. I felt like screaming ‘I know how to do it but it just doesn’t work!’. We have tried every position including the laid back breastfeeding but nothing helps. I kept hearing ‘take him off until he gets it right’ but he never got it right! I have also read books, browsed the net etc.
The third week I paid for a very experienced and well-regarded private lactation consultant (IBCLC) to come and help – she diagnosed a 50-60% tongue tie and did the operation there and then. She said it would probably take at least a couple of days to see an improvement, and that if he could not breastfeed comfortably, I should not feel guilty about expressing and bottlefeeding, as this would be preferable to damaging my nipples and him not getting enough to eat. She also recommended he have cranial osteopathy as he seemed tight on the left side, he has a receding lower jaw, and because he had a forceps delivery. He had 2 sessions but it didn’t really help.
Six weeks later and I feel like we are on a downward spiral with nothing and no-one able to help. The bottles have got more frequent and the breastfeeding less. I have tried spending hours in bed with him and there has been the odd day where he has fed all day, but eventually I get so sore I have to stop. I have also noticed him getting tired and unable to latch on, so even if I can cope with the pain, I give him a bottle because otherwise he will be hungry. I am also reluctant to feed him because we both find it very upsetting when it doesn’t work. Not once since his birth has he latched properly and stayed latched. Finally, yesterday I saw the lactation consultant again and she said he needed his tongue tie clipped again. She did it and since then he has been grizzly and struggling to feed, even from a bottle (although he is managing it). He also saw a different osteopath during the same session, and we are going back next week for a follow up. He does seem to be able to open his mouth wider, but to me his latch feels the same as before, with his tongue rubbing my nipple and the latch being shallow.
We were using Philips Avent bottles but I bought some that are meant to be more like breastfeeding (the Tommy Tippee Closer to Nature and the Breastflow, they only arrived today so I’m not sure which is best yet). I have been pumping like mad to keep my supply up and to make sure there is enough milk for him. We have just about managed but on his hungry days we have had to give him formula as the milk has run out. I bought an Ameda Lactaline double electric pump (I think it is called the Purely Yours in the US) as I heard it was a good make, but I am wondering if it is powerful enough (I get around 60-80 ml every 2-3 hours, more if I haven’t pumped for 5 hours e.g. at night) and whether I should hire a hospital grade pump. I am so worried about my baby being hungry and about my milk drying up (I have read this can happen if the baby is not feeding efficiently and the mother is relying on a pump as they don’t extract the milk so well). He has gained weight but only an average of 142g a week, which I know is less than ideal (other than that I have no concerns, his nappies are fine, he is very bright and alert, smiling, active etc). He does get milk but I don't know if he gets enough.
So six weeks on and I am feeling very unhappy and stressed about it all. I desperately want to breastfeed and will be heartbroken if I can’t – it means the world to me. It is partly a selfish thing – I love the bonding, I know it will be very convenient if we can get the hang of it, and I find the pumping tedious and time consuming. And I don’t want to give him formula for health reasons. I really don’t know where to go from here. It means so much to me, and I don’t want to give up without feeling we have tried everything (including giving it time). But it is making me extremely unhappy, it is stopping us going out as I can’t feed him properly in public (and if I use bottles I will still need to pump). I am getting obsessed and not really enjoying motherhood (although I love my baby), and I don’t know how much longer we can carry on like this. If I knew it would get better I would persevere for as long as it would take, but it's not knowing that is difficult
Any advice would be much appreciated (although please don’t suggest we stop using the bottles, we have tried alternative feeding methods and they are not something we feel we can do). Can things still improve, or is it too late? Should I continue to feed him even though he has a poor latch? I don’t know if it is a good thing to continue feeding him this way (so he can practise) or if we are just reinforcing bad habits. I would also love to hear from anyone who has struggled as much as we have and overcame their problems.