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Thread: Super long and frustrating story

  1. #1

    Default Super long and frustrating story

    Hi everyone,

    I'm a new dad posting on behalf of my wife and our brand new baby girl (11 days old today!). We've had all kinds of issues related to breastfeeding and tried a lot of things.. my wife is at her wit's end and has declared that she will give up in a few days if things don't look up and just exclusively use formula. She gets so upset about it I can't really argue that point with her, so I am turning to you all for help.

    Here comes the long story..

    When our girl was first born, she seemed to have a bit of a shallow latch and maybe a weak suck. It caused my wife some pain and discomfort and more than one nurse commented that the baby didn't have enough of the areola in her mouth. The hospital's lactation consultant confirmed this, and we tried different things to improve the latch while in the hospital. She continued to make lots of wet diapers so we figured she was getting enough, either way.

    When we were discharged it was noted that our baby was jaundiced and the bilirubins were climbing. Our first peds appt was the next day, and it turned out the bilirubin level was 19.3 (our docs wanted to admit for phototherapy at 20.0). Also, she hadn't had a wet diaper for 6-8 hours prior to that appt. We were instructed to begin supplementing with formula via a syringe to help keep her hydrated, and while this was laborious and slow, it seemed to help somewhat. The next day we were seen by our pediatrician and the bilirubin only modestly improved. At this point we were told to start with formula via a bottle to more aggressively hydrate and bring the bilirubin levels down. We were told to give, minimum, 2 oz every 3 hours. That first night, she took the formula as if she was starving and slept like a champ!

    This strategy worked for the jaundice. Wet diapers were more frequent, skin seemed less yellow, and bilirubin plummeted to 14 within 2 days. We were ecstatic! But now the problem was the breastfeeding.

    During this ordeal, my wife felt that her breasts engorged one morning (maybe day 5 postpartum?) and that her milk was ready to come in. However, that day we discovered, of all things, BED BUGS in our bedroom (which is where our baby's crib is as well). Total nightmare situation. Exterminator and landlord were called, we evacuated to a hotel (with my parents who were in town at the time), and stayed there for the night. Given the commotion and everything, my wife didn't have any time to pump or breastfeed until very late that night, which went poorly. Baby still seems to latch poorly, suck weakly, give up after a few minutes and cry out of frustration ... or just pass out at the breast after only a few minutes. Because of all this, my wife feels that she "missed her window" to establish breastfeeding and now it's just an uphill battle.

    The next day, we hired an IBCLC who came highly recommended to help us out. She told us to rent a hospital grade pump (we did) and pump 10 times a day (my wife usually can do 9-10/day). She's already been drinking Mother's Milk tea, drinking lots of water and fluids, and doing skin to skin. So far it's been 5 days since we got the hospital grade pump, and my wife can generate about 2 oz of breastmilk every 2 pumps or so. She's very frustrated by the small amount (even though she knows that pump output does not necessarily equal milk production), exhausted by the constant cleaning and strict pumping schedule, and upset that the baby doesn't seem to take the breast and much prefers the bottle.

    The best we can figure is that the baby is having nipple confusion, prefers the bottle because it's easier to suck, and fails at the breast because 1) she doesn't latch enough of the areola, and 2) my wife's milk production is still not up to par to provide enough milk for the baby. We tried a nipple shield because we heard that could help. We are using an SNS but it still seems like she's sucking weakly and doing just enough to drink from the SNS. We know she can generate a very strong suck because when we give her my fingertip to calm her, she goes to town on it (and my finger yields NO milk!).

    The big problem right now, in my opinion, is that my wife is losing faith and motivation (I know it's very early! only day 11!). I read here all the time that moms stick with difficult breastfeeding and eventually it comes around and works out for most people. But my wife is almost totally burnt out on this already and is ready to throw in the towel, even though our lactation consultant remains very positive and optimistic. My biggest plea is that I need help keeping her motivated. She just got some reglan from her doc to try to help milk production, but as I understand it, that takes a week or so to exert effect? She may quit before then!

    Please help me keep hope alive! Thanks in advance. Thanks for reading my novel.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    Bedbugs! OK, you win! That is a first for me EVER. I am so sorry. What an ordeal you guys have been through.

    You would agree, it sounds as if the main issue is your wife losing faith and motivation. And who can blame her? Pumping around the clock - On top of adjusting to new motherhood? Hard. really, really, really hard! Your wife is doing awesome pumping that often. BTW, there is no reason to pump on a particular hourly schedule. Babies do not nurse on a particular hourly schedule. She could try ‘cluster pumping,” if she wanted. There are lots of time saving tips she can get from pumping moms.

    So does baby nurse at all at this point? It's ok if not! just trying to get a clear picture.

    IF your wife would like to keep trying, the fact is there is no ‘window.’ Mothers who have never given birth have managed to lactate and breastfeed their several months old adopted children. BUT it does certainly gets harder as time goes on and there are never any guarantees. But that first month to 6 weeks is a time it tends to be "easier" to increase production and get baby back to the breast. So even if there is a 'window,' you guys are still very much in it.

    IMO you guys were undermined by some questionable advice early on. 2 ounces of formula every three hours is not "supplementing." It is fully feeding a newborn baby. Of course the baby did not want to nurse. the baby was stuffed full of formula!

    If she has not already done so, your wife may want to contact her local LLL Leader or call the LLL national helpline and talk to a Leader. Deciding whether to keep going when it is this tough is a very personal and difficult decision. LLL Leaders are trained to help mothers find their OWN answers. Despite a 'rep' LLL sometimes has, we do not pressure or guilt mothers into breastfeeding. Or any way, we are not supposed to! We offer support and evidence based information. So a conversation with a Leader may help her figure out how she now wants to proceed. I can also talk with her if she likes, you can pm me for my number.
    Last edited by @llli*lllmeg; February 9th, 2013 at 07:41 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    Meg, thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    The baby does nurse, but very little. Occasionally my wife will try to breastfeed prior to giving her breastmilk via bottle, but it typically only lasts a few minutes, the baby gives up and my wife loses motivation pretty quickly. Now that we have the SNS, we've been trying to use that, but it's cumbersome and has been hard to figure out. Sometimes the milk flows through the tubing, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it's kinked, sometimes it's not fully in the baby's mouth, sometimes the baby doesn't suck hard enough to make anything flow through, etc. We tried it with a nipple shield and that was a huge failure once and my wife is not interested in trying again. Just now we tried the SNS again and we made a mess, the baby nursed for a few minutes and passed out into a deep sleep. My wife got very upset and has declared that she's giving up on breastfeeding altogether.

    I'm out of ideas. If I try to say anything or offer too much "advice" (i.e., whatever I read on these boards and elsewhere), she just gets upset with me. It's quickly becoming a lose-lose situation. Sigh.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    Welcome to the forum and congratulations on the new baby!

    First, I have to say that it's great that you're so supportive of your wife. I wouldn't have made it through the first awful weeks of breastfeeding my first kid if I hadn't had my husband's shoulder to cry on. The best thing you can do for your wife right now is to tell her that she is a wonderful mommy, that she is BEAUTIFUL (I think that in the postpartum phase all women wonder if their husbands still feel that way, or whether they'd rather run screaming), that you are so proud of her and the work she is doing, that she's amazing for soldiering on despite the obstacles, and that you will always feel that way, no matter what happens with breastfeeding. Then hold the baby so she can take a shower, or offer to scrub the toilet, wash bottles and pump parts, or get some take-out, or run to the store for something she needs (get her some flowers while you're there!)- because those support functions are what will enable her to keep doing what she is doing. Seriously, I know it sounds trite- but breastfeeding is something only the woman can do, and the only way you can help her to keep going is to strengthen her spirit.

    Also, I know that when mom is having difficulty with breastfeeding, and is suffering, that means that dad is suffering, too. Please be assured that this will pass!!!

    The amount of milk your wife is getting from pumping is NOT small. 11 day-old babies are generally drinking only about 2 oz when they nurse, maybe 2-4 maximum. They make up for small feedings by having lots of them, usually about 10-12 per day. So 1 oz every 2-4 hours is a bit low, but not rock bottom.

    One thing that's really important for a new mom to remember is that breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you end up using formula part-time for a while or even for the rest of the breastfeeding journey, that's okay if it enables a mom to keep on going! Partial breastfeeding is better than no breastfeeding.

    I totally get it that all the washing is wearing. Been there, done that! I strongly suggest doing the following:
    - Wash the pump parts only every other time. You can leave the pump screwed onto the bottle, and put the whole thing in the fridge. When it's time to pump again, you can pump new milk on top of the old milk. My LC assured me that this was completely safe.
    - Leave a large basin of soapy water by the sink, and throw bottles in as they get used. Doing one large wash-up per day instead of a zillion little ones is a lot less annoying. If you can afford a second set up pump parts, get them!

    You might want to encourage your wife to join the forum. This is a very friendly place and we'd be happy to encourage her in any way that she needs.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    Hi there!

    All sounds familiar (except the bedbugs -- oh dear!!)! My little one was a challenge to nurse until we somehow turned the corner at 11 weeks. Try to stick with it! It can be so so so challenging. A part of me thought I'd give up every hour of every day of those first 11 weeks. Our BF-encouraging pediatrician told me that we'd need to start supplementing if our baby didn't start gaining in those early days. After that we doubled down. My cousin -- a family practice doctor who herself struggled with and then succeeded with breastfeeding -- gave me the best advice. She told me to nurse, nurse, nurse. Nurse even when you think there's no way the baby will take it. Your wife's only job is to sit with baby and nurse. (Her exact advice was to sit my rear down in front of the TV in a comfortable chair with salty snacks -- to make me thirsty -- and a giant glass of water and latch baby 20x a day). It was incredibly painful for me (until the magical 11 week mark), but it worked. I worried about supply endlessly. Truly endlessly. I worried how much baby was getting. I worried about my meager pump output (2 oz doesn't actually sound that low to me!). And then after I worried, I became a clock watcher (that's another story that I finally straightened out).

    15 months on, baby is still nursing well and it is the BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE. Period. It can be so challenging in the beginning, especially when you are exhausted, worried and it is painful. I think lots of LLL women would agree that it doesn't sound abnormal at all.

    Motivation: One day when your little one has a cold and a fever and won't eat or drink a thing, LO will nurse. Phew! What a relief that will be. Being able to nurse my sick baby (or nurse her in the ER when she's scared and crying) made all of the pain and concern in the beginning completely fade away. It's hard to imagine that at day 11, for sure! I marvel at it here at 15 months. Honestly, nursing is like magic as your baby gets older. If baby is tired, cranky, afraid, teething -- nursing calms her and centers both of us. It's wonderful.

    Keep up the great work! How wonderful that you two are both involved in this (my husband was up every night with us as I tried and tried to get baby to latch and stay awake). These boards absolutely saved my sanity.
    *Sweet baby girl born November 2011*

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    Putting together 4-6 hours of consecutive sleep-even if only for a night or two- can often do wonders. I usually suggest that mom not make any definite, long term decisions when almost comatose with exhaustion.

    When a mom is hitting a wall and ready to throw in the towel, it may help to take a 'break.' There are various ways to do this. If the sns is causing too much frustration, put it away for now and pace bottle or cup feed. If pumping 10 times a day is overwhelming, cut back to 6 for a day or two. If skin to skin feels uncomfortable, simply snuggle baby in a relaxed position with 'easy access' to the breasts but without skin to skin. If struggling to encourage baby to latch is too frustrating, that can be left for a bit.

    If your wife can pump relatively frequently, that will at keep milk production alive so she can fight another day. In any case, it would not be advisable to stop pumping cold turkey.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    I just want to say 2 things. Don't stop pumping. Some breastmilk is better than no breast milk. And if she is ever to get there she NEEDS to keep stimulating the breasts. Because I disagree that there is NO WINDOW, The window will close pretty quickly in the 1st few weeks is there is NO stimulation. And to do that quit cleaning the pump. Breastmilk stays good out for 8 hours at the very most she only needs to clean the parts once a day if she leaves the whole setup out. But breastmilk is good for up to 7days in the fridge. So if you ziplock bag the parts she doesn't even have to clean it every day.
    And in terms of keeping her motivated, its your baby too. Breastmilk is the best nutrition for your baby. You must KNOW that if you are here reading. Frame your conversations about this as being about your child. Motherhood is hard. And full of sacrifice for the well being of our children. It starts with nine months of not smoking, or eatingor drinking things that could hurt the baby in utero. And then labor. Breastfeeding is just what's next. And the truth is she doesn't want to miss it. She is just overwhelmed. But even so your baby deserves her milk. And she is making it. Have her not clean her pump every day. But makes sure she stimulates her breasts. Keep hope alive!

    Way too lazy for formula

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    First, you are amazing for asking for help here. Second, I KNOW your wife can do this! I pumped and bottlefed for the first three weeks, including a week long, eight hour one way trip to visit the inlaws. I totally understand the temptation to throw in the towel. BUT she can do it. Perseverance is key. One day ds just latched and never accepted a bottle from me again. We're still going strong at 19 months.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. I would have replied sooner but we were having some cable/Internet issues (will anything go right?!)..

    Right now my wife's milk supply seems to be doing better and better. She's getting around 2oz per pumping session and we've stashed about 8oz or so in the fridge, which means we are staying ahead of our baby's feeding schedule and are off formula now. Finally!

    The problem is still the breast feeding itself. We met with our lactation consultant on Monday and she observed my wife breast feeding, both with and without the SNS. She diagnosed our baby with a weak/lazy suck, but felt that the latch was ok. She mentioned that baby was "acting like a preemie" (she was FT, born at 39wks). For whatever reason, baby just doesn't put forth much of an effort at the boob. Anyway, we had a successful session with our LC (baby polished off 2oz at the breast via SNS), and she assured us that some babies just take time to catch on and it could take 4-8 weeks, possibly. But she was very confident that we would get it.

    We went home that afternoon feeling great. Of course, the next feeding session everything went to hell. Baby was crying and freaking out, wouldn't latch, SNS wouldn't flow, milk dripping everywhere, and both mom and baby lost their patience rapidly. We texted our LC and she recommended to just finger feed with the SNS to calm her down and try again next feed, which we did. These are the moments where my wife feels really upset and angry and sad and wants to quit breast feeding and pumping altogether. I can usually talk her down off the ledge and take the baby and let her relax for a couple hours or so (that is, if I'm not at work..).

    Yesterday we had a really bad session in the early evening so I sent my wife off for a nap for a few hours and finger fed the baby. It's so frustrating to do so because she sucks GREAT with finger feeding, generates a really strong auction and can drain the SNS pretty quickly when she's focused on it.

    But then on the boob my wife reports a very weak suck, almost just like a lick. It seems like baby is just unable to latch fully (only takes in just a bit more than the nipple), and then proceeds to feebly suckle.

    When my wife woke up we tried skin to skin for a bit then let baby wake up and feed and we had our first really good SNS session. Baby stayed at the breast, no freak out, and drained the SNS, albeit with the weak suck and latch as described. But then in the middle of the night she tried to feed that way again and had the same problems - baby flailing around and screaming, SNS won't flow or won't stay in mouth, dripping milk everywhere, and I awoke to find them both frustrated and angry. Again another middle of the night declaration that "this is over".. I took over and let her sleep...

    This morning on my way out to work she's trying to finger feed (too upset to try the breast this morning) and of course is having problems with the SNS again, baby not sucking hard enough on her finger, etc. She texted me that she used the bottle to finish the feeds which makes me a bit sad because we had avoided bottle for a couple days now and I was hoping we could stay off it to avoid any potential nipple confusion (is that a reasonable thought?), but I also know that one bottle in favor of mom's sanity is well worth it.

    So again I turn to you, wonderful board members, for ways to keep my wife going (I bought her the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding book for her Kindle), any tips and tricks for using the SNS (Medela if that matters), thoughts on finger feeding to replace the bottle (if that's an improvement or not), and strategies for helping our baby learn to latch and suck stronger at the breast. I appreciate all of you taking the time to read and reply to this thread. Thanks so much, everyone.

    UPDATE: just got the report from home that wife is having trouble even getting baby to bottle or finger feed, only taking 1/4oz or so at a time, falling into an unarousable deep sleep, waking up screaming, repeat. She says she can't even get her skin to skin right now because baby keeps flailing around and crying. I'm stuck at work and feel helpless. I can only imagine that my wife feels much worse.. ;(
    Last edited by @llli*jdiggy; February 13th, 2013 at 07:33 AM. Reason: Added update

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Super long and frustrating story

    How old is your baby? It sounds to me like your wife may be suffering from some PPD. It's true that sometimes the baby just needs to GROW. But if she is making all her milk at this point, ask her if a few days of pumping and bottle feeding would feel easier to her? You may want to go that route so that she doesn't get so frustrated. I don't recommend exclusively pumping as a long term solution but if not playing with the SNS system will help her hold it together during the day while you are gone and then you guys SNS and finger feed while you are home and she has support...until the baby's mouth gets bigger....it may help her feel less defeated.

    Way too lazy for formula

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