Hello. I have a month-old baby boy. We started out with some minor nursing issues—my nipples are big for his mouth, he didn't like it when I got engorged—but we quickly got into the swing of things in the first week. Then he started losing weight…and losing weight…and losing more weight. We also got thrush, which of course made it incredibly painful for me and I imagine for him as well to nurse. At 9 days, we ended up in the ER where he was tested for every possible infection. It turned out he had a urinary tract infection, which had decreased his appetite and made him listless. We ended up staying in the hospital for a week. At the beginning of our hospital stay, he was refusing to nurse, and we started finger-feeding him with an SNS or with a syringe and tubes. Meanwhile, I pumped about 10 times a day on the hospital's Medela Symphony.
In the hospital, it was pretty much impossible to have any skin-to-skin contact and sleeping together was out of the question. I held him as much as I could and tried to latch him on every day with no luck. I eventually decided I would just focus on keeping my supply up and get him back on the breast when we got back home and were less stressed and uncomfortable. In the hospital, I saw four different lactation consultants, who told me we had a good latch, I was doing everything right as far as laid-back breastfeeding was concerned, and there was definitely hope that he could get back on the breast eventually, but they were no more successful than I had been, even though they tried SNS feeding at the breast and a nipple shield. At this point, we were supplementing my pumped breast milk with donor milk. Eventually, one of the lactation consultants told us it was okay to switch to bottle feeding as long as we paced it and watched the flow. We were thrilled to hear that was okay because the finger feeding was so time consuming and difficult.
The day after we came home, I rented a hospital-grade pump and had an IBCLC come over. She prescribed as much skin-to-skin as possible (which was a lot—I love it), offering him the breast without expectations, and pumping eight times a day. She suggested switching back to finger feeding or trying the SNS at the breast again, but with the pumping and trying to nurse and my husband needing to get back to work, it's just really not possible. We ran out of donor milk and had to begin supplementing with formula.
It's been two weeks, and my baby still will not nurse. He will occasionally latch on and hold the nipple in his mouth but not suck, but then he ends up screaming. Most of the time, he begins screaming as soon as he even gets near the breast. Various theories have been proposed, from his lip tie (which we have an appointment to have evaluated on August 19) to flow preference to trauma from the hospital stay, but no one knows just what the problem is. Meanwhile, I've had thrush twice now and mastitis once. I'm fighting thrush right now, and I can't even hold the baby without pain in my right breast, which is also the one that had mastitis. Its supply has dwindled to almost nothing, and I'm considering just letting that side dry up.
In fact, I'm considering letting both sides dry up, but I'm grieving. I'm heartbroken and I'm crying a lot. I wanted to breastfeed so badly. But sometimes dreams don't work out. I'm spending about 5 hours a day pumping (I can't double pump because my right breast hurts so much and needs a much lower suction strength than the left side), and I'm neglecting my 15-year-old daughter, my dogs, and my husband, not to mention missing out on time with the baby. It's seeming crazier and crazier to try to keep this up. At this point, I would love if he would even nurse one time a day. I just don't want to lose that relationship entirely. But nothing is working. We've tried the SNS, the nipple shield, the skin-to-skin, offering the breast at different times of day, at different levels of sleepiness on his part, in different locations, in different positions, with different levels of pushiness. We've tried spoon and cup feeding, but I'm afraid that at this point, paced/baby-led bottle feeding is the best option for my family. I wish we had never listened to the LC who said a bottle would be okay, though.
This is my last desperate attempt to see if anyone has any idea of what I can try to get my baby to nurse even a little. I also want to know whether, at almost 5 weeks, I could just cut down to four pumping sessions a day and still maintain even a tiny bit of milk in case he can nurse when he's a little older. I don't mind combination feeding at this point—it's better than having to exclusively formula feed—but I've been getting mixed advice on whether I can keep a small milk supply with four pumping sessions a day or whether my milk would pretty much dwindle to nothing.
I can't continue the way I have been. My options right now are figuring out a way to cut down on my pumping and keep some kind of small supply in the hopes I could get him to nurse part-time in the future; giving up entirely and switching to formula; or some miracle happening and him being able to nurse for his meals. If I knew that it would take, say, two more weeks and then we'd be nursing, I could stick it out. But having no idea how long it might take makes it feel futile. The routine we have now is hurting our family and it's starting to feel very selfish. My baby is happy with formula; I'm the one who isn't.
Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it makes sense. I've gotten so much advice from so many people and I don't know if asking for more is even a good idea, but I wanted to reach out one last time before I give up.