Breastfeeding Part 2

**Disclaimer: this blog post contains pics of breastfeeding. if those bother you…dont read on! or read by braille. thse pics mean sooo much to me because i never thought i’d be back able to even do it. so i document. just a proper disclaimer.**

I’m back, and with good news.

we are pain free, full-time breastfeeding.

I honestly didnt think I would ever say those words, so they mean a whole lot to write out.

it was not, though, without a lot a lot of work, 7 weeks to be exact, a handful of teary cries, so many Dr appts and a lot of doubt that I’d ever be able to feed my daughter myself.

last time i was here, I was talking all about things I’ve learned while breastfeeding, Portland had just had her tongue tie appt and I was trying to get my milk supply up after it was really compromised with her inability to transfer milk with her mouth situation.

i thought we were in the clear and just needed to get back to BF’ing. but i was wrong. i mentioned i had a hunch that she may have a lip tie. I had lifted her lip up and noticed it was so connected. but she doesnt have teeth and i have no idea what a normal baby lip looks like on their gums…so who knew. but i had my suspicions.

once i was healed enough and she had her tongue tie procedure, i tried BFing once and noticed her upper lip was so curled in…which i know is not a good sign of a proper latch…so i did some googling and knew that that can be a sign of a restricted lip tie.

i really wanted to get in with the specialist (who we saw in Seattle) that we were supposed to see before we cancelled because it was over a week away and CJ got us in with someone the next day elsewhere….but it was less than a proper experience with that Dr…i knew we needed to see a specialist. so we got on their schedule for the lip tie to be looked at. at the appt, within minutes, i knew it was a completely different experience than we’d had prior. she was asking about our birth experience, how nursing had gone, what i thought, how her growth was, how portlands experience had been nursing….so SO many questions and that was completely different than before. once the Dr got in her mouth, it was so much more official and she said she could tell instantly what was going on.

WHAT WE FOUND OUT

  • she had a COMPLETELY restricted, lip tie. so much so that she couldnt even get her lip to flip at all out. not normal.
  • she has a very high palette
  • she does not respond to the finger in the mouth suck reflex which is a reflex all babies have
  • her tongue tie was NOT cut or fixed properly by the other Dr at all. (gahhh)

I had read in an article that if you dont see a fleshy diamond cut after the tongue tie procedure, than the Dr didnt do it properly and that many times, a tongue tie procedure is only nicked and knot actually cut properly. i had thought her tongue tie “was just minimal” like the first Dr had told us, which was not so. so we would then and there be doing her tongue tie and lip tie procedure. finally.

everything continued to be completely different than before, they had a special swaddle process that ensured she couldnt move or get her arms free – whereas – as the last appt, I was the one to suggest “should i swaddle her?” Then they had special tools and a process that was extremely professional. After the procedure, she came to me to try to nurse. At that point, we’d been on bottles for like 4-5 weeks so she wasnt even BF’ing and her upper lip was numb so it was pretty difficult for her to try to nurse so we gave her a bottle to sooth her and let her suck. it was hard seeing her bleed and cry but we knew it was for the better in the long run.

the HUGE difference here came in the aftercare plan – originally the first Dr had said yea you can run your finger under her tongue to help it. this time, they had a diagram, a long sheet of info to explain everything, the lactation consultant did it, CJ had to do it (i couldnt, because i had long nails which i’ve had for years…those sadly had to go so i went to the salon that day and had them taken off! they’ll be back soon!)  and we left with instructions to do the exercises RELIGIOUSLY 6 x’s a day. not to mention, they had a lactation consultant on-site to help and instruct us which was not the case previously. all to say, it was TOTALLY different and we felt like we were actually getting to solve the problem. we left hoping this would allow us to get bak to breastfeeding. and i was pretty disappointed we’d wasted 3 weeks or so going to just anybody when my hunch was right and we should have been seeing a specialist. if you’re dealing with a tongue tie, GO SEE A SPECIALIST. we had a great experience with The Docere Center at Greenlake.

that night she had rubbed her mouth a bit like she always does when she’s sleeping (just rubbing eyes, nose, face in general) and hit her lip that had been cut and was screaming in pain. i went to go get her and she was bloody and had the weakest, saddest, raspiest, cry i ever heard. i walked around the house crying while she was crying in so much pain. her lip hurt so much. she never ever cries other than to sleep or eat, so it was so strange to have her crying an it was so heartbreaking hearing her cry. it was a really sad/bad cry. so CJ ran out to get some childrens tylenol. we didnt want to give it to her bc she was so tiny, but she was really in pain and we knew she needed it. it was hard to inject it into her mouth and get it to stay down, but we knew some had managed so i kept holding her and comforting her. it definitely kicked in, bc she was done crying and back to herself – and basically high – she was so amped up. yikes! but she was feeling better.

i will tell you – doing those exercises soon after the procedure was the hardest thing. CJ was really good at it, so he did most and the first couple lip ones we did – it was a shriek of pain like i’ve never heard and you never want to hear come out of your baby – nonetheless – be the one inflicting it. it was soooo sad. luckily within a day or two, they got better and less painful for her. good lord.

a few days later, we were headed to Palm Springs for a shoot and my first wedding back and i knew that i needed full days with her to be able to BF so we kept on the pumping game – and since we’d be in airports and planes and on the go, it was easier to give bottles at times where BFing wouldnt be as realistic (in the car, in line at TSA, etc). When we got back from PS, CJ’s parents were visiting and BFing takes a lot of time away, so there were a few more days of waiting to BF. Then we had out first Occupational Therapy visit with Childrens Hospital that was recommended to us by the first Dr we saw for her recessed chin (she thought thats where the eating troubles were stemming from) and then the lactation consultant who said she was really rigid and would benefit from bodywork and seeing an OT. we there we were for another appt.

we saw Lynn Wolf at Childrens and she was great. initially intimidating but soon after very warm and so motherly feeling to me. she’s been doing it for a lonnnng time. we talked about a proper latch, she inspected her mouth more and we tried breastfeeding (which she was not doing at the time) she has serious performance on her side, bc she got right on without a nipple shield (which she’d never done in her life) no questions asked. she knows when people are watching. Lynn was so impressed with her considering she hadnt breastfed for 5 weeks and just did that. we left and were instructed to try 1-2xs a day per comfort and move towards breastfeeding.

….then finally we had days together and after a few initial great feeds, and then a few days with visitors and putting it off, she started completely refusing the breast. like back arching. screaming. not even letting me hold her. it was torture. it was like a switch went off and those couple extra days we had to do bottles just changed her over and she was like nope nope nope….not gonna breastfeed. byyyye. it was so heartbreaking i thought for sure it was over not gonna happen.

i was healed. we had days at home. she had her procedures. and now she just wont breastfeed? didnt see that coming.

so i started reading about how to get your baby back to breast. seemed impossible. i started doing skin to skin. being the only one to feed her (so she associated getting milk only from me) holding her in the cross cradle position which she was not letting me do. putting the bottle right in line with my boob, so she got used to the direction of milk coming. just everything i could think of or read about. just approaching it with a “i dont care if you do this, its totally fine if you want to..hey how about you try it out” feeling as the articles said they can feel your angst and trust me there was angst and tears and i wish i could have just told her PLEASE DO IT we worked for 7 weeks for this! it still wasnt really helping (this was days of trying) and a light went off and i realized she was used to being fed a bottle while she was laying on her back mostly, so i knelt over her and tried to feed her that way…and BAM it worked. i tricked her little mind to think i was a bottle or at least let her be in the position she liked to get milk. i was just stoked it worked! it worked! i also had 3 plugged ducts that day (dont lay on your side!) so randomly getting her on and in a minute of sucking got those plugs out that i coulllld noottttt get out myself.

so i had a tiny tiny piece of hope. so i fed her a few times kneeling over her, which i will tell you is not comfortable but i was so willing. so i fed her this way for a few days just a few times a day, eventually graduating to side-lying and then a few times where i held her. one day getting to all feeds by breast. this was ammmazing. amazing.

CJ came home and i rejoiced! i did it.

so my math loving husband wasnt really convinced we could just switch back to breast. because she struggled transferring milk before and didnt gain weight, he has some concerns about her being able to get what she needs. which i got but also at that point i was just so thrilled that she did it.

we had another appt with Lynn at Childrens. she was happy with any progress. gave me some advice about approaching it. we also had another appt with the lactation consultant at Docere, and they were encouraging me that she had made good grounds in 2 appts and to not get discouraged. that all she’d been thru and the time thats gone by, that she was doing great. i was just like yea yea i hope but im not holding my breath.

at all these appts, she’d been weighed before and after feeds and CJ had bought a nice scale, so we were told we could start weighing her before and after feeds to see how much she was getting. CJ was wanting to give her a bottle after each feed, and i was like..that is totally not possible, we will go thru so much milk and there’s no need for a double feed. so we really relied on the scale to make sure she was getting full feeds from me. and she was! i even was doubting my body. your mind really gets messed up being able to see your production when you pump. you know the moment something impacts your milk (did i drink enough water? am i stressed?) and i just hated focusing so much on numbers. it didnt feel special providing her for, it felt just about math and how much i was making.

after a few days, i felt comfortable knowing she was getting enough from me and we could slowly start trusting breastfeeding again and stop with the scale.

doing a few days with full breastfeeding. man. what a change.

maybe this sounds so dramatic or whatever but 1) when you do something every 2 hours and you hate it, it aint fun.

for example, when our pump and feed schedule is off, you pump. then you put your shit away. clean it. get the baby up. feed her. clean the shit. now you’ve burned 1.5 hours.

you’re on the same schedule. so you pump but you cant hold your baby with these things comin off you so you have to lay her on the couch next you and just stare instead of holding her lovely body.

or you’re traveling and you have to pump on the plane.

or you’re traveling and you have to go back to the car, strap the baby in, get set up and make sure you have new batteries, and get set up in the car to pump and try not to spill anything on your lap when you transfer the milk.

or you’re visiting your husband at work and have to pump, so you sit on the bathroom floor while someone else holds the baby.

or instead of having your baby stop while nursing, and smile and give you the sweetest face in the world, you’re just trying to make sure the flange is directly over your nipple so its positioned correctly.

you get it.

the worst part is just not spending time with your baby. and something that only YOU could do – but then you switch over and anyone can do it and its just really hard. if i’m being honest, those weeks when i couldnt feed my baby, a little bit of my joy in motherhood waned. it was the most challenging thing i’ve worked thru and thats the truth.

but something i’ve learned in motherhood. in birth, in shit with breastfeeding, that once its done…you completely forget what it felt like. you can remember oh ya that blew….but there’s so much love and joy its insane and it washes over anything bad you were once going thru. its God’s way of allowing us to continue on and forget anything but the good.

the sunday before our glory week (haha, that’ll be my phrase of getting back to BF) i was crying on the couch to CJ. just being willing to accept this if this is what had to be. but with accepting that, voicing that i was scared i was missing out on a deeper connection between us. i know there are so many ways this can look for families, what they choose to do, but i felt like i didnt have a choice here, so accepting what it was, was something that really took a lot. i was praying so much and pleading for this to be a possible reality. that night, i had to let go of this idea we’d been working for…it just may not happen and i cant let it cloud my thoughts that my relationship is going to be hurt because of it. CJ really listened and understood and saw what i was saying here. what i was afraid of. our bond not being all that it could because of this. that really was such a big fear for me. having experienced it once…and then having it taken away. the roughest tease i’d ever experienced.

the fact that we got back to breastfeeding. and got thru weeks of appointments and articles and reading. and going back to Drs and just missing the emotional part of it, not to mention tits being ready on call and not heating up bottles in the middle of the night. there’s 1848302 things better about it and i honestly did not think it was going to happen. i still pump, the late evening session and in the middle of the night because its faster and we can give her a bottle to get her more, than her being too sleepy to get a full feed in. so now, we have a choice. the pump is my reliable friend…not my constant companion. its a much better relationship. im doing it as i choose, not becaise i have to. problem solving and getting to where we are today, i just dont take it for granted at all. and i am grateful for that, for having something that i cherish so much, being taken away and then getting back to it. i dont know that this BF relationship would have meant all that it does to me now, if we hadnt gone thru all we did. kind of like breaking up and then getting back together after you felt that loss.

increasing my milk supply

a whoooole other shit storm. because her lip was so restricted and her tongue was so tied down, she couldnt suck properly or transfer milk, so i went all those weeks with her not transferring milk well which meant she was telling my body, yea its ok, barely make milk. so once i had to start pumping, i could visibly see how much i was producing for the first time which was minimal. like real minimal. when i very very started pumping, i was pumping like 1 oz total. thats not good. or two. so i went into “get my milk up” overload. like reading every article. buying every herb. drinking hella milk tea. and stressing big time.

because i wasnt producing enough, we had to give her formula as well and that killed me. but what, were we not going to feed her? so to get my milk up, i was taking so much fenugreek that i smelled like maple syrup. i was taking the Honest brands milk supplement and UpSprings lactation support. I couldnt really tell which one worked best because i was mixing them all trying them out. maybe not the best, but i was pretty desperate for something to work.

gosh all of this really makes you doubt your body. if pumping doesnt already make you focus too much on numbers….try not making enough. of course stress just impacts your milk more so i was trying to remember that its all supply and demand and consistency will bring it all back. its so hard to trust your body, but i knew i could so i started pumping every 2 hours including at night. at that time, i was pumping in the bathroom because P was still in our room, so getting all set up, sitting on the toilet pumping, and then semi falling asleep as i pump or trying. not knowing how long i’d been going…it would be about 40 minutes or an hour before i could get back in bed. which meant it was only another hour until i pumped again. that was so so hard. and so exhausting. the difference is when your baby wakes up, you’re excited to see them and feed them….you have no motivation when its just a pump sitting there waiting. i was so motivated to get my milk back, i went a long time pumping every 2 hours, but then went down to 3 hours at night because i was a walking zombie.

lets fast forward. it was about a month, a slow month, but at least a few weeks until i really started seeing an increase. i think the supplements may have helped but i think the biggest thing was just being consistent emptying my breasts really often to make my body switch into overdrive. eventually i was pumping 3-4 ounces every 2.5 hours which was great and lactation consultants had said that was a very typical amount to pump.

as well as this tricky thing with working your milk supply back up and trying to stay ahead (or get ahead…just one bottle ahead!) is the battle to get them what they need VS over-feeding them and trying to not go thru all your milk too fast. babies suck thru bottles so much faster than how much they take at the breast (or can) so when you’re juuuust an ounce ahead of them, how much you give them really matters to your sanity and somehow building a supply. when we were in Palm Springs, so about a month into all of this, i finally got like 12 ounces ahead of her and that felt so incredible. living bottle to bottle sucks and is so hard mentally. i remember going thru the airport in spokane, coming back to seattle and in security, i had told them i had breastmilk in my pump bag for them to check. so i opened it up and the agent goes, “oh thats it? thats all you have?” ….of course to him it just meant, no problem, thats like 1 ounce, you dont need to declare it…but to me, i was like shiiit man, that extra ounce is like gold to me right now. your mind is just consumed with being able to provide for your child. its just innate.

when we eventually got to breastfeed again, i was scared about her ability to transfer milk. so while i was weighing her on the scale to see how many ounces she got to make sure she was getting a full feed, i also wanted to make sure she was emptying my breasts so that we werent going backwards after i did all that work to get my milk back. she was actually getting more from me than we’d been giving her with the bottle, so i was ecstatic that was happening. i knew a baby could empty much better than the pump, but she was proving that her mouth was working properly and that she wouldnt be compromising my milk again.

since then, i still want to make sure they are empty after each feed, and because im not pumping anymore, i wouldnt have the opportunity to pump more than she needed that feed, which would help me add to a freezer stash, so i started hand pumping to make sure they were empty OR if she didnt eat fully, i could pump extra to add to my stash. might sound annoying, and it can be if she only eats one side, but i really want to make sure i keep both sides supply up. the hand pump is SO much better than the electric. I can pump much faster and if i never have to hook those flanges into my bra and switch it on…it’ll be too soon (but actually i pump in the middle of the night ha, but still) and i can walk around or be anywhere…not necessarily NEXT to a plug in…so its much better to me.

i think that her suck and the hormones of actual breastfeeding has totally upped my supply more than pumping ever did, because now, i can pump almost 4 on each side. 3-4 on each side. so I’m making more than she needs most feeds – so hand pumping generally gets me about 2 extra once she’s done eating. which, with 8 feeds a day, its added up so fast, i have gotten such a great freezer supply. something i never thought was possible! something i dont take lightly!

man. so much.

you can see why I’m so extremely happy to be out of this zone. my only focus being on my milk milk milk. i couldnt really go anywhere for a lot of that time because i had about an hour before i had to pump again. i cant tell you how many times i pumped in the backseat on the way to things, had to duck out of every social event i went to, to pump. pumped while driving (that was a feat!) ….seriously, name it…i’ve done it. pumped on the bathroom floor of the Facebook campus? yep! pump with a crop top sweatshirt over the pump while i sit with my inlaws eating dinner?

most of all, i’m back with my baby. she’s not laying next to me as i’m hooked up with a bottle in her mouth. she’s curled up with me. she’s alarm in the morning and she’s so much happier choosing for HERSELF when she’s done eating, not the bottle running out and that being that. instead of whining when a bottle is done, she’s stopping and smiling and laughing at me. she’s so social and wanting to play while she eats. she stops mid suck to smile and coo at me. she holds my arm, she helps herself by using her hands. its night and day. yep. not to mention, now when she wakes up, im excited to spend time with her and feed her rather than it meaning, ah shit its time to pump – because when she eats, i have to replace it with a pump sesh. and 2nd best of all (CJ will say 1st) she’s gaining weight better than she ever did on bottles, because she can get more from me, than the set amount of a bottle! so thats a big big win.

we’ve had so many big wins. 

  • got her tongue tie properly fixed.
  • found her lip tie and got it properly fixed.
  • worked to get from a complete undersupply to an oversupply (good god!!)
  • got her to gain weight!
  • am actually breastfeeding pain free, something i didnt believe would go hand in hand
  • managed to get her off bottles back to breast after she was on bottles more weeks than she was ever breastfed
  • got her latch right!
  • actually built up a freezer stash
  • got a full time breastfeeding schedule down
  • GET THE MOST TIME WITH MY BABY

what a journey it has been. 7 weeks of appointments, tears, working, doubting and hoping. i will never take for granted the BF relationship we now have. the bond that we’re allowed to have again. i know i was taught a lot thru this. first of all, how much im willing to do and not give up on if its best for her. how much the connection between she and i means. and of course, that we, as parents, are NOT in charge, all the hopes and wants sometimes have to be put off, sometimes have to do things you dont want to do in order to work towards your eventual goal.

my sister told me in all of this, as long as you’re working TOWARDS your goal, you’re a success. i really had to remember that when we were putting 1 scoop of formula in her milk. when i was trying to breastfeed her and she totally screamed about it. it all was worth it and i’ve been taught a lot of patience and believing in your goal.

so many people helped me with advice and telling me their stories. thank you to all the moms out there, and not moms! – who encouraged me. it truly was the most challenging thing i’ve actually gone thru. and i am so incredibly happy to be on this side of the mountain.

my sister also has told me….one day it will be this, and another time, its going to be something completely else. so i know that im not in the clear of any trials in motherhood but i’m so grateful this one had a happy ending.

i had written a huge long breastfeeding blog a few weeks ago, with a bunch of stuff i learned…here are a few more things i’ve learned.

  • Dont lay on your side! aka plugged duct city! why is this? i dont know…but i found out that others have had this problem too and didnt know so i may as well share it! lay on yo’back girl! (which is so different than what we have to do in pregnancy!) – although I’ve been able to lay on my side for side-lying position, which has been totally fine…probably because you’re emptying your breasts right there.
  • Do multiple holds. not always the same cross cradle. to help where the babies mouth is constantly on your nipple.
  • Pumping with this awesome Medela hand pump is so much faster, mobile, and a great way to slowly and easily add to your freezer stash as well as making sure your breasts are empty after each feed to maintain your supply. (some may not want a surplus, and to just keep things just with what their baby needs)

That’s all i can think of for now on the things I’ve learned….anyone else have tips that have helped you?

Soon, I’m gonna write a blog all about SLEEP and what we’ve been doing!!

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