Thursday, August 2, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week Guest Post #1: Paula's Breastfeeding Story

          August 1st-7th is World Breastfeeding Week and the month of August is National Breastfeeding Month. To celebrate, I will be posting some of my friends' and readers' stories about their breastfeeding experiences here everyday. To kick this series off, here is my friend Paula's story:

                                       My Breastfeeding Struggles

          After 8 hours of labor and four hours of pushing, Rafael was born 12/22/11 at 09:51am, a beautiful baby boy-6lbs 5oz, 19.5 inches. What else could we want from life? Chris and I were the happiest we have ever been. We already had so many plans, I was going to breastfeed and do everything the natural way. Anything I decided, my husband always had my back.

          Due to my gestational diabetes and the water being tinged with meconium Rafie had to be checked by NICU. It was just a few minutes but it felt like a lifetime not knowing if my boy was okay or not.  After being checked, my baby was handed to me and our skin to skin time started. For some reason, Rafie didn’t latch on but I got to spend precious moments with my child. After skin to skin time he was bathed and we were transferred to our postpartum room.

          Once in our room, I immediately started breastfeeding Rafie but, for some reason, he only seemed to grab the nipple. I asked the lactation consultant in the hospital about this and she said it was okay and that babies take time to learn how to suck appropriately.  I breastfed my child every 2 hrs for 15-20 minutes like I was told to do, the last thing I wanted was to give my baby a bottle.

         That night, the baby wouldn’t stop crying. I tried latching him on but he didn’t seem to want to eat. He was just crying and crying. Finally, we decided to call the nurse because something may be wrong with the baby. The nurse came in and said I probably wasn’t producing enough, that some babies need more than colustrum to be satisfied. She grabbed a bottle and the baby started drinking like there was no tomorrow. It totally broke my heart!!! That’s the first time my eyes teared up, I had no idea what was coming.

         The next day 12/24/11, we went home. Once home, I kept offering Rafie the breast and he would barely grab it but I thought he was getting enough. He had enough wet diapers and he would fall sleep after 15-20 minutes of nursing.That night he started crying and crying. I thought he had gas or colic. But nothing seemed to help. My husband said maybe he’s hungry but I said he had just breastfed. He asked me if he should make him a bottle, and I agreed and once again he started sucking like there was no tomorrow. I hated to see him sucking that bottle like that. That night we had to give him another bottle and we gave him some more as the days went by. However I would always wake up and try breastfeeding him first before giving him the stupid bottle!

         The 27th was his first pediatrician appointment. I told them the baby was having problems latching on. The physician's assistant (PA) told us it was normal and that we had to supplement with formula because he was too small at only 5lbs 15oz.  It was heartbreaking to know I wasn’t making enough for my boy. We had to go to the pediatrician almost every other day. They kept changing his formula, he didn’t seem to tolerate any of them well. He went from Similac to Enfamil to Gerber Good Start and, finally, Similac Sensitive. It was a nightmare! All I wanted was to give him Mommy's milk!

          The next day, my milk came in. I tried pumping but would only get 2-5 mls. It was the most frustrating feeling I ever had. Before every bottle, I would try to nurse Rafie but he wouldn’t take the breast. Two days later, we went to a follow up with the pediatrician, and they told us to keep supplementing.Every night, when he wouldn't latch on, I would cry my eyes out because of what a horrible mom I thought I was.

          After having all of these problems, I decided to call my friend Taisha. She had a baby that she was happily breastfeeding, maybe she could teach me a thing or two. She told me about the nipple shield and explained how to use it. She also told me what things to drink and to eat to increase my milk supply.  My baby finally started laching on with the nipple shield.

          That Sunday, I called my local  La Leche League leader. While talking to her I began to cry and couldn’t stop.  She told me to start drinking tea  and to go to the meetings.

         At my two week postpartum appointment, on a Friday, the midwife asked me how things were going with the baby and I broke down crying because he wasn't taking my breast and I was supplementing more than I wanted to. She recommended a lactation consultant. That Friday afternoon, the lactation consultant, Maria, came to assess me and the baby. Everything looked okay, he had a beautiful suck but just didn't seem to grab the breast like he should. She ask me if I had ever seen the baby stick his tongue out. Come to think of it, I hadn't! She said the baby was probably tongue tied and to have the pediatrician assess him and get me a referral for a Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor. That Monday, we went to the pediatricians office and got our referral. That day I called every ENT office and got an appointment for Wednesday. That Wednesday, Dr. Sugrue took a look at my boy and said there was no doubt, he was tongue tied. He said he would clip it a bit but, later on, he may need surgery. That day, he clipped the baby's frenulum. It broke my heart, my boy was so small and already suffering the pains of life. He cried and cried and so did I.

          When we got home that day, his latch was already better so I threw all the nipple shields in the garbage. I thought all my breastfeeding issues were solved, but boy was I wrong! Every time Rafie would latch on, it would be so painful that I thought I was going to die. It literally felt like somebody was stabbing me in the chest. I would bite my lips in pain and tear up. At least my baby was now getting my milk. He used to tuck his bottom lip in, which made it worse. The lactation consultant came once more and taught me how to breastfeed more effectively. Everything was wonderful and worked perfectly while she was here but, once she was gone, the pain came right back and his latch sucked again. Lanolin became my best friend. My breastfeeding friends told me to be strong and patient, that it would get better. My non-breastfeeding friends just told me to give him formula, that he would never know the difference! 

         I rode the pain out but my boy still wasn’t getting enough. I found myself supplementing more and more. At that point, I was about to give up. Nothing seemed to work. I was nursing Rafie every two hours, drinking mother's milk tea 4 times a day, eating lactation cookies, drinking fennel water, malta, Gatorade, fenugreek, blessed thistle, buttermilk pie, you name it, I tried it, anything to increase my milk supply. So I decided to call the lactation consultant one last time. She said I could rent a scale to see how much milk the baby was really getting and a hospital grade pump to increase my supply. So I did. The first time, after enduring 40 minutes of pain, my boy only took in 0.5 oz! It just wasn’t right! I cried out of frustration and my boy cried from hunger. He was just pacifying. While my husband fed him a bottle, I pumped using the hospital grade pump.Two hours later, I tried to feed my child again but, every time I would get him close to the breast, he would automatically start crying. It just tore me apart. While my husband fed him another bottle, I pumped once again. Every time I would feed him, he would get no more than 2-3 oz after 30-45 minutes. While I would feel like someone was stabbing me from the inside the whole time he was latched on, I tried not to stress because I knew that could also decrease my supply. On the verge of giving up, I called the lactation consultant one more time and asked her for a suggestion. She said if I wanted to I could use a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to increase my supply while baby was at the breast so I ordered it. In the mean time, I had a few blisters on my breast. They were so painful I found myself walking around the house topless because the bra would irritate them more.

          When I got the SNS, I immediately put it to use. Rafie was not too happy about it. By this time, I had changed all his bottles to slow flow bottles, he had started getting used to the breast, and I started producing a little more milk. I couldn't be happier. When thehe time came for his two month appointment, I once again saw the PA at the office but this time I was armed for her incompetence. She had previously told me that I would always have to supplement and that fixing Rafie's tongue would not fix our situation, to just give up and feed him formula! The first words out of my mouth were "He has been exclusively breastfed for the past 3 weeks! You were wrong, my baby does not need formula, I make enough for him!" She looked at me with a blank stare on her face and I had no problem reminding her of what she had said to me 5 weeks before. I guess they don’t keep notes on what they tell their patients. She just said "You’re going to have to bring him every other day so we can make sure he’s gaining weight appropriately. I told her I had my own scale, where I weighed my boy everyday at the same time and he had been gaining like a champ. Anyway, I made sure to never see her again.

          The following weeks were very, very painful. Somehow Rafie managed to make me bleed from both nipples. His latch wasn’t that good, he would tuck his bottom lip in while eating which made feeding him extremely hard. At this point, I knew what was coming and I would have a towel to grip on or I would bite my bottom lip, trying to remain calm for my boy. He would eat while I would  tear up. I was very sore, trying to keep up with a very hungry child that had been overfed with formula and now my poor breast was all he was getting. It was so bad that, sometimes, I dreaded the moment that he would be hungry again but I just kept saying to myself “this too shall pass and I will never be able to breastfeed him again, I'm doing this for him”.

          At this point, I started taking a class every Saturday and I would pump every night at 2am while the baby slept to build a frozen supply. Finally things were starting to look good, Rafie was eating and gaining weight like a champ and my pain was slowly diminishing. The time came for me to go back to work. This is the day I was dreading the most. Luckily,  my mom was the one to take care of Rafael. I had 45 oz of frozen breast milk and, after all I had gone through, that was pretty good. 

          Shortly after I returned to work, Rafael decided he didn’t want the breast anymore and he went on a nursing strike. He would not latch and he only wanted the bottle. I became a slave to the pump. I would pump every 3-4 hours after first offering Rafael the breast, of course. He would only take it at night, but I kept at it. Every day for 3 months I kept offering my son the breast in the morning, at noon, every time I was home, and when I came home from work, hoping that he would, once again, latch on. Rafael was 6months now. This is when more and more people told me to just give it up, he had already had it for 6 months. But I was not ready to give it up! 

          One morning, to my surprise, Rafie latched on for a whole 5 minutes. I was so excited I called my husband and told him all about it! Since that day, my boy has been nursing again. He nurses for a few minutes at a time because he is too busy exploring the world. He waits for me to get home from work and he falls sleep at the breast. He's now 7 months and I'm a proud breastfeeding momma. The pain has totally gone away and I will keep breastfeeding him until he's ready to wean himself off.

About me: 

My name is Paula. I'm  28 years old. I was born and raised in Medellin-Colombia and came to the USA when I was 13 years old. At the age of 23, I married the most wonderful and understanding man in the world, my husband Chris. We welcomed our first baby in December 2011, the biggest blessing of our lives. Also, in November 2011, my mom came from Colombia and she lives with us. She takes care of our son while we are at work and she is a great help. I work full time as an RN, and my husband also has a full time job. It's hard leaving the baby while going to work but we know he's in great hands. No one is better than grandma to watch and spoil her grandchildren. Family is truly the greatest gift in life.


  1. That was a really great story. I feel so blessed to have had no issues like this while breastfeeding both my boys. I have heard people say how badly it hurts and I never could understand because I never had that problem. I really respect her perseverance to do right by her child! Most women would have given up!

    1. Thank you Jenn, I thought about giving up plenty of times, specially when the pain was excruciating. I just kept reminding myself breastfeeding my child was a chance we were only going to get once, plus I didnt want him to miss out on all the greatest of breast milk :)