Our Breastfeeding Journey
I’ve mentioned in a few posts that Evie and I had a rough start to breastfeeding. That is the nicest way to put it.
Let me put somethings in perspective; when I was 12 years old I made the decision to get a breast reduction. I was a 36DD and miserable. I couldn’t run and be as active as I wanted to, and would go to bed at night in excruciating pain. One of the questions I had pre-op was “will I still be able to breastfeed?”
My surgeon assured me that I would have no problems and that one of his patients in the waiting room is having a very successful breastfeeding experience with her new baby. At 12 I took his word for it and proceeded with our scheduled surgery. Hands down it was one of the best decisions I had made in my entire life and would make it again if I had to go back.
The problem is that I had replayed his words... “no problems” for the 14 years that followed. So when it finally came time for us to start our breastfeeding journey it was nothing short of devastating.
Many newborns (especially ones that are exclusively breastfed) are jaundice. At one of her earlier newborn appointments with her pediatrician we saw that she not only was jaundice, and had little weight gain, but she was also extremely dehydrated. She wasn’t getting enough milk. This was after when my milk should have come in, and we should have been on the upswing for her weight. Her weight wasn’t as big of a deal as her being dehydrated was. I can still hear her raspy cry.
Her pediatrician knew we intended to exclusively breastfeed from our first consultation before Evie was born, so she knew recommending to supplement with formula was a hard thing to discuss.
Evie also had an extremely negative reaction to caffeine (Yes, I had a total of 3 coffees between her birth and her turning 18 months old) and there is no screening for caffeine in donor milk so that left us with no other option but formula.
I found myself rocking in our chair sobbing feeling like such a failure because I couldn’t provide the basic needs for my baby. I had failed her as I gave her that first bottle. The heart-wrenching pain of not knowing she wasn’t getting enough, and that I wasn’t providing enough, on top of all the postpartum hormones was just enough to bring me to my breaking point.
I decided the best way to handle the situation was to feed her breastmilk that I had pumped the day before for her first few feedings of the day, and then switch to formula in the afternoon and evening feedings. She always had a rough time when we tried the “top-off with formula after breastfeeding” method. I pumped all day to get enough for her first four feedings the next day.
Our days were filled with pumping and bottles and trying to hold her while pumping because this baby did not handle being out of our arms longer than 3 mins. cleaning, naps, and then start the whole process over again to keep my supply up. It was exhausting and overwhelming...on good days.
I eventually breastfed when we slept and throughout the night which lead to me not getting more than 4 hours of sleep at a time up until she was 18 months old.
It wasn’t until we hit 6 months that I had decided to try just breastfeeding and not worrying so much about how much she was getting since she had started solids at that age. I started taking supplements that I can not recommend enough (Euphoric Herbals) and it seemed to just click. It was a big turning point and honestly, I am so thankful for exhausting every possible avenue that I could think of to get where we ended up.
Since having Evie I have done a little more research on breast augmentation and breastfeeding. As it turns out the current statistics are:
50% of women will be able to breastfeed after augmentation (obviously the type of surgery will play a role in the statistic)
90% of that 50% will need to supplement with donor milk or formula.
Would that information have changed my mind about my surgery, no. I still would have done it and I still would have considered it life-changing. BUT - I would have been better prepared going into our breastfeeding journey.
I’m happy to say that the words that I replayed for years of “no problems” are now replaced by words that our lactation counselor (Alisha Sexton) gave us;
“Your breastfeeding journey is unique to you and your baby. If this is what works for you for now, then keep going!” - using a nipple shield which we ended up having to use her whole first year of breastfeeding.
This is one of the contributing factors in my postpartum anxiety and depression, and why building your birth AND postpartum team is so invaluable.