It seems so easy today, being a mama cow to my baby Moose. When he needs comfort, here comes the boob! When he’s hungry, here comes the boob! He has even started moving towards me and grabbing at the bra straps with a big smile. At times, I even think I got him to sign “milk” when he wants it. But life was not always this easy.
This one is for the ladies who, like me, did not have an easy time with breastfeeding. Turns out, my cute, little nipples were really not all that functional. Prior to delivery, I Googled EVERYTHING I could about breastfeeding with flat and inverted nipples. Yup, one is flat, the other is inverted. Best of both wonk-nip worlds. I attempted, before delivery, using nipple shells, to help “draw” them out. What I ended up with were sweaty, conical nips that deflated within minutes of removing the shells.
On delivery day, that magical moment where baby is placed on your belly and you are encouraged to nurse him, I felt like a fake, a failure. I pulled his head toward my nips, but… nothing. He cried and cried and the nurses dashed in to get him cleaned up and weighed. At the “feeding”, one of the nurses came in to help me. When I showed her my sad little nips, she immediately called for the LC to come in.
Meanwhile, my MIL, who also used to be a speech therapist who helped “Failure to thrive” babies, attempted to help the Moose by stimulating his palate with her finger. The LC came in and introduced me to what would soon become the bane of my existence – the Contact Nipple Shield and her evil cohort, the Breast Pump. She showed me how to apply the shield – “flip it around so it looks like a little sombrero and place it over your nipple!!” (sounds so festive, but oh, its not).
Then she told me I would need to pump after every feeding for at least 10 minutes. For how long? I asked. Ideally until he can nurse without the shield. Since I was supposed to feed every 1 1/2 to 2 hours for a half hour, THEN pump for 10 minutes, THEN clean up my pumping gear, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I would be relegated to the life of a milking cow. Needless to say, he got nothing in the first 24 hours. No colostrum. Nothing. The nurses on shift that night were nice enough to let me grab about 5-6 hours of solid sleep before they brought him in. But I still had to pump 😦
The next day, the Moose’s cries took on a more urgent tone. My parents BEGGED me to let him have some formula, as they were afraid he would starve to death. So, I reluctantly gave in. Thank goodness the Moose knew better – he wanted nothing to do with that little bottle of formula and its perky little bottle nipple.
That night, the nurse brought him in screaming his little lungs out. She said I had to get him some kind of nourishment, so she taught me how to finger feed him formula with a syringe and a tube. Afterwards, he was calm and awake and my heart broke. I felt like a failure again- it took a piece of plastic tubing to finally make him happy.
That day, the LC introduced the final member of the evil boob assault team – the SNS: Supplemental Feeding System . If you have never seen it, it looks like this:
You clip the bottle to your bra and tape the tubing to your boob. The formula goes in the bottle and you have to find just the right angle to allow the baby to pull milk from the tubing. Since I also had the nipple shield, I had to contend with keeping the tubing from slipping from the top of his mouth to the side. The system would allow for Moose to learn how to nurse from the shield yet still get the nourishment he needed. I was a sad, sad mess every feeding. The tube would slip, that damn bottle would leak everywhere, getting sticky formula all over me and Moose.
It wasn’t until we got home that we got the hang of it. Our feeding, every hour and a half, went like this:
Moose would scream his head off while I filled the SNS and taped the tube to me. I would attach the nipple shield, slip the Boppy on and have hubby hand over the wriggling baby. Moose would inevitably tear the tube out of place. Once I fought to get that back on, he would attempt to latch onto the shield. It would hurt, then it took 5 minutes to get the tube in his mouth. I would stare at the SNS bottle for the telltale “bubbles” to let me know he had good suction. No bubbles. More adjusting of the baby and tube. Ah, finally, bubbles. No, wait, the bubbles are from the leak because the bottle cap was near impossible to get on “just right”!!! Mommy and Moose are sticky mess. After 10 more minutes, he finally gets it. Aahh.. bliss.. ouch, the shield hurts. My nips are raw. Once he is finished, I hook myself up to the pump. After 10 minutes, I pump… less than half an ounce. But I cherish that half ounce, save it and start blending it with the formula. Moose is fed. I have to clean the shield, the SNS, the pump parts, and myself. And sometime, before the next feeding in 45 minutes, I have to eat, pee, maybe change clothes from 2 days ago.
Turns out Moose had jaundice. So even though my milk came in on day 4, the ped recommended I still use the SNS to make sure he was getting adequate nutrition. I had to use it for almost 2 weeks, even after he was clear of the jaundice, because for some reason, he could not draw out enough milk with the shields alone. Luckily, by the end of week 1, I was pumping enough milk that I did not need to use formula, I was able to “supplement” my milk with… my milk.
After 3 weeks of feed-pump, feed-pump 10-12 times a day, I figured I didn’t need to pump after EVERY feeding. Plus, Moose was starting to sleep long stretches at night – almost 6 hours. Against the ped’s orders, I decided to let him sleep through the night and I only pumped3-4 times a day. Good for him, bad for me. At 3 1/2 weeks, I developed mastitis in the right breast. My power boob!! So I was back to pumping 5-6 times a day.
Once, during that first week home, I lost my nipple shield. After frantically tearing the house up, my MIL started calling every baby store. Nobody had one the right size. So she called the LC. The hospital had ONE in inventory… hubby was an angel and went straight to the hospital to pick it up. The next day, MIL and I raided every BRU we could find and bought every shield we saw.
Looking back, it felt like it would never end. I kept trying to go sans shield, but Moose would get so frustrated we would both be in tears. The breaking point was week 5, while we were home visiting, my brother-in-law stepped on something. He picked up my nipple shield and said “Is this some kind of… pacifier?” Oh god. I grabbed it and swore Moose and I would get rid of this thing. So I kept practicing and trying different things. I started pumping BEFORE feeding to get things started. At first, Moose didn’t know what to make of it. Then one day, he fed off the power boob, shield-free!! I was so happy I cried. I started wearing the nipple shells between feedings to “train” my nips again. By week 7, we were finally able to go without the shield for most feedings. Mornings were tough for him because I was usually so engorged.
Before long, we were feeding like normal mama cow and baby Moose. No pre-pumping and definitely no shields! And I was able to back off the pumping to morning and night, and finally just night. All the extra milk came in handy.. I gave it to my sister for my nephew who is a month younger than Moose. She was able to have back-ups for when she went back to work.
8 months later, I look back and think, thank goodness we stuck it out. Moose is a very healthy, very happy little boy. I found one of my “backup” shields buried in a diaper bag a few weeks ago. Part of me wanted to flush it down the toilet. But the other part of me, the sentimental part (and the part that didn’t want to explain to the landlord what is was in case it clogged the toilet), decided to keep it as a reminder of all the work Moose and I did. I don’t know if I’ll have to go through all this for baby #2 someday, but at least the Moose has stomped a road to success!
***In case you are curious, I am now the proud owner of a “normal” nip. The inverted one decided to become “flat”, with the occassional return to the inverted side. But Moose doesn’t care… one thing he got out of this is the ability to suck the hell out of ANYTHING! Hence the hickeys on my arms, shoulders, stomach, sides of the boob, legs.. etc..