I knew that breastfeeding wouldn’t be easy and when it lived up to my expectations of difficulty, I tried to stay positive. I kept saying, “oh, he’s only x days old, he still has plenty of time to learn” or “at least I’m able to make enough milk for him for now.” But as time has passed, I’ve stopped making excuses.
Eli is now 3.5 weeks old. He still will not breastfeed. My milk supply is no longer sufficient, though I’m able to keep him down to around 4oz of formula a day with around the clock pumping.
He finally had some success at breastfeeding with the use of a nipple shield. That is, he latched and ate, but absolutely none of our problems were solved and a brand new one reared its ugly head.
With the nipple shield, Eli was able to actually successfully breastfeed at every feeding. He would nurse for an indefinite amount of time, forever if I’d let him. I usually limited him to 20 minutes on each side because after 40 minutes of nursing I still needed to pump (because the nipple shield can prevent the breast from emptying fully) and I really didn’t want to devote more than an hour, plus pump washing time, to each feeding.
But the problem is that after 40 minutes of nursing, he would have a period of 15 minutes of happy, sleepy, satiety and then he would become ravenous. Inconsolably ravenous. After nursing for 40 minutes, he would require a bottle of at least 1 to 1.5 ounces. Sometimes more. Which is especially crazy since the lactation clinic computed that he is taking in 2.5 ounces while breastfeeding, which is what he takes by bottle right now. And yet, when breastfeeding, he NEEDS more.
The LC we saw said it’s because he’s conditioned to need a bottle, which very well may be true. But I don’t know what else to do when my child is so inconsolably hungry that he cries until he turns a scary shade of purple. I’m sorry, but at 3 weeks, I’m not really ready to let my kid try to self-soothe or work his way through this. He needs to eat, so I feed him the only way I can, with a bottle.
Another LC suggested a nurse in, where you just nurse on demand for 24-48 hours. I literally let him eat for 2 straight hours until the flow was too low for him and he once again screamed until given a bottle. The fact is that even though we were technically successfully breastfeeding, it didn’t seem to be the best thing for either of us.
So we’re on a break.
For this week, I’m pumping and bottle feeding. On Monday we’ll go back to the lactation clinic and try again. We were told that 4-6 weeks was the magic time where some babies just get it, so that’s our hope. I’ll be honest, I’ve reached a point where I’m not sure I even want to succeed anymore since it’s become so stressful.
I’m hoping that this week off is what we need to figure things out, but if it’s not, then perhaps it will be the time we need learn to love exclusively pumping.