Ok, internets. I’m coming to you for help.
I know I said I was through, that I had given up. But I truly haven’t. I don’t know if I will ever allow myself to REALLY give up.
So I’m asking you… I’m begging you to help me. All moms who have breastfed, all mommies who have tried to breastfeed, all lactation consultants and la leche league leaders, all women who have helped a friend, sister, daughter; anyone who knows anyone who knows something about breastfeeding – please help me. Please pass this on, pass it forward, spread it around. There has to be someone out there who went through exactly what I am going through, who has any idea, who can help. I believe there has to be.
I have been blogging about all of our problems breastfeeding since the very beginning, but I’m going to chronicle them all out here, so it’s all in one place. This is a little long, but I think knowing the whole history is important.
Ruby was born full term in a natural water-birth. She was skin to skin immediately on my chest and not taken away for the first several hours. She latched on within the first 30 minutes and began sucking. She was evaluated for tongue tie and proclaimed “fine”.
Early on, I had glimmerings of an idea that something was wrong. Ruby would break suction on nearly every suck. She had huge (I mean MASSIVE) suck blisters all over her lips – but she was growing well and no one else was concerned. I eventually took her to a lactation consultant to find out if there was something wrong with her latch. I had a small amount of nipple pain, but it was tolerable.
The first lactation appointment revealed that I had massive over-supply, that was thought to be the culprit of all of our problems. The LC said that she had never seen anything like it before, because Ruby didn’t even have to suck, she basically just had to open her mouth and let the milk pour in. After checking for and again ruling out tongue-tie, she recommended that we get my over supply under control, and the rest would fall in to place. This was also around the time we began our first bout with yeast.
In order to correct my over-supply, I began block feeding. We started with 3 hour blocks and got all the way up to 8 hour blocks before I felt like my supply was under control. There was no more heavy letdown, no engorged feelings between feedings, and Ruby was actually able to “comfort” suck at the end of a feeding. But this “normal” amount of milk in my breasts brought on a whole new set of problems. Over a month old now, Ruby had never had to find herself a good, deep latch; it became very apparent that she had no idea how to do it.
I went back to an LC and had her watch, offer suggestions, try to help. She said that it was her opinion that Ruby looked fine and that the clicking and suction breaking was just her compensating for my oversupply. (Oversupply?! I didn’t HAVE oversupply, I finally had just the right supply!) So I walked away feeling totally lost. Nursing had suddenly started to hurt – badly. Ruby was unhappy, fussy, angry; she would pull away and pinch and yell.
I began reading and trying everything I could think of. Laid-back breastfeeding. Only nursing lying down. Nursing sitting up. Anything and everything I could think of to get her to nurse comfortably and happy at the breast. Her incredibly unhappy nursing behavior started right around the time that I returned to work and Ruby was introduced to the bottle. It became immediately clear that she had severe nipple preference, and wasn’t interested in nursing. I started pumping to protect my supply and offered her the breast before every single feeding. It was a battle just to return her to NURSING position – she would scream as soon as I laid her back. Through a lot of patience, determination and hard work, I got Ruby back to the breast, only not well. Nursing had really, really taken a turn for the worse.
The pain from nursing had gotten so bad that I made another LC appointment. I had purchased a nipple shield on the recommendation of many other mommas, and wanted to get some help. During the appointment it was found that Ruby had zero milk transfer (with AND without the shield) and was happy as a clam as I pumped out 5 ounces of milk and it was offered in a bottle. No real help or advice to offer me, the LC suggested she may have a weak suck.
Near the 2 month old mark, I read an article online about “maxillary labial frenum.” I pulled back Ruby’s lip, and sure enough she appeared to have the most severe level of lip tie. I knew immediately that I wanted to get something done about it, but didn’t really have the chance. My husband and I began experimenting with bottle feeding; different bottles, different nipples, different flows. We have tried every single bottle on the market that touts the ability to be used in conjunction with breastfeeding – to no avail. Ruby would nurse if she were REALLY hungry, but not well, not happily, and JUST enough to tide her over until the next time she could get a bottle.
We continued like this for nearly a month when I finally decided it was time to have her lip tie divided. I called Dr. Kotlow‘s office in Albany, NY because I knew if I was getting it done, I was going to have it done by the leading expert in the field. We flew to Albany the next day and Dr. Kotlow pointed out to me without a doubt that not only was Ruby lip tied, she also had a very significant tongue tie. I started crying on the spot, not because she was tongue tied, but really because it felt incredibly good to know that I wasn’t making things up – there really WAS something wrong with her mouth.
Dr. Kotlow clipped Ruby’s lip and tongue ties, and I saw an IMMEDIATE difference. Her latch was better instantly – minutes after the procedure. She seemed calmer, happier, more willing to nurse. The pain I was feeling during all nursing sessions was gone. She wasn’t clicking or losing suction. She didn’t seem to be struggling to keep herself on the breast. I thought we were cured.
And then a new behavior developed. To my best ability to describe this, it appeared as though Ruby didn’t LIKE the feeling of her new, deep latch. EVERY time she was offered the breast, she would latch on immediately (she seemed willing and excited to nurse, at least!) but she would bring both of her hands up, place them on either side of the breast, and pull back as far as she possibly could. She would happily suck with just the tip of the nipple in her mouth, fists clenched deeply in to flesh, and remain that way as long as I could let her. As you can probably imagine, this was excruciatingly painful and I couldn’t tolerate it for more than a few seconds. But, if I pulled her hands away, held her closer to me, or did anything to change the position that she was attempting to nurse in, she would immediately begin crying, moaning, fussing, pinching and finally just refuse to nurse.
Ruby and I continued with this nursing battle for nearly 3 weeks before I couldn’t take it any more. Every single nursing session reduced me to tears. I would get so hot, and hurt and angry that I couldn’t even look at her. One day, I finally decided that she NEEDED to eat, so I went and got some frozen pumped milk, put it in a bottle, and I fed her. I cried, and I cried but I decided we were done. Nursing her wasn’t working for either of us and it was just causing more heartache than good. From that day forward, I have exclusively pumped, and Ruby has been bottle fed.
About two weeks ago, I took Ruby to see a speech therapist. She did a suck evaluation, and tried Ruby on about 5 different types of nipples, with different types of flows. She determined that Ruby has an uncoordinated suck, in that she doesn’t take any breaks. She just sucks and sucks and sucks and sucks, with little time to swallow or breathe. This causes her to have a very urgent, demanding feeling to her feeding. We began paced bottle feeding and have seen an improvement in her demeanor while she is bottle fed, but there has been very little change in her nursing behavior. She doesn’t nurse like a normal baby, who will suck, suck, suck, suck, swallow, breathe, rest. She doesn’t rest.
And this is sort of where I stand. Ruby wants to nurse, and I will attempt to allow her to occasionally. She hurts me terribly the entire time. I have cuts and claw marks on my chest and nipples. She squirms and kicks and rears her head back. She PINCHES. There is nothing I can do to ease her discomfort or get her to relax. I say I have given up, but I really haven’t; I want her to nurse. I so desperately, deeply, fully want her to enjoy nursing, for it to become a nursing relationship that makes us both happy. I want to nurse Ruby until she doesn’t need the milk any more.
I want to nurse.
Please help. Please send this to anyone who might be able to help. Please give me all of your ideas and suggestions and advice. Please tell me even if you think I’ve already tried it.
Ruby is 5 months old. I’m not finished. It’s not over yet. Please. I need help.