We had a baby girl.
She was so sweet and delightful and tiny. She blinked sweetly and yawned sweetly and made sweet little squeaky noises. From the instant we knew her, she was little and delicate and feminine. I knew I wanted to call her Ruby. She was a Ruby! Brock wasn’t so sure, and said he loved the name Remi. We talked about it back and forth for a while, and then he held her. He held her and REALLY looked at her. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Mandy. Her name is Ruby,” and she has been sweet Ruby Kate ever since.
From the very beginning, I was excited to get to nurse another child. I absolutely adored breastfeeding Ronan – we had very few issues, and I was sad when we unintentionally weaned. While it wasn’t traumatic for him or for me, it was something that I wished I had done differently. This time, I was excited to nurse a newborn, and excited to allow her to nurse for as long as she desired – whether that be for two years or five.
From her very first latch, I felt like something was wrong. She lost suction with every single pull. There was a popping sound constantly – that loss of suction – and her poor little jaw would quiver in exhaustion. She would nurse for hours. It was so different from my experience with Ronan, and I was entirely thrown off. She SEEMED to be doing okay – she was growing, and my nipples were faring quite well – but I knew something was wrong. Honestly, it felt like she didn’t LIKE to breastfeed. She would pull away, unlatch, turn her head, arch her back and cry… feeding was miserable for both of us.
I took her to see an IBCLC. I took her to see MANY. In the first weeks of her life, we saw five different IBCLC’s a total of ten times. Each time, I was dismissed – she was growing, transferring lots of milk, and my nipples were fine. But I KNEW something was wrong. When we were at home, she was miserable. We had a history of tongue ties in my family, so I asked each lactation consultant about it, and was assured there was no signs of ties, whatsoever. Our final session with an LC, plagued with recurrent yeast and begging for help, I was told that my problem was my massive oversupply. She said that I had too much milk, and it was coming out too forcefully for Ruby to nurse happily, and that I just needed to block feed until my supply lowered enough that she could nurse well.
So I started block feeding. This meant that I would only feed off of one breast while letting the other one get uncomfortably full, essentially signaling to that breast to “stop making so much milk.” All of our terrible symptoms continued, so I continued block feeding in longer and longer blocks until I no longer had any signs of oversupply, and no longer needed to pump off any excess milk. Only, my problems nursing Ruby got worse. Just turning her to breastfeeding position would make her scream. She wouldn’t latch, and she wouldn’t nurse, and we would both just sit and cry. The only ways I could get her to feed was to nurse her while she was sleeping, or to have her strapped into the Ergo and feed while walking around.
At this point, Brock still didn’t have a job. Actually, not only did he not have a job, but he wasn’t applying for jobs or working on his resume or anything remotely resembling adulting. He was playing hours upon hours of World of Warcraft with his brothers and his friends, and had successfully withdrawn from any kind of partnership or parenting or real life. Because of this, our funds were running low and it became increasingly apparent that I was going to have to go back to work as soon as I hit my six weeks post partum. In fact, I had called the hospital to see if I could get clearance to go back sooner – for finances – but they wouldn’t allow it.
So I went back to work six weeks after Ruby was born when we were still struggling to nurse, and I found while I was working that I was also struggling to pump enough milk to meet her needs while I was gone. Apparently, block feeding had lowered my supply more than I was aware.
When I returned home, excited to nurse my baby, she wanted none of it. None at all. She screamed, turned her head, and fought me. She DID NOT WANT the breast. I thought it was nipple confusion, but she wasn’t nipple confused – don’t make that mistake. She had a definite preference. As soon as the bottle was introduced, she stopped nursing completely.
I grieved. I know it sounds silly for me to say that now, but I grieved the loss of our nursing relationship. I cried as though she had died. I cried because I wanted it to be sweet and wonderful, and because I was so excited to nurse her, and because it felt like she was rejecting me. I cried because she made me feel like I was a bad mom. We struggled and fought so hard to nurse that I didn’t see her as a baby or as a person – just as a tiny little thing that refused to nurse, and because of that, our relationship suffered.
I was so resentful. Mad at her for not nursing and mad at my husband for not having a job, and MAD because he wouldn’t try something other than a bottle to feed her while I was at work.
I continued trying many different ways to get her to nurse, finding that she would still latch and breastfeed if she were sleeping, but would only drink from a bottle during the day. We made that our normal for many weeks, until, one day while scrolling Facebook, I came upon an article posted by Kellymom.com. It was titled something like, “Could a lip tie be your nursing problem?” with a picture of a baby whose top lip had been stretched up, and showed a tight, low anchored lip tie. I looked over at Ruby, sound asleep next to me and carefully stretched her lip up. Her lip looked EXACTLY like the baby’s in the picture – classified as the most restrictive lip tie. She was three months old, and still not nursing ‘successfully’.
At Ruby’s next pediatrician’s visit and asked our doctor if she would refer me somewhere to have Ruby’s tie revised. She told me that she didn’t think that ties could affect breastfeeding, but that she would look into a plastic surgeon. Later that day, I was called and told that my consult for a tie revision would be in July… nearly two months from the current date.
Flabberghasted, I called the doctor that was cited in the article – Dr. Lawrence Kotlow, in Albany, New York – and asked his office how soon they could get us in to evaluate her for a lip tie. The uplifting woman on the phone with me told me that they could see me at either 10:15 or 12:30 the following day, my choice. I called her on Wednesday.
Thursday, we flew to Albany.
To be continued.