Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.
Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
I was in need of a good laugh today, so I thought I’d share this fantastically funny FFF Friday submission by Melissa. I’m betting you’ll find her writing as witty as I did, but be warned – underneath the humor is a scathing indictment of what often passes for professional breastfeeding help. If you concern yourself with women’s healthcare, this post will likely hit you in the gut: first because you’ll be belly laughing, and second, because you’ll be as angry as Melissa over the sub-par level of care – and lack of honesty – she experienced while trying to breastfeed her daughter.
Happy Friday, fearless ones…
My daughter was due November 8, 2011, so naturally being her father’s daughter, I arrived at the hospital on November 21st for an induction. I spent the first day (8 hours!) on pitocin (and nothing else) and…. nothing happened.
I’m trying really hard right now to keep this to my boobies and not write about everything else that happened and that still angers me about my birth experience. Let’s just say that the last thing a CNM should say to a lady who has been on pitocin for 8 hours without an epidural is to question whether said lady actually wants to have this baby and tell her she needs to visualize having the baby and think about what is emotionally blocking her from giving birth to the baby, as though one can think POOF! World Peace!
Ahem. Fast forward, the next morning, I was again on pitocin until I called uncle around 1 PM and got an epidural. Then things got exciting.
By 9 PM, I was ready to push.
By 10 PM, pushing had done nothing.
By 11 PM, baby’s heart rate was doing a weird dance with every push.
By 12 PM the drugs were off and I was being prepped for a C-section.
At 2:03 AM, November 23rd, little E finally made her grand entrance into this world.
By 2:15 AM, Mommy had proceeded to completely lose her shit over things the doctor said while putting her back together, and someone was kind enough to drug her up well and good such that she thought she was in New Orleans on Mardi Gras when she woke up in recovery….
E figured out the latch thing immediately, and I thought we were cruising. Sure, it hurt like hell and someone probably should have brought me a nipple shield before she turned the left nipple into a bloody mess, but I was expecting all this. I was okay with all this. I was patiently waiting for the milk to come in, feeding her every 2-3 hours, loving watching her sweet little face and hands at such a close distance… And everyone said that it takes longer for your milk to come in after a c-section, so I wasn’t worried when I had no milk by day 2. I figured I had colostrum, she’d eat that, and the (still the same size as before I was pregnant) boobies would do their thing.
By day 3, the nurses had taken to checking in with us every half hour to see if E had peed yet (she hadn’t). And she was rather orange, even to my untrained eye… By then I’d started pumping between feeds on the lactation consultant’s (number 1!) advice, you know, to speed things along because my milk was totally coming… E was angry, screaming, and sucked away on my breasts like there was no tomorrow. She’s more efficient than a pump, they said, so when she fell asleep on the boob that must have meant she got something to eat first, right?
Then the nurses started in with the jaundice talk and someone said she might just need to stay an extra day after I was discharged, you know, if she was still yellow. And that was a wake-up call, because after two days on pitocin without an epidural and an unexpected c-section, I’ll be damned if I’m leaving the hospital without my trophy-baby to show for it. I think we called up the nurse right then and there and brought in a bottle of formula. E sucked it down like she had been starving. Because, you know, she was. By this point she’d lost a full pound of her 7 pound 12 ounces weight.
We left the hospital the next day with E and a hospital grade pump. I pumped. And pumped. And pumped. I hired a new set of lactation consultants (number 2!) who came to my house, weighed E, put her to boobie (she latched on, perfect), then weighed her after 45 minutes on each boobie (no change in her weight at all). They looked at me. They looked at boobies. They made notes. They discussed. They mentioned words to each other that I’ve never heard of, like “IGT” and “tubular” and “one is significantly larger than the other”… and never once did they mention that this might mean I wouldn’t ever get enough supply to feed my baby.
I kept on with the pumping, because new lactation consultants thought it would increase supply. I bought supplements. I drank massive amounts of water in hopes it would clear up massive c-section swelling (did I mention, I still couldn’t bend my knees?). Finally, on day 6 after the birth of my daughter, I got something resembling milk from one boobie… and on day 7, something resembling milk from the other boobie. Success!
Except, my boobs were still the same size. They never got bigger. And I continued to pump and pump and pump and pump… and nothing changed. New lactation consultants (number 3!) were called. Lactation consultant number 2 texted me questions to see how it was going, and when I told her I was pumping every time after she nursed, and still getting just trickles, she offered things like a clear plastic tube attached to a syringe to supplement with the formula I was already giving E. Or to come let me rent her scale for a weekend. Or to come back and do a weight check. Or double check the latch. Or something.
By week 2, I was a mess and my supply had not increased.
By week 3, E had gone on strike agains the boobies, refusing to latch on at any time other than 4 AM after our longest stretch of sleep (when they were most likely to have gotten enough stored up for her to be happy for a little bit). So I pumped and pumped… By the end of Week 3, I was pumping every three hours and E was eating 90% formula and 10% what I made.
By week 4, that had changed to 95% formula and 5% what I made.
By the end of week 4, I had an allergic reaction to the supplements and stopped them cold turkey. My “supply” tanked – I went from making a total of 3-4 ounces a day to less than 15 ml. a day.
At that point, I’d had it. I was tired, I wasn’t enjoying my daughter, and I found myself on Christmas morning strapped to a pump in our living room while my husband made silly noises over our baby and drank his coffee. I stopped cold turkey a few days before New Years, and dried up almost immediately. No pain, and boobies were still the same size as before I got pregnant. I was sad, but resigned, figured it was the long labor or c-section, or all of those things that had made breast feeding not work.
Then I started researching.. and I figured out what IGT was. What tubular breasts were. What those words the lactation consultants had mentioned to one another meant. That I might never have gotten enough supply in, even had I not had a c-section or been swollen beyond recognition. Even if I had woken up that extra hour early during our one 4-5 hour sleep stretch every day. Even if I hadn’t supplemented with nasty formula in the hospital. And every single one of the warning signs listed for IGT, I had in spades. My boobs have always been different sizes, with the left larger than the right. Yes, they are tubular, not that I knew that but I had always known they weren’t a full as the Barbie-like ones I saw on TV. And they didn’t change size at all during pregnancy. Boy, was that a warning…
And then I was angry. Because these ladies I had hired to help me breast feed, every single one of the three different consultants I hired, they either knew or should have known, and didn’t I have a right to know that I might not be able to breast feed and why? How dare they not tell me. How dare they assure me that these steps I was taking would increase my supply, just keep trying, keep doing, keep putting her to breast even when she is screaming-hungry.
I look back on those first few weeks with regret; if I had known that my boobs were tubular, that the lack of growth during pregnancy (and after birth!) might mean something regarding supply, that never feeling engorged, or feeling really much of anything, might indicate the milk just wasn’t there and wasn’t going to be there, would I have wasted so much time with the pump instead of spending it sleeping or cuddling my daughter or recovering from major surgery? Would I have spent so much time feeling guilty and debating stopping the crazy pumping schedule? Would I have felt so guilty when I decided enough is enough?
E is almost 5 months old now. She’s hitting every one of her milestones early; she’s been in daycare since mid-February and has had precisely one cold, and she barely noticed it. She’s the happiest, sweetest little girl, and she’s 85th percentile in height and weight. And most importantly, she’s a good eater, a good sleeper, and she’s healthy.