Monday, June 9, 2014

our first month with elliott & my experience with breastfeeding.

as i write this elliott is almost 3 months old!  i can't believe it.  the first month with elliott felt really, really long - i think because we had so many struggles with feeding, weight gain and jaundice.  since then time has flown.  but i wanted to write down some things before i forget them, i already feel like i have forgotten so much!  

first i have to say this: breastfeeding is freaking hard.  i am going to be pretty open and honest about everything so if it is too much information for you just continue on to the darling pictures below!  since going through my struggle i read a few articles/blog posts where moms really tell it how it is and it was so refreshing and helpful to me.  as a nurse i had seen many moms struggle with it and i had heard a little from friends and family how hard it was - but i never imagined it would be as hard as it was in the beginning.  as i mentioned before, my milk didn't come in for a week so we used the supplemental nursing system {SNS} for the first week.  this meant getting elliott latched on and then isaac would fish a little feeding tube attached to a syringe filled with formula into his mouth while he sucked on my nipple.  i had to hold elliott just right or the tube would come out or he would lose suction and not be able to suck the formula out of the tube.  this two person job meant that both of us were up in the night feeding and we were both so tired.  but it worked well and elliott was gaining steady weight the first week.  

also that first week home elliott struggled with jaundice.  the first 4 mornings we were home we had to be up early to take him to get his little heel poked and every morning we just looked worse and worse.  ha!  you can always spot new parents.  the jaundice stressed us out quite a bit but were really lucky and never had to have elliott under lights.  he was always just low enough that we kept an eye on it.  he was pretty orange for the first few weeks of life.

once my milk came in at one week i thought things would get better.  we stopped doing the SNS and i felt like elliott was doing pretty good eating.  my nipples were still really sore but they never cracked or bled which was so lucky!  i took him in to the doctor after we had stopped using the SNS for a few days because he had a little rash and he had only gained 1 ounce over the past 4 days.  newborns are supposed to gain 1/2-1 ounce a day so this was a little alarming.  my pediatrician was out of the office for the week so i saw a different pediatrician and she told me instead of feeding elliott every 3 hours i needed to feed him every 2.  i already felt like all i was doing was feeding him but i wanted him to gain weight so badly and of course i would do anything he needed.  we tried this for a few days and went in a few days later and he was the same weight!  i cried in the doctors office because i had been working so hard with him!  with his jaundice he was pretty sleepy all the time so getting him to eat every 2 hours was so hard!  the pediatrician we had seen earlier in the week was also gone so another one told me i needed to go see a lactation specialist and that i needed to offer elliott a bottle of formula after every feed.  i went home exhausted and upset but tried the bottle - which he didn't like.  i was so worried the bottle would ruin all the progress we had made breastfeeding!  i called my friend who is a lactation specialist and she gave me some really good tips and helped me realize some things i was doing wrong.  i thought for sure correcting these mistakes would fix our problem so i didn't actually see a specialist in person.  over the weekend i worked really hard with him and didn't feed him a bottle.  i took him for his 2 week appointment on tuesday april 1st and he still hadn't gained any weight, but he wasn't losing either.  the sad thing is most babies regain their birth weight by 2 weeks - elliott was born 7 lbs 5 oz and was currently 6 lbs 12 oz.  i cried and cried again and felt so guilty that i hadn't forced elliott to eat formula from a bottle.  my pediatrician was amazing and reassured me that everything was okay and that we still had lots of options to make breastfeeding work.  she said i didn't need to feed him a bottle and that continuing to breastfeed was the best for elliott, we just needed to figure out what was going on.  thank you kat for recommending such an amazing pediatrician!

the next day a lactation specialist came to my house and totally changed everything for us!  she was amazing {i have her number if you need it!} and helped us so much.  first of all she discovered that elliott had a minor posterior tongue tie and this was preventing him from sucking correctly.  the way he was sucking was making it so the milk couldn't flow freely and was causing me a lot of pain.  she recommended we have his tongue clipped to help with this problem.  she also recommended i use a nipple shield to help him latch on appropriately and it was so much better.  we also started SNS again but this time with pumped breast milk.  i did it 4x a day with 1 ounce of milk and this made a huge difference!  and she gave me a much better system than the hospital gave me and i could actually do it myself without anyone's help.  she also thought my milk supply might be low and recommended a few things - that i rent a hospital grade pump for a month and start taking fenugreek and drinking a mothers milk tea.  both of these things helped considerably and i felt like this helped my supply go up quite a bit.  the tea is freaking nasty and the pills are huge - but anything for my baby!

that friday we saw our pediatrician again and elliott had gained 4 ounces in 4 days!  i cried i was so happy.  i took elliott's lack of weight gain so personally because i was working so hard to breastfeed and it really took a toll on me emotionally.  so when he started to gain weight i was so, so happy.  we had his tongue clipped and unfortunately it didn't really help much - he was almost 3 weeks old at this point and he had already learned to suck incorrectly so we are still using the nipple shield and it works great for us.  i am so grateful for these tools that allow me to breastfeed when otherwise it might not have been possible.

the next 3 weeks i spent lots of time on the phone with my lactation specialist, got elliott weighed a few times a week, and continued to do the SNS.  my pediatrician said that because elliott was born 2 1/2 weeks early it would take him longer to really start gaining weight without any supplementation and it was at 4 weeks that he regained his birth weight and 6 weeks that he was gaining enough that he no longer needed supplementation.  that was such a happy day!

after all of this, i must say i am soooo glad i stuck it out and am continuing to breastfeed elliott.  i know there are many women who want to breastfeed that aren't able to and i'm very thankful that i can. elliott is kind of a slow eater {each feed taking 35-40 minutes} but i love that time with him.  i pump a few times a day and he takes a bottle when i'm not available and at night before bed.  we introduced the bottle at 5 weeks and it has made me feel so much more sane!  i love having the option because i can go out and run errands and not be too stressed about getting home to feed him right away - i can just take a bottle with me and feed him when he's hungry.  because elliott takes so long to eat i don't love breastfeeding when we are out and about.  i am also going back to work part time {this week!  ahhhhh!} and elliott needs to take a bottle while i'm gone.  so i'm super grateful he takes them like a champ, i know a lot of my friends at work have not been so lucky.

i also have to say that my mom and mother-in-law have been such lifesavers!  they rotated coming over the first 3 weeks and their help and support kept me going.  they helped me with the SNS when isaac when back to work and i am so grateful to them.  and isaac!  he supported me through my many meltdowns and was {and is} always available to help as much as he can.  he is an amazing dad and husband.

so now that i've got that all out please enjoy these photos of elliott's first 30 days!  one for each's crazy to see how much he changed in such a short time period.  i have a ridiculous amount of photos of the babe and i'm obsessed with every single one.
brand new angel from heaven.
first night home!
first walk!
i only bought a few newborn size outfits so he wore the same jammies a lot.  my friend kat knew i didn't have much and pretty much doubled his newborn wardrobe - she is the best friend!  little did we know elliott would be wearing those clothes for the first 2 months!  my now almost 3 month baby is just starting to fit in his 0-3 month clothes.
cutest fuzzy hair fresh from the bath.
waiting at the doctor to get his tongue clipped.
"mom!  why are we at the doctor again?!"
his favorite blanket.
dream baby.

and finally, a few of elliott's one month photos.
what a month!  it was the hardest, most rewarding month of my life.  i love being this boy's mama so, so much!


Brittany said...

Congratulations! He is seriously soooo cute! :)

Alexandra said...

you are the best mom and have the most adorable child in the world. congratulations.

Gaby said...

Hey Emma, I had a fairly similar experience with feeding Clementine. When she was around a month old we found out that she wasn't gaining anywhere near the "normal" amount for a baby her age. Thus began an ordeal of never ending appointments with specialists, doctor visits, conflicting breastfeeding advice, pumping and finally top ups with formula. But here's the thing: they never did find anything wrong with her and she has always hit all of her developmental milestones early. So I just wanted to tell you, because I wish someone had told me this, don't worry! Some babies are just small. It doesn't mean they're not healthy or you're not "doing it right." Not all babies can be in the 90th percentile. I stressed myself out so much and as a result my milk supply dropped, which stressed me out even more! I'm now quite certain that my supply was NEVER the problem (at 14 months old she still happily breastfeeds). Anyway, sorry for the essay. Let me know if you ever want to chat to a mom who has been there :)

Noah Marsh said...

Elliott is adorable! That being said, it must be quite difficult to deal with different pediatricians in each visit. However, I think all of them would have recommended the same thing, which is to consult with a lactation specialist about the matter at hand. It's great that you've solved the problem, and that Elliott is getting heavier by the day. Let's hope this keeps up! Take care!

Noah Marsh @ MedCare Pediatric

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