Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Breastfeeding Sucks: A Happy Ending

Where we last left off, we had a plan to see a pediatric ENT to assess for a lip tie and possible tongue tie. In the meantime, I wondered why I was so absolutely hell-bent on getting you to breastfeed. I shouldn't say that. I was hell-bent on getting you to breastfeed better. You were breastfeeding and you had been since Day One, but it was inefficient, and we had to use a prosthetic basically in order to prevent you from causing me toe-curling pain. I knew you could do better, and I knew I could do better. Using the nipple shield and pumping had stretched out my nipples so that you had more to grab onto, and hopefully getting you clipped would give you a better mouth to work with. I just knew we could do this. And it was important to me. I felt like giving birth is the most womanly thing a gal can do - it's what we were designed for. And you know what? I couldn't do it. I needed surgery instead because I couldn't do the one thing I was designed to do. I felt like I owed it to you to breastfeed. I owed it to myself. What had once been a flexible plan in my mind had become our only option, and I would do whatever it took to get us there.

By week 3, I had pumped enough that we were able to get away from formula. I felt accomplished knowing that you were fed with 100% breast milk, and I think your tummy thanked me too because you instantly became less colicky!

By week 4, you stopped taking supplements. You just didn't need them anymore. Your feeding sessions still took about 45 minutes, but at least you weren't falling asleep anymore. By your one month check-up with Dr. Cooper, you were finally above your birth weight. It finally felt like we were heading in the right direction!

When you were 5 weeks old, we had your appointment with Dr. Bauer, a pediatric ENT. Your daddy took the morning off to come with us, and planned to work from home for the rest of the day in case we needed him. I was incredibly nervous. At one point, I started picking Chelsea hairs off of your daddy's sweater one by one just because I needed a fidget.

Between waiting for the nurse, waiting for the doctor, and the actual procedure, our visit took most of the morning. Dr. Bauer checked you out and confirmed Ann's diagnosis: a severe lip tie and somewhat of a posterior tongue tie, too. He said that clipping your labial frenulum should help you latch, and that clipping your lingual frenulum should help you swallow. We decided to go for it right there in the office. This part was so terrible to watch. First, they had to give you a shot in both frenula to numb the area and to stop it from bleeding so much once it was clipped. Watching a man I had just met stick a giant needle into my baby daughter's mouth was absolutely as awful as it sounds; but you were way more upset about the fact that there were so many fingers in your mouth. You screamed for a little while afterwards, and we blotted you with gauze. Once you started to drool a little, we knew the medication had started to work. We headed into another room where Dr. Bauer and his nurse clipped you. Watching them stick giant scissors into my baby daughter's mouth was again, absolutely as awful as it sounds; but you were way more upset about the very bright light that was shining in your face. Thank goodness you were swaddled; otherwise I think you would have wiggled right off the table!

Dr. Bauer asked me to breastfeed you immediately afterwards. He said it would soothe you, and it would also give us an indication of whether the procedure may have helped. It was our most magical feeding session ever. You latched perfectly. You ate for ten minutes on each side. You passed out. Amazing. Dr. Bauer told us this was a good sign, and sent us home.

I had some Baby Motrin that I gave you as soon as we got home, just in case things started to get painful (big mistake). You were an angel the rest of the day. You ate well without the shield, and you didn't seem to be in pain, just sleepy. I kind of felt bad that your daddy had stayed home with us! The next day was a different story. Your tummy was upset, apparently from the Motrin (which you're not supposed to give to babies younger than six months...oops), and I think we set a new record with dirty diapers. You were absolutely miserable, and I was absolutely miserable as a result. Additionally, I noticed that my blisters were back. During our half-asleep nighttime feedings, you had latched poorly and we were back to square one. I kept feeding you with my right breast with the nipple shield, and I pumped on the left since those blisters were worse. By that evening, we had both been in tears all day. Your daddy stayed up all night with you, just changing lots of diapers and holding you. By our 3am feeding, I was able to feed you with both sides with the nipple shield, but I was incredibly frustrated that we were using the nipple shield.

I just felt so defeated. Everything seemed so great immediately after the procedure - what had happened? I called Ann, who reminded me that this was not a quick fix. You had been eating a certain way since you were born, and it was up to me to teach you this new way now that you had the right tools to help get you there. You know, I had to implement this thing called motor learning. It's kind of what my entire career is based upon. Sigh.

So there I was, more stubborn than ever because I was going to make absolutely certain that this procedure wasn't for nothing! We worked on a home exercise program of sucking (you liked those) and stretches (you hated those). We started each feeding with the shield, and after about three minutes, I took it away. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes not so much. You started to catch on with the right, while the left was still inconsistent. Then you had a little setback where you just screamed and cried every time I would take it away. One time it was actually pretty funny, because you literally just yelled, "AHH!" as soon as you saw my nipple. Not a cry, just one loud shriek. I apologized for the fact that my nipple was apparently so terrifying.

Yesterday, five days after the clipping, you took both breasts without the nipple shield even being introduced at first. Then you did it with the next feeding. And the next one. And the next one. And by this morning, you even smiled when I offered you your meal. We haven't used the nipple shield in over 24 hours. I think we may have finally gotten the hang of this.

You know what else? The clipping had another positive effect: you're now able to stick out your tongue.

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