World Breastfeeding Week
Last week we celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week (I am a little late posting, but is always time to celebrate breastfeeding, right?), and I decided to share a little bit about my journey with my son, that now is 21 months and still nurse on demand!
To give a little bit of background, Lucca was born via cesarean section after over 20 hours of labor (I will leave my birth story for another moment because it is a long one!), and needed some help breathing, so he was taken to the NICU. We were not able to do skin to skin, he didn't have the opportunity to latch. I was only able to see and hold him 17 hours after he was born - the longest 17 hours of my life. But I was finally with my baby boy in my arms, and he was able to latch right away! I was so happy!
He nursed a little, and I had to go back to my room because the doctor was going to check on me, and as soon as I arrived at my room, I started pumping - I don't really remember if they suggested it, or if I asked if I could. What I remember is that they gave me the wrong flange size for the pump, and pretty soon my nipples were very hurt. But I didn't care, I just wanted to be able to breastfeed my baby - after all, my body had already failed me not being able to have a natural, or even a vaginal birth.
And then, things started going south. The nurses in the NICU started saying he was losing weight. That he was not latching properly. That I didn't have enough milk - this was on day two since he was born. I was pumping every two to three hours, and nursing him in the NICU in between pumping sessions, drinking gallons of water, resting as much as I could. I asked the help of two lactation consultants, and they assured me he had a good latch, a tongue tie that wouldn't be an issue, and that it was soon for my milk to come in. I relaxed a little and continued with my routine of being in the NICU as long as I could, nursing him as much he wanted, and pumping in between.
Until the morning of November 5th (my son was born on the 2nd). They switched shifts, and we got a new nurse. I want to pause here and say that I love nurses! I have friends that are nurses, worked along nurses that were amazing and the nurse I had during my labor was an angel - she cried with me when they took Lucca to the NICU. I know nurses are essential for the health industry, and most of them are wonderful - but unfortunately, that was not the nurse we got that morning.
As soon as I got to the NICU, she said she was severely concerned with Lucca because he was not latching (mind you she never saw me breastfeeding) and we were going to have a consultation with an occupational therapist. When the OT started evaluating him, he started to cry, and she said he had low muscle tone and he would never be able to breastfeed, and we should investigate further to know what that was coming from. My husband and I were very confused, but we accepted the referral for him to do OT outpatient.
Lucca was very agitated and crying non stop after the evaluation (and that would be expected for a newborn, right?). I was trying to nurse him, when the nurse came and said that my baby was starving, and that I should give him formula. I said that I was going to try to latch him. Then she proceeded to say that the only thing keeping him in the NICU was his glucose levels that were low, and that if I wanted to take him home, I would give him a bottle of formula, they would check his levels in an hour and she knew it was going to be good, and then we could take him home with me, since I was going home that day. She also said my milk should already have come in, but it didn't, so that was another sign that I was not going to be able to breastfeed.
I knew in my heart that he didn't need formula. I knew he was able to latch, just like the two lactation consultants had told me. I knew my milk didn't have time to com in, we were on day 3 and I had a cesarean. But exhausted, and ready to have my baby home, I agree in giving him the formula.
I was crying so much that I could not even give him the bottle, my husband did. I was so angry at my body - so I couldn't give birth, and now I can't even breastfeed? Why? I prepared so much for all of it, and I was not able to give my baby what he needed. I was heartbroken.
And when I thought nothing else could make me feel worse, the nurse told us that actually he needed 3 good glucose levels, 24 hours in observation and if he was okay, we could take him to our room. That is the time my husband and I "lost it" and said we were going to take him home that day. I was ready to take him AMA, but the doctor heard us and said he was ready to go home. They decided to keep me one more night in the hospital (I was having some blood pressure issues) and he was in the room with us until we were discharged the next morning.
Even though that was a very traumatic, unfair, event, I am grateful for all we went through. All of that made me feel empowered, and to learn to advocate to my baby and what I believe.
Lucca never had another unnecessary formula or bottle. We faced many challenges, but together, we overcame them and here we are, 21 months on demand (and still going strong!), for a happy and healthy baby boy!
And to finish this post, I am not against formula, in any way. Formula can save lives, when properly prescribed. And I am also not criticizing moms that don't breastfeed, in any way. We all have our stories, we all have our journeys, and sometimes, even when we try our hardest, things get out of our control. I had to process a lot to accept I did not have the natural home birth I envisioned, and even though I still hurt and wish things would have been different, this experience made me grow immensely.
So, for all of us: Happy (Belated) Breastfeeding week!