*warning, this post talks about boobs, breast milk, nipples and the like.
if you aren't a momma or aren't interested in being one, this post will have nothing but weird details for you.
along with pictures of Mark nursing without any goods showing. you've been warned*
When Mark was first born he impressed many nurses by latching on fantastically just a few minutes after he was born. He seemed like he really had the hang of it and we thought we were on the right page while in the hospital that first day. At one point he was cluster feeding like a madman and our longest stretch was over 90 minutes, switching between sides every 15 minutes. Insanity I tell you. But it didn't stop there. The nurses took him to the nursery shortly after this feed to do his bili scan and regular testing and when they brought him back to the room they said he had low blood sugars which was alarming since he had just eaten for over an hour. They asked if we were okay supplementing to which we responded yes and started to worry. While in the hospital I was hooked up to a pump a few times as well as nursing on demand to try and get the milk flowing!
Once we were home my milk still wasn't in and I attribute that fact to why those first few days were so hard. I get it, everyone is cranky and unhappy when they're hungry and my little boy was no exception. I spent my entire existence focused on making milk. J made me lactation cookies, I would pump after every feeding, Mark ate every 2-3 hours. It was exhausting. When it did finally come in, about day 4, things seemed better again.
But I knew overall that something needed to be different so we finally called a lactation consultant to come to our house to help us. She was fantastic with latch, helped me learn to use a nipple shield, recommended a great product for me to put on between feeds and things started getting better, again. It turned out the deep pains I was having were nerve pains due to compression while Mark nursed and gradually they went away. I started healing and eventually we weened from the shield.
Mark has never been a big baby and like any first time mom I was always worried that he wasn't getting enough from me. But he would feed every three hours, tell me when he was hungry and when he was finished nursing and our doctor didn't seem concerned. He hovered around the 15th percentile for weight which was just fine for our little guy. Around 2 months his nursing habits seemed to drastically change. He went from nursing 10-15 minutes per side to 10-15 minutes total and seemed pretty unhappy about it too. We attributed the change in duration to him being more efficient and contemplated reflux issues making him unhappy and kept trucking along. When his next doctor's appointment only showed him around the 8th percentile is when we started being a bit more concerned. We did weighted feeds with him, measuring him before a feed and then right after to see how much he was transferring from me and were consistently only getting between 2-3 oz. And with eating 7-8 times a day the math for the right volume just wasn't adding up. It was assumed that his fussiness was due to the lack of milk flow after he guzzled what I had for him but he refused to nurse longer to stimulate my body for more.
Finally at his 4 month appointment, when his weight was down to the 5th percentile, we decided to make a change. I started nursing him only when he first woke up, for his dream feed when I was headed to bed and if/when he needed to eat during the night. The rest of the four feeds during the day we supplemented with formula while I continued to pump every three hours. I had wanted to nurse him for as long as possible but more realistically the goal was to get him out of flu season and to at least 6 months drinking as much breast milk as possible. So the milk that I was pumping during the day was going into the freezer because, according to our pediatrician, one single feeding of breast milk was all the immune benefit he needed. I wanted to get to a point where there was at least one bag of frozen milk for every day until he turned six months old.
And I did it! On average I would get about 10 oz each day pumping four times and he drinks 5 oz from a bottle at each feeding which meant two servings in the freezer. Once we had all those bags packed packed away I've continued to pump. Now instead of reserving it all for later use, once I get up to 10oz, 5 goes into a bottle for him that day and 5 goes into the freezer. On average he's only getting 10oz of formula a day now which is fantastic in my eyes given the struggle that it's been.
We've come a long way and it's been hard. I still battle a lot of emotions about our breastfeeding journey (which deserves a whole post in itself) and our journey isn't quite over just yet. I would have never wished this outcome on us in the beginning but I can confidently say that I'm happy. And Mark is happy. And isn't that all that really matters anyways?