Never Give Up: Breastfeeding Through Trials
As I held her small, warm body close to my chest, I looked down at the tiny bones pronounced through wrinkly folds of skin. My heart ached. “What am I doing wrong?” Her frail face exposed cheek bones instead of being covered with full chubby cheeks. I felt discouraged. Weighing five pounds at birth, 24 days later she was four pounds, six ounces. She nursed often, but I didn’t know how much she was consuming. It was a stressful season in my life and my baby was not gaining weight.
At her second doctor’s appointment, the doctor urged me to formula feed. I did not want to. Breast milk is God’s perfect food for babies and the benefits are priceless - something no formula can recreate. The miraculous human body allows breastmilk to adapt to exactly what your baby needs at any given time. It is disheartening that formula feeding is often encouraged over breastfeeding even though it is not the best for optimal health, nutrition and development. After her third appointment, she had gained only ounces. The pressure to formula feed increased to an uncomfortable level with no advice on how to successfully breastfeed. I decided to switch pediatricians. I was determined to breastfeed my baby.
I met with an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. She watched me breastfeed, helped improve our latch, and applied hands-on techniques that measured the strength of suckling and flow of milk. She revealed that my baby was “pre-nutritive suckling”. She was nursing, but not doing so strongly or long enough to get adequate nutrition from each feeding. I thought my baby was simply falling asleep after nursing, but she was getting tired and not feeding enough.
“We nurses and lactation consultants call these babies ‘great pretenders’. They seem like they're eating a lot, but their suckling isn’t drawing out all that they need.” I also learned that I needed to use bigger breast shields to yield more while pumping. She advised me to implement a rigorous schedule: nurse, pump, hand express, bottle feed and supplement formula as needed until my little one was stronger. This would ensure my baby consumed adequate amounts. I made sure she was eating a minimum of eight times daily - even if that meant waking her up to eat. I also had to pump after every feeding.
Waking up every three hours to nurse and pump had me living the zombie life! That season was tough – physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. We were wonderfully rewarded when two and a half weeks later, my baby had gained over two pounds and weighed seven pounds, four ounces. Although I was disappointed to have to formula supplement in the process, I did succeed at increasing my milk supply and breastfeeding my little one. Her chubby, irresistibly kissable cheeks are delightful reminders to never give up on the best for your baby.