Breastfeed baby wasn't meant to beWhen I was pregnant with my daughter, I couldn’t wait to breastfeed again. I felt confident, I was better informed, I knew what was normal in breastfeeding, things that I thought weren’t normal the first time.

From the moment my daughter was born she seemed intuitive and knew exactly what to do when it came to breastfeeding. The midwives commended me on how calm and in control I was. I certainly felt that way and gave myself a good pat on the back. I was full of confidence, this time round I was going to be OK, breastfeeding was going to work and postnatal depression was going to stay well away. There were definitely things I disliked about breastfeeding, but the good things really came out on top

Apart from the pressure of slow weight gain, all went swimmingly until she was about six or seven weeks old. Then came a point when I had to express and offer top up feeds to increase her weight. I had been told numerous times that the amount of breast milk you get from expressing was not an indicator of supply, but when I was only getting 50 mls total from both breasts after 20 minutes some alarm bells started ringing. My experience with my elder son told me I should be getting a lot more than this.

When my daughter was about 10 to 11 weeks old her weight became more of an issue. The midwife we saw at the baby clinic each week wasn’t happy with her very small weight gains and I was absolutely exhausted breastfeeding and expressing for top up feeds. The midwife suggested I try offering formula for top ups. I understood that it was about getting extra calories into my baby, but it frustrated me because I didn’t think there were obvious problems with my supply.

A visit to the Lactation Consultant

I needed answers. Something just wasn’t right and so I arranged an appointment with a Lactation Consultant.

One of the first things the Lactation Consultant did after I gave her a rundown on our history was put on a pair of gloves and tested my daughter’s sucking motion by sticking her finger in her mouth. Apparently, her sucking motion was all over the place. The Lactation Consultant then had me place her in a special hold position to check for tongue and lip ties. And what d’ya know, there they were: an upper lip and tongue tie.

Lip and tongue tie
Based on her findings, the Lactation Consultant explained that my baby had been working four times as hard for her feeds. I felt so bad for her, but I was relieved that I had an answer, although a little disappointed. As much as I wanted our breastfeeding journey to be a smooth one and I thought it would be initially, it seemed it wasn’t going to be that way.

The Lactation Consultant gave me loads of information on lip and tongue tie, information on having them released and she outlined other options.

At this point, my daughter was about 13 weeks. We needed to make a decision so she could start putting on some proper weight as soon as possible.

Weighing up our options

The Lactation Consultant outlined our options. They were:

  1. I could move from my Medela Swing breast pump, a good everyday pump for women with a good supply, to a hospital grade Medela Symphony. I could use this to build up my supply because my baby’s sucking action wasn’t efficient enough to maintain the level of supply she needs.
  2. Have my daughter’s lip and tongue ties released. I did not know much about ties before finding out my baby had them and to be honest, it freaked me out. The ties are cut (released) by laser or scissors. The process used depends on the practitioner. I asked the Lactation Consultant how soon after the procedure my daughter would be able to feed effectively. She said it could be anywhere from two weeks to two months. There is also the process of doing stretching exercises on the wound after the procedure to prevent reattachment.
  3. Put my baby onto formula.

Making the tough decision

Making a decision was not easy for me, AT ALL. I tried to weigh up all the pros and cons for each option but my emotions kept getting in the way. I’d come to a decision numerous times only to change it.  I chose each of the three options as the one we would proceed with until I eventually stayed firm with number three, formula.

I’ve had plenty of tough decisions to make in my life and this one was one of the most emotional, even though I knew I needed to remove the emotion from it. I had set such high hopes of getting breastfeeding right, of it being a relatively smooth journey. But I think most of all and unlike my experience with my don, this was going to be my very last chance because we have chosen not to have any more children. That’s what hurt the most.

The weaning process

The weaning process was heartbreaking. For a number of weeks, I grieved the loss of breastfeeding my daughter but tried very hard to look at the positives. For weeks I’d continue feeling my letdown reflex, a reminder of what I was losing.  I remember standing in the shower watching tiny droplets of milk escape from my breast, another reminder. But it was clear my supply was a big issue because I hardly experienced any engorgement during the weaning process. But as I write this and look at my thriving and happy little girl, I’m confident we made the right decision.

I will always wish it could have been different but it is what it is, I still have an amazing bond with my little angel and am thankful I still got my three months.

Did you have any issues breastfeeding?

This post was first published on The Multitasking Woman.