“There will always be a part of me that’s incredibly anxious about my desire to nurse Oaklee potentially holding her back.”
We’d come leaps and bounds in nursing since Thanksgiving. I’d made the commitment to be done with the battle by the end of the year, whatever that looked like. And then I charged forward, trying any new thing to get Oaklee to nurse better.
I can’t say which one thing it was that helped us turn a corner. In retrospect, my husband and I are shocked by the determination I had, and often attribute the progress to that. However, I’d been determined for almost 6 months – if that were all we needed, it seemed like things would have changed earlier.
Since Thanksgiving, I’d trudged through the following attempts to take steps toward winning the breastfeeding battle:
1 – For several days, I fed Oaklee more frequently, allowing her to eat smaller amounts more often. We’d been so used to feeding her every three hours – the hospital “care time” approach – that the idea of feeding her sooner never really occurred to us. When taking bottles, Oaklee could take a full feed easily and last another three hours before needing to eat again. When nursing, she got tired faster and we’d try to finish up that feed with a bottle and get her to make it another three hours before feeding her again.
2 – I wore Oaklee. I wore Oaklee a lot. I bought a Qaqadu baby wrap (the off-brand of the more familiar Boba Baby Wrap) and kept Oaklee on me as much as possible – ideally skin-to-skin. Some mommies will nurse their child while wearing him/her, but I was simply wearing Oaklee to get her as comfortable as possible on my chest.
3 – I used a Haakaa breast pump. This was huge for us. A large part of our problem in getting Oaklee to breastfeed was that Oaklee was small and my supply was fast and furious. She could comfortably nurse for approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds before being blasted with the letdown and essentially drowning in breastmilk. This didn’t exactly make her excited to latch on again and proceed.
The Haakaa was a win/win. Every time I nursed, I would wear it on one side while nursing Oaklee on the other. I would pull Oaklee off at 1 minute and 15 seconds, covering her side with a burp cloth until the letdown was past, while letting the Haakaa catch it on the other side. I would then re-latch Oaklee, who could handle the post-letdown flow much easier. By the time she needed to switch to the other side, the Haakaa had removed – and salvaged – the faster flowing breastmilk and Oaklee could nurse with ease. My 3-4oz caught in the Haakaa then went into my ever-growing freezer stash of breastmilk.
4 – I had Oaklee checked for a tongue/lip tie. In my desperation, I really hoped there was an easy answer like, “Oh wow, look at that lip tie! Just a quick snip and you’ll be nursing like a pro.” However, upon taking Oaklee to a pediatric dentist to be examined for any ties, the dentist confirmed a small tie – not one that would obviously warrant feeding issues. She left the decision – to snip or not to snip – up to me, and I decided my baby had been poked and prodded enough in her 23.5 weeks of life. So both fortunately and unfortunately for us, this was not the answer.
5 – I gave Oaklee enough time to grow. I hate that this is what it largely took. And I hate telling people the very thing people told me, “She’s just too small. Give it time.” If you’re not a pumping/breastfeeding new mom, I don’t think you should be allowed to say those words to a pumping/breastfeeding new mom. You have to be in the trenches. You have to have the credentials. Because any time someone told me Oaklee was just too small, I wanted to hiss at them, “Then what do you suggest I do in the mean time? Would you like to pump 10-15 minutes 8 times a day including in the middle of the night and then give your baby bottles on top of that and also do things like generally take care of your baby?”
But when it came down to it… Oaklee was just too small. I had to give it time. Up to this point, we’d been asking her to do things she was too young to do her entire life. “I know you weren’t planning on doing this for another 12.5 weeks, but just breathe, Oaklee. Use your lungs…”
6 – For four days, I nursed every feeding but four. My husband was out of town for work. During that time I threw caution to the wind and gave Oaklee one bottle per day, and nursed her every other feeding. She nursed anywhere from 5 to 17.5 minutes in those feedings and I prayed every time it was enough. “If she were hungry, she’d let me know,” I told myself, but deep down I questioned even that basic logic.
By December 11, it looked like maybe I could win the breastfeeding battle. I was still incredibly unconfident that I was doing the right thing. Was it selfish to put my daughter’s health on the line for the sake of simply eliminating the pump I hated? Was I being a poor mother at the expense of trying to be an excellent breastfeeder? I had 20 days to flip my lack of confidence to confidence. I knew I wanted Oaklee to have breastmilk. I didn’t know how much longer I could deal with the pump.
In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: 10lb 8oz (12.1.17)
Adjusted age: 11 weeks, 2 days
Actual age: 23 weeks, 4 days
Days in the hospital: 69
Days home: 97
Appointments since home: 19