Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homecoming Hiccups

Baby Tess is doing great. In fact, she's a regular chow-hound. Now that she's off the strict NICU feeding schedule, she's drinking 2-3 ounces of milk every 90 minutes. After a month in the NICU, I can't get her interested in regular breastfeeding yet. Baby Tess will do some nibbling but when she's really hungry, she wants the good stuff (my breastmilk) straight from the bottle. I'm having trouble keeping ahead of her in pumping and feeding.

Anyone have any encouraging stories of "difficult moments in breastfeeding that were overcome" to share?


  1. Have you tried skin to skin in a laid back nursing position? Also, it might help to start her off with the bottle (with the very slowest nipple you can find) and then switch her over to the breast once her initial hunger is satiated. I would also suggest watching very, very carefully for the subtle feeding cues instead of waiting until she's really, really hungry. But yes, babies do make it back to the breast with persistence on the mom's part. Sometimes doing skin to skin in the bathtub and pouring water down their back while you're doing it seems to work with some babies.

  2. Hi Abigail,
    I've only been reading your blog for a few weeks, but I've been swept into your baby Tess's story and have been following it diligently!
    You asked for breastfeeding 'overcoming' stories: well my little boy Samuel was a large and very hungry baby who was born tongue tied, where his tongue was attached to the base of his mouth all the way to the tip. It led to a lot of latching problems, and without getting too graphic, I was a real mess. I remember being in so much pain once that I pumped a bottle for him, rather than gritting my teeth and trying to nurse again, but I felt so guilty giving it to him that my mother had to feed him while I sat in another room and cried!
    I had a lot of self-pity about it, and I think that those feelings were made even stronger because Samuel's birth was not all I had hoped it would be. Perhaps we mothers who have great and hopeful expectations of our baby's arrival are more easily disappointed when things go wrong?
    A few things sustained me. First, that Samuel was getting the nourishment he needed and that that was paramount. Second, that I was blessed with an abundance of milk and had no trouble pumping to supply his needs. (It was exhausting, and I sympathize with you when you mentioned how difficult it was to stay ahead.) And third, I am a stubborn, stubborn woman and I was determined to breastfeed so I knew that unless there was no chance whatsoever of it happening, I would eventually accomplish this goal and he would nurse painlessly.

    Samuel is 6 months old now and nursing him is a joy. The difficult times at the beginning just served to reinforce that when something was very important to me I would do whatever it took to make it happen. And chances are it will happen just fine for you, too. Just remember that if it doesn't 'work' for a while there are so many other special ways to bond with little Tess and if nursing just doesn't end up happening, she can be just as nourished emotionally by your closeness.
    All the best,

  3. I had the opposite problem: our daughter absolutely refused a bottle, and there was no way I was going to be chained to her.

    So I went out for an entire day, and left her home with my husband and pumped milk, and after a while, when her cries of hunger finally died down, she wised up and took the bottles. Victory! :)

    So maybe do the opposite, and withhold the bottles, and hold her and offer her your breasts all day, until she forgets about the bottles? Or is she on a strict feeding schedule because of all her health problems, and unable to go for a few hours without feeding?

  4. I don't have any tales to tell, but I DID want to tell you that I'm praying for you and Tess here. Just keep at it. It'll be okay.

  5. Dear Abigail,
    I've had two problems with breastfeeding. First, my second born was pretty big and very hungry. He didn't want to wait for my milk to come in and cried and cried because my colostrum wasn't enough. A nurse finally suggested giving him some formula in a bottle. Sure enough, the little guy sucked it down and was finally content. So, I continued to supplement with bottle feedings. But it didn't take him long to figure out that the bottle gave him more and was less work. Soon enough, he refused to breastfeed. I was horrified! Pumping was exhausting and my nipples were getting so sore. I looked on-line and found a person who went through the same problem. She ended up using nipple guards. I had no idea what a nipple guard was but I figured I'd give it a shot. (You can google nipple guards if you aren't familiar with them). It's pretty much a plastic nipple that fits over your nipple. My baby thought I was giving him a bottle but surprise! It was momma! After awhile I was eventually able to nurse him without. With my fourth baby, I had a case of mastitis that would not go away and it was extremely painful to nurse. After almost a month of this horrible pain I said a short little prayer of desperation to Our Lady of La Leche and sure enough, the next time I nursed the pain was completely gone and never came back. I know our Lady took pity on me! So, try the nipple guards and say a prayer to Our Lady of La Leche. I hope that helps!!


    This link has some great info. Praying for a beautiful, long-lasting nursing relationship for you and little Tess.

    Katie in MD

  7. I am so happy that your Tess is healthy and at home. I, too, have a daughter, Mary Teresa, whom we call Tess.

    I would suggest a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). Medela makes one. Try this link:
    It is a bottle with a thin tube instead of a nipple. You tape the tube with paper tape to your breast and as the baby suckles at the breast, she'll get a double dose of expressed + fresh milk. You can get her used to the tube by first taping the tube to your finger.
    I also think that the nipple shields are a good idea.

    God bless you all!

  8. You have many good suggestions here but I would recommend consulting a lactation specialist. Or if the cost is prohibitive please give La Leche League a call. They are there specifically to support breastfeeding mothers and have trained leaders who can help mothers with lactation concerns.

    Blessings to you and your sweet family.


  9. In circumstances like these you might want to consider changing the way you give her your breastmilk.

    Have you thought about using a sterilized baby spoon or a sterilized medicine dropper? This way she will be getting the nutrition she needs but without the sucking satisfaction of a bottle. Then, when you offer her your breast she will be so grateful to suck that she will perhaps stay on longer and longer.

    I have spoken to La Leche League about this very situation and they suggest that she get no sucking satisfaction except at your breast. She just receives your breastmilk in an alternative fashion.

    You don't know me, but I have been praying for you and yours.


  10. I'm going to second the recommendation for the supplemental nursing system. It was the only thing that got my Madeline back on the breast (she was also a NICU baby but for less time than your Tess). I didn't have that much expressed milk so I did have to use formula with the system but it helped increase my supply and teach her to feed from the breast instead of a bottle. The downside is that I found the system awkward to use and frequently required help to use. Good luck!

  11. I had bleeding nipples for the first child and recurring mastitis for the second and third. Thank God, number four has been the charm. My only suggestion is to hang in there. Every time I have had trouble, I've been so tempted to quit nursing because I don't particularly enjoy it. But I persevered and later rejoice in how peaceful and easy breastfeeding is. So just remember that it will get easier. Blessings to you and Tess. So glad these are the "least" of your concerns right now!

  12. Hello
    I haven't read your whole blog, I am just replying to this on request of a friend who follows it, so forgive me if I am saying things you have already tried. Congrats on your baby and I hope I can give you some helpful advice.

    My little girl was a NICU baby too--a 30 weeker. When she came home, she weighed 4 and a half pounds and she was still bottle feeding my pumped milk every 3 hours or sooner. I was also adding the 24 calorie supplement to the breastmilk to help her gain. We did that for about 3 weeks, gradually decreasing the amount of supplemented breastmilk as she gained, under the guidance of a lactation consultant. She simply did not have the strength to breastfeed at the breast yet. I worked with a board certified lactation consultant to get her on the breast but it took a lot of time. She was 4 months old before she was fully on the breast--and it was a challenge for me because she was my 4th child and I had always breastfed the others.

    Check with the NICU staff and see if there is a lactation consultant you can meet with. With my little Claire, she had weekly weight checks with the LC after we went home, and at first she only gained weight on the bottle. Then we would do every 3rd feeding on the breast, the other 2 with pumped bottles. This was a pain because I would have to feed her the bottle and then go pump. No fun at 2 am! But gradually we moved to every other feeding on the breast, alternating breast and bottle. Then we moved to breast, breast bottle, breast, breast, bottle and she failed to gain sufficient weight that week. Back to alternating breast and bottle. Then after a couple of weeks we tried again, and she gained. Then we tried a week of fully on the breast and she gained!! Two more weeks of weight checks with steady gains and I was given the green light to ditch the pump.

    Now, 11 months after her birth, she's the opposite--won't take any bottles, baby food or anything BUT the breast and still nurses around the clock. Mothering a preemie is a new adventure, for sure!

    I hope this helps! Having a lactation consultant is probably the best way to get that baby on the breast while making sure she gains appropriately.

  13. I would suggest you get yourself a lactation consultant ASAP. My oldest was born with flaccid muscles in his mouth because he was tongue tied. Our wonderful pediatrician, who was on the board of La Leche League and was one of the first to take the lactation consultant test, snipped the tongue tie a couple of days after birth and strongly encouraged our breastfeeding. I pumped (very little) for three months and took the baby to an oral feeding specialist in another part of the state. He could not suck on the breast or the bottle. He had to have months of occupational therapy to get him to suck. I'm sad to say I was never able to breastfeed him, BUT I learned a lot.

    I used the supplemental nursing system someone else suggested for awhile. While you are waiting to get in contact with the lactation consultant (you're doing it ASAP right?) I would try the spoon method someone else suggested. NO MORE bottles and no pacifiers. She must forget the bottle existed. And remember a visit with a lactation consultant will be much cheaper than buying formula for the next year because if you are not really nursing her you will probably dry up. I'll continue to pray for all of you. God Bless!!!