Today's breastfeeding story comes from Amanda and baby Issac. Amanda is a fellow military spouse and very compassionate soul. We worked with her and her sweet family last year and we were moved by their love and patience during their many challenges. Amanda has graciously shared their story in her own words. We are so grateful! P.S. we are so happy to share this lovely picture from her birth. Thank you to Melissa Bonacci Photography!
Actually, the title should be, “Attempting to Nurse Isaac…”
Breastfeeding is a funny thing. Especially when its the 4th child. You think the baby will come out and poof! You will have a glorious, perfect nursing relationship. Your body will provide all the milk the baby needs and the baby will of course demand it…. This was also supposed to take place after a calm, natural, peaceful water birth at Breath of Life Birthing Center in Largo, Florida.
Ok, this is the la la land I resided in before Isaac was born. If you would like to read his birth story you can see it here.
Reality was - Isaac’s birth was awful. Traumatic. It was everything you don’t want a birth to be. My friend Melissa who was there taking pictures said that it was literally the most difficult thing she had ever witnessed outside her son getting injured playing football. If you took a minute to read Isaac’s birth story and see the pictures, you know that we were an emergency transfer to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fl. They ended up having to do a Vaginal C-Section to get him out. Think 4th degree tear, but way worse as they had to cut him out because he was stuck. I hemorrhaged… yeah.. it was not fun…
Isaac was born on Sunday, May 7th, 2017 and we went for skin on skin while the doctor was stitching me up for ages. We tried nursing and well… folks, even after 4 kids, it's ok to still ask for help because every baby nurses differently. While we were in the hospital, lactation came to see us a few times and gave us the thumbs up, everything looked good. We go home, go back to the doctor and things are ok but she wants to watch his weight.
At home, I had the very best resource staying at my home to encapsulate Isaac’s placenta. She even made really cool art out of it and really took care of all of us since my husband had to go right back to work. Jenna Ikuta, my EOD sister wife who owns Seaside Postpartum was right there, helping us through. At one point she said, “this isn’t my specialty, but he might be tongue tied” while watching him eat. The poor kid was struggling to eat.
On Day 5, we went back to the pediatrician and she decided we needed to be readmitted to the NICU for dehydration because Isaac was not getting anything when he was eating. We tried a bottle of formula, we tried to continue nursing; it just wasn’t working. I felt like a total failure of a mother because my baby couldn’t eat and I felt like it was somehow my fault.
Day 6 comes and the Neonatologist comes in to examine Isaac. Right away he tells me that I have bigger problems than dehydration. He notices that Isaac has Metopic Craniosynostosis (also known as Trigonocephaly). He tells me that I need to go see Dr. Pat Ricalde because she can fix the problem and that she doesn’t do anything unnecessarily. I was still on pain killers from Isaac’s birth and stuck on the fact that my baby was 10 lbs (!!!) and look at all his hair. I should have been stuck on his head shape, but that really didn’t dawn on me until later.
While in the NICU, we saw the same lactation consultants we saw the first time around. They were wonderful and encouraged me to keep going. They also were not so sure about the tongue tie and neither was the neonatologist. They all said that he should still be able to nurse so we kept trying. Oh did we try. Feeds took FOREVER. (I do need to say thank you to the nurses who let me sleep at night and got up and fed him for me…I REALLY needed that sleep to heal.)
Our NICU stay was almost a week. My friend Karen kept my older kids for me (thank you!) so I could stay with Isaac. I began my mostly hate relationship with the pump to try to increase my milk production because at that point I would pump for 20 minutes and be lucky if I got 10 ml. (That’s drops for folks who aren’t well versed in breast milk or liquid measurement…)
We leave the NICU and we go to see the out patient lactation consultants… they were also wonderful but got to the point where it was obvious that Isaac had too much disorganization and they were not sure what to do about it. We still hadn’t seen Dr. Ricalde yet. We tried on our own for several more weeks. We went to Dr. Frank Sierra who is a pediatric dentist in Tampa who specializes in frenotomies for tongue ties and had Isaac’s tongue tie revised. We did all the exercises. And, well, we still do the exercises 10 months later.
Enter our first appointment with Dr. Ricalde. Isaac was maybe 6 weeks old at this point. Can I just tell you how terrifying it is taking your itty bitty (ok, he was huge but still…) baby to a CranioFacial surgeon knowing he will likely need surgery for his condition?! Absolutely terrifying. That is until you meet Dr. Ricalde. She came in and was so kind, and so sweet with Isaac and gave us options for what to do about the Craniosynostosis. She asked how nursing was going and I said, “Well, its been a frustrating journey.” I told her what all we had done up to that point and asked if she had any other solutions. Can I just tell you that she had a lactation DREAM TEAM…. IN HER OFFICE?!?!?! Friends, I have never been to another doctor that has offered lactation support at no cost to the patient in their office. Ever. Amy and Mary came to our rescue to help us through our struggles. Amy and Mary understood all the crazy that was going on (and is still going on) with Isaac’s craniofacial uniqueness. You see, Isaac’s suture in his forehead was closed, his eyes were sitting at a slant but then everything else is just a tad wonky as well. He had torticollis which made it hard for him to move his neck, and low muscle tone in his mouth, cheeks, tongue, throat, etc. These ladies understood these challenges and worked SO hard to help us.
We tried for several more weeks to continue the nursing relationship. I had a really good friend from childhood (thanks!!) that was kind enough to share breastmilk with us so Isaac could have donor milk while we kept trying. We tried an SNS (supplemental nursing system), we tried nursing on demand, we tried nursing on a schedule…. I really don’t think there is anything in the tool box we didn’t try. Lots of appointments with Amy and Mary. We even added in craniosacral therapy at Amy’s suggestion to help with the eating wonkiness. We tried lots of skin on skin. We tried it ALL!
Unfortunately we were racing a clock and feeds were still taking forever. The clock I mention is relating to my husband, my support network and biggest cheerleader to continue nursing. You see, he was set to deploy to the Middle East for a really long time. (Thanks Navy… thanks a lot. Jerks.) Unfortunately, when it was time for him to leave, he left me with 4 kids. I don’t have the support I would have needed to continue nursing (nanny, house keeper, chauffeur for the older kids, etc) since trying to nurse and bottle feed a child who has so much going on was so time consuming. Isaac and I were both in Physical therapy, he was doing craniosacral therapy, we added in feeding therapy, and then we were keeping up with about 10 different specialists (or so it felt like) ahead of his surgery. There was no time in the day to keep up the nursing relationship for a child who was still really struggling to suck and swallow but could successfully eat from a bottle. It was exhausting!
While pumping, I was able to get my volume up to about an ounce and a half each time I would pump. However, it was insanely difficult to carve out the time to pump. I felt like I was always attached to it and I couldn’t get anything else done. I also had to pump in the bathroom which is kinda gross when you think about it. I just had nowhere else in this house to set up a pumping station where I could have privacy.
So while at first, I felt terrible about how things were going and had ALL of the Mommy guilt that could be heaped on a girl…. I quickly came to the realization that, especially for us, FED is BEST. Regardless of how it happens. So we stopped. Honestly, I am still mourning that nursing relationship to some degree but in the end, I realize that if we had kept it up that it would have continued to be really frustrating for both of us and now very painful because he has a whole bunch of teeth and loves to bite.
Again, a big thank you to Amanda for sharing her story! Every breastfeeding journey looks different and we are lucky to be on this journey with you.