Our breastfeeding journey has definitely not been all rainbows and unicorns. It all started when Kynleigh was born at 36 weeks gestation. Since she was born early, she was having issues with her lungs and had to be transferred to the NICU (blog post about our time in the NICU coming soon). I had an emergency cesarean with her, so while she had to be rushed off four hours after birth away from me, I had to stay put at the other hospital for recovery. I stayed there for a little over a day, working my butt off just to go be with her. I pumped all day and night until that time could come. I pumped every 2 hours for about twenty minutes each session. The hospital provided a Medela Symphony medical grade breast pump to use. I started out only being able to pump a few mL which was a little discouraging, but I knew that every last drop of that precious liquid gold, is going to benefit my daughter. It was definitely harder to keep up my supply being in separate hospitals. I drank a full hospital water bottle after every pump and snacked often because I wasn’t really in the mood to eat an actual meal. The hospital would transport the milk I pumped to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where she was located and she would receive the breast milk through her feeding tube. They ended up feeding her some formula due to my supply not being enough in the beginning.
After I was finally able to be released and be with Kynleigh, breastfeeding and pumping became even more of a struggle. They put her on a strict feeding schedule of every three hours that we had to follow. The first day being there they wanted me to continue pumping, so I switched my pumping schedule to be every three hours to make the transition from pumping to breastfeeding easier. My milk came in the next day in full swing! I was so surprised and ecstatic. Definitely a proud moment of mine. I thought it was crazy to see the difference between the colostrum and the actual breast milk. It was amazing!
When they gave us the OK to start breastfeeding, we had a LC (lactation consultant) come up to our room and help us get started. Let me just start by saying, that once you have a baby your modesty goes out the window, HA! I was totally comfortable with whipping my boob out in front of the LC. Kynleigh was having some trouble latching. She would smell my milk and taste it, but still wouldn’t latch correctly. They gave us a nipple shield to use and that made things easier for us. She was able to be exclusively breastfed from that point forward. I still pumped after every feeding. I would nurse her on one side and pump both sides when she was finished for 15 minutes. I did this because my breasts would get so engorged and it was really uncomfortable. But, because I was pumping and nursing for so long each session, I created an oversupply. That resulted in getting clogged ducts on my right breast. That was so painful. I tried everything imaginable to get rid of the clogged duct, but nothing worked. I massaged, used heat, nursed her on that side majority of the time, and even dangle nursed, which is an Olympic sport itself! But still nothing. I had the clogged duct for the next five days. They suggested that I only pump the opposite breast instead of pumping both sides. So, I started nursing on one side and pumping the other side for 15 minutes for relief.
When we were finally able to bring Kynleigh home, I decided that pumping for 15 minutes while breastfeeding was just too much work and effort. I cut my pumping time down to four minutes so that I was still able to feel relief, but also keep up my supply. Although, at night I would pump the opposite breast for 15 minutes because my breasts would be extremely full and I’d leak everywhere. Literally. Through my bra, tank top, and shirt. She has been on a strict feeding schedule since birth and we still haven’t been able to feed on demand. It’s too late now to switch to that. I do feed her if she is showing hunger signs, but most of the time she just eats every three hours still. When we took her to the first wellness checkup, her pediatrician said that we needed to be feeding her every 2-2.5 hours and every three hours at night because she wasn’t gaining enough weight in the beginning. Eventually we were able to make that become a longer stretch between feedings at every three hours during the day and four-five hours at night, and we are actually still continuing that schedule.
We found out early on that she had a tongue and lip-tie. If you aren’t sure what those are, a tongue-tie is a condition that restricts the tongue’s range of motion. If you lift up the baby’s tongue and see a band of tissue, called a frenulum, tethering the tongue, that would be a tongue-tie. A lip-tie is often accompanied by a tongue-tie, is when the upper lip is tethered to the gums. If you lift up your baby’s upper lip and notice a band of tissue, called the frenulum (just like with a tongue-tie), tethering the lip, that would be a lip-tie. Both can make breastfeeding a challenge. These are actually hereditary also. Harlan has both ties while I only have a small lip-tie. The baby needs a full range of motion with the tongue in order to express more milk, and the baby will also need to be able to have its lips sealed wide enough around the areola for a proper latch.
I figured this was why she was having so much trouble latching, but nobody wanted to listen to me about it. Then when I took Kynleigh to her one month wellness checkup, I asked her pediatrician about it. She gave me a referral to an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist to be examined. He immediately found both a tongue-tie and a lip-tie. He said she had a small tie on her tongue, but that it was definitely restricting her from feeding properly. He did the procedure to remove the tie on her tongue right there. He just took little surgical scissors and clipped it. Kynleigh cried for about ten seconds, but was fine right away. He said she would be in a little pain for about an hour or so and would be able to nurse better a few hours later. He was right! I noticed a drastic change in way the suckled. She was now able to move her tongue in a wave like motion instead of clicking it up and down like she had been doing since birth. He left the lip-tie alone and said that if she was still having problems latching, then he would remove that tie as well. He didn’t want to mess with it at the time though, because a lip revision would be a rougher healing process and we’d have to do exercises with it everyday to ensure it doesn’t grow back. But she has seemed to do fine with it still intact.
Ever since we were given a nipple shield, it was extremely hard to wean her from it. I tried everything. Squeezing my breast so she could find my nipple better, squirting milk into her mouth, and even rubbing my nipple under her nose. It didn’t work though. Many failed attempts of weaning her from the shield that just caused her to freak out and scream. Having to always make sure that I had one on hand, especially when we went out to places was so frustrating. On days when I would forget to pack one during our outings, we’d have to cancel the rest of the plans for the day to rush home so she would be able to nurse.
At about three months postpartum I tried something new. I used a hands free pumping bra that allowed me to also breastfeed her through it. It made my nipple stick out enough to trick her into thinking I was wearing a shield, but I wasn’t. She latched on so easily and nursed so well. I did that for the next two days. Then I got rid of the nursing bra and just latched her all natural. She did so great! I was so relieved and happy. We never had to use a nipple shield or hands free pumping bra ever again. I’m just so glad that now we don’t have to worry about that dumb piece of silicon anymore.
We hit a HUGE accomplishment when we helped out a fellow mama and her precious little girl. We donated 456 ounces (a little over two weeks worth) of breast milk to them. That was probably my most proudest moment ever. The fact that I was able to produce enough milk for another baby in need is just amazing. I was not only producing enough for my own baby, but for another one also. Kynleigh was very happy to be able to share her milkies too!
When she was almost six months old, we both contracted Thrush (a yeast infection in the mouth and/or on nipples if breastfeeding). You can read all about our experience with Thrush here. We’ve had it now for almost two and a half weeks. They first prescribed us Nystatin. She got prescribed the oral medication and I got the nipple cream. The Nystatin didn’t work for her, so when she went for her six month wellness checkup, her pediatrician prescribed her Fluconazole oral medication that she needs to take for eleven days. It started clearing up much better than the Nystatin, but she still has Thrush. A few days after her checkup, I had an appointment with my OBGYN. I told her what was going on and that a good mama friend of mine suggested getting put on Diflucan to help treat it quicker. She ended up prescribing me the pill form of Fluconazole that I take once a day for a week. So far it’s doing nothing. Kynleighs Thrush is clearing up a little bit, but it’s still painful for me to breastfeed and pump. This has become my least favorite thing of all time. Especially having to always sterilize EVERYTHING immediately after she uses/plays with is a lot of work. I used to pump every nursing session, but since everything needs to be sterilized after every use, I decided to cut out pumping during the day. I only pump at her 9:30pm, 2am, and 7am feedings, and when I’m at work.
But now here we are, six months into our breastfeeding journey and everything just seems so natural (aside from the Thrush). No more having to worry about latching issues, a tongue-tie, constantly pumping or using nipple shields. We still feed on a schedule, which I’m totally fine with and so is Kynleigh. She knows exactly when it’s time to eat. Our short-term goal is breastfeeding for one year. But our long-time goal is two years. Although we’ve been through a lot, it’s what makes our journey even more unique and memorable.
I encourage all of you breastfeeding mamas to never give up, even when it gets tough. Things will smooth over. You can make it through anything!