When I was pregnant with Miss M, I couldn’t wait to try breastfeeding 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 Miss M was born she was extremely intuitive and knew exactly what to do when it came to breastfeeding, unlike her brother. 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 this time. There were definitely things I disliked about breastfeeding, but the good things really came out on top
Apart from the pressure of Miss M’s 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 50mls total from both breasts after 20 minutes some alarm bells started ringing. My experience with Master E told me I could get a lot more than this.
It was when Miss M was about 10 to 11 weeks old that her weight became more of an issue. The midwife we saw at the baby clinic each week wasn’t overly 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 Miss M, 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 Miss M’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 Miss M 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.
Based on her findings, the Lactation Consultant explained that Miss M 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, Miss M was about 13 weeks. We needed to make a decision so she could start putting on some proper weight as soon as possible.
The Lactation Consultant outlined our options. They were:
- 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 Miss M’s sucking action wasn’t efficient enough to maintain the level of supply she needs.
- Have Miss M’s lip and tongue ties released. I did not know much about ties before finding out Miss M 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 Miss M 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.
- Put Miss M onto formula
Making one of the toughest decisions
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 3, 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 Master E, 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.
Why we chose formula
So why did we choose the formula route? Well, considering Miss M was tiny and exhausted, she needed a break from working overtime for her feeds and she needed to start putting on weight straight away. It made me feel so guilty thinking about how hard she was having to work.
I knew I did not have the energy to feed and then express between feeds, it wasn’t something I could sustain and so that option was out.
When it came to considering having her lip and tongue tie released, there were a couple of reasons we didn’t take this option. Firstly, I couldn’t bring myself to having the lip and tongue tie release procedure done, it made my toes curl. Secondly, releasing the lip and tongue tie was not going to be an immediate fix and there was no guarantee that it would make any improvements. We’d used formula with Master E before and he has grown up to be a strong and healthy little boy, we had absolutely no issues with it. Formula was also going to give Miss M the immediate weight gain and break she needed.
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.