Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Breastfeeding the First Time Around: Hospital Issues

I have decided to publish my experience in multiple posts. After I began typing, I just realized I had much more to share than would fit into one appropriately-sized post! I hope my experience will help others that may be dealing with similar situations, and be an encouragement to not give up on their goals!


After giving birth to my precious boy, things got off to a rocky start for us. I began to lose a lot of blood, and I was ordered to strict bed rest for the entire day after he was born. That meant a catheter (yuck!) and not being able to get up and shower or anything (double yuck). Of course this included not being able to care for my baby. I was able to hold him and begin feedings, but that was about it. I also was given a blood transfusion, so I had an IV, which doesn't make it any easier to correctly position a baby for nursing.
My little guy a couple days new! So sleepy!
His first attempt at feeding didn't go so well. Because of the hemorrhaging, I didn't get to attempt the first feed in the one hour window like I wanted to. By the time the hospital staff got around to letting me nurse him, he was pretty much too tired for anything. I remember nurses coming in periodically to help me try again, and not being very successful. I think he might have latched once and nursed very briefly. (I gave birth on a Friday night, and the lactation consultant wasn't scheduled to be back on duty until Monday).

After my day in bed, the pediatrician came by. He tested P's bilirubin levels and they found he was jaundiced (probably from not feeding enough- I realized this in hindsight- I didn't allow any bottles of formula at the start because I was determined to breastfeed, and didn't want anything to thwart my efforts). He was taken to the nursery for pretty much the entire day on Sunday to be placed under the special lamp to help his body break down the bilirubin.

I had brought my nursing pillow (My Brest Friend- I highly recommend this pillow!) with me to the hospital, and so every couple of hours, I would make the trek to the nursery (now that I could finally stand without the risk of passing out). It may have just been my perception at the time, but I really felt like the nurses looked at me like I was from another planet- with my funny green pillow under my arm ready to nurse the snoozing baby. I couldn't just attempt a feeding when I wanted to, I was instructed that he needed an uninterrupted 2-3 hours under the lamp at a time. That made things pretty difficult. I fought with the nurses there about offering him formula, and giving him a pacifier. While he didn't get a bottle without my consent, they did give him a pacifier on a couple of occasions- which in my immediate postpartum upheaval of emotions, made me really angry.

I tried so many times to get him to latch- with not very much success. He just wasn't very interested. He was very sleepy and difficult to rouse. And of course, without a lactation consultant, I wasn't getting the best guidance. The nurses tried to be helpful, but each one had a different technique and a different opinion. My milk hadn't yet come in, as it was delayed by the postpartum hemorrhaging. 

I felt like I didn't have any other options, and the hospital staff sure made it sound that way. He was given formula, and that helped him to get the bilirubin out of his system, thankfully!

Finally, on Monday, the lactation consultant arrived. P was out of the nursery, and she helped me to finally get him to latch on long enough for a feeding. It was an amazing moment, and the difference between a proper latch and the improper latch that I was getting on my own was an amazing feeling.

I think I called her in a couple more times before we were discharged from the hospital for help and counseling. I still had challenges getting him to latch on correctly. We still were giving formula, but it was really a decision I was not entirely comfortable with. I had begun pumping every couple of hours as well, and insisted that P be given the four and a half drops of milk I was able to express per session.

We left the hospital late Monday afternoon, with formula samples in tow and much uncertainty about my ability to breastfeed this little guy. 

What was your experience like in the hospital? Did you feel supported by the staff in meeting your goals?