Saturday, 15 November 2014

Our feeding journey...the good, the bad and the ugly

I had never been one of those women who was "gung ho" breastfeeding. I wasn't actually sure I wanted to (in spite of health benefits) because I couldn't imagine whipping my breasts out in public. I couldn't imagine a little person gumming me to death.  I don't really know what changed my mind in the end, but I found myself repeatedly telling midwives that "Yes, I am breastfeeding" during my 36 hour labour. 

From day one it was ridiculously hard. Emma couldn't latch, I had no milk due to the C section, she was screaming, I was stressing- it just wasn't a pretty picture. By the time I was released from hospital four days later, we STILL hadn't cracked breastfeeding. That first night was nothing short of a nightmare as Emma just screamed and screamed. Of course she was screaming - she was hungry!  The combination of the two of us just wasn't going to make feeding work. 

Enter: Nipple Shields. I had heard of them from a midwife in the hospital and decided to try them as a Hail Mary attempt. Of course they worked - but they didn't work in time. Emma had lost far too much weight and we were readmitted into hospital. 

I persevered with those shields, carrying my little jam jar of sterile water with me everywhere. After two hospital admissions where midwives, doctors and nurses just shook their heads, unable to offer any better ideas or suggestions - I was doing everything right - Emma's weight started to creep back up. Slowly. But it was creeping. 

We attempted topping her up with formula a number of times. Projectile vomit doesn't even cover it. Her entire stomach would empty and I would be covered. It was a vicious cycle which made me declare that I would make breastfeeding work - formula clearly wouldn't cut it. 

It wasn't always easy - but we made it work with the shields. Every time our health visitor came we would try and take the shields away. Emma would get frustrated and scream, I would panic, nothing would flow - I eventually gave up trying.  If she was feeding, she was feeding.  End of discussion. 

We were referred to a specialit who cut tongue tie, making feeding easier. Emma had a slight posterior tie so in a snap decision I agreed to the cut. I fed her immediately after and would she latch? Of course not. Did she after?  Nope. Was it worth it?  Probably not. 

We carried on for three months - and that's when I started to notice problems. Emma's hunger increased; my supply stayed the same. She even rejected the shields as she could get more milk without them. But it still wasn't enough to satisfy her. 

In spite of EVERYTHING - and I mean EVERYTHING - I felt Emma wasn't getting enough and I couldn't express more than 30 ml a time to create a stock pile. I drank nearly 8 pints of water a day (nearly wetting myself daily), I pumped 3-4 times a day, I loaded up on carbs, I even rented a hospital grade dual pump from the NCT. It just wasn't happening.  We started topping her up after nearly every feed with Nutramigen - a broken down prescription formula from our GP. She was taking 90 ml - that was like half a feed, not a top up!

We had her weighed on Wednesday and at 17 weeks she weighs 11 lbs 5 oz. 10th percentile. Which, to be fair, is consistent - just low. B said "Somebody has to be 10th..."  (She's probably 85th percentile for height).   Our Health Visitor suggests we try normal formula as B tends to give Emma tastes of whatever he is eating - yogurt, ice cream, rice pudding, olives, melon.... (don't even get me started on this....) - she never had a reaction so we may as well give the formula a go. 

So we did.

And that's where the nightmare started.  

After having a top up of Cow and Gate at 4pm, Emma was fine and dandy until 7. I laid her down to undress her for her bath and the projectile vomiting started.  She was soaked - our duvet was soaked - she was horrified - I was horrified.  We managed to calm her down and I got into the bath with her.  She projectile vomited again.  

We held her in our arms and she just lay - floppy and staring blankly - almost unresponsive. B tried to give her water to rehydrate her, but she refused.  When she started crying an hour or so later, I offered her a breast milk feed - she vomited on me.  This time - she stopped breathing.

Apparently it's part of the design of a baby to stop breathing when they vomit to prevent choking.  I didn't know this.  B acted quickly and picked her up and tilted her sideways to help clear her airway.  I just sat and sobbed.

B ended up getting some Dioralyte - a rehydration fluid suggested by a friend in Paediatrics - but Emma still refused.  She just lay in my arms falling asleep.  We let her sleep and then kept offering her the fluids when she woke at 3 am.  She had the fluid, plus some breast milk.  She was the same at 7am.  

The only reason we didn't end up in A and E last night was because B knows what he is doing.  He consulted his colleagues immediately and people were all too keen to help and offer advice.  Sure, parents worry and babies spit up.  This was not spit up, nor was it vomit.  

After a trip to the GP, many conversations with the Health Visitor and an appointment with the dietician, we now have a permanent prescription for special formula, we have to wean Emma onto solids and we are keeping her dairy free until she is one.  

There is absolutely NOTHING more horrifying than looking at your baby's terrified face when they can't breathe.  I'm exhausted.  I'm emotional.  I'm thankful for B's knowledge.  I read an article the other day about things your mom never told you about being a mom and it really hit home.  

The weaning process has made me really look at our breastfeeding journey and it actually breaks my heart that I have to end it.  I know I'm going back to work and I physically won't be able to feed her myself or pump enough to give her feeds - but I will miss it terribly.  We worked so hard and I feel as though I have failed her.  I know not many people get this far with it and I should be proud of what I have managed - and I am - but I'm also pretty sad.  I wish I could do more, but I can't. 


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