When we found out we’d be expecting our third baby (read about that here), I started to imagine what life would be like with him in our lives. We knew that financially things would be tight, adding a new babe to the brood, but God had taught us through so much over the past year, that He can provide supernaturally, even in our times of worry and self-sufficiency.
With all of that in mind, I set my mind to breastfeed for a year. I am now my own boss, so no returning to work in an office, away from baby – yay! With Hannah and Eden things were quite different… As a first-time mom, when Hannah was born, I thought I knew what I was doing, I never sought help from a lactation consultant and after 8 weeks I threw in the towel – it was so much more demanding than I expected, I don’t think we ever got feeding right and so, 8 weeks in – I stopped.
With Eden I had greater knowledge & with that came a higher expectation that I’d imposed on myself. I refused formula top-ups in hospital, she fed like a champ and we didn’t struggle initially. We figured out she had silent reflux at around 3 months and I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, so breastfeeding was a double-edged sword… I loved it, but it caused me so much anxiety. She would cry, I would cry because I didn’t know what to do. The antidepressants definitely helped and she had 3 chiropractic which helped her reflux and all was right again! Eventually I had to go back to work and I kept breastfeeding mornings and evenings until 7 months, when I decided I’d had enough. I was really proud for making it that far!
So, along came Ezra and I was really excited to breastfeed, he’s our last baby and it’s something I’ll never get to do, the end of an era, I guess. Initially things were good and he was feeding really well… until the 3 week mark, so I decided to see a lactation consultant. she helped correct his latch, so I was really confident that we could continue and things would improve. For the first 3 weeks he’d gained a bit, but then he started losing or not gaining, each week the weigh-in became a bit more stressful. around 4.5 weeks I decided to take him to the paediatrician to get checked out, she really wasn’t happy with his weight gain and gave me instructions to express and feed him with a bottle to check my supply and if I wasn’t making enough, to top him up with extra breastmilk or formula. I had just started getting back to my client’s work and the pressure of pumping and bottle feeding and juggling everything with a new baby, was hectic! I’ll be honest, I didn’t stick to that plan 100%… he was struggling to take a bottle, I was struggling to find time to pump and after a few days, he seemed happier to drink from me, so I reverted back to fully breastfeeding.
Another weigh in at 6 weeks and he had dropped a bit again… I couldn’t believe it. He was drinking well (as far as I could tell) he was sleeping, having wet nappies – everything seemed perfect. Again she told me to stick to her plan, bottle feed and express. I was devastated – I really didn’t want this to be the end of my breastfeeding journey. I know that sounds really selfish, but I was really enjoying it, even with the issues.
So, I stuck to her plan for 2 whole days and he was still struggling to take a full feed from a bottle, but I kept on, only breastfeeding for one middle of the night feed. After 2 days of bottle, he screamed blue murder when I tried to breastfeed him and once again, I felt defeated – was this the end? Was he rejecting the breast? I didn’t want it to be the end, so I carried on trying to get him to breastfeed and I succeeded, for another 2 days I fed him, with the occasional bottle. He’d had a bit of a cold, which didn’t help with his feeding, either! I had to give him saline spray and suction out his nose as often as possible to help.
On Monday, it was my 30th birthday and things were going SO well, he was feeding really well from me, it was a great day – until we experienced the worst moment of my life… If you follow me on instagram and you watch my stories, you’ll know what happened, but I’ll share it again…
We were out for dinner with friends and Ezra had been asleep in the pram. He woke up and a friend held him until he fell asleep again. I was waiting to feed him his bottle and he started waking, so I took him and held him. He started crying and didn’t want this bottle, so I just waited. I looked down at him and he seemed to be quite pale – I showed him to my husband and he said I should just wrap him in his blanket, which I did. By the time I got back to my seat, I looked down and he’d turned blue – I freaked out and said we should go to the hospital! It was seconds and he was limp in my arms, I can’t even remember if he was breathing or not, I honestly just panicked. A friend started running out the door, I handed Ezra to Dave, grabbed my bag and started running! Thankfully, Dave blew into Ezra’s mouth and he handed him to me (I didn’t even know he did that, until we retraced the events later that night). I jumped into our friend’s car and he raced us to the hospital. God’s plan & timing is amazing – we were 1 minute from the hospital! We arrived and they suctioned the mucus out of his airways and gave him oxygen. He started to cry! The best cry I’ve ever heard. I was so relieved. His temperature was 34 degrees (he was SO cold) and his Oxygen levels were only at 60%! It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I honestly thought he was dying in my arms and I was so grateful to hear him breathing. The nurses monitored him for about an hour, all his vitals returned to normal, so they sent us home.
The next day I’d had a follow up appointment booked with the paediatrician and since we’d had that horrible experience the night before, I was keen to go and get him checked out. She did all of her checks and she wasn’t happy, especially since he was struggling with his weight and so she decided to book him into ICU. He was diagnosed with a cold virus, which explains why he stopped breathing.
Fast forward 3 days and he gained 350g in such a short amount of time, being fed strictly every 3 hours with a bottle. He is still recovering from his cold
In terms of why breastfeeding wasn’t working – I do seem to have a bit of a fluctuation in my supply throughout the day, so maybe he wasn’t getting enough, or maybe he simply wasn’t sucking well enough to get enough milk.
It’s easy for me to feel guilty about what happened, thinking I could’ve prevented him from struggling so much, all those negative thoughts can run rampant in my head, but that’s not the point. I thought he was going to catch up eventually, I was doing my best and still am.
For now, I’ve been given instructions to not breastfeed at all until his weight is consistent and he’s caught up. I have to be super strict with feeding him every 3 hours with a bottle (formula or breastmilk) and pumping to keep up my supply… He’s already not wanting to breastfeed from me, the times I’ve tried to comfort him with a feed, he hasn’t even latched on. Already, I can feel my supply dropping and it’s really disheartening… (NB: this isn’t something I feel pressured to do by society or people who punt breastfeeding as the only way… this is completely about what I want and what I hoped for)
Needless to say that this is not the experience I was expecting, it’s not what I hoped for, but it is what it is… also, it’s not the end of the world (I have to keep reminding myself of this). I’m hoping that everything continues to improve with his health & weight gain. I’m grateful to God for protecting his life and I pray that God would grant me the desire of my heart to breastfeed again and if not, that He’d give me peace to accept it & trust His plan.
Some tips for breastfeeding:
- Seek help if you feel it’s not working – lactation consultant, doctors, whatever you need!
- It’s ok to stop breastfeeding if it’s not something you enjoy doing.
- If you need to pump – get ALL the supplies, to make your life much easier… a good pump, a handsfree pumping bra (all available here at Medela)
- Try everything to increase your supply – I’ve tried Prolak (natural pills available at Dischem), Carmien mama’s nursing tea, Mrs Milk lactation bars, fenugreek, more WATER (this is a big one!) and more… those things can all help and I’ve seen a difference with them.
For now, I will keep pumping as much as I can, take all the supplements I can & just keep focussing on what he needs. Right now we’re still in this journey – this isn’t the end! I’ll check in with a new blog post in a few weeks time.