My baby doesn’t suck

4 Jul

I alluded to some of the challenges that Daphne and I are experiencing with nursing in my last post. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a rough go of it so far. Here’s the full story on my baby’s continuing strike against the boob.

After Daphne was born, she was immediately whisked away to be suctioned and only placed on my chest a few minutes later. We didn’t really establish an initial latch in the hospital, but I wasn’t terribly worried. I knew it would take a while for my colostrum to come in and that babies don’t need to eat for the first 24 hours of their lives (they are still full of the nutrients and fluids they received on the inside). But 48 hours after she was born, she was still uninterested in breastfeeding, and she started to get a bit too lethargic for my taste. I tried to perk her up by stripping her naked and placing a cold, wet towel against her skin. She barely stirred. I felt a mild sense of panic.

I called our midwife, and she insisted that I feed Daphne some formula, as she was at a birth and couldn’t come over immediately to help out, Luckily, our heroic and amazing doula was able to come over in a flash, arriving with a breast pump, bottles and bags of her own frozen breast milk. She also brought her eight-month old daughter, put her to bed in our guest room, and spent the night getting up every two hours with us, to bottle feed Daphne and encourage her to get on my breast. Caro even nursed our daughter herself and noticed right away that her suck reflex seemed weak.

Being a super hero, our doula managed to arrange an appointment with a chiropractor who came to our house the next day. She did some gentle cranial sacral work on Daphne and also checked out her palette and her sucking reflex. She agreed with our assertion that something wasn’t quite right.

I kept bottle feeding donor milk to the baby, pumping my own milk (which fully came in on day 4), and took Daphne to a lactation clinic at a local centre. Two lactation consultations took one look at her mouth and identified that she had a posterior tongue tie. Our midwife noticed the same thing when she visited the next day. Our doula was present for that appointment and immediately got on the phone to the one dentist in town who does laser surgery to correct tongue and lip ties. He agreed to stay late and see us at 7 pm the day before his vacation. So before I knew it, we were packing up the car and driving Daphne to the suburbs to get this thing checked out.

The dentist diagnosed her as having a “severe” tongue tie and recommended that we have it clipped. We made a gut-wrenching but very quick decision to allow him to do the laser surgery. It took only a moment and the Moms cried way more than Daphne did (she let out a short squawk and that was about it). He gave us a series of exercises to do with her mouth to help ensure that the tongue tie doesn’t grow back. And we returned home in a daze, hoping we had done the right thing.

A week after having the procedure done, Daphne’s suck reflex seems to be improving, but she hasn’t properly latched on to my breast yet. Which means each feeding session is rather exhausting. First, she roots for my breast, chomps down a couple of times, lets go, and then wails in frustration. I let her do this until she gets too upset, then I bottle feed her my pumped breast milk. Then I need to balance her on my chest (or hand her off to her other Mom), while I pump enough for the next feeding. It’s enormously sad and frustrating to have to feed her a bottle, when my milk is literally running down my chest as I do so.

The question of whether or not to give a baby a bottle is a controversial one in the breastfeeding community. I know that she is doubly frustrated, because the milk clearly doesn’t come out of my breast as fast as it does from a bottle. But I am confident that we made the right decision on day 2 of her life. She immediately rebounded and became bright-eyed again. We avoided dehydration or jaundice and she was nearly back at her birth weight after a week.

My first priority is to feed her and make sure she is getting the nutrients she needs. The second is to get Daphne on the boob. The extra step of pumping and washing bottles makes each feeding a major challenge. And I am basically housebound until we figure this out. Breastfeeding is portable. The hospital-grade double electric pump is not.

Since posting about some of these challenges on, I have received dozens of messages from other parents who faced similar challenges. Some took weeks to establish a functional breastfeeding relationship with their babies. I am trying to be zen about the whole thing and remember that Daphne is only 9 days old. She is also learning to use her mouth in a whole different way. I can tell that she is getting frustrated too and I feel like a breakthrough is just around the corner. Until then, I have a baby that doesn’t suck.

We are both tired, but coping okay.

12 Responses to “My baby doesn’t suck”

  1. syrens July 4, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    Hey, hon,
    Don’t beat yourself up about bottle-feeding. I was born with a cleft palate and two uvula (they never joined up and so weren’t able to do the uvula’s job of blocking my nose when I swallowed). I spent the first year of my life on bottled breast milk and bottled formula (because you can widen the hole in a rubber bottle-tip, but not so much in a person, and that allowed me to actually get some food down, rather than having it all come out my nose), and then had corrective surgery that allowed me to swallow.
    Daphne will be a-okay, and you aren’t doing anything wrong. Or even “rong”.

    P.S.: Do you all want a casserole or similar? Dietary restrictions?
    Let me know. 🙂

    Amazon. 🙂

    • Queer Femme Mama July 4, 2012 at 6:46 am #

      Hi! Thanks for the kind words. I am more annoyed at the hassle of the routine than the principle of the matter. She is thriving. We are just extra tired with the multi-step feeding process. A casserole would be great! Cait is not fond of mushrooms or raw tomatoes. I am pretty easy to please. Anything we can pop in the oven or nuke is really helpful. Thanks!

      • syrens July 5, 2012 at 4:31 am #

        Can do! (I’ll try to aim for microwave, rather than oven, given that it’s summer).

  2. Joanna July 4, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    Good for you. Hang in there, whatever you decide. We all make tough decisions when it comes to our little ones. With my first one I barely produced any milk, no matter what I tried. I spent 5 months pumping, on heavy doses of herbal supplements, medication etc to try to increase my supply. I remember the day I gave up, it was so sad the day I pumped 60 ml. Later I joked that it was like dust coming out, but at the time it was awful. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t tried for as long, because my entire first 5 months with Frances were completely focused on trying to make breast feeding work and being attached to a pump. We missed out on a lot of fun we could have been having. I used donor milk at first but it was very expensive so reluctantly gave formula.

    With the second baby, lots of milk, but again I was on high doses of medication and she started vomiting after every feed about a month in. I made an instant decision to stop and give formula since there were no studies on how this medication might affect her. Knowing what I’d gone through the first time, the decision came easier and with a lot less guilt.

    Sometimes breastfeeding works and sometimes it doesn’t. And it’s so hard for those that struggle (which is a lot of us). Everyone is going to tell you to keep going, not give up, and their intentions are great and it’s probably what you’re telling yourself as well. I just wanted to let you know that sometimes it’s okay to give up, it happens. Take good care!

    • Queer Femme Mama July 4, 2012 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks Joanna! I have received a lot of private messages from women with stories much like yours. I totally agree that the sanity of the Mom(s) is just as crucial as any benefit of breast milk versus formula. I am persevering for now because my milk supply is abundant, my nipples are not damaged, and Daphne seems to be showing progress and is really trying hard to latch on. That being said, I only have the emotional and physical energy for 2-3 extended attempts at latching with her. The rest of the time, I am fine with just popping the bottle in her mouth (or asking Caitlyn to do so). Any of the other labour intensive feeding techniques (finger or cup feeding) seem like an invitation to an emotional breakdown to me. This is challenging enough and I am managing to strike a reasonable balance. But even more struggle and less sleep will just put me over the edge. So I am just trying to be patient and will re-evaluate on a weekly basis. Thanks for your kind words. They really help.

  3. Cassandra July 4, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Hi! I tracked your blog back from your link to my tongue tie page up there. I’m so happy you got it taken care of quickly! You’re one lucky mama in that respect and are obviously doing an amazing job despite what has happened. It’s also great that you’re finding other mothers to connect with and taking care of your emotional health, which is so important. Are you mimicking latching and feeding with the bottle or just letting her have at it? What about an SNS? I know it’s probably annoying to get unsolicited advice, but it’s in our nature to want to help and I was so endeared to your story, couldn’t help it! Anyway, I really just wanted to say “rock on!!” and hope you get settled with your feeding routine soon, regardless of which way that’s done. 🙂

    • Queer Femme Mama July 4, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      Hi! Happy to hear from you. I have been using a low-flow bottle nipple and a lactation consultant is helping me mimic the nipple as much as possible. But she does gulp it back pretty fast from a bottle. I was wondering about a Supplemental Nursing System. In my case, I have no issue with my supply, just with her difficulty latching and sucking. Would an SNS help? The people at our local breastfeeding specialty store seemed to think that it would only be useful if she was already latching properly. What do you think?

      • Cassandra July 4, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

        I believe the supplementer brand SNS (as opposed to the Lact-Aid) would help because you can control the flow and keep milk coming regardless of how much she’s sucking, so it keeps her on the breast and at least trying, therefore developing the muscles. You’d still have to pump because she’d be filling up on milk from the SNS, so it’s absolutely going to be a giant pain in the ass. If you’re not getting anywhere otherwise, and you have the money to spend on it, definitely give it a shot though. Your lactation consultant might be able to rig up a basic one to even see if it will work for you using a syringe and butterfly needle with the tip cut off.

  4. S. Bear Bergman July 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    You’re marvelous and so is the littlest DJ. Hope all that’s going well continues to go well and what’s feeling hard keeps getting better. xxoo

  5. halfadozen July 9, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    YOU are a superhero! BF is the hardest thing ever, and establishing it can be so frustrating and it can feel like FOREVER until you both get in the groove. But then it happens and Poof! Both our boys had BF probs. The first was a preemie and on a (gasp) nipple shield for 8 weeks. He proceeded to nurse just fine till almost 2 years old. The second had an undiagnosed COMPLETE tongue tie for almost 2 weeks (our MW saw it but thought he would still be able to nurse and didn’t tell us about it bec she didn’t want us to clip him :s) )His tongue was heart shaped when he tried to stick it out! We found an AMAZING lactation clinic who clipped him and we pumped and bottle fed and tube fed and tried to get him to do it and after almost 6 weeks one day he just did! and the next feed? flat out refused the bottle. And has turned his darling little nose up at it ever since 🙂 He is now 6 months old and has tripled his birth weight and is one helluva eater…
    Just keep your eyes on the prize 🙂 She will get it. It took about 3 weeks after Kalan’s clip for him to really be in the groove. The LC suggested that most babies with early issues just “click” between 6 and 10 weeks of age and BF takes off. And don’t worry about the bottle. Your baby is beautiful, healthy and eating. And she will BF in no time. Persistence and patience and practice…
    Big hugs to you new mammas!

    • Queer Femme Mama July 9, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Thank you so much for the encouragement! She latched on with the nipple shield 48 hours ago, so this is major progress. It’s still a bit rocky as she fully remembers her new found skill. But she is already preferring the boob to the bottle, so I am feeling greatly encouraged (though exhausted …)

    • sugarmommaless July 11, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      I just wanted to challenge what you said : “BF is the hardest thing ever.”
      I think it’s important to speak in ‘I statements’ when saying things like that. Like, maybe you could have said “for me, breastfeeding is the hardest thing ever.” Breastfeeding isn’t physically* hard for the majority of people, and then there is a segment of people who have varrying degrees of difficulty/challenges. I think it’s important to at once recognise the challenges that some people have while also staying positive about the high chance of a natural and healthy latch that happens without needing much professional support. Clearly humans have gotten this far in our evolution largely because of the success of breastfeeding. YEs, sisters and wet nurses and animal milk have been useds, but it’s primarily mama-baby dyads.

      * I separate out physical challenges because economic/work issues are very different than biological ones.

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