Lactation and breastfeeding is confusing and stressful. In fact, if you read any books to prepare for parenthood, read something on breastfeeding.
Many women face the problem of their milk not coming in fast enough. There are many trial and error possibilities out there to assist with this hardship. I tend to have the opposite problem: my milk comes in too quickly for my children to keep up, which comes with its own set of troubles but not so much research and help.
Newborns are just learning to suck and swallow, latch and eat. Whether the milk comes in too slowly or too quickly, babies can lose trust in the boob- trust is very fragile in newborns. You are supposed to respond to baby’s cries as soon as possible and hold baby whenever possible to build a bond of trust, it is similar with nursing. When milk comes in too quickly baby ends up spluttering and drowning. They get angry at the boob, yelling at it and hitting it. Who can blame them? The evil boob is attacking them and trying to kill them. If it carries on for long enough, they eventually lose interest in nursing at all, especially if you have needed to bottle-feed in addition to nursing your baby. Then, baby will simply refuse to eat until you give up and offer a bottle. At least, such has been my experience.
If your baby refuses to nurse, even if you are pumping in nursing’s stead, your milk may soon begin to diminish. This may leave you with the daunting task of rebuilding your milk supply, as was my experience with my first daughter who couldn’t nurse due to tongue-tie, also see this post for tips on identifying tongue-tie.
It has almost been a week since baby Lula was born. She came out nursing so well, but due to jaundice and a lack of sunlight I had to pump what milk she couldn’t drink during her nursing and offer her whatever she would take from the bottle (bottle-feeding is faster and easier so babies often take more from a bottle immediately following nursing. Babies can also sometimes prefer the bottle for this reason). Last night, she said good riddance to this drowning business and refused to nurse until we offered her a bottle. All day today, again, she wouldn’t nurse. She would simply refuse to eat until I got really worried and finally, after an hour each time of trying everything to get her to latch and eat, I gave up and bottle-fed her.
This evening, my husband and I came up with a possible solution: the nipple shield. While nursing my eldest daughter, Lettybug, I had to use the nipple-shield to protect sore nipples and elongate my nipples due to a raised mouth roof and the flattening of the nipples that can occur when boobs are overfull (often found in babies born with tongue-tie). Nipple shields have a similar texture to bottle nipples and force babies to draw milk slower because it takes extra effort (one lactation consultant that I spoke to about using the nipple shield for Bug likened it to training for a marathon because it built up the muscles needed to suck so that babies have an easier time nursing later even if milk flows fast). This time, we thought the combination of texture and slower milk flow might fend off the drowning aspect and help build trust back because she obviously trusts the bottle more than The Evil Boob right now.
I slipped on the nipple shield. Slid it into her mouth. And, just like that, she accepted it and nursed like a champ. I’ll probably keep the nipple shield around for a little bit and then slowly try to take it away again after she’s learned to nurse well enough and build up those muscles enough to keep up with the milk flow without drowning. I will probably have to consult a lactation specialist for ideas on how and when best to proceed with this part of the plan. For now, however, crisis averted. I don’t have to stay glued to a pump forever and my baby girl is nursing.
*If you are having trouble with a low/slow milk supply, I recommend seeking help from a lactation specialist (make sure to find a nice one, not the popular evil-football-coach version so skilled at making you feel stupid and horrible) and trying to read this book: The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West and Lisa Marasco.