As you guys can probably imagine, I did a lot of research on breastfeeding before Bates was born. Some of it was by default (that is, most books on childbirth or the different stages of your pregnancy end with a chapter on BFing). I also rented some DVDs and a textbook from the library at the hospital. And one of our childbirth classes devoted a session to it. I felt pretty prepared.
Here is what I've noticed, though. In all of those DVDs and books, certain aspects of the whole experience are left out.
1) In no video do you see a woman trying to breastfeed a crying baby. In theory you should feed the baby before he cries, in actuality, that doesn't happen. (And as you can imagine, no video shows a woman trying to breastfeed an inconsolable, wailing baby either.)
2) In no video do you see anything other than a passive, calm baby. There are no hands flailing around, no legs kicking with all their strength, no head jerking back and forth. You never see a baby latch on and then jerk his head back with all his might (while still latched on). Or see a baby latch on and then, because he's so squirmy, rip at the breast (while still latched on) with his hands. There's never a wrestling match between mother and baby in the videos.
3) In the videos, the baby latches on once and is done. It doesn't take 10 tries (all of which feel like good latches) before the baby is happy enough to finally start feeding.
4) In the videos, breastfeeding takes an appropriate amount of time. The baby latches, eats, disconnects from the breast, and is satisfied and ready for a burp. It doesn't take an hour and a half. The baby doesn't fall asleep every 10 minutes and need to be woken up (thus re-starting the cycle of trying to find the perfect latch).
5) This might be TMI, but in no video do you see open wounds on a woman's nipple that scab over, but get the scab ripped off at the next feeding.
So yeah, even though I was "prepared" to breastfeed, I had no idea what I was in for. The whole experience was taking a toll on me. I found myself anxious before feedings, anticipating the wrestling match that was about to take place. At night, I was unable to eat a lot of dinner because my stomach sort of hurt (which I think was my anxiety about the night ahead of trying to feed). During the actual event, I became really frustrated and often cried as much as the inconsolable baby. There was one night that was just over the top and made me scream for Jonathan to take the baby because I didn't think I could handle being around him anymore. Not exactly the idyllic bonding experience I was going for when I decided to breastfeed.
I met with 2 lactation consultants while we were still in the hospital, then I had a phone consultation with one and a follow up, in-person meeting with her a couple days later. I would come off of those talks feeling good, and we'd have maybe one good feed, then it would all go downhill again.
And so on Friday last week, I made a decision. Nipple confusion or not, I was going to pump and give Bates bottles of breastmilk instead of nursing him.
And you guys, oh my gosh. This has seriously (not to be dramatic) changed my relationship with my son. I am able to pump milk and feed it to him in a loving, bonding experience. We still get to have lots of snuggle time, but there's none of the frustration for either of us. My open wounds are healing. I'm not in serious pain when I pump. I don't have to be aggressive and pin down his arms and legs while trying to get him to latch. And, daddy can be a part of feedings, too.
Thankfully, it seems I have an abundant milk supply, which makes the exclusive pumping do-able. This is our solution at the moment. I think once I'm completely healed I'll try to take him to breast again to see how it goes (since we had the bottom of his tongue slightly clipped at the doctor on Friday). But I'm pretty happy with where things are right now. I sort of feel like a slave to the pump. But at the same time, if my options are slave away with the machine or give him formula, I'll take the machine for now. I don't like that we won't have the ease of feeding if we're out and about, but at the same time, given the way our feedings were going, I wouldn't have been able to nurse him in public. Actually, I tried to nurse him at the doctor's office on Friday and instead we had to cancel our post-doctor errand so I could drive home and feed him because we just couldn't do it away from all the pillows and such we needed. (Not to mention the doctor probably wouldn't have wanted a room tied up for an hour and a half while he took his sweet time to eat.)
His weight wasn't back up where it should've been at the doctor either, so we're hoping with some monitoring of ounces per day he'll get back up to birth weight.
I'll keep you posted!