For the next couple of weeks, we worked hard to nurse every two hours, day and night. It hurt a little bit, but it was not that bad so I wasn't worried. I figured I just needed to get used to it.
At the beginning of the third week, things started to get bad. My nipples were bruised and so very sore. Something had drastically changed, but I couldn't figure out what it was. One desperate night, Hubby and I wound up supplementing with the milk that I had pumped in the hospital. We used a tiny 5cc syringe because I was sure that using a bottle would forever doom our breastfeeding relationship. I met with two lactation consultants that week, one at the hospital and one who came to my home. They were both helpful, and a before and after weighing showed that Monkey transferred about an ounce, but the pain continued.
That Saturday, my husband had to go to a party with his parents and my mom was having dinner with friends, leaving me alone with Monkey for the first time ever. A few minutes after Hubby left, Monkey started crying and didn't stop. I tried everything I could think of, but (other than one short 30 minute nap) the crying continued. About four hours later, after several tearful phone calls, my mom came over to help me. We determined that Monkey did not have a fever, but still I couldn't soothe him.
I called the pediatrician on-call, and she went over a list of things for me to check to figure out why he was crying. She finally told me to drive him around for twenty minutes and, if that didn't work, to take him to the emergency room. We tried the driving and it didn't work, so we took him to the hospital. They weighed him and ran a bunch of blood tests and then they told me that he was malnourished and dehydrated. Needless to say, I was crushed (and then I was the one crying for hours). At 5lbs 15oz, he was 3 ounces below his birth weight and his bilirubin levels were 13.5 (which I later found out was not as high as the doctor had suggested, but still not great).
The ER doctor said that we had to supplement Monkey with formula, which I had never wanted to do. As I watched Hubby feed him that bottle of formula, I thought about his "virgin gut" and how we were ruining it. It broke my heart that we were no longer exclusively breastfeeding. I had heard the stories and I knew that supplementing with formula could destroy our chances for successful breastfeeding. They almost admitted Monkey into the hospital that night, but, after talking to our pediatrician, they finally decided to let us take him home. They gave us strict instructions for feeding him: every two hours, breastfeed for no more than twenty minutes (so that he wouldn't "waste" too much energy on it) and then give him pumped breast-milk and then formula.
Monkey sleeping with Hubby after returning from the hospital
That Monday, we took him to see his pediatrician. He weighed 6lbs 5oz, so he was finally over his birth weight (by 3oz) at three weeks old. The pediatrician agreed with what the ER doctor had said and wanted us to continue supplementing. I asked him if I could just give pumped milk and eliminate the formula, but he said that we should continue with the formula in case my breast-milk "didn't have enough calories."
The day after meeting with the pediatrician, I went back to the hospital to meet with Kathleen, one of the lactation consultants who had helped me after my delivery. She did a before and after weighing and told me that Monkey was doing non-nutritive sucking and only transferred about a tablespoon of milk. We discussed the possibility of a posterior tongue-tie and I made an appointment to meet with an oral surgeon. Kathleen also watched him drinking from the bottle and was concerned with how much time it took him to finish it. She recommended using different bottles to minimize nipple confusion since his latch had gotten worse and she gave me a new nipple shield to use.
I left feeling so discouraged. I couldn't tell when Monkey was getting milk and when he was doing non-nutritive sucking. Feeding him had turned into a nightmare. The entire process took at least an hour and between the nursing and the pumping, my nipples were in bad shape. I was pumping as much as I could after every feeding to maintain my supply and I was beginning to feel like I was developing a closer relationship with my pump than with my baby. This just wasn't the breastfeeding experience that I wanted. I hated seeing him drinking from a bottle, but I hated even more to think that I had been starving him before! I really wanted to go back to exclusive breastfeeding, but it seemed that I was unable to adequately nourish him that way.
I felt broken.
Breastfeeding Part III