My Breastfeeding Journey

March 21, 2022, Tiffany Newman

When I found out I was pregnant with Carson, I knew I wanted to try and breastfeed exclusively. I researched breastfeeding online, so I would know what to be prepared for. I talked to other moms, including my own and my mother-in-law, about their experiences. Every mother I talked to said that breastfeeding was easy for them and that they always had enough or far more than they needed for their baby. I felt pretty good about it and was like, “Okay, this will be easy. It seems like everyone can do it just fine, and if my own mother can, I should be able to easily.”

Newborn Carson laying on a person's lapThe day Carson was born, I was so excited for that first latch. It did not go as I was hoping because Carson struggled to latch. The doctors noticed that Carson had a tongue tie, which could cause him to have issues latching and sucking correctly. Now, if you don’t know what this is (because I had no idea at the time), it’s a short band of tissue under the tongue that restricts its movement. Because it can restrict the tongue’s movement and create issues for nursing babies, they asked if I wanted to have them cut it to see if that could help improve Carson’s latch. After some talk with my husband about the pros and cons, we decided to have it done. It took just a few seconds, and he barely knew what had happened. I tried again to get him to latch correctly, but he still had issues.

When we went home, I continued breastfeeding, thinking everything was going well, and he was not extremely fussy. During our first pediatrician appointment, I found out that Carson was not gaining the weight he should be and was still well below his birth weight and that I should think about supplementing him with formula. I felt like a failure. Everything I had envisioned in breastfeeding was wrong. I kept feeling worse, I couldn’t give birth to my baby naturally, and I couldn’t even provide him with the nutrition he needed. So far, everything was not going as I was envisioning, and my mood continued to deteriorate.

Carson sitting on a bed in grey footie pajamasBefore leaving the hospital, I made an appointment with the lactation consultant to do some follow-up check-ins. Our first appointment came, and she helped me figure out how much milk he was consuming. It was not enough. She gave me some advice on supplements I could take, power pumping techniques, and other things to try and get my milk supply up. Since we needed to supplement, and I really didn’t want to, she suggested using an oral syringe with a very small tube that could be placed in his mouth while he was nursing. This would allow him to learn how to suckle better and hopefully bring my supply up. We used this religiously. I would always give about 1 to 1.5 oz of supplemental formula per nursing time. I also continued to go to the lactation consultant and a lactation group to continue to watch his weight and get more advice. When I still was not producing enough, the lactation consultant asked if we wanted to try jaw therapy for Carson. We decided to give it a try and went multiple times. They would basically massage Carson’s jaw, head, and neck to align properly to allow him to nurse better. I am not sure exactly how it all worked, but Carson enjoyed it, and he was always very relaxed afterward. All this plus supplementing did help to get his weight up but did not do much to get my supply up. I kept working at it, though. I continued to power pump, I took supplements such as fenugreek and mother’s milk tea, and my milk supply did come up a little, but still not enough to breastfeed exclusively.

As the months continued, I realized that I would never get to where I wanted with breastfeeding and needed to go back to work soon. I came to the very real conclusion that it was okay for my child to have formula. He was getting everything he needed and gaining weight nicely. We soon used formula primarily and supplemented with breast milk so that he still could get some other benefits from my own milk. I stopped nursing Carson around six months old when he started getting teeth because he bit me too many times. I kept pumping until he was nine months old and decided it was getting to be too much work for the very little amount I was getting, so I decided to stop. Carson is two and a half years old and a healthy little boy. Looking back, we made the right decisions on supplementing and doing what was best for our boy.

Newborn Caleb in a blanket with owls on it When I found out I was pregnant with Caleb, I knew right away that we would most likely be having the same breastfeeding issues that I had with Carson. However, Caleb came out ready to nurse. He scooted himself down to the breast and latched on right away when he was born. He nursed like a champion, and I was so excited. The doctors and lactation consultants came into the room to make sure Caleb was doing well, and they told me that he was latching well and nursing perfectly. This made me so very happy to hear. They also did not mention anything about a tongue tie, which was later revealed that he had one at our pediatrician’s office. We did end up cutting the tongue tie at the pediatrician’s office even though he was latching and nursing well. The pediatrician said he might do even better with it cut.

Newborn Caleb stretched out sleeping

We did supplement with formula pretty much since birth with Caleb when needed to make sure he was gaining the weight he needed to. Now that I am back at work, Caleb has been getting bottles mainly and drinking more formula because I can’t pump enough for him. I am okay with that now, and I know that I will continue pumping and supplying breastmilk until I get too tired of it or not making enough.