mama story: we are stronger than we can imagine
Thank you to Erica Lancaster for sharing your and Finley's journey!
Prior to having Finley, I thought to myself that breastfeeding was going to be a breeze. It’s natural; what could be so hard? And granted for some women, it might be effortless! I had no idea that Finley and my breastfeeding journey would go the way it did.
I hope that by me sharing our story that I can give hope to another mother to continue one more day.
Our journey started in the hospital. Finley breast crawled within ten minutes of being born. A super encouraging start! My milk came in, we were working on latching with a flurry of lactation consultants coming and out of our room. Finley wasn’t latching, he would cry when we would try. It was frustrating and my bubble of thinking this would be easy had popped. One lactation consultants told me to force him onto my boob, despite him crying the entire time. It didn’t feel like that picturesque mellow breastfeeding experience I was imagining.
We soon found out that he was crying because he was sick, he started to spit up spinach green looking bile and he had not passed his meconium poop post birth as he should have. Finley went into the NICU where he was on IVs of antibiotics and fluids along with having a tube into his stomach to remove the bile. I then was pumping and anxiously waiting until I could start feeding my baby again. We finally got the clear after a few days that I could start to feed him as his infection cleared up. I was so nervous after experiencing his pain cry every time I tried to latch him after he was born.
A lactation consultant magically appeared and gave me a nipple shield.
She suggested it as she thought I had flat nipples (which later I confirmed I really do not, and was just retaining water after birth). The nipple shield was a god send to help feel more confidence, while I didn’t have a plan in place how to start getting him off of the nipple shield and left the hospital.
Every time I used the nipple shield I had to pump afterwards for two reasons: to get Finley’s weight up with expressed milk supplemental bottles post feed and to keep my milk supply up. This lasted for over three months. More lactation consultant appointments were had, everyone giving suggestions as Finley was now used to nursing on the shield.
I had some very frustrating days, if I wasn’t nursing him, I was pumping. There seemed to be no end.
Finley got his tongue tie clipped at three weeks which helped his tongue movement. We were also told that he has a posterior tongue tie, which was mild and recommended an occupational therapist specializing in feeding. This is combination with a continual practice in patience, he finally started nursing without the nipple shield.
I constantly had to dig deep in those first months. I don’t know what I would have done without my husband bringing me food in the first weeks that he was home with me. He gave me continual encouragement when he went back to work, which helped me believe that this too would pass.
Despite Finley starting to latch without the nipple shield, he was still presenting as uncomfortable when I would try to feed him.
He would only feed if I was moving him on a bouncing ball, walking with him (this was a learned skill), or right when he was waking from a nap and in a relaxed state. When working with his doctor, we thought it was reflux so he went on medicine. I saw some of a change in how he ate, but not much. I realized I would have to come to terms that this was the way Finley was.
Then, Finley started to poop less frequently as the months went on. I called the nurse at his doctors the week before he turned 4 months. He hadn’t pooped for almost 6 days, then he woke up in the morning screaming in discomfort. I pushed his knees to his chest to help him poop out what seemed to be poop that was a cold peanut butter consistency. He then pooped consistently for 4 days.
The next week it was the same thing except his puked and his stomach was distended. This lead to a trip to the Emergency Room, some X-rays, and irrigating his colon in the ER (I’ll save you some of the details), we found out he has a rare disease called Hirschsprung’s Disease. We were in there for a few days irrigating him (basically helping him poop 4-5 times a day) and had surgery booked for the next week to remove part of his colon that does not have ganglia cells to pass stool.
So, to recap…we have persevered through the NICU, nipple shields, tongue ties, supplemental expressed milk feedings after every nursing session, an ER visit, two hospitalizations, and surgery.
We are now past surgery, Finley is 6 months old and such a happy boy and I am finally seeing a boobie monster emerging! He is excited to eat now and we are having the picturesque nursing sessions that I envisioned prior to birthing Finley.
This journey has been a true testament to how determined I can be and has made me found strength I never thought I could have to provide for my baby. I wouldn’t change anything that has happened because every time my little boy nurses I feel so grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to feed him.
I hope that this can encourage any other mama to know that whatever way you feel is best to take care and provide nourishment for your babe, you do it! You are a lot stronger then you could imagine. One day at a time.