Charlie John, Born 8.54pm Monday 21.6.21 a healthy 3660g (8lb1oz). My Rainbow baby.
After miscarriages and chemical pregnancies plus an ectopic pregnancy stealing one of my tubes from me, failed abusive relationships including lies and deception…. I thought conceiving would take over my life when my time to actively try came along.
When my partner of 2 years, Quentin and I decided to try for a baby, our first cycle was unfortunately another Chemical Pregnancy however cycle 2 we got those beautiful pink lines. I was 30 years old and had always wanted so badly to become a mother. The stresses of holding onto this pregnancy took me to naturopaths, extra scans, lots of blood tests and pee sticks. But this baby was sticky and here to stay!
I had no birth plan leading up to Charlie’s birth. The only thing I desperately wanted was to breastfeed. I’d had big boobs since puberty, so I was determined that they were going to be put to use! Charlie was born after nearly 13 hours from the start of my induction with a ventouse assist.
When Charlie was passed to me, I thought he was so beautiful, so pink and had a big juicy cord! Then the midwife said, “Let’s see if he will latch to feed, this first latch is so important to establish breast feeding, we really want it to go smoothly” You can only imagine the horror that flooded me as I nervously tried to latch my baby to my breast. I knew there was colostrum there, I had been hand expressing all week! But he wouldn’t latch, he waved his open mouth around ignoring what his instincts were meant to tell him to do! Then he would stop, return to his sleep and look so sweet like it was OK, he wasn’t hungry just yet.
Our first night alone I had two midwife visits all night. I asked when I should try to feed him again, he hadn’t eaten anything yet, but they told me it was normal for babies to sleep a lot after birth so just wait until he wakes up and try again then. I continued to try but again he would wave around and then slowly lose interest and return to sleep not bothered. The second night I tried and tried all night to feed him, the crying must have been heard through the whole floor but nobody came to see if we were OK. He would latch a little here and there but just lose energy and go back to sleep, only to wake soon after starving again.
Unsure really why we were in hospital still, we were told he had jaundice and needed to stay so they knew it was under control. They didn’t think to explain that this is why he is so tired and unable to use effort to feed to get my milk to let down. They just kept telling me I was holding him wrong, bring him to my breast, I’m holding my boob wrong. They wheeled in this double pump and said oh just pump and get your milk established and we can also bottle feed him. This is not what I wanted, nobody explained why breastfeeding wasn’t working! What am I doing wrong!? He just needs to suck, why won’t you suck! PLEAE SUCK!
We mixed some breast milk with formula to see if he would take a bottle and he did thankfully. Looking back now, nobody sat with me and said, “Look how about we pump every few hours to get your milk established and since he will take a bottle, just get the milk into him this way. Lets do this just for now and keep trying his latch a few times a day and see how we go. This will flush the jaundice and get his energy up and we will help you through this”. I since researched myself that a formula fed baby passes jaundice way faster than a breast fed baby! Again nobody told me any of this!
The next shift of staff came through and suddenly I was told that he won’t latch because he has breast/bottle confusion. I said ‘what after one bottle?‘ Confused, they said ‘oh have you been breastfeeding?’ We spent 5 nights in hospital, one of which Charlie was on LED lamp therapy for 24hrs to try lower his bilirubin level and get on top of his jaundice.
He had daily heel pricks, his level kept rising, his weight didn’t drop too excessive which I guess is why nobody was looking into why he wasn’t latching, they just kept trying to force him to latch with all sorts of techniques. It wasn’t sustainable to have 3 nurses holding my boob and my baby to feed him every few hours.
We used sucrose droppers to drip into his mouth to excite him to latch which sometimes worked, we used nipple shields as told by one nurse then told not to by another. We used a syringe with a tube, tube feeding milk into the shield to get him to latch, he could eventually get there but it took a lot of effort and I couldn’t do it on my own I needed two or three people.
We finally got discharged with follow ups for daily heel pricks to check Charlie was flushing his jaundice, a week later and it still was not going down. He had hardly any wet nappies but nobody seemed worried. During the next week we did get more fluids into him, he sat in the sun in the mornings, we thought for sure it was getting better.
The last heel prick to determine if another rise was going to mean being readmitted to hospital for more LED light therapy or whether it was finally going down. Luckily it was going down so we were in the clear and he was only going to get more and more energetic!
Our latching issues still hadn’t really improved. I ended up severely sleep deprived, highly emotional and highly engorged. Yelling at my newborn baby, “Why won’t you latch!!!” I got angry, cried and yelled that I cant do anything right. He would be better off just being bottle fed and he wouldn’t need me anymore and I’m no good at this. Luckily my partner was amazing and supported every step not once telling me to formula feed. He knew this is what I so desperately wanted.
We were told by the midwife to stick to pumping and feeding by bottle every 3 hours, so after I pumped, fed, cleaned everything and laid down or ate it was nearly time to go again. This was so exhausting and nobody could really take over to let me have a break because I still had to do the pumping. I couldn’t get a feed ahead because some times he would want more than I pumped previously, meaning he took the whole next pump load of milk putting me on the back foot again.
Something in me thought that there has to be a reason for this. Then I remembered my sisters’ kids had tongue ties, looked in his mouth myself and though there could be a tongue tie issue, but I wasn’t entirely sure. About 2 weeks after Charlie was born the other midwife who was also a lactation consultant did a home visit and I told her I thought he has a tongue tie and could she take a look? She looked and confirmed that yes he has a tongue and top lip tie both of which need attention ASAP.
She advised us to see a Chiropractor as well so made the appointment for the next day. She also called the clinic and we got an appointment the next day for the Dr to snip with scissors his tongue tie.
Things improved but only slightly. He was still battling with latching deeply and staying there. After another week we went to the clinic to say we are still having latching trouble and I needed help. She advised I make a separate appointment with her personally for a lactation consult and it would cost $100. I went to this appointment with a hungry baby, just to show her his latch. But we got turned away for another few days to wait til she could come see us at home.
She came around and watched him feed finally, and she said he has SEVERE ORAL RESTRICTIONS and is UNABLE to latch to both breast and bottle. This was urgent and it needed attention. I asked for the referral to have the ties lasered however she still didn’t follow through on this and told me to keep pumping and seeing the chiro.
The whole time we had also been told to keep trying to feed him with both breasts. However if I did manage to get him latched I just sat completely still until he finished and didn’t want any more. This meant every time I was trying to explain his feeding patterns to the chiro, doctor or midwife, I had to explain that I only feed on one breast per feed then swap at the next feed because unlatching him to swap just restarted our issue.
At around 11 weeks old, still battling through horribly sore nipples, Charlie having blistered lips, he was always hungry and would tuck his top lip under when he did feed. Luckily he took any bottle but I kept trying to latch him so he wasn’t confused by bottle/breast because all I wanted was to stop having to pump all the time and just naturally breast feed my baby on demand. He was diagnosed with silent reflux and colic or “Purple Crying” they call it now.
We had a day of foamy poop which I looked into myself and found since I had an oversupply, he was filling up on my Foremilk and having a fore/hindmilk imbalance causing lactose overload. I reached out and got the OK from the Lactation Consultant to block feed and see if this helped his upset tummy. It did to some extent but nobody told me to only do it for 1 or 2 days and I nearly lost my supply!
We then saw a sleep consultant to see if she could help us stop him from screaming every time he was tired and needing a nap or to go to bed. That’s a whole different story itself. When I explained his ties she said he definitely needs to have them looked at. She gave me a referral to an Adelaide specialist who within seconds of seeing his photos, got us the referral for the ties to be lasered the following week at the Cosmetic Dentist.
When I updated the local Lactation Consultant, she was pissed that I got the referral from elsewhere when she could have just done it and saved me the second $100 consult. I tried but I was desperate, and she didn’t help.
Finally around 12 weeks old we made the trip over to Adelaide on the plane and had his ties water lasered. It wasn’t until he was 15 or 16 weeks old that his latch had noticeably improved. We didn’t need the chiro weekly anymore, he was coming along beautifully.
We still had our major sleep woes, battling to try and get him to sleep without screaming. He didn’t nap long enough, he wouldn’t let you rock him without squirming and fighting. We had pink noise, a dark room, swaddles, temperature monitored, fed, but nothing seemed to work. We started to bottle feed a bottle of formula before bed to take the pressure off me so my partner could try battle through the screaming for me and feed him.
This did help a little bit as I think the stress made my supply plummet. Luckily at 4 months old we found the Ferber method online and by day 5 of timed check ins with a bit of crying it out, we had him going to bed without a peep and napping well – he slept 7-7 for 3 weeks straight!
In 4 months, my milk supply went through intense oversupply, to fore/hindmilk imbalance to barely being able to pump 100mls and back again. We did stick with a formula feed before bed for a month or so but I still had to pump before I could go to bed which was bothering me so I did revert back to exclusively breast feeding. This has meant he is waking once or twice a night to feed, but now that we have it down pat it does not bother me in the slightest!
Now at 7 months old, Charlie is breastfeeding strongly 4-5 times a day plus 1 or 2 overnight feeds. He only has formula if we are out/I am having a drink and its easier to do for us both. I no longer beat myself up about this and feel like he doesn’t need me.
I will still pump if we are at home and he gets a bottle replacement otherwise I just wait til his next feed and feed him until he wont take any more. He has started on solids like a champion and testing his words with great tongue movement and we haven’t needed a chiro adjustment for 3 months or so now. He has also successfully come off his reflux medication after the second attempt.
My nipples have lost a significant amount of pigment from breastfeeding and I have quite bad PTSD from the struggle we had and the amount of crying he did. When he gets really upset now it sends me into a intense hyper flight response and I panic. Luckily my partner is so cool and calm and keeps us both grounded.
I feel so lucky that through my struggles, I have not had any mastitis or clogged ducts and at the end of the day I managed to give Charlie what was best for him, as much of a struggle it was worth it! And any day from now on is just a bonus but I am sad to think, it will come to an end and I start to wonder what age he will be when we stop. I feel we have really needed all the bonding time we can get and hope he grows into the bright little boy I know him to be.