Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My biggest breastfeeding mistake

I had read up a lot about breastfeeding to prepare myself and some of the words that were ingrained in my mind were....

Breastfed babies do not need water.

Breastfeeding works on a demand and supply basis so don't feed baby with formula milk as that will decrease babies demand for breastmilk.

I had breastfeeding problems from Day One. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get baby to latch on. And no matter how much I pumped, most of the time I could only get 1/2 and ounce.

Despite this, I denied my baby water and formula milk because I was afraid, so very afraid that giving baby formula milk and other liquids will sabotage my breastfeeding efforts. I was adamant. No! No water and no formula for my baby.

I was blind to the fact that baby was not getting enough. I was starving my poor baby. She lost 25% of her birth weight during the first 2 weeks which is a scary thing. Her lips were dry and cracked. Looking back at her early weeks pictures now, I see a haggard looking baby with sunken cheeks whereas she was quite a big baby at birth.

What a stupid thing I did. She could easily have more problems from dehydration (fortunately she did not) due to my determination to breastfeed her.

To all new breastfeeding mothers, I have to this to say. Don't be afraid to relax a little and give your babies a little bit of formula if it is necessary. Your breastfeeding efforts will not be derailed. Your breastfeeding efforts will not fail if you don't give up. Don't give up your goal of fully breastfeeding your baby and you will succeed in the end. A little bit of formula along the way may sometimes be necessary. Just don't give up. You may perhaps need to give mixed feeds at first but little by little you will get your baby to take full breastfeeds. Don't give up! You will succeed in the end. And don't deprive your baby of proper nourishment if they're not getting enough breastmilk for the time being.

To check if your baby is having enough, you have to check how often she wets her diapers. You can read this article from : What Are Baby's Stools Supposed to Look Like and How Often Should Baby Wet? by Paula Yount. I got the link from kellymom which is an excellent resource for breastfeeding mothers.

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  1. Thanks for the reminder. It's like a 'refresher' note to me since I will be breastfeeding again in just 1.5 months' time.

  2. health freak mommy,
    Haha. Yes, each time is different and you wonder how it will go. Good luck to you.

  3. My son lost two pounds in five days after birth because my milk did not come in. I, also, refused to use formula or water, and I had a screaming, angry newborn for five days. Thank you for your reassurance that next time can be different.

  4. If baby is not getting enough or has a poor latch, try asking a lactation consultant for assistance within the first 4 days. There are all sorts of tools and tricks for the newborn. Often a "little bit of formula" can really decrease supply, because baby isn't as hungry and doesn't stimulate milk supply.

    The amount you pump is vastly different than the amount a baby gets, due to the different action a baby's mouth has upon the nipple (as compared to a pump). I had a milk oversupply, but never could get much milk out by electric pump.

  5. In my case, I had a midwife, a lactation consultant and the local LLL leader giving me advice, and still no milk for FIVE DAYS!! argh. Sometimes all the advice in the world isn't enough.

  6. marisa,
    I had a screaming angry newborn for weeks!

    I really feel sorry for my baby when I look at her newborn pictures now. They look shockingly haggard, her cheeks were sunken and her lips dry and peeling whereas she was a plump at birth. A little formulae WHEN IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY will not derail us off our breastfeeding journey not when we have set our hearts into it and try our very best.

    I am sorry but it was reading statements like yours that made me deny my baby of the nutrition she needed in the early days. I am talking about extreme breastfeeding difficulties as in my case not those that takes 5 days etc. It was no easier for my second baby. He only learned to latch on at exactly 2 months and 1 day. I did not feed him any formula. My pumping was more effective for the 2nd child. I could pump up to 9 ounces after working very hard at it, ie pumping every 2 to 3 hours regularly so I could feed him with pumped breast milk from a cup. I went on to breastfeed him up to 3 years old without a single bottle or spoon of formula. But with my first child it was even harder. And despite my only pumping 1/2 - 1 once each time and she couldn't latch on, I did not feed her anything else and almost starved her. That is a very dangerous thing to do. I am talking about WHEN IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, then you need to give a little formula and not beat yourself up over it or think that that is the end of your breastfeeding journey. So long as you don't give up you will succeed eventually as I did with my second baby. I tried many tools and tricks too as taught to me by my lactation consultant but they did not work. Eventually, it was the LC (who was also a paed) who was very passionate about breastfeeding who suggested to me to give her some formula but I resisted for a long time. I don't think she would have suggested it to me if she didn't think it was necessary.

    marisa again,
    It is funny isn't it, what seems like a perfectly natural thing in the world could feel so unnatural and difficult until you get it right.


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