Breastfeeding Stories: They said the Latch was Fine
courtesy of Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog
Tanya at Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: A warning that this story may be hard to read. It's about overcoming huge obstacles, and illustrates how badly we need better breastfeeding support in our hospitals. If you are expecting your first baby, please know that this is not what is supposed to happen.
This story was given to me as part of a story-gathering project that we did for an event co-sponsored by our local Moms Rising group. The goal of the event was to advocate for better breastfeeding support in our local hospitals. The names have been changed and hospital names omitted.
My son William, was born on a Friday morning. Soon after, maybe an hour or so, a nurse helped me breastfeed for the first time. She helped me get William latched on and checked to see if he was swallowing. It was pretty uncomfortable for me and I told her this. She looked at the latch and asked what my pain level was. Compared to the labor I had just gone through, it was minimal. She said it was probably just something I needed to get used to.
I nursed William throughout the day. It continued to be uncomfortable, but William had spit up a bit between feedings, so the nurses felt that this was a good sign that he was getting food. When I asked for help, the nurses would check the latch and say it looked good and again told me I just needed to get used to the feeling.
On Saturday, William was circumcised. They gave him cherry flavored (red-hued) Tylenol to help with the pain. Nursing continued to be uncomfortable and was getting more painful. I told the nurses this and they again checked the latch and said it was fine. William continued to spit up, more than he had the day before. Sometimes his spit up would have a reddish hue. The nurses said this was probably due to the Tylenol. My nipples were visibly cracked at this point. The nurses suggested trying a different position, so William wouldn't be sucking in the same spot, therefore giving my nipples a chance to heal. I asked to see the Lactation Consultant. She wouldn't be in until the next day.
On Sunday, the day we were supposed to leave, I continued to have pain when William nursed. My nipples were bleeding after each feeding. William was spitting up more and sometimes it was reddish. The nurses continued to say it was good to know he was eating, that he was a hungry and vigorous nurser, the reddish hue was just the Tylenol (despite the fact that he hadn't had a dose in hours), and that I must just have sensitive skin because when they watched William nurse, it looked fine. Maybe I should watch the video about breastfeeding that was programmed into the TV. I did. I asked again to see the Lactation Consultant. She came a couple hours later, when William was sleeping. I told her what was happening and showed her my nipples. She gave me some Lanolin cream and said to wait until William opened his mouth really wide before I latched him on.
We were packed up and almost ready to leave. We decided to feed William one more time. This time after feeding on one side, he spit up a little of what was clearly blood. We called for a nurse. She said it was just a tiny bit and probably fine. William fed from the other side and almost immediately spit up a lot of blood. The nurse, who was still with us, went quickly to get a doctor. We filled the doctor in on what had been happening. He decided to put a tube down into William's stomach and pull out the contents to see if there was more blood. They could tell there was some digested blood, so they took an ultra sound to see if they could see any abnormalities in his stomach, which they didn't. They thought that maybe the blood was actually mine since he was drawing blood when he was nursing. The pediatrician wanted to run more tests to try to determine if it was my blood or his blood (if it was his blood then they were worried he could have a stomach ulcer), but the lab was not equipped to run the tests, so the pediatrician wanted him transferred to a bigger hospital. The pediatrician also did not want me to nurse him any more, in case the blood was from me (he thought the reason William was spitting up so much was most likely because the blood he was ingesting was causing his stomach to get upset). They started him on an IV of glucose to make sure he was getting nourishment while we waited to transfer to the other hospital. The pediatrician also suggested we may want to give him some formula. I said that I would prefer not to. A new nurse, who we hadn't seen before, came and helped me pump, so that when they said William could eat again, they could use my milk instead of formula. She was great – very helpful and reassuring. I wished she had been there in the days leading up to this.
After being transferred and waiting at the bigger hospital, the doctor there said that she thought since there had been no fresh blood since I had stopped nursing, that the blood was most likely from me, but they had him on antibiotics just in case and had to keep him for observation and do various blood tests and vital sign checks for at least 48 hours. They still did not want me to feed him, so a nurse got me set up in a little room made for pumping. That night, they set my husband and I up in a make-shift room in the NICU, and the nurse came and knocked on the door every few hours to wake me up to pump, so that my supply would build up.
The next day the doctor told us that since there was no more fresh blood, we could try feeding later in the afternoon, but only with a lactation consultant there who could make sure I and William were doing it right. So, the time finally came and a lactation consultant worked with us for two hours. She was absolutely wonderful. Before she even saw William try to feed, she said she was 99% sure the blood was from me because of how much my nipples were scabbed over, cracked and bleeding. Then she had William suck on her finger and said that his tongue wasn't properly latching onto her and he was using his jaw to compensate, hence why he was drawing blood from me. She said he had an extra membrane on his tongue (called being "tongue tied") that was interfering with feeding. She wanted to work with me before she would let me feed William. She taught me how to express some milk before trying to feed William so that he would be able to get more of the nipple in his mouth. She also helped me pump after he ate to help with the engorgement. She showed me how to massage my breast so that the milk ducts would not become plugged. Then, with her help, I finally nursed William and for once it didn't hurt! Throughout the day, every time I nursed they dropped the amount of glucose they were giving him and finally by Tuesday morning he was only nursing.
Another lactation consultant, came to see how we were doing on Tuesday. She gave me a prescription cream to use on my nipples for a week to help them heal faster. She also gave me nipple shells to use in between feedings to let some air get to my nipples, which would help them heal faster as well. She also gave me a nipple shield to use when nursing if it got too painful. The shield would also help William latch on. She recommended we see a pediatric surgeon to have William's tongue tie clipped. She gave me her email and phone number to contact her if needed once we got home.
We finally got to go home on Wednesday morning. William was down to 8 lbs. 2 oz. We saw our pediatrician on Friday and got William's tongue clipped the following Tuesday. It was a little easier to nurse after that. My nipples had almost completely healed from the prescription cream. I did end up going to see a local lactation consultant for more breastfeeding help. It got easier and easier to breastfeed. It took 3 weeks for William to get back up to his birth weight, but since then he's been growing steadily and I'm still nursing him, almost one year later.
Besides learning how to breastfeed, the most important thing I learned from this situation was that I should have trusted my instincts more. I really felt like something was wrong, but I was not persistent enough when I spoke with the nurses/doctors. I thought since I was a new parent, I was just being paranoid. Maybe if I trusted myself more, much of this situation could have been resolved more quickly.
Read more breastfeeding stories