the other day, I was out to lunch with my new group of mom friends (friends I made with local mamas due within the same few weeks as me) and I was lamenting about my nursing experience thus far. I was saying how discouraging it has been. Roma has been troublesome to nurse, mainly because she can’t seem to keep her latch and she keeps breaking it while nursing, causing her to take in a lot of air and then spit up… a lot!
I knew going into it that every baby is different. however, I thought, given that I had 16 months of nursing experience under my belt, that it wouldn’t be that hard to adjust. I figured, “oh, I know how to do this!” and then, as I was talking to my friends, it hit me: this isn’t my first time nursing, but it’s my baby’s first time nursing. it’s not Roma’s fault or my fault, we’re doing this together and it’s her first time, so I need to learn with her. after saying that aloud (that it’s Roma’s first time nursing), I felt immediately better. her and I are learning together, and I’m not a failure because I can’t get her to nurse perfectly right away – this is ALL new to her.
when Roma was first born, I was so excited that, right after giving birth, she went straight for the boob! she latched right on, but it wasn’t the best latch – it was pretty shallow. however, I was in such a post-birth blissful state, I didn’t really pay attention to that, I just let her do her thing. so, for the first 3 or 4 days, I had pretty sore nipples, with a little bit of cracking/bleeding on one of them.
once I got home from the hospital, I immediately got my milk in (on day 3 postpartum) and was instantly engorged. I started focusing on the latch, but I was so engorged, that was hard to do. after pumping out the milk to relieve the engorgement and focusing on bettering the latch (using all that I knew from nursing Luca all those months), she latched better and my sore nipples immediately went away, but she still kept breaking the latch, resulting in a lot of clicking and it caused her to gag and choke from the milk flowing in too quickly and forcefully. she couldn’t handle the forceful letdown and oversupply that I had, especially because she had a mild tongue tie and her tongue couldn’t extend fully to accommodate the milk. it was so scary, her little body gasping for air.
aside from the gagging and choking, she takes in all this extra air and spits up a lot and gets the hiccups easily. plus, she gets fussy easily, because she often has painful gas to pass or a burp/spit up she needs to make. at night, this is sometimes really bad and she’s up for hours grunting, trying to pass gas. usually, we can soothe her to sleep but rocking her and I think this just distracts her from her stomach pains. we’ve tried gripe water and that seems to work during the day, but not so much at night. gripe water is a savior for the hiccups though in the middle of the night, it clears them up right away 90% of the time for us!
oversupply and overactive letdown
to help combat the oversupply and overactive letdown issue, I started nursing Roma leaned back (sometimes totally leaned back, if it’s first thing in the morning and I’m super full.) this has really helped, because she has to work against gravity to extract the milk and it doesn’t just spray down her throat! I find that she doesn’t click as much (her little tongue doesn’t have to work as hard) and the spitup is much less or doesn’t happen at all. however, when I’m out, it’s pretty hard to do this, so nursing out of the house is still a struggle.
as for the overactive letdown, my LC suggested hand expressing a bit to get the letdown out, but I just don’t have that time usually and I just don’t want to add all these additional steps and then not be able to leave my nursing spot. plus, having a toddler and not having the luxury of being able to time things like that, it just didn’t seem like a logistical option for me. however, what I will do, is use the Haaka pump on one boob while I’m nursing Roma on the other, so that when she latches on to the other boob, the letdown will be caught and the milk will flow more slowly. however, Roma rarely nurses on two breasts, so now I just have a little freezer stash (I get 1.5-3oz per boob per Haaka session) and Luca drinks the rest, if he’s around.
after our first visit to the pediatrician, she said Roma has a mild tongue tie and gave me a referral to see an ENT who can perform a snip of the tongue tie. I never did this with Luca and as a result, I suffered through 10 months of spitup hell. this time, I thought, let me go to this consultation and perhaps snipping the tongue tie will clear this all up. so, in I went, got Roma’s tongue tie snipped and she immediately latched on, opened her mouth nice and wide, and we had a great nursing session. she didn’t gag at all (she actually hasn’t gagged/choked at all since the procedure still) click much at all (maybe once) and didn’t spit up. I had to do some exercises at home with her tongue and other than that, it should be solved! right?
not right. the next day, it was almost like everything had gone back “to normal” and she was clicking away again. so, I had my old lactation consultant from Luca come and take a look a little less than a week later. she saw that the tongue tie was closing up again (I wasn’t pressing firmly enough during the tongue exercises) and so she reopened it a bit and we had a consultation. Roma was nursing well, actually took in 5oz on one breast, which is crazy (newborns usually take in 1.5-3oz per nursing session.) she helped remind me of a few techniques to keep in mind while nursing, which help with keeping her latch but what she told me was, PT is important. just like after breaking a leg, you need to do some sort of PT to reteach the muscles. a tongue is a muscle and it needs PT after the tie is snipped, so little Roma can relearn how to use it.
keeping positive and moving forward
so, my next stage is the PT. I have my first appointment tomorrow, and I’m very curious to see what the therapist has to say. the pediatrician and my lactation consultant said that Roma is very stiff, which can certainly affect breastfeeding, so I’m hoping to see improvement after a few sessions with PT.
to be honest, I texted a mom friend the other day and said, “I just feel like throwing in the towel.” she kindly reminded me that a) Roma is only 4.5 weeks old and is still learning, b) she’s growing at an above average rate for the breastfed baby so we’re doing great, and c) I’m lucky to be able to have a milk supply and not struggle with issues that I can’t control.
we’re so tough on ourselves (especially as mothers) to be perfect. to be perfect in all aspects of our lives, especially the ones we have no or little control over. when we don’t meet our lofty expectations of ourselves, we’re disappointed, discouraged, and start questioning our own worth. I’m trying to focus on the positives with nursing Roma, like that she’s growing well (she’s in the 86th percentile for weight, which is very rare for exclusively breastfed babies!) and I’m able to bond with her in the most special way.
I will keep you posted in this journey and I remember having the exact same struggles with Luca and it took 3-4 months for us to find our groove. I’m hoping this happens sooner with Roma and I, but I’m just taking it one day at a time. some days, she barely spits up and she nurses beautifully. on other days, we can’t get out of the house because she latches poorly and spits up endlessly. cheers to doing our best as mamas and taking it day by day!
here are my favorite products that have made my nursing experience better that I recommend:
1. spectra 1 breast pump: I had the spectra 2 with Luca, but it wasn’t rechargeable, so I had to always be tethered to an outlet. the s1 is rechargeable, so it’s nice that I can move with it, especially with a toddler, sometimes I have to jump up quick!
2. nursing bra: I love the Kindred Bravely bra the most, but I also have Bravado Designs bras that I use as well. the Kindred Bravely bras are much better quality and more comfortable!
3. pumping bra: this is my go-to pumping bra and sometimes I wear it all day, if I know I’ll be out and have to pump (it is also a nursing bra.) it’s the best I’ve found to accommodate large busts and be hands free!
4. nursing tanks: I live in these, they’re so comfortable and I find that they offer decent support! with a little cardigan over (or a cropped sweater), they’re a bit less cleavage-y!
5. haaka pump: I talked about this above, but it’s great for catching your letdown which would have been otherwise wasted!
6. lansinoh milk storage bags: when I do pump, I pour the milk right into these bags and store them in the below container.
7. milk storage containers for the freezer: an easy way to store your breastmilk that’s compact and fits in even if the smallest of freezers.
8. burp bibs: if you have a big spit up baby, these burb bibs are awesome, they go all down your shoulder and chest, to catch the biggest of spitups.
9. gripe water: for fussiness, especially the hiccups – it works wonders for us.
10. gel soothie pads: for the beginning, if you suffer from chapped nipples, these are incredibly soothing! they have a cooling effect and stick right on your nipples.
11. bamboo reusable nursing pads: so you don’t soak through your shirts, these reusable nursing pads are soft and come in a cute little pouch, so you can toss them in your diaper bag easily.
12. boob design tanks: more so that the traditional nursing tank (withe the clasp like a nursing bra), I LOVE these Boob Design tanks, I own them in almost every single color! it’s easy access for nursing and they fit snug so they can be layered under sweaters in the colder temps.
hope this post was helpful for many! let me know if you have any questions in the comments, and I’m happy to answer them as best that I can!