“How I achieved exclusive breastfeeding after a tongue-tie, nipple shields, and power pumping”- My Story

“How I achieved exclusive breastfeeding after a tongue-tie, nipple shields, and power pumping”- My Story

After a frenectomy that caused her daughter to reject the breast and after going through nipple shields, mixed feeding, and power pumping, Sara managed to exclusively breastfeed her daughter. This is what she wrote us to tell her story. If you would like to send us yours, you can do so by emailing us at [email protected].

I knew my baby Paula was going to come into our lives and change it completely. However, I never imagined it would be so much. I also knew that the physical, hormonal, and psychological changes were so many that I would feel lost. But I never imagined it would be so overwhelming. I could go on telling you about each of those things that I never imagined would be so bad, taking up a lot of time. But in these lines, I want to focus on telling you what changed my life by breastfeeding Paula.

I had read and seen many things about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. The pregnancy went very well, the birth went well, and breastfeeding – well, that’s the part that got complicated. Paula was born on September 24, 2020. Already in the hospital, it was difficult for her to get a fairly good latch onto my breast. And by four days after her birth, things got worse: sore nipples, pain, I tried impossible positions. It was clear to me: she needed help. And then came what seemed to be the solution. Paula had a type 4 tongue-tie that had to be cut (known as a frenectomy).

This is what we did when Paula was six days old. And, with the (few) experiences from others I knew, in my head, I imagined myself leaving the place with the child nursing pain-free. But that was not the case. We left that room after hearing Paula cry, after seeing her nervously trying to latch for one hour, and all three of us were crying. Paula tried to latch onto the breast, but her frenectomy hurt, although many people told me it wouldn’t. She didn’t want to go through that pain and so she refused to latch onto my breast. She just didn’t want to breastfeed anymore. That’s how we started using formula milk. At this point, I could have also decided to pump and give her my milk, but I was just unable to do so. Tiredness and sadness overcame me. I just wanted to hold my baby girl in my arms and feed her and watch her enjoy it. Even though that meant that while she was feeding, I was crying. I cried with every bottle, for not having been able to endure the pain of the sore nipples, for having made Paula go through this pain “for nothing”, for not knowing how to do something “as natural” as breastfeeding.

So we started a long journey. I wanted to try breastfeeding as much as possible so that she at least was not just having formula. So I kept trying to put her onto my breast every day, almost at every feed. Her rejection was also at every feed, and many times I experienced it as a rejection towards me.

Then two weeks later, she latched on with nipple shields; what a joy! I could see a little light at the end of the tunnel. I continued to offer breastfeeding before and after every bottle, with and without a nipple shield. Sometimes she would latch on, and sometimes she would refuse. Another two weeks went by, and to my surprise, she latched on without a nipple shield! And I continued to offer her my breast. It seems that all would be solved, right? Well, no…

I had a very low milk supply. I barely managed to pump anything during those weeks and had little hope of increasing my milk supply. This was greatly influenced by the advice of an “expert” who took it almost for granted that I would never get to exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) and that mixed feeding would be mostly bottle feeding with formula.

I didn’t know what to do anymore. I had read so much, searched for options, and was so tired. I saw several professionals, and the days passed with too much fatigue and too much guilt. Under these circumstances, I found a postnatal group with wonderful women. I mentioned my intention to try power pumping, and they encouraged me. Some of them had done it before. These wonderful women along with my wonderful partner made me go for the last hurdle: 48 hours of hourly pumping with a professional breast pump that I rented. 48 hours with almost no sleep, with the little one at my breast or bottle when she asked for it, on my last leg.

It had been almost eight weeks since Paula’s birth, and although I told myself that I was going to try it for two or three weeks and if it didn’t work, I would give her mixed feeding or formula, I was still trying. And then Paula gave us a big surprise and a big lesson. After the power pumping, she started to have less formula, and, little by little and days later, she refused the bottle in all the feeds I offered her.

Phew! After so much struggle and suffering, finally peace of mind, right? Well, no. This was the start of many weeks of “Is she eating enough?”, “I can’t possibly have that much milk if I don’t leak milk when she cries or when I see her!”, “I can’t have that much milk as I only have ‘normal’ breasts”, “she is starving because of my stubbornness about achieving exclusive breastfeeding”, and “She surely isn’t gaining enough weight.” For three or four weeks, I would offer her a bottle four, five, or even six times a day. She always said no.

And so we continued for 9 weeks. Paula is now four months old, and we have spent more time exclusively breastfeeding than mixed and/or formula feeding. Of course, there are still many worries, fears, and uncertainties. Dreading the scale and the next pediatrician’s appointment. And then we still have way to go because Paula’s sucking motions are not good, and little by little, with exercises and her own growth, it seems to be getting better.

I don’t know how long our exclusive breastfeeding will last. It could be days, weeks, or a few or many months. I know this process has taught me so many things about Paula, my partner, and myself. And I have done the best I could with the tools and knowledge I had available.

Wanting to exclusively breastfeed but then finding it complicated is more common than it seems. And it hurts. At many points, I felt guilt (I still do), cried, and was overwhelmed. I heard a lot of advice saying, “Just give her formula, and she’ll grow up just as well,” but that was not what I wanted! I also had to answer many times: “Why do you give her formula if breastfeeding is much better?” And then I didn’t know where to start to explain and how to do it without crying.

Today I am more relaxed. From all this time, I will treasure the most the memory of my baby smiling while I was giving her a bottle or while I was breastfeeding her. All these weeks have confirmed that “mommy has to be well for the baby to be well.” Although I know it is much easier said than felt and practiced.

Throughout all this time, I did have a supportive environment. A partner who has been with me in every decision, who has done everything in his power. There have also been many professionals that I have counted on, and I want to say thanks to each and every one of them. Thanks also to my postnatal group. I know that without all these people, nothing of this would have been possible, and I know now how necessary it is to have help!

I want to send a hug to every mother, those who have had many hurdles, those who have had some, and those who have had none. We all have experienced unspeakable changes. We are all getting to know ourselves again. You are, and we are, the best mothers our babies can have.

And to my daughter, Paula, you are a brave, fierce, and resilient little girl. You have proved this to me in only four months; what else will you be able to prove to me in all the years to come? Your parents are very lucky to have you. We love you.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *