I wrote the below when I was really upset about my breastfeeding latch problems after everything I did to make breastfeeding happen. I felt defeated and devastated that my baby didn’t want me. I realized that having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) may have made breastfeeding more challenging. Read to the end to see how I feel now and what I realize that I did wrong.
I read the books, watched the YouTube videos and talked to anyone who had experience breastfeeding. I even went to a Le Leche meeting while I was still pregnant. Despite my mother telling me that I won’t have any milk, I shrugged her off and convinced myself that it would be a piece of cake because of the book I read, plus everyone does it and it’s “natural” so it should be easy. Well, it isn’t.
What I didn’t realize was how much having PCOS would make breastfeeding more difficult.
Skin-to-Skin After Labour Didn’t Work
I laboured for over 30 hours at home. When he finally came out, he wouldn’t latch despite being skin-to-skin for over an hour. We let him sleep a little while and tried again, but he still wouldn’t latch. I went to the hospital breastfeeding class a few hours after giving birth but not even the consultant could get him to latch. She made a comment that my nipples were very small but didn’t recommend that I try a nipple shield as I finally got him to latch by the end of the hour.
Eventually, I got him to latch a few times that day but it wasn’t enough because I didn’t realize how many times I should have latched him that day. He seemed to just want to sleep. The next day I was told that he was jaundiced. Something that I never considered would happen and this was just the beginning of our breastfeeding problems.
Instead of going home the next day, I was stuck at the hospital for 5 whole days while my baby was stuck under a blue light and I was forced to bottle-feed him. I was beyond depressed, stressed and exhausted. Day after day I was stuck there, while other moms who had given birth after I had were going home.
Every day, I hoped he would be better that day so that we could go home. Every day the nurse would prick the sole of his foot to squeeze the blood out for testing, then I would wait and wait for the results and they would come back to tell me that I was staying another day, at least. It was depressing. Finally, on the 5th night, we were allowed to go home.
I made an appointment to see a lactation consultant one-on-one in the hospital and we made a plan to finger-feed formula while I worked on increasing my supply to then transition to latching. Finger feeding plus pumping every 2-3 hours was a lot of work, especially with little sleep but it worked just over a week later. He latched and I thought all would finally be well.
Well, it wasn’t. At first, he would feed for 40 minutes on each side. I also pumped so that I could have extra. I just counted the days because the book I had said that after the first 40 days that things would get much easier. It was a lie. It never got easier. Buy this book with caution because it is the reason I thought breastfeeding would be easy peasy: Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers
Not Gaining Weight
From 3 to 4 months, Harry was not gaining weight and I was really worried. He kept crying and not wanting to latch. I gave him an expressed-milk bottle at night and it was the only time he was happy. After 4 months I started adding formula to his bottle because he was still and I just wasn’t producing enough, then I gave him a second bottle at night. I still breastfed all day but he was only happy at night.
I was so committed to breastfeeding and wanted to do it for at least a year but now I was finding it hard to make it to 6 months. My baby was unhappy and it’s my fault. I should have never given him a bottle, but then I would’ve never been able to sleep.
The doctor told me to give him cereal after 4 months. Now with the cereal and formula at night, he has gained 1.5 lbs in 3 weeks! This is still with breastfeeding all day.
Instead of bonding with my baby, I feel like we are both unhappy with breastfeeding and I find myself questioning if I should switch entirely to bottles and food. I just can’t enjoy my baby and motherhood with my baby crying and pulling away from me every time I try to feed him. It’s draining.
A week after he turned 4 months, I couldn’t take it anymore. I started pumping exclusively and saw that I was not producing enough so I had to supplement with formula. My supply continued to go down until I was pumping 6-7 times per day and could barely pump 6 ounces. Then I decided to quit. Pumping hurts and at that rate it was no longer worth it for me. Another mom told me, “Well, at least you breastfed for 4 months so he got the benefit of it for 4 whole months. Some moms can’t do it at all.” That made me feel a whole lot better.
My baby is now happy, growing, and fed, which is what matters.
How PCOS Affects Breastfeeding
After thinking about that initial comment from the lactation consultant about my small nipples, I wondered if PCOS could be the cause. I did some research and found out that PCOS does cause it and could also interfere with milk production.
So not only does PCOS burden women with a host of body issues and infertility, it could also make it harder to breastfeed your baby.
What is important to know is that while it may be harder for some, it is super important especially for those with PCOS that we breastfeed because it may help to prevent certain types of cancer, such as breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer.
So if you have PCOS and want to breastfeed, know that it may be harder to do, but it is worth it to try and if you have any issues, seek help from a lactation consultant right away.
What I Did Wrong
I was so upset that I could not breastfeed longer as I had hoped, but even after all the time spent trying, and all the tears, I would do it all over again. In fact, for our next child, I am going to try harder to get to 6+ months and seek help earlier if things are not going well.
My milk cured little scratches on his face, and even more amazingly, it cured an eye infection without antibiotics. It really is liquid gold.
For my next baby, I know that I will do the following differently:
- If skin-to-skin does not work after labour, set a timer and try again in 2 hours.
- Set timers so that every 2-3 hours, I am latching the baby.
- If I think I am not producing enough, start taking Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek right away.
- Have a lactation consultant closer to where I live or one that does house calls, just in case I need one.
- Seek help from the International Breastfeeding Centre
- As the book I have says, no pumping for the first 40 days to set the supply according to baby’s needs.
- Read Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide To Breastfeeding
- If I do have to pump for some reason, bottles will only be given to the baby by my husband or someone else but never myself.
- Consider switching my Medela Pump In Style Double Electric Breast Pump (Tote Bag) to the Medela Pump In Style Double Electric Breast Pump (Backpack) so that I could walk around and do things like washing dishes while pumping instead of sitting all the time.
- Buy that expensive nursing bra I saw at The Baby Show in Toronto that was made exclusively to support larger breasts. I regret cheaping out on that one.
- Be more prepared with food as I feel that I was not eating enough which led to a lower milk supply. Stock up on peanut/almond butter, frozen meals, and soups to get the nutrients I need.
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