Alex shares how her birth story with third child Ruby impacted their feeding journey, and why supplementing was the best decision to ensure her daughter thrived.
Ruby’s Birth & the NICU
Ruby was in the NICU because she had intrauterine growth restriction during my pregnancy which can be caused by various things. I still don't really know why it happened with her. Most likely because my last two pregnancies were so back-to-back that my body may not have been fully ready to be pregnant again.
Ruby wasn't born pre-term; she was born at 38 weeks. The doctors felt like my placenta was failing, so they wanted to induce me a little bit earlier rather than letting me go into labor on my own. Which was a decision that I made with them, knowing that it was best for us and to keep her as safe as possible.
When she was born, her blood sugars were really low, and she had hypothermia. So, she couldn't control her own body temperature. They took her to the NICU pretty much immediately after she was born. That was really hard, because even though she was my third, it was my first time experiencing anything like that.
The Feeding Journey with Ruby
Ruby was actually my only baby with zero latching issues. However, since she was in the NICU, I didn't get to breastfeed as much as I would have liked to. I was going back and forth to the NICU to feed her during the pandemic with two other kids at home. And due to her intrauterine growth restriction, she was very small. So, I had already made up my mind that I was just going to give her whatever I needed to give her, to make sure that she was thriving outside of my body.
I had already made up my mind that I was just going to give her whatever I needed to give her, to make sure that she was thriving outside of my body.
I knew that I wanted to breastfeed her, but I also knew that I just wanted her to get what she needed to grow. Once she came home from the NICU, it was a routine of breastfeeding and then giving her a bottle right afterward to ensure that she was getting enough. And in the end, that messed with my supply. And at four months, she just recently weaned. But starting off, nursing her was much easier than with my older children. I'm not sure if that's because she was my third and I'm more experienced, or if it was just because I had already made the decision to supplement.
Making the Decision to Supplement
With my other two children, I always started out strictly breastfeeding, but it seemed like they weren't getting enough from me. They never were satisfied. I was nursing on demand, all the time, and they were both really big babies – almost 10lbs. when they were born.
It's hard because you're always wondering if the baby's getting enough and you don't really know.
Of course, breastfeeding is supply and demand, so the more you do it, the more you're going to produce. But it's hard because you're always wondering if the baby's getting enough and you don't really know. Even after nursing all the time, they constantly showed signs of being unsatisfied. So, after a while, I started supplementing with formula, so they weren't so hungry.
I also have hypothyroidism, which can be linked to low supply. I didn't know that until I got pregnant with Ruby. So, I tried to take supplements and enhancements and tried to drink a ton of water. I was the most hydrated person when I was pregnant, but I did not drink enough water while breastfeeding. So that affects your supply a lot too. But, it was definitely a struggle.
With each of my kids, I've wanted to nurse for longer than I was able to, but I've had to make peace with it. I felt guilty and sad about it, but I also know that it wasn’t working for us, and I did everything in my power each time to make it work. And at the end of the day, what made each of my kids satisfied was some formula. I just had to be okay with it, even though it wasn't what I initially thought I was going to do.
Advice for the Journey
We have to make the best decisions that we're comfortable with for our family and our own motherhood journey. You have to listen to your intuition and follow what you feel is best for you. I know it's hard. I think I personally have extra mom guilt because I am a Doula. I support other birthing families, and I want them to have all the information, and all the information says that “breast is best” - and it is. But in my own experience, it hasn't always been the easiest journey. So, you just have a focus on knowing that you’re doing what's best for yourself and your children.