My first meeting with a La Leche League leader was reassuring and overwhelming at the same time. By the time she arrived I was a crying sleep deprived mess. Grandma tried to sit with us, which only made things worse. So I asked her to go on a walk and call M, who was picking up another set of grandparents, and make sure they would not come while she was here. Finally we could get down to business.
Baby Boy's refusal to latch at the breast despite repositioning and an experienced hand led us to a devastating (yet not totally surprising) diagnosis: nipple confusion. Our remedy was going to be a long and hard road ahead. I would pump and then feed the baby with a 1 ml syringe. Every session, I would try to put him at the breast, give a little syringe, and let him suck on my pinky finger to practice the sucking motion. I would need to try to "trick" him by quickly removing my pinky and trying to put him at the breast. Upon refusal, he would get more syringe, since the most important thing was that he eat.
This charade would go on for an hour at every feeding time for week. Little by little he would be willing to go to the breast for a suck or two, but since we wasn't latching correctly yet, he wouldn't really get much milk, and would get frustrated and cry. Did I mention the crying? Every feeding was a cry-fest, and the more he cried the more I wanted to as well. So we had the lactation consultant come again.
This time we had something to work with, because at least he was recognizing the breast as the place to get milk. We did some repositioning, got some more encouragement, and without the imposition of house guests M and I together got to focus on the plan for the next week. Our session ended with Baby Boy at the breast for about 10 minutes- it felt like forever and was quite wonderful. We were also advised to let him get hungry enough that he would request food and that was one of the key factors we kept in mind the next week.
It was another full week of syringe feeding and "playing around" at the breast, until one day, we had a breakthrough. He stayed on the breast for significantly longer, and within 72 hours was feeding almost solely directly from the breast. I should note though, that at this point, he needed to be re-latched on multiple times throughout the feedings, but at least things were looking up.