Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The F Word
Today, the 8th of September, marks the 55th day that I've held Chance in my arms and thanked God for giving me someone so precious. But friends, it also marks the 55th day that I have spent stressed, worried and emotional over the frustrations that I've experienced breastfeeding him.
Before I begin, let me note that I am a huge breastfeeding advocate, for all the reasons the experts say and mostly because of the closeness I feel to my child when I'm doing it. It is the most honest and most natural gift I could give him. I have had two very different journeys with my daughters. With Bella it sadly only lasted several months. Mia however, lasted 16 months being solely breast fed. The girl NEVER once took a bottle (believe me, I tried). There was something about the bottle that she didn't like so it meant that her and I were attached to each other like crazy and I loved every minute of it, as documented here.
I expected the same result with Chance and have had the HARDEST time accepting anything other than what I experienced with Mia. Here's my story....
From the moment I first nursed Chance (within hours of his delivery) he had trouble latching on to my left breast (SAME exact thing with Bella). The lactation consultant recommended that I use a nipple shield that helps to ensure a better latch. It worked for him but it was a pain in the ass for me. Seriously. It made nursing him a "production" where someone needs to hold him while I wrangle the shield in place and hope it stays on before I attach him and hope he doesn't move it out of place.....yadda, yadda, yadda. You get the picture. The problem is that using the shield sometimes slows production down.
But keep in mind I was willing to do whatever it took.
Every week I've attended a nursing group where you get your baby weighed so you can track progress. The first week was good---he gained the appropriate amount. The second week was not so good, he barely gained anything. But figured we'd give it another week. But again, he gained very little. At three weeks old he still wasn't at his birthweight! The lactation lady mentioned that I should supplement with formula. I shuddered at the F word. I just wasn't willing to do that. So I mentioned this to my OBYGYN and he wrote me a prescription for a 12 day run with--get this--an acid reflux medicine that just so happens to have a side-effect of increased milk supply. Funny, huh. Apparently this medicine increases the prolactin which creates the milk.
So, of course, I said yes--whatever it took.
The side effects of this medicine? EXTREME FATIGUE. I mean like in the middle of a conversation I would totally doze off. It was awful. (also, if taken longer than 12 days it could lead to depression. Which, um, no thanks....don't wan't that). So imagine being already exhausted from nursing 14 times a day---but add this medicine to the mix and I was a zombie! But, guess what? My milk supply was great and little boy Chance was gaining the weight he needed. After I finished the designated dosage, sadly, my supply went down again. So this time, instead of nursing him, they told me that I should nurse AND PUMP after each feeding. Do you have any idea what it takes to just nurse a child with two other kids running amok but now I have to pump as well?
One particular night, since Chance was sleeping, I decided that I would pump some milk and then give it to him in the bottle. I went to pump and got nothing. Not even an ounce! I waited an hour, drank some water and tried again. Still only an ounce. WTH? How is that possible? Sure I had a stressful weekend and I was barely sleeping----but to have no milk for your kid? I was devasted. And So I had no choice but to give him a bottle of formula. It killed me to do it---but i had to.
Whatever it took.
The next morning I called my gals at the hospital and they recommended an herbal remedy called More Milk, which is a combination of fenugreek and blessed thistle which helps production. I took that for a week while I pumped and supplemented. But still, I could only produce half of what he needed at each feeding. I pretty much stopped nursing and focused on pumping. Seeing only 2 oz. was so heartbreaking! I tried everything: eating more meats, drinking more water, having a daily beer but nothing seemed to be working.
But then I thought about Mia and how I never really knew how much she was getting because I always nursed. Maybe if I wasn't faced with "measurements," then I would feel more at ease. Maybe Chance gets more satisfaction from 30 minutes nursing than a 4 oz. three minute bottle? Or maybe he doesn't get enough from nursing? Maybe its too much of a comfort? Maybe he's tongue tied? I needed to know if it's me or if it's him. I needed to know, for real, if my milk supply was adequate. So I decided (this past week) that I would go back to nursing him for a week so that I could get an accurate reading on his weigh-in day. The good news? I got him off the shield. Yay! That made me so happy. I nursed him almost 12 times a day for 6 days. We became that perfect team. In fact, I was actually excited for the first time going to the weekly meeting. I walked in there with confidence--proud of getting him off the shield, proud of nursing him with no other supplements. Just plain proud!
Knowing that the ideal weekly weight gain is 7 ounces, I stripped him down, changed his diaper and put him on the scale.
He only gained 2 oz.
I just stared at him.
Then the lump in my throat started getting bigger and I felt every emotion that I've tried to hold back these past 55 days come rushing to me. I cried right there. Feeling exhausted, defeated, and broken I scooped him up. I heard the lactation consultant ramble off something about the F word but I wasn't paying attention. I just kept staring at him in my arms--my tears pouring down. Why is this happening? Why is the most natural thing on earth not working this time? What am I doing wrong? All of these thoughts came over me. Trying not to make a scene, I dressed him as fast as I could and left the meeting to cry more in my car.
Whatever it took.
The bottom line is this, I cannot produce enough for him. I've tried everything I can. But I can't seem to throw in the towel. I think I need to accept that getting some breast milk is better than not getting any at all. And if I need to pump and add formula, than so be it. The whole situation just leaves me so defeated.
So mom friends, and non-mom friends for that matter, am I being ridiculous? Should I continue to try? Should I willingly accept giving formula? Should I continue trying this hybrid of formula and breast milk? Should I wave the white flag and surrender to formula?
Got any magic potions to send my way?
Any advice would be appreciated......thanks!