But, I do miss getting my thoughts down on paper and I have about 3 minutes before Liam needs to be changed, fed, burped, or loved on so I thought I would sit down and try to get something written. I will inevitably start this and get interrupted several times so hopefully it won't be too disjointed.
This is a tough post for me to write because it's got a lot of emotion attached to it. It's going to be long too so prepare yourself.
I have wanted to breastfeed since the moment I found out I was pregnant. Before even.
I had these expectations of it just working. Sure, there would be work involved and I fully anticipated having a baby attached to my boobs 'round the clock. But I never expected what has ultimately happened.
All appeared well in the hospital. Liam latched on in the delivery room, appeared to be sucking and swallowing and while I was in a little discomfort and my nips were certainly sore, the breastfeeding thing was happening.
Fast forward to Monday night in the hospital. My mom stayed with me while Hubs went home to be with Max and get a real night's sleep. Liam was up often throughout the night and nursed for marathon sessions. The nurses didn't seem concerned, so I wasn't either. I had heard the second night was a lot more work than the first and the baby is helping to bring your milk in, so I expected to nurse a lot more. So, I fed him when he seemed hungry and again, thought all was well.
When we got home Tuesday afternoon, I was starting to suspect something wasn't quite right, but I chalked it up to new mom-ness and assumed it would be fine. By Tuesday and Wednesday nights, it was beyond apparent that my child was not getting what he needed from me. He was clearly hungry, wanted to suck on something all the time (my poor mother's knuckle was getting raw!), and the big in-your-face sign was his lack of dirty diapers. We called the pediatrician on Wednesday and they told us to try some rectal stimulation to help him poop. The nurse assumed he was constipated despite the fact I told her it was a food issue. We tried anyway and didn't have any luck with getting him to go.
On Thursday, I was in full meltdown mode. I cried most of the day and knew something had to be done immediately because my poor child was starving and I had to do something about it. We made calls to the pediatrician and the lactation consultants at the hospital. The lactation consultant recommended a meeting in the hospital, which we set up for Friday and also said I needed to start pumping after each feeding to stimulate my milk production. The pediatrician recommended we start supplementing. While I knew this recommendation was coming, it broke my heart to know that my body was failing my son. I hated everything about formula, but I knew deep down it had to be done.
On the Friday following Liam's birth (so May 10th, his original due date), we went to the pediatrician's office for Liam's first appointment. He left the hospital weighing 7 pounds, 14 ounces. By Friday, he was down to 7 pounds, 11 ounces. While the pediatrician assured us he was within the 10% loss in body weight range, he recommended we continue to supplement and then make some decisions after the appointment with the LC later that morning.
The meeting with the LC was great. She assured me that my milk was "in" but that my production was just extremely low. We talked about supplementing and the different ways it could be accomplished. Ultimately, we decided to use a curved-tip syringe at the breast to give Liam formula while we was "nursing." This would help to continue to stimulate my milk production and also allow Liam to breastfeed and get what little milk I was producing for him. After each feeding, I then had to pump with a hospital grade pump (which we rented) for 15 minutes. She also recommended that I start taking Fenugreek pills, drinking Mother's Milk tea, and talk to my OB/GYN about a prescription for Reglan which can help to increase production.
So began our saga. Each feeding beginning on that Friday afternoon, Liam got 3 ounces of formula in the syringe while nursing. After I finished feeding him, I went off into the nursery to pump. During the two overnight feedings, I would only pump while Liam got a bottle of formula. I drank the tea and took the pills and even called my doctor to start the medication. It was a grueling schedule and left little room for anything else, but I was committed to making it work.
By the time we went back to the pediatrician's office last Monday, Liam was back up to 8 pounds, 5 ounces. This was because we had been supplementing and I was under no illusion that it was because I had any more milk to offer him. I cringe thinking about what he would have been down to if we hadn't started with the formula. He also started having poopy diapers again. Seriously, Hubs and I were ecstatic when he had his first one. We literally high-fived in the nursery!
However, despite all of this intense feeding and pumping, I was getting very little milk at each session, even the ones overnight when Liam wasn't taking any milk from me. We're talking less than half an ounce from both boobs combined during those overnight sessions. It was so frustrating and made me feel so defeated.
I started to question whether this was the right decision for me. I am well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and I so desperately wanted this to work for us. But, by yesterday, I started to realize the amount of quality time I wasn't spending with my baby because I was attached to that stupid fucking pump. Fifteen minutes doesn't sound like a lot of time, but when you are doing that eight times a day and all you want to be doing is snuggling with your newborn, it starts to take its toll.
I decided to skip pumping yesterday and just focus on Liam. I still nursed and did the syringe routine, but I wasn't running off to the nursery after each feeding. I cannot begin to tell you what a difference it made in my attitude and overall feeling. I was less tired and irritable and felt more connected with Liam. I also stopped taking the meds. I don't really think they had any effect on my mental well-being, but there were all sorts of warnings about PPD and anxiety associated with the pills. It was a like a weight had been lifted.
This stupid effin machine was no longer controlling my days.
Last night, I pumped during the two overnight feedings while my mom fed Liam. I got some milk, but nothing remarkable. I just feel like my supply will never be what it should be, no matter how many times I attach myself to the nipple sucking death machine or how many pills I pop or cups of tea I force myself to drink. I am cursed with shitty mammary glands. I suppose if that is the worst thing that happens to us in this whole parenthood thing, we are some lucky mo-fos.
So, it is with a heavy heart but a clear conscience that I, after many discussions with both Hubs and my mom, decided to switch to only formula. Liam has tolerated it well and has continued to put on weight (little piggy was up to 9 pounds, 5 ounces today at the doctor!). I want breastfeeding to work, but I know that the mental toll it is taking on all of us is not worth it at this point. If I had seen some dramatic increase in my supply, I would absolutely be sticking with it. But that hasn't happened and I really don't think it ever will.
I may still breastfeed Liam on occasion (like I did today because my boobs were aching) until what measly supply I have dries up, but I know he will be okay on formula. It is not my first choice, but it is the right choice for us in the position we are in.
And just to prove my baby is still absolutely adorable and thriving...
Mommy and Liam survived some solo trips out this week too!
Liam's debut with the chalkboard is coming soon!