Saturday, April 27, 2013

More on Milk

If something is going well, blog about it and that should take care of things pretty quickly. I re-read my blog post about nursing at 5.5 weeks and I just want to smack me. Jinx things much Kara? This is exactly why I haven't written a word about Eleanor's improved sleeping schedule on here.

Around the 6 week mark, just as it happened with Charlie, my supply dropped significantly. I wasn't doing anything different, eating and drinking the same. I talked to my Mom and it turns out she had the same problem at 6 weeks with all 3 of us. Odd, right?

Unlike Charlie, Eleanor is not a vigorous eater and due to the reflux and that virus she caught a while back would outright refuse to nurse and scream when I tried, no matter the position. In desperation, I pumped and fed her bottles. Boy do my kids love bottles. Both of them. Bottles = awesome. It's so fun when plastic is preferred over you, don't you think?

Eventually I couldn't pump enough. Enter the formula. That was a sad day for me. I was so resolute in making it work this time, of not making the mistakes I made with Charlie and giving up too early. And supplementing with formula is such a slippery slope when you are trying to breastfeed.

To top it off, in typical Eleanor fashion, only a certain formula will do. The expensive stuff, Alimentum. We tried to switch to another and after only an ounce, she broke out in hives. Apparently this is an indicator of a milk protein allergy.

We have visited the lactation consultant often, trying to come up with different approaches to get me back to exclusively breastfeeding. Pumping schedules, herbs, tea, changes in diet, etc. I was pumping all. the. time.

However, when you have a four year old waiting for you to get done feeding the baby so you can play with him, asking him to wait while you pump right after is not popular. You also can't pump right after when you feed baby out and about on play dates and such. And the "nursing vacation" concept doesn't work  when you have an older child to take care of. So I have done as much as I can.

Here are the two most typical feedings for us:

Situation 1: Eleanor shows hunger cues or is about due to be hungry (I try to catch her early) but refuses to latch. Fussiness turns to screaming if I persist. Once she is really hungry, there is no way she will latch. So starving her into compliance backfired big time. We relent and give her a bottle. If I have pumped milk she gets that and if not, formula. I pump right after to try and make up for the feeding, but it is near impossible to trick your body like that.

Situation 2: She latches and feeds for a period of time and then starts to get fussy when the letdowns don't come fast enough. Fussiness and then screaming ensues. It's a partial feeding and when she is hungry 30 minutes later, she won't latch. So we top her off with pumped milk or formula. I pump right after the feeding but barely get anything. Again, you can't trick your body.

Many, many feedings like this and my supply could no longer sustain her. Here at 4 months we are about to hit another growth spurt and I am basically failing at feeding her myself all the time. It is beyond frustrating and disappointing.

My lactation consultant, who has offered me every suggestion she has, gently told me at our last visit that sometimes we just have to deal with what we are dealt. In other words, it was time to make peace with this situation and quit beating myself up.

So that's what I did, though I still struggle with it. The best I can do is make sure every drop I can possibly produce is fed to her. If she won't nurse, it's in bottles. I have the best luck nursing when she is half asleep, so I try to make that happen as often as possible.

I relish those times she will nurse, never knowing if it will be my last. We don't plan on having more children and so this is my last time to breast feed a baby. I anticipate a period of mourning when we are all done, but I think many women go through that.

Since I am 0 for 2 on the exclusive breastfeeding front, I watch women who can with a certain fascination. There was a mom nursing at the children's museum last week and I had to try hard not to stare. She had such a relaxed confidence as she nursed, a feeling I have never experienced. She was feeding her baby, probably thinking of other things, lightly patting him on the bum. And then they were done, not giving it a second thought, until the next time he was hungry. It was just a given he would latch, nurse and become full. Such a simple concept that brings out such complex feelings of envy in me.

I wish it was more of a comfort knowing that I have done, and continue to do, everything I can to make this work. It still hurts. I know eventually the focus of taking care of Eleanor will be on things other than feeding and the hurt will fade. But it still just sucks, you know?

I'm in a routine now with the pumping and attempting to nurse that is sustainable long-term. My goal is for my supply to not drop any more and to partially breastfeed as long as I can. Can I make it to my original goal of one year? Stay tuned. I hope so. Maybe what I can't accomplish in completeness, I can make up for in longevity.

So that's my journey so far. It's somewhat cathartic to write about it. I really can't think of another good reason to blog about it! Maybe it will help me move on.


Lindsay said...

Ugh. SO sorry to read that. In hindsight, I'm also on the "I should have just quit and not been so miserable" train. And I felt the exact same complex jealousy for easy nursers. Hugs to you and support to whatever you decide. We don't need other judgey moms in our lives.

Kirsti said...

Oh, Kara - I feel your pain!! I had problems from the very beginning and was producing almost nothing after a week. I beat myself up relentlessly, because we had to start giving formula almost immediately, and the hormone overload didn't help. I'm so sorry you're going through such a hard time. I was also so envious of those who could nurse easily, or those who had full milk supplies, but chose not to nurse for whatever reason. There are still times I feel I have done a disservice to my daughter, but at a year old, she's perfectly healthy, so I've had to just try and let those feelings go. I hope you will continue to get some milk to feed her, and that you will be able to find some peace in the situation.