Monday, January 12, 2009

Love/Hate Relationship with Breastfeeding

I would say I am having a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding - and I'm pretty darn sick of it! I kind of thought after having challenges getting pregnant, and then struggling through the pregnancy with morning sickness, UTIs and pre-term contractions, that once Micah was here things would get easier. Naturally, that just wasn't the case. We had all those eating issues the first week. Then, once we got the issues under control and he started gaining weight, I figured it would be smooth sailing from there, right? Wrong again! Micah caught a cold last week, and we've been on this eating spiral ever since.

Last night, I thought everything was actually back to "normal" and okay. I figured he had been eating every 3 1/2 hours all day, and nursing for a relatively "normal" amount of time for us (20-40 minutes a side) and then falling easily back to sleep or staying contentedly awake for a bit before dozing off. No cluster feeding, and then we put him down at 1:30 or 2 and he slept until 6 am. We couldn't believe how great things were going!

Before things normalized yesterday, I was still worrying about whether Micah was eating enough or gaining enough weight and if my milk supply was sufficient. I called an LC and was invited to join a semi-private class this morning. I gave a non-committal "maybe" thinking it depended on whether Micah slept or cluster-fed or what time his morning feed was. Since he woke up at 6 and the class started at 10, I actually figured that it might be pretty decent timing. I fed him from 6 - 7:30 (he fell asleep a few times, and we changed his diaper and his outfit) and I put him back down. At 9:30 when I picked him up, he was still out cold - I figured I had enough time to get to class to feed him, so off I went!

I was feeling pretty confident when I got to class. I was mostly interested in working on latching without the nipple shield and seeing if we were using the nipple shield correctly. I have to say, I was a bit horrified by the LC. She was incredibly scattered, and much of her advice seemed to contradict all the other LCs I've consulted thus far. And her 2 year old daughter . . . well, there is just no way to say this nicely, but she was OBESE. I mean I'd guess she weighed over 50 lbs. She had 3 or 4 chins, and her waist was bigger than mine . . . probably even when I was 9 months pregnant. This poor child could barely walk normally. And she spent the ENTIRE time we were there eating! She drank 3 8 oz glasses of chocolate milk (mind you, I was there for 1 1/2 hours), and then nursed for 20 minutes, then had some crackers, and then ate a sandwich. I had a hard time taking bf'ing advice from a woman who allowed her child to get that obese (yes, I'm passing judgment - I have no idea what is going on there, but I think an overweight child should not be consuming that much sugar and chocolate).

So after I got there, we set Micah up, and she weighed him, and we tried to get him to latch/nurse without the shield. He did for a bit, but then he was getting hungry and frustrated so I put the shield on. The LC suggested I try a smaller shield, and she gave it to me and just placed it over the nipple. When I asked her about proper attachment, she said she doesn't bother with any of that. I was a bit surprised, but decided to set aside what other LCs had taught me and try and trust this woman and her methods.

She said he was nursing well at first, but then later she urged me to switch sides, then said he was nursing too long and thought he wasn't taking much in. We weighed him after he'd been nursing for about 45 minutes or so, and he had consumed about 1.3 ozs. Not bad, but definitely not enough. I kind of lost it - this whole process has been so frustrating, and I just don't know what to do next. I really think he was doing fine before he got sick, but now I'm not even sure of that.

I noticed that my nipple didn't seem to be fitting as well in this shield as it did in the other ones, and I decided that perhaps the nipple shield was interfering with how he was nursing. I put my own shield back on, and re-latched Micah. He ate again for a while, and started to doze off. She re-weighed him, and in a shocked voice informed me he had eaten another .9 ozs - so 2.2 ozs total for the feed (about where he needed to be). Her concern was that it took him over 1 hour to get that much, and she felt my supply might be a bit low.

I was pretty upset at this point. I knew we'd been having issues, but it just sucks hearing it. And the options don't thrill me. I can either supplement with formula (which will do nothing to increase my supply, and because I'm allergic to coconut oil, giving Micah formula and trying to nurse gives me horrible rashes). Or, I can go back to pumping every 3 hours - another thought that depresses me a bit. There is also no guarantee that pumping every 3 hours will increase my supply, either - or help Micah nurse more efficiently.

So, I'm stuck. I could just throw in the towel on nursing (and yes, I know there is nothing wrong with bottle-feeding babies, but with my allergy, I have a different set of concerns about using formula and how it will affect how I interact with Micah). Or, I could try and pump every 3 hours, and increase my supply, and work on shortening Micah's feedings and teaching him to be a more efficient nurser AND teaching him how to latch without a nipple shield AND supplementing with pumped milk after each feeding until he can properly nurse on his own (which may never happen). So I'm stuck. I'm not sure if it is worth continuing to fight this battle (or even the smart thing to do). I'm tired of fighting, but there is a part of me that is just stubborn and I want to win this battle. My reluctance to bottle feeding formula really isn't about bonding, or which way is "better" or anything like that. I really do think it is mostly about winning this battle because I hate not being able to make things work, and part of it has to do with my fears about my coconut oil allergy (and no, you cannot buy any commercial formulas that are made without coconut oil). And part of me is ready for this to be easy, and I know bottle feeding would be so much easier (with the exception of my contact dermatitis rashes I'll have for the next 11 months because of my allergy).

So . . . that is my love/hate relationship with breastfeeding. For today, we are going to weigh him before/after each feeding, and try and supplement with pumped breastmilk to make sure he gets 2 - 2 1/2 ozs at each feeding. I'm going to pump after each feeding, and maybe in between, too, to try and increase my supply. We'll see where we are and then try and figure out what to do next.


Chele said...

Hugs Tess. I hope you can figure out something that makes you at peace with whatever decision you make.

I have a friend that had a child in NICU that was born at 24 weeks. They sent her to a herbalist to help her increase her milk supply. Maybe this would work for you too.

Emah S said...

I'm sorry you're having these issues. Can I make some suggestions??? There are some good supplements that you can take to help to increase your supply. One that I know off hand is Lecithin. It helps the flow of the milk and helps to prevent clogged ducts. There are also all sorts of other natural supplements (get thee to a Whole Foods) that will help to increase your supply. It's worth a try, especialy with your allergy issues. Have you checked out the kellymom site? Here is a direct link to the page with links on increasing supply... Hang in there and don't give up, you're doing great!!!

Me said...

Thanks, Chele & Susie. I will look into the supplements - I've heard of fenugreek, but they say not to take it if you have asthma, so I wasn't sure what else to take. I'm drinking lots of water, pumping, and eating oatmeal (just in case it helps!).

Emah S said...

Oatmeal DEFINITELY helps!!! I haven't heard the warnings re asthma and Fenegungcreek. There are however other things to try. Hang in there!!!