Sunday, April 29, 2012

More Tales of Breastfeeding Hell

I'm back, but barely. The last month with Gavin has been almost perfect. He started smiling around 4 and half weeks. We went back to Wisconsin for two weeks to spend time with family and friends. I was really worried about the long drive with an infant but amazingly he slept the whole seven hours there and back, with the exception of two quick feeding sessions. I previously posted that I was glad that I spent time with the lactaction consultant but I want to take part of what I said back. There is just too much pressure to breastfeed. I think I tried every option to increase my supply because I didn't want to give up on something that would be beneficial to my little man. While some of the options were quick fixes (fenugreek, blessed thistle, mothers milk tea) others were incredibly time consuming (pumping every two hours for 20 - 30 minute sessions). People think breastfeeding is a cheap option too. But I am here to tell you that I have spent over $350 on breastfeeding supplies which I could have easily spent on formula which would have covered is formula needs for 5 to 6 months, if not more. A few days before I left for Wisconsin, I had a lactation consultant tell me "trust in your supply". I believed her chanted those words in my head. I really thought I had increased my supply by stepping up feedings and that all the work I had put into increasing my supply was the right thing for Gavin. While on my trip, family members kept telling me that he was nursing for way too long and that what was going on wasn't normal. I kept thinking to myself that the lactation consultant told me my supply was fine so I assumed that Gavin was just nursing for prolonged period of times for soothing purposes. By the time I left Wisconsin, Gavin was waking up every two hours to eat and would nurse for hour long sessions with only 30 minute breaks in between. He was sleepy all the time and although we could get him to smile every once in a while, he didn't seem to be very alert. As another week went by, Gavin's feeding sessions became even more extended and the only time he would sleep was if he fell asleep nursng however, as soon as I removed my breast he would scream bloody murder. I became tethered to my couch. Gavin wasn't smiling at all anymore. I wanted to believe in what the lactation consultant had said but I really doubted my supply. I felt like I was starving and failing my baby. I struggled with the idea of going back to see the lactation consultant but I thought she might think I was a fool but I couldn't just sit here and let this all continue down this downward spiral. I decided to do a little experiment and see how much I could pump in a day while supplementing with formula. I produced two ounces first thing in the morning and the remaining pumping sessions (done every three hours) produced one ounce or less. I couldn't believe it was that bad. At this point Gavin should be taking in at least 3 ounces. I knew I was on to something when Gavin appeared to be more alert that day, he smiled for the first time in a week and he slept for a 4 hour stretch. I had a pediatricians appointment a few days later and explained to her all the conflicting advice that I had been given from the lactation consultant and her nurse practitioner. I was honest and told her I didn't know who to believe anymore but I still felt like all of things that I had been experiencing had been caused by low supply. After weighing Gavin, 10 lbs 13 ounces and 21 3/4 inches long, she said Gavin was hovering around the 13th percentile and although he was growing, he wasn't growing at the pace that they would normally see. She agreed that it appeared that I had a low supply issue but thought that it would be in Gavin's best interest to start pumping exclusively and supplementing with formula to make sure he was taking in at least 24 to 26 ounces a day. She stood behind what her nurse practitioner said and told me Gavin should be getting 3-4 ounces at every feeding, not the 2 to 3 ounces the lactation consultant insisted on. I love my pediatrician. She really listened to what I had to say and told me I have done everything possible to increase my supply and that I shouldn't feel bad about it not working out the way I had planned. I left feeling like my fears were confirmed, I was starving my baby. I felt so guilty. Guilty for not feeding him the way he should have been, guilty for failing at breastfeeding. I was still pretty upset after I left her office and called my sister. Jen recently quit breastfeeing her 5 month old because she too was experiencing low supply. She made some really good points that made me thing giving up on breastfeeding all together might be a better option. To accomplish exclusively pumping and then supplement I would be spending less time playing with Gavin and that time would be really precious once I go back to work. Jen works with mostly women but she said they really didn't understand her need to be on a pumping schedule while working. With me being the only women in the department and my past experiences with the guys understanding maternity leave, would they really understand my need to set aside 30 minutes to pump every three hours? Probably not. By the time I hung up the phone I was determined to quit breastfeeding. Gavin takes a bottle well so the last two days on formula havent been that bad. He is definitely more alert and much more smiley now. I'm glad I can say that I tried everything to succeed in breastfeeding but mad at myself for not listening to my gut instinct that Gavin was not taking in enough milk. The only problem I've been experiencing is Gavin used nursing as a way to soothe himself and now I need to figure out an alternative. He wont take a pacifier and he has been a lot more difficult to get to sleep. I've definitely have seen more tears this week than I have seen in the last two months of his life. I've caved in twice and let him nurse (which puts him to sleep instantly). Now I'm just going through the pain of drying up. It's no fun and I'm already missing those bonding moments of him nursing. The upside is I get plenty of smiles now.