August 24, 2010

On breastfeeding

I have debated whether or not to write about this because I kind of feel like I have been whining/dramatic about it already. But it is what it is and I have had a right to be so concerned about it, even if it has taken this long for me to figure out something that I should have figured out sooner.

And I have finally gotten my emotions under control regarding the whole situation enough to write about it without sounding like I'm losing my mind.


It's tough man. I had heard from, oh, everyone and their mom that breastfeeding is not easy. So, I was really prepared for it to be a challenge. But the thing is, even though I was prepared for it to be difficult/painful/stressful, I never considered the possibility that it wouldn't work. For some reason, I was just like 'I'm breastfeeding', and that was that. And not because I don't agree with formula feeding, or because I'm some pro-breastfeeding person who thinks everyone should do it. I don't think that at all. It's just what I felt was right for me.

So you can imagine how happy I was when Cooper latched right on immediately after he was born. He got on there and didn't budge for about 45 minutes. Everything was going great! We knew he was getting colostrum in the hospital because he spit up once in the nursery. I didn't have very much pain at all. Of course, I was slathering on lanolin like crazy, so that might have helped. My whole breastfeeding experience I never had any issues with mastitis or clogged ducts, nothing. I was really happy that things were going so well. And, I will admit that I was pretty proud of myself after being so worried about it being difficult.

He did lose 10 oz. while in the hospital. Which is more than 10% of his birth weight (the max newborns can lose without it being of concern), but that was attributed to how much he slept. Most nights, we couldn't even get him to wake up to eat (he's been a good night sleeper since day one!) You might remember the check up we had the weekend after he was born when the doctor freaked me out about my milk supply. Well, she had me feed him right there in the office so they could weigh him again. He ate 4 oz. that time. And he was not even a week old. And then we went back a week later and he had gained an entire pound. She was really pleased and I was relieved to know that there wasn't a problem on my end.

So fast forward a few weeks and I started pumping. I was only getting like 2 oz at a time. But it was in between feedings, so I was assured by lots of people that was normal. Clearly, this became a huge concern to me, as I blogged about it a lot :)

Also, around 5 weeks, Cooper started acting really fussy all the time. Mostly in the evenings. You can see where I first mentioned it here, and our train of thought in this post, that lead to me cutting dairy out of my diet. I did think that this helped him, but I also never really felt at peace that that was the problem. I don't know why, but I never really felt that the problem was solved.

At his 2 month check up, I specifically asked about his weight (we saw a different dr this time), and he assured us that Cooper's weight gain was just fine. He showed us Coop's growth chart and said that he was in line with what was to be expected. But I still didn't feel right about it.

Well. Last Wednesday, my dad watched Cooper so that I could go shopping for work clothes. This was the first time I'd been away from him, and the first time that I would be pumping during a feeding. Ummm..I got 2 oz. Twice. The first time, I was just like 'okay, let's just see what happens next time'. The second time, I was so upset. I was clearly not producing enough and I didn't understand. I had a huge breakdown in the Dillard's bathroom. Huge. Like I had to go out to my car and I probably cried for about 30 minutes. You would have thought my dog died. It wasn't really until that moment that I realized how important breastfeeding was to me. I was so upset at the realization that I was not producing enough milk. The intensity of my reaction really surprised me. I couldn't stop crying about it. Honestly, I could still cry about it right now, but I'm slowly getting over it.

I called the pediatrician's office to see how much he should be getting at a time. He should get about 28 oz. a day. Basically 4-7 oz at a time. It suddenly became so clear to me that Cooper had not been getting enough to eat.

I felt horrible. I felt like a terrible mother. I felt like a failure at the most important thing I needed to provide for my baby. How could I not know he wasn't getting enough? How long had this been going on? I know that at some point I had been producing enough since he gained so much weight so quickly his first few weeks. And then I started remembering things. Like how Cooper would get really frustrated while nursing, and he would freak out and bang on my chest. How he would cry after 45 minutes of nursing, and he never went longer than 2 hrs 15 minutes between feedings. How he would cry his 'hungry cry' all evening, and I had no idea why. I thought there's no way he could be hungry, he just ate. Well, he obviously was :(

I went out and got a baby scale. I weighed him, then nursed him for about 30 minutes, then weighed him again. 1.5 oz. Ugh. I can't tell you how bad I felt. I cried for days. Partly because I felt so bad that he had been hungry for who knows how long, and partly because I was failing at this breastfeeding thing.

I spoke to a lactation consultant who gave me some advice on trying to increase my milk supply.

So for the past 5 days, I have been eating oatmeal, drinking beer (ha), and taking 'More Milk Plus' which is a combination of several herbs that are supposed to increase milk supply. I've been nursing, then pumping while giving him a bottle, then pumping again an hour and a half later, then starting the nursing thing again after another hour and a half. Basically I'm pumping every hour and a half, and twice during the night. And I'm nursing every 3 hours and giving a supplemental bottle of expressed breast milk immediately after nursing (and I weigh him before and after nursing). All in an effort to hopefully increase my milk supply.

I haven't seen a difference yet. And it is exhausting to pump so often. And let me tell you that I have a new respect for people who have to exclusively pump because that shit is hard. And it hurts. My boobs haven't hurt this much since Cooper was like 3 days old. The thing is, I do pump almost enough for him throughout the day. I only have to give him frozen milk once a day, for one feeding. The rest is freshly expressed that day. But I can't pump every hour and a half every day. I mean, we haven't left the house for more than 45 minutes in almost a week. I am really trying not to beat myself up about this, but it's hard. I have no idea what will happen when I go back to work.

I am slowly accepting the fact that breastfeeding just might not be working out for me. The good news is that what I've been doing is so exhausting that the thought of having to give him formula eventually is starting to not sound so bad. And I still have a huge supply of frozen milk for the time being.

I'm still going to work on trying to increase my supply. And regardless of if it goes up or not, I am still going to pump when I go back to work so that he can at least get as much breast milk as he can. I'm still holding out hope that I can fix this issue, but I only have another week until I go back to work, and honestly, I can't just sit in the house and pump every hour and a half until then.

You wouldn't believe the change in Cooper. He is always happy. No screaming fits in the evenings, or really ever. He talk and talks now and smiles all day. AND, he's been sleeping through the night. Like 11 hours. He's done it twice now. I realize it might not last, but still. Seeing him so happy is really my ultimate goal, and if I have to give him formula then it's really not the end of the world, but it's still difficult for me to come to terms with.


Jennifer said...

Oh Ashley, you made me cry! I remember the struggle so well. The only thing I can say is that you are doing an AMAZING job. It is a ton of work to breastfeed and I'm so proud of you for doing it for so long! I know you will make the decision that is best for both Cooper and you when you go back to work. No matter what you decide I am here to support you. You're a wonderful mother and Cooper is so lucky to have you.

Ashley @ KiwisandCocktails said...

WOW!!! I have heard it was hard work, but you just really made me see the reality of that!! And, obviously, you feel upset but it is not your fault for not knowing he was getting so little!! WHy didnt the Dr. check this or ask you about it?? This is my biggest fear- that I will not know enough and no one will tell me things I am supposed to know! I MEAN, SHOULDNT THEY have told you at the hospital how much milk he needed a day/a feeding?
So happy to hear you figured it out and he is happier! :)

Kaitlin said...

People warned me that breastfeeding was hard and they were so right. It's SO personal and until you've experienced it, it's hard to understand the emotional/physical strength it requires to do something that we think should be so easy/natural. You're doing a great job and no matter what you decide to do, Cooper will be a happy and healthy little guy!

katandkarl said...

Like Jenny and Kaitlin said, you are doing an outstanding job providing little C with what he needs! Your efforts are phenomenal for sure. I remember feeling so much of what you wrote about. (And waking myself up in the middle of the night to pump while he slept - i DEF remember that misery!) I remember the relief at stopping, too. It is such a complicated thing and you have to do what works best for you when it works for you. Team Ashley! (Did I mention you're doing amazing!?)