So I haven’t been writing much. After all nearly 12 weeks ago I had a baby. It’s been a lot of work. Not necessarily the usual kind either.
This story isn’t really a here or there story. I’m really in some kind of dreadful limbo between breast feeders and formula feeders. I find both groups look at me a bit funny and I find my experiences and choices very isolating.
I always thought I’d breastfeed. Having grown up with it being normal I never considered formula an option for me. I didn’t have anything strongly against it, but I make my own dog food. Why would I consider something not made by me? I mean, I had even planned to donate breast milk to the local hospital. I thought that I knew that it would just be some effort in the short run for long term benefits. Sure there would be days I’d be glued to the baby, and yeah it might hurt at first, but with just a little work we’d be doing the normal thing. Right?
First of all the birth didn’t go anywhere close to plan. And that was ok. It was ok I ended up with an emergency C-section because my baby was ok. Looking back now I realize that everything about my original birth plan was designed for one of two things: recovery for me and initiation of successful breastfeeding. So I didn’t get any of that, but not all should have been lost. I can look back now and point at things that may have created this storm of problems. Really though it’s a huge and horrible game of what-if because I don’t know what the issue really is because no one is helping me find out. And that’s a huge tragedy to me that because supplementation is possible that nobody but me is interested in investigating.
I can point to a few things that, while they may not have been the cause, certainly didn’t help.
Issue one: the C-section. Even though I went into labor naturally, C-sections can mess with breastfeeding success. Secondly I have low blood pressure. I just do. And I had a C-section, which made my blood pressure even lower. To the point they were wondering how I was able to sit up and talk to them.The treatment for low blood pressure is IVs of fluids. So issue 2 resulted in edema of the breasts (which due to having a baby are already swelling up getting ready to make milk). This meant that I had no nipple definition before my milk came in, so even though she wanted to latch it wasn’t happening without pain. Which is issue three: Painkillers. I couldn’t tell anything was wrong as it didn’t really hurt. I didn’t take any further painkillers as I didn’t want them, but the ones they did give me were enough. So no one caught these issues even though I did ask for help, but really at the hospitals I was so tired and dopey and wanted to just be left alone trying to nurse my baby. No one would show me how either, they just kept doing it for me. Which is kind of issue 4 through whatever. I’ll know better next time.
So fast forward to the first day at home. It’s day 5 and I’m really starting to hurt. My nipples I mean. Babies eat nipples if you don’t stick them on there right. And I hadn’t been, because of the edema and the painkillers and her tiny mouth. I call up my midwife and she comes over to help with latching. Except now my baby is more than 10% under her birth weight. So I’ve been directed to pump and feed her the pumped milk on top of nursing. We do that and in 2 days she has gained weight. I carry on nursing her for the next 8 days. She is attached to me something like 18 hours or more per day for these days (and I was supposed to be pumping too, but I don’t have much time for that, I’m not even sleeping). Now maybe it was the C-section, or bad latch at the beginning or inefficient suck or all of the above, but at 15 days old she had lost the weight she gained. Pretty much at this point babies are supposed to be getting back toward their birth weight, not losing it. So the midwife strongly urges formula. And there I am. Crying over the formula tin.
And it could have ended there. Since I didn’t have much in the way of support for things not being normal it should have. And I wouldn’t question anyone who stopped at any point along that road. But I’m really stubborn. And I wanted to nurse my baby. Then I had an epiphany. Why do I have to stop nursing her if I’m giving her formula?
So I nurse her first, give her formula second. I nurse, bottle, pump until she is 5-6 weeks old and it hasn’t helped as far as I can tell. The breastfeed, bottle feed, pump cycle will kick your ass like nobody’s business. I hate the pumping since I never get much and it doesn’t seem to help at all. I find online support groups for low supply. I find this thing called a Medela SNS. I start herbal supplements. Nothing really helps dramatically. I get a 1oz increase here and there. Nothing like what I need.
So now at almost 12 weeks and some I’ve managed to increase my milk something like 5oz per day. I started around 8oz per day (estimate) and now I make 13oz+ per day. Babies need 24-32 oz per day, so best case my boobs are half full. I am really lucky in some ways. I was able to do this only because of a few fortunate things:. I didn’t get post-natal depression or even baby blues and I have a baby who likes her booby not just for food.
Since my midwives dropped me like a dirty sock when things didn’t improve I’ve done the rest on my own. In a lot of ways I really resent being made to feel it was my fault for not working hard enough. At the time I didn’t realize how easy it would have been for them to refer me to a lactation consultant or, really, do anything other than let me flounder. It is important that my baby get fed, yes, but dropping the issue there (to the point they wouldn’t prescribe me a breastfeeding friendly form of contraception because they thought it unlikely I’d stick it out) wasn’t appropriate. They didn’t even make sure I had a pump when I was instructed to pump. Because I had to give formula they started treating me like a failure. Because of that I ought to be proud of my accomplishments and I’m not. Getting my baby weighed still makes me panic.
I never thought this would happen, indeed didn’t know it did happen. I probably would never have understood how horrible it can be without seeing it for myself. Hopefully it won’t happen again, but after more than 10 straight weeks using just the SNS and not seeing much change I think I have to accept that I’m at my limit of milk production. Until then I’m hoping to hold out until solids replace the formula.
Until then, there’s formula in that tube.