Breastfeeding Woes

Breastfeeding has not been easy for us… After E was born, he lost nearly 10 percent of his body weight, dropping from 8 pounds, 9 ounces to 7 pounds 12 ounces. That is the high end of weight loss for a new baby (nearly ten percent), but what was really worrisome is that he wasn’t gaining any of it back. He was also screaming inconsolably unless he was nursing, so he was at the breast non-stop. That was especially hard for me; it was awful to see him so distraught with nothing I could do to help because my milk hadn’t come in.

The doctor suggested that we needed to supplement E with formula. I begged and pleaded to try something, anything else, having believed that beginning formula would forever affect our abilities to exclusively breastfeed. So the doctor have us two days to try to build my supply and supplement E with breastmilk. I was feeding him at the breast, pumping for an extra ten minutes, pumping an hour later, then feeding him an hour after that and giving him the expressed milk in a tube at the breast, and starting the cycle again. It was crazy.

I was so sore, and it seemed like I was really just giving him milk he would have gotten during a feeding anyway. And when that didn’t show any effect on his weight, we were given no choice but to supplement him with formula while I was continuing to try to build supply by pumping. My midwife suggested a number of supplements to help: Fenugreek three times a day, Mother’s Milk tea three times a day, More Milk tincture four times a day, in addition to pumping after feedings at least four times a day.

Eventually, E kind of self-weaned from the formula, going from taking an extra full ounce, down to a half, then a third, until we stopped. Of course then he hit a growth spurt, and we had to add it back in when his constant screaming indicated he was again clearly not getting enough to eat.

We’ve gone back and forth between not needing it, and hitting a patch where we do. But breastfeeding for me is kind of ruined. Every day I have multiple mini panics: if he doesn’t wake up to eat my supply will drop, if I feel full for awhile my supply will drop, if he doesn’t fully drain me my supply will drop, if I don’t pump my supply will drop, if I let Michelle give him a bottle from our stock of pumped milk my supply will drop, etc etc. To the point where I kind of obsessively pump and stock milk and feel like we can’t use the stored stash because we may not have enough (We do. There’s at least 20 bags in there, and I’m only away from E once a week for a couple hours.). I wish I could enjoy breastfeeding more, but I’m constantly worrying about my milk supply and feeling guilty that something that’s supposed to be so natural is something I can’t do well for my baby.

I still take the tea and supplements, and pump as often as possible in addition to breastfeeding around the clock (every other hour for an hour). I don’t know how to break my brain out of its cycle, and I don’t know if I ever will. It may be a long ten more months. I can’t even bring myself to consider weaning early, I have so much guilt.

It has helped a little to have people tell me things like “formula is NOT the devil”; I have no idea how I came to have such extreme negative connotations with feeding formula to my baby! I know logically that the most important thing is to be able to feed my baby, no matter how that has to happen, but I still can’t shake the guilt I feel when that involves formula. And I still wonder whether, if the doctor had let us go about our business nursing constantly (even though that was also causing me breakdowns), if E would have established my supply himself, naturally. (I have kind of negative feelings towards doctors as well).

I never thought this part of having a baby would be so hard. As we talk to people about our experiences, we are finding quite a few who have dealt with something similar. It’s another somewhat “taboo” topic, apparently, like infertility seemed to be. New moms should be warned that it is work… A 96 hour job for me. Thank goodness there are so many benefits to my baby. I just hope I will look back on these experiences without too much regret.