Breastfeeding isn’t going as well as we would have hoped. There are several factors at play here:
Kieran just isn’t good at breastfeeding. He isn’t “tongue tied” but the connecting tissue at the base of his tongue is thicker than normally seen, and it is a little farther forward than normally seen. Not enough to need medical treatment, but enough to make it harder for Kieran to nurse. He “snacks” instead of really sucking. The Lactation Consultants say that he is “inefficient” with his nursing. This isn’t a good thing because his nursing never truly empties my breast, so the signal to make more for next time isn’t/wasn’t being sent. (Having to give him formula from a bottle starting in the hospital didn’t help matters, because Kieran got a taste of what a bottle is like, and he doesn’t want to have to work for food like he needs to work for breast milk.)
My medical issues (Hypothyroid and PCOS) are two big strikes against me for creating a sufficient milk supply. These are the same issues mostly responsible for me not being able to get pregnant for so long. I’m taking a ton of herbal supplements right now and am adding things like flax seed, oatmeal and brewer’s yeast to my diet (in the form of Peanut Butter Oatmeal cookies) to try to boost my supply; with limited success so far.
I’m using a rented hospital-grade pump instead of fully nursing Kieran now as well. The hospital pump is much better for creating and maintaining a supply as opposed to the pumps you can purchase in the store which are intended to maintain and eventually gently reduce a well-established supply.
Kieran is offered the breast most of the time when I feed him, and he’s offered “comfort boob” often in the evenings after he’s had a bottle. “Comfort boob” isn’t for nutrition purposes; it’s just to give Kieran and me a chance to snuggle together, skin to skin and gives him an outlet for his need to suck. Also, when he’s being fussy and fighting falling asleep, nursing him for a bit puts him right out.
We’re seeing Lactation Consultants weekly for help with positioning, latching, supplementing, and as cheap psychotherapy for me. I had so much pinned on exclusive breastfeeding that the reality of it not working was something that was incredibly hard for me to accept. Crying in frustration as Kieran fussed and cried at my breast, weeping in sadness watching as Paul fixed yet another formula bottle for our baby, and feeling big hot tears of guilt and rage roll down my cheeks as the guilt and shame of not being able to provide all my baby needs washed over me again and again in those first two weeks. Paul had to put up with so much crying initially, from both Kieran and me. I was having panic attacks several times a day. The feelings of fear, dread, anxiousness and being completely overwhelmed were awful. I really thought that Postpartum Depression was setting in with a vengeance. I couldn’t sleep even though I was exhausted, and was starting to have nightmares again.
But one of the LCs confided that even though she’d lose her license for saying it: formula isn’t the devil. Breastfeeding isn’t the end-all, be-all of everything for the baby. SOME breast milk is better than NO breast milk. Kieran will still get all the benefits of breast milk with my pumping and supplementing with formula – plus he’ll get the weight-gaining benefits and sleep-inducing benefits of the formula itself. Her earnest exhortations to calm down and just focus on giving Kieran what I *can* give him helped immensely. I’ve been *MUCH* better in the brainmeats department since then.
Currently we’re using the Similac formula that the hospital sent home as well as the free samples we got in the mail. But within another week or two, we’ll have to make our first purchase of formula. Something I never, ever thought we’d do. I’m going to investigate the differences between the name brands and Costco brand formula. I want to cut our costs, but I won’t do it at Kieran’s expense.
So that’s where the whole breastfeeding thing stands. Formula supplemented with breast milk, as I’m lucky to get a third of what Kieran eats every three hours out of a pumping session. I’m averaging just over an ounce every time I pump. I was hoping the “Mother’s Milk Plus” pills would help, but they’re not. I’m going to switch to just Fenugreek pills when the Mother’s Milk Plus runs out this week.
Paul has been (of course) just fabulous during all this. He wants breastfeeding to work as much as I do, because he understands all the great benefits to be had if exclusive breastfeeding were an option. But he’s seen how hard it’s been, and sees that exclusive breastfeeding just isn’t in the cards. He assures me that he’s proud of me and that we’ll figure out a way to make this work for us. His support and acceptance have made all the difference in the world. I am so blessed in him.
We’re hoping as Kieran continues to grow that maybe nursing will come easier to him. We’ll keep trying and I’ll keep pumping regardless. The pump has been rented for three more months at least.