Follow up on Breastfeeding (23d)

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.

8 thoughts on “Follow up on Breastfeeding (23d)

  1. It makes me sad to know that the LC would lose her license for saying that formula is not the devil. I am glad she said that. It is so easy to get entrained in “this is the only way to do things” when you are a new mom and had high hopes of everything going perfectly. Your mental well being is as important as and contributes to Kieran’s physical well being. As moms we make the decisions we have to make. Sometimes it isn’t what we want, or the ideal world, but it is the right decision based on the information we have. Keep trying, but don’t get yourself down. Do your best to go with the flow. :-)

  2. I have 6 little bottles of similac i got from the OB you are welcome to have, just let me know if you want me to send them to you! Praying for your whole family!

  3. *hugs* Thinking of you guys. You’re doing your best, and he’s getting some from the breast so don’t get down on yourself for having to supplement with formula.

  4. Know this: You are doing an amazing job. The fact that you’re trying so hard speaks volumes about how much you care, and that will benefit him as your son long after breastfeeding isn’t an issue any more.

    There are benefits to nursing, both nutritional and otherwise, so the fact that you’re doing it AT ALL is significant and you should think about all he gets from you as a result that no one else can give him, not even Paul.

    It does get easier. Connor had a similar issue and though it didn’t interfere with breastfeeding he did figure it out as he got a little bit older. Keep going, work on position (head, chin, etc.) and it will improve, both with time and age and perseverence.

    No matter how it turns out, don’t beat yourself up. There will be lots of other opportunities for you to feel mama-guilt ;)


  5. Breast feeding is a wonderful option — if it works out. It is not a contest or a measure of your value as a mother. In the end, it is much more important THAT he eats than WHAT he eats.

    Try breastfeeding as often as you can and as long as you can. Only go to formula if he really is hungry after nursing. Try giving that 1 oz of pumped milk in the bottle before offering formula. (My kids both refused breast milk from a bottle, but try – he may like it.)

    Don’t be dismayed by him screaming during nursing. Andy screamed ALL the time (7 AM until midnight, even while nursing) and I would have been really dismayed if he had been my first child.

    Try not to limit the nursing time even if one feeding seems to run into the next. It is only a short period of time in your life and his. Very soon he will be chewing little pieces of solid food and you’ll wonder where this all went.

    Whatever happens, know that breastfeeding or bottlefeeding the important thing is what you are doing already – loving him and seeing to his needs.

  6. Dear, sweet Sarah. You are doing what you can with what God gave you. With RJ, I dried up within two weeks. With Jimmy, he was so allergic to me that I had to stop breastfeeding when he was about one month old because he couldn’t keep my milk down. With Olivia, I dried up with a few weeks time. I feel your pain. I felt like a “sub-par” momma. I couldn’t give birth “normally” (all three c-sections) and now I couldn’t even provide any nutrition for them. But, I gave them what little nutrition I could while I could and I felt better for that. I then started looking on the bright side – seeing that my girls are on the larger side, there was no more BFing in public (big plus for me!) and Dad, grandma, grandpa, and brothers could be more involved in the feedings. :) You are doing an awesome job and are taking exceptional care of Kieran!! By the way, Costco has a large container of Enfamil for a lot less than in the stores. If you have a Sam’s Club out there, they have a generic brand of Enfamil that is the EXACT same formula, but you get a lot more for a lot less! :)

  7. you know that I went through the breast feeding ‘nightmare’ you are going through with Toad. And even though she’s a happy, healthy, smart 7 year old I still feel like I’m one hell of a failure as a mother and woman because I simply could not breastfeed her and, like you, it never was a thought that that wasn’t an option.

    I simply want you to know that you aren’t alone in this fustration. That the benifits of your snuggling with your son and being happy and clam when feeding him a bottle is MUCH better for your bonding with him than crying and being fustrated while trying to get him to breastfeed. And to remind you that someone you know, and that loves you very much has walked in those shoes. So if you need an ear, you know where to find mine.

    I love you.

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