Returns… (8w3d)

There have been lots of returns recently. Mostly in the form of various types of formula as we struggle to find something that works for Kieran. We’ve tried regular formulas from Similac, Enfamil, Costco and Target. We’ve tried the “gentle” versions of formula from Similac, Enfamil and Target. Now we’re back on Soy, using the last of our sample from Similac. (I’m about to go out to Target to get a container of their Soy formula.)

I am SO thankful for easy return policies on formula, although I do feel bad returning an open container, knowing it can’t be used by anyone.

Initially we were looking for something to help settle the incredible amount of (apparently) painful gas Kieran has. He’s been gassy literally since he was born, so we’re trying to find a formula that won’t exacerbate the situation. It’s so hard to see him so uncomfortable. (The clothes we’re sending to Paul’s sister for her shortly-due baby all have worn spots from rubbing Kieran’s tummy so much.) But it seems that the “gentle” formulas actually made the situation worse by constipating Kieran. (I felt horrible when it dawned on me that 4 days of easy-clean poops were actually constipation getting worse and worse.) We’ve pretty much got him regular again with judicious use of prune juice (good lord, that stuff is powerful and unaffected in any way by digestion!) But we don’t want to have to constantly spike his bottle with juice, ya know? So we’re trying Soy formula again to see if possibly he’s lactose intolerant. It’s seeming to help the constipation, but not the gas.

And yeah, we’ve got (Little Tummies brand) Gas drops and Gripe Water… neither of which seem to help all that much. Suggestions on other remedies are greatly appreciated.

The other return this week was a hard one: the Breast Pump. I took it back 6 weeks early. (We’d done a pre-paid 3-month rental through early October for the lower fees.) It just wasn’t working. I was drinking my lactation tea, and taking my supplements (none of which were cheap, btw) and it just wasn’t seeming to help. Was it really worth it to spend the money on supplements and rentals, to spend nearly an hour each time hooked up to the thing to get less than an ounce of milk? (And the milk looked more and more like just foremilk anyway.) Seeing that pump on it’s little table next to the couch all the time was just a constant reminder to me of my failure. The guilt I had every time I sat down to do anything and wasn’t hooked up to the pump was really wearing me down.

So Paul and I talked about it (I cried about it, again) and we decided that it wasn’t worth the emotional pain to me to keep trying for such diminishing returns. I could barely get 2 ounces a day (most days it was 1oz or less total) for all my trying – and Kieran is currently sucking down 25-30oz a day. The little I could eek out was barely a drop in the bucket.

He got the colustrum at the beginning. He got as much milk as he and I could coerce out of me for the first 2-3 weeks. I have to believe that was enough, that he got the benefits from that little amount. I have to believe that, because I have to forgive myself, because I have to move on. I told Paul I needed his permission to stop trying, and after a long pause, he gave it.

End of an era, or something. I’m off to Target now to buy a full-size container of Soy formula so we can really see if Soy is the answer for us right now. Kieran seems to be over his constipation, but is still gassy as all get out. But he is thriving and growing like a weed. And in the end, that is all that matters.

Follow up on Breastfeeding II (5w5d)

The struggle continues…

My supply continues to dwindle. The herbal supplements don’t seem to help (neither the Mother’s Milk Plus nor the Fenugreek seeds) although I don’t know that I’m taking enough of the Fenugreek seeds because I don’t think I smell like maple syrup.

I’m averaging less and less with the pumping every day. Sometimes I’ll get over an ounce (30ml) combined, but like this morning, I got just over 10ml combined. That is SO frustrating, let me tell you. That’s a lot of time being tied to that pump for so little return. I’m working to increase the number of times I’m pumping though, in the hopes that I can bounce back.

Kieran is basically refusing the breast all the time now. Having to give him thickened feedings because of his acid reflux has necessitated using an even more open bottle nipple, which requires even less effort than a regular bottle nipple for Mr. Lazy Nurser. We give him the occasional un-thickened bottle with the tightest nipple we have just to remind Kieran what it should be like. We can tell that frustrates him. So when he’s offered the breast (even when I’m nearly engorged, so I know he could get a fair feeding outta me) he just fusses and squirms and cries and won’t nurse. We’ve tried giving him a half feeding with a bottle and then offering the breast when he’s not ‘starving’ – but Kieran is convinced that he’s starving until he’s full.

It’s disappointing on several levels.

  • I was SO INCREDIBLY looking forward to nursing Kieran. The bonding, the special time, the perfect nutrition that only I could provide, the easy-clean-up diapers.
  • The Cost. Even using some of the most inexpensive formula we can find (currently Target’s house brand “up & up” Partially Broken Down version) is gonna add around $60-75 a month to our budget that already doesn’t quite cover everything. And as he grows, that figure will only increase. (I can’t imagine if we had to stay on one of the name brands. The Target stuff runs ~$.46/oz whereas the cheapest you’ll find Simalac is ~$.89/oz at Costco or Amazon.)
  • Formula diapers are not as pleasant as BF diapers were. Just sayin’.

On the bright side though, Kieran is gaining weight like a champ. He’s still right at the very bottom of the growth percentage charts – but that mostly has to do with the fact that he was 3 weeks early and such a tiny peanut to start with. ~8lb is teeny for a nearly 6 week old baby. But then again, ~8lb for a nearly three week old baby is still small too. He’s gaining ~1oz a day, which is a very healthy growth rate – so his pediatrician is happy with that.

Truth be told, we’re a little concerned about him gaining weight too fast with the thickened formula – but we’re carefully watching Kieran’s signals and feeding him when he actually tells us he’s hungry, feeding him a set amount (currently 3oz + 1T of oatmeal cereal) and waiting to see if he asks for more 10 minutes later. Sometimes he does (and gets another 1-1.5oz + cereal) and sometimes he doesn’t. The oatmeal cereal added to his formula adds the nutrition/calories equivalent to another ounce of formula. So he’s getting what he needs to grow at the rate that works for him.

I’m bummed that Exclusive breast feeding hasn’t worked out. (Not devastated though, which is a VAST improvement over my mental status for the first 2-3 weeks of this adventure.) But I’ll keep trying with the pump, which we have rented through September and see how it goes. I’m comforted by knowing that any breastmilk Kieran gets is better than none, but that regardless he’s growing well and thriving.

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.