Mar 10, 2016

The Woes of Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant with Addison I struggled with breastfeeding. She never seemed to get enough and was constantly hungry. It took us two months to figure that out and switch up what we were doing. Then I spent a month exclusively pumping to make sure she was getting enough. But that didn't last long either and we ended up going to formula full time. It was heartbreaking for me. I cried quite a bit over the decision but then seeing the progress Addison made and the fact that she started putting on weight helped me see that going to formula was the best decision we could have made for her.

So this time I wanted to try again. Rob and I talked about pumping after each feeding to help my supply. But I also knew my body was once again fighting against me because many women with PCOS struggle with their milk supply. But I was going to do everything I could. Including having a visit from the lactation consultant at the the hospital, even though I found the whole thing weird and awkward when I met with one after having Addison.

It turned out to be just as weird and awkward this time. First I felt like I was bothering her and she ran through the whole visit very quickly. She brought me a hospital grade pump in order to use the preemie mode to help my milk come in quicker. But her instructions and explanations were hurried and we later struggled through what I was supposed to do. I was almost in tears and already ready to give up. I then spent the rest of the hospital stay stressed that the lactation consultant would show back up and I would be in trouble for just being (that's how awful it was!). My stress level went down quite a bit after we left the hospital - she never showed back up by the way.

But we still knew I was probably going to have a supply problem. At this point Connor was having wet diapers and I wasn't spending an hour feeding him then only an hour between, like with Addison. He was eating for the longest at 30 minutes and an hour and a half between feedings. It felt like he was eating a lot but it was manageable.

When we got home from the hospital I took a shower and noticed a massive bump under my arm. It was hard and extremely tender. I suddenly flashed back to when I was breastfeeding Addison and having a blocked milk duct in the same place. It gave me hope because I figured it meant my milk was coming in. It took a long time with Addison so I was hopeful that if it came in sooner it could mean I could provide more. By that evening it was even bigger and hurt so much I couldn't move my arm. I knew I had to unblock the duct so I didn't end up getting sick. I pumped, used warm compresses and lots of massages to work it through. It definitely didn't go away but every day it was better.

But a blocked milk duct wasn't the end of my frustration. No matter how hard I tried I didn't feel like I was giving him enough. Which proved to be true at the weight check a couple days after he was born. Instead of gaining weight, he had lost another ounce in just a few days. So we had to make a decision about how we were going to move ahead. There was a medication I could try to help my supply but it was the same medicine I tried with Addison and it didn't work so I was hesitant to go back down that road. We decided to pump a feeding session and give him a bottle in order to see how much he was eating and how much I was providing. Then we could supplement as needed.

Turned out the supplement was very much needed. During this session Connor easily ate an ounce and half while I pumped just shy of an ounce. Just like with Addison he was hungry. So now we had to figure out how we wanted to move forward. I just wanted him fed and on the right track. But at the same time the thought of giving up breastfeeding so early was hard for me.

For a few days we continued things as they were. I would breastfeed him then we would offer him an ounce or so of formula and I would pump for 10-15 minutes. Most of the time he would take the bottle and if he didn't right then he would in 30 minutes or so. All the while I barely got anything when I pumped but convinced myself that every little bit mattered. But after several days and some tears I realized that this wasn't something I could keep up. I was getting so little and I was spending so much time that I was frustrated and exhausted. I knew I couldn't keep this up at this pace, especially after Rob went back to work. It was too much.

I felt like Rob and I spent a lot of time talking about it and we discussed all the options in front of us. Rob told me that he was supportive of whatever I wanted to do but I was conflicted. I finally decided that I was going to go to exclusively pumping like I did for Addison and supplement each feeding. I spent a day pumping every two hours and getting about an ounce which wasn't even half of what I needed. I spent more time crying before I made my decision.

This ship was sinking. I wasn't going to be able to breastfeeding. I just wasn't producing what he needed. I wasn't even producing half of what he needed. So I would stop pumping all together. I would go back to breastfeeding and we would start weaning. This way I could end things on my terms. I wouldn't feel like I am desperately trying to hold on by hooking myself up to a machine and forcing something to happen that just wasn't happening. I could get the closeness with him for a few days more before we moved just to bottles.

It was clearly the right decision after going in for a checkup a week after his first weight check and he was just an ounce and half away from his birth weight. He was finally headed in the right direction and that was thanks to formula. So for that I'm grateful and don't regret giving him a single drop of formula.

But it was still a hard decision for me. I definitely don't have a problem with formula. Addison was formula fed from about two and half months on. It was just much sooner than I expected to have to make this decision and make this change. So it was a bit heartbreaking. But I knew this was the best decision. This was the path we were heading down whether I liked it or not.

So that's where we stand. I'm still weaning him to make it a little less painful for me because although I'm not producing enough I'm still producing some and I definitely get the full feeling. But I'm down to feeding right when he gets up and once at night then otherwise he has a formula diet. And I'm okay with it. Yes I might still cry about it from time to time but I'm hormonal so there's only so much I can do about it. But the truth is that the most important thing is that my baby boy is well-fed, healthy and happy. And if formula is what it takes then I'll pick formula over and over again.

xo, B

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