Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Breastfeeding Blues

This is some straight talk on breastfeeding .  Let me clarify.  This is my breastfeeding experience so far.  Honest, straight from the heart talk. I am sharing because I think people learn from stories like this.  I have read some stories on blogs lately that have helped me out a great deal in knowing we all struggle, that every child brings different challenges and through it all,  all we all want is to do what is best for our babies.  Maybe you will learn something about me, about breastfeeding, about compassion.  Maybe you won't.  Please don't judge because I am not claiming what I do is what every Mother should do.  Trust me, I know every Mom has her own struggles.  This is just one.  Right now it is a big one for me.  I call it the breastfeeding blues because just thinking about it makes me teary, typing makes me choke up, and living it weighs heavy on my heart.  I also had the Mirena removed a week ago and maybe my hormones are out of whack even more than just dealing with this on its own.  Who knows.  Deep breathe.  Here goes............

Breastfeeding Bubba and Marmalade was easy.  A piece of cake.  I never had an issues with low milk that I couldn't fix with a couple of pills of Fenugreek and an extra pumping session here and there.  Latching on and sucking that precious liquid gold came natural to them.  I nursed my 1st born for 12 months.  At three months when I returned to work I pumped at work 2 times a day and sent him to daycare with bottles of mostly breastmilk and a bit of formula.  I added formula in case my milk did get low, I didn't want his tummy to be in such shock.  It never got low and I nursed until his 1st birthday when he could switch to cow's milk and seemed ok not to nurse.  It was a hard transition on an emotional level but we both pulled through it and it was fine.

Similar story with my 2nd child.   Only she had a horrible case of thrush that lasted for 3 months and was also diagnosed really early on with acid reflux.  Despite this we were able to nurse very happily for 9 months.  The transition to stop nursing  was also harder on my emotions,  but physically I was ready to get my body back and she was fine with the bottles and solid food

Then Chica was born.  I had not a care in the workd as far as wondering if breastfeeding was going to work.  In fact, maybe I was a little cocky because I had such an easy time nursing and I always thought my body was an over-achiever when it came to making milk.  I could have fed a small village alone.  So anyway, latching caused some pain for me but we worked through that and things seemed to be going fine.   Or so I thought.  She was always a very sleepy baby at the boob, maybe because of the jaundice she was born with at first.  Even after she got rid of that,  she was still a "lazy" eater and not much of a strong  sucker I realize now.  She never properly emptied both my breast which is not a good thing to promote the whole "supply and demand" that keeps your milk supply up.  I tried switch nursing.    Five minutes on one side, five on the other.  Burp.  Try again.  She rarely would do more than five and five.

She was gaining weight leaps and bounds. Then she got thrush.  Then I got mastitis. When I was on the antibiotics for that I thought once or twice when it was time for a feeding, "well....time to tick off the baby."  You see she would cry after nursing and I didn't put together in my head why or how long this was going on until the day it came to me.  It was so obvious that it felt like a smack in the face.  My milk was low and she was still hungry!  I am sure my body thought,  "There is no way in hell I am making all that milk again and getting mastitis again.  I shall go on strike."

I  desperately  put in a call right away to my breastfeeding support line.  I told her I thought my milk on one side was really low and the baby seems to not like nursing all of a sudden.  I cried my way through the conversation and agreed to come in for a consultation with Chica.

When we arrived she had just eaten an hour ago and so I knew this wasn't going to go that well already.  We were supposed to weigh her and nurse and weigh and nurse on the other side and weigh her again.  She was fast asleep but  we got her up and weighed her.  She gained the correct amount of weight since last appointment so that was at least a good thing!  I got  her to eat some on the left side, my low side and we weighed her. It was shocking that she only took in 8 ml!  8 ml!!  Now I am panicked.  We nurse on the right and she starts squirming and crying like she had been doing every time I nursed her lately.  She took 15 ml.  My heart sank.  It wasn't enough.  Even though she had just eaten an hour earlier she should have gotten more than this.  I felt horrible for not noticing this earlier on.  I was too distracted dealing with 3 kids and maybe I didn't notice soon enough.  Either way, my consultant told me I should offer her some formula after each nursing session to make sure she gets what she needs.  I burst into tears.  I also could physically feel my breast not getting as full anymore.  Especially on the side I had the infection. 

I had this thing about formula.  I don't trust it.  You know what you put in your own body and that is what is in the milk.  But now.....to trust my entire baby's nutrition on what a company puts in the formula was too much.  Have you heard about all the formula recalls?  Scary stuff!!

She told me I could take fenugreek 3 pills 3 times a day, breastfeed, give her a bottle and then pump after that.  This would hopefully bump up my supply.  I should try this for four days.  I burst into tears again.  But how can I manage to do all this and care for the other 2 children too?  That is a lot of time nursing, bottle feeding, pumping, cleaning  bottles and pump pieces over and over and over.   I had surgery coming up, I was leaving for vacation in 3 days.   It was an overwhelming.   But I said I would give it a try.

I kept on that schedule the rest of that day, into the night and the next morning until things broke down.  My husband left for work and to give Bubba a ride to preschool and I was home alone with the girls. Besides being exhausted, Chica was extra fussy that morning and I couldn't put her down let alone pump!  So I did what I felt I could do and just decided to give up.  Sort of.  I would breastfeed and bottle feed her but I wasn't going to pump that day unless I was too uncomfortable.  Chica didn't like being switched every feeding from breast to bottle.  I think it was confusing for her.  Feedings  were not getting an easier for anyone.  I cried a lot that day.  Wept.  Sobbed.  I cried myself to bed thinking how I had failed her.  My body had failed her.  Failed us!  I didn't want to stop nursing.  Not at 7 weeks old. It wasn't fair.  Why didn't I realize what was going on earlier?  Maybe I could have fixed it?  I was heartbroken and unclear what to do or how things would turn out.

The next day I switched my plan again.  I would only bottle feed her and I would pump every 4 hours to get her as much milk as I could for as long as I could.  I started taking the fenugreek again.  Besides, even though not nursing her was heartbreaking to me the most important thing her and the thing I had to focus on is that breast milk is better than formula no matter how she gets it, the boob or bottle, the main thing is she gets it.....or at least every ounce I can get for her.  I still cried this day too.  A lot. I felt guilty and still like a failure for her.  Heart-wrenching.  But she was doing fine taking a bottle and not crying after each feeding.

For me stomach cramps and upset set in and the ride to Cape Cod was not fun for me.  I had to stop the fenugreek.  With my pump (with a battery pack for the car), bottles and formula in tow we headed off for vacation.  New ground.  New start.  Unsure of it all.

I realized that night that I could nurse her when she woke at night.  Since she only wakes once a night usually( I know...don't be jealous) , and things were quiet, no distractions, and my breast seemed full......why not try.  And ya know what?  It worked fine.  And after pumping for a couple of days I realized that I did not have a low milk supply.r at least not anymore!   I was pumping basically what she was taking in bottles.  I think the change of scene helped us out on this tough week. I pumped in the car when we were out and about.  It worked fine.  I felt dedicated.

The positive points for her bottle feeding besides she wasn't crying as much and I felt better knowing that I could physically see how much she was taking in,  was that it allowed me a bit more freedom.  Now anyone could feed her in the day and help clean bottles and make bottles.  She eats every two hours.  I pump every four.  Also, If I had a glass of wine and needed to pump I could have one and dump the milk or plan on drinking one after I had pumped.  Not saying this is a reason to ever stop nursing but I am trying to see some silver lining here people.  And wine is a good thing every one in a while.  Yes, I know you can do the same when you are nursing but when baby eats every 2 hours or less sometimes that is a hard thing to time.   It is also easier to give her  bottle and help the other kids out with something if they needed it.  I couldn't really start and stop breastfeeding to help someone but with a bottle I could.  Yesterday I had Chica in her swing, bottle feeding her.  I sat on the floor feeding her and holding Marmalade as she had a meltdown in my lap and needed me to hug her.

Then can another feeling I hadn't experienced before now.  Bottle feeding my baby in public.  The shame and embarrassment I felt was awful.  I thought people were looking at me and judging me.  I wanted to be that Mom at the Museum nursing her baby on the bench but instead I was finding hot water to warm the bottle and stressing that people were thinking I was a bad Mom.

I don't really know or totally understand why nursing didn't seem to work for us if it seems that I do have enough milk or almost enough I guess.    And after all this I don't think I can try to go back to only nursing.  What if it doesn't work?  When I do go back to work, things won't be so hard for her as they were with my other kids.  Chaca did get fussy on regular formula and we switched to a sensitive one.  The verdict is still out on that.  I still cry about not getting all those close moments with her in the day but I do have our nights.  And it makes getting up at night easier when I know I can get close to her and nurse and see her satisfied and drift off back to sleep.  Occasionally I nurse her in the day.  We go with the flow and try to to what we both need to do day by day.  I have no plan from here.  I had surgery and that didn't help things here either but at this point today, I am pumping out just slightly under what she is taking in......so I know she needs a bit of a supplement.  I will think of the formula like her medicine.  (I took that from another Mom's comparison and really liked it.)

Please don't judge me if you see me or another Mom out and about bottle feeding her baby.  You don't know what they have been through.

I try to not feel the Mommy guilt but I have not had any success not feeling that every day.  I don't know how this plays out but I know I an in the thick of some breastfeeding blues, for sure.



  1. Oh, mama, I've been there 4 times!! I feel for you- the guilt that you felt. No judgement at all over here. I've told you my story about Max and my double mastitis the first go. I felt like the worst mother stopping after three months. But for the better part of 3 months I was sick-fighting infection. And with Henry, I was so mastitis shy- I didn't even try. But, I nurtured him and snuggled him and bonded with him and bathed him in love and warmth and other forms of nourishment. He's a great kid. Though when he feels like he's a bit out of place in the world- he will tease me and tell me it's because I never nursed him. With Violet- we had so so many feeding issues. I had the supply- she had the suck but years of being unbelievably physically stretched- left a anatomical disconnect. I pumped round the clock for two months. And eventually we were able to nurse the old fashioned way but not without constant effort and struggle to keep her attention- to keep my supply up. It was exhausting, daunting, overwhelming and yet when she refused at 10 months to continue, I was heartbroken and of course I felt guilty that I had not given her enough. There will always be a part of us, whether in breastfeeding or in our emotional output or our ability to offer our time- that will be uncertain if we gave enough.

    You love that baby to pieces. You always have her best interests at heart. Try to remember that you have more reasons to celebrate your skills as a mama than you have reasons to feel guilty (that will shift when they are all in middle school:-).

    Love and peace and bottles and boobs to you.xo

    1. Thanks for reminding me and sharing your story too. It does help to know what other Mama's go through. Sometimes I think I over think things. Plus, I really think I am a true hot mess right now from the evil Mirena....hormonal crash, hot flashes, weepy, angry. I am blaming it on the Mirena anyways. I know this breastfeeding troubles doesn't help either. Good news is Chica had her 2 month checkup yesterday and hasn't skipped a beat in the weight gain department. Doc was very impressed with her rolls. :) She is a happy girl and that helps heal me. I love what you wrote and the love peace and bottles and boobs..........made me laugh!