I want to preface this post by saying that my desire to breastfeed in no way exhibits judgement towards people who choose not to breastfeed and especially those who cannot breastfeed. There’s no mommy judgement here. This is just my story.
I’ve never questioned whether I would breastfeed. I believe it’s best for my baby, so of course, I would just do it.
However, in the past year, I’ve learned via friends and acquaintances that breastfeeding can be challenging; breastfeeding can even be downright impossible. So I hoped for the best and tried not to think so hard about it. I mean, you can’t really do anything to prepare yourself for breastfeeding. I read a lot about it, but it’s not like you can practice before the baby gets here.
As soon as Elliott was born, he latched right on and nursed for over 40 minutes. Of course, I had no milk yet, but he was getting the colostrum that is so incredibly healthy for babies. I felt encouraged by how quickly he knew exactly what to do. Of course, books will tell you that babies inherently know how to nurse, but it’s still a marvel when your baby does it for the first time.
We only stayed in the hospital for a little over 24 hours because Elliott and I were doing great and at the hospital where I delivered if your doctor/midwife clears you, you can leave early. And while in the hospital, I nursed Elliott every time he rooted around looking for a boob…at least, that’s what I thought he was doing. The lactation consultant popped her head in just before we left and said things looked like they were going well after consulting his charts to see how many times he had wet and dirtied his diaper.
We went on our way and I continued to nurse him every couple of hours. He seemed eager to eat every time and in my knowledge, everything was going great.
And then we went to his first doctor’s appointment, where we found he had lost a whole pound in three days. His doctor seemed to be very concerned that he had dropped from 7 lbs. 8 oz. to 6 lbs. 8 oz. in such a short period of time. Elliott’s doctor seemed to tiptoe around the subject that we might have to supplement with formula. He didn’t say it outright, but both Brad and I got the same message loud and clear.
It concerned both of us that after only three days, we were already being threatened with formula.
Two days later, fueled by little sleep, hormonal shifts, and the fear that Elliott wasn’t actually swallowing any of my milk, I called a lactation consultant and also changed pediatricians. We met with the lactation consultant about an hour later and learned that Elliott was gaining weight, but not quite as much as he should. But I was reassured that he was swallowing my milk and was told that he had a “textbook perfect latch”. This made me feel a little better.
Early the following week, we met with the lactation consultant at the new pediatrician and honestly, we’ve been back so many times since then, I can’t recall the time line of events accurately. But I do know that at some point, the lactation consultant said that Elliott wasn’t gaining weight fast enough and we needed to supplement with formula. For two weeks I had been feeding him every two hours, which I thought would have been enough. But it just wasn’t.
I was heart broken that I wasn’t producing enough milk. My mom had similar issues, but I always thought that before we jumped to formula, other things could have been done. I had been taking Fenugreek for a week at this point, but am still uncertain whether it actually helped. For the next week, he fed him 1-2 oz. of formula after I nursed him and I pumped three times a day. I was also put on a prescription medication called Reglan, which is supposed to increase your milk supply.
I took a day and a half worth of Reglan and then had an awful reaction. My tongue swelled and my lower jaw wouldn’t move properly. Brad called my OB and I was instructed to not take it anymore. The whole experience was kind of scary and very uncomfortable.
The Reglan had made me groggy, which on top of inadequate sleep, made me feel awful. Also, I swear that medicine was messing with my head. I had felt emotional in the past few weeks, which is very common after giving birth, but after only taking the Reglan for a day and a half, I felt absolutely horrible. A part of me thought the reaction was a blessing in disguise because without it, I would have continued to take the meds, thinking that the way I felt was just necessary to sure I could breastfeed. Even when my tongue swelled, I had a fleeting thought of, ‘Well this sucks, but I guess this is just how it will be while I’m taking this medicine. I wonder if I could speak coherently if I had to call 911?’
Crazy, I know.
When I went back to the lactation consultant a few days later, I knew what she was going to tell me — that since I couldn’t take the Reglan, I would just have to supplement with formula indefinitely. I was sad about this, but had somewhat made peace with this.
At Elliott’s appointment, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her say that we could stop the formula immediately and that I could gradually increase my milk supply over time by pumping more. As much as I hate pumping, this made me so happy. Elliott had more than gained his birthweight back and she wanted us to back off feeding him so much.
However, the next couple of days, I fed Elliott a few times and he still seemed hungry afterwards — rooting around and doing what I call “bobbing for apples” where he opens his mouth wide and bobs his head back and forth, usually on my shoulder. I felt like I had to give him something, but knew from pumping that I was milked dry, literally. So we broke down and gave him some formula (no more than 1-2 oz, for a total of about 3-4 oz. per day).
But since those couple of days of continuing to supplement only when necessary, he has seemed perfectly content with my supply.
My midwife suggested that I take More Milk Plus (which I found at The Milky Way in Charlotte) and maybe it’s a coincidence, but I really feel like I’m producing more milk. Elliott has definitely gotten bigger, but not really chunkier. He’s longer and his head is larger. I’m hoping that I’m producing enough milk that the pediatrician will “okay” his weight gain later this week at his one month check-up.
I was told by my lactation consultant that if I wanted to increase my milk supply, I should pump as much as possible after every feeding. However last week, Elliott was so fussy and gassy that we literally “comfort nursed” around the clock, so pumping has been virtually impossible. This week has been a little better, so I’ve had the chance to pump more.
Other things I’ve done to increase my milk supply:
- Eating oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning
- Drinking a beer almost every evening
- Drinking plenty of water (I could do a better job at this)
- Eating plenty in general
So breastfeeding hasn’t been a walk in the park and to be honest, I’m still not sure if we’re over the hump. But I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make sure Elliott is healthy and well-fed, no matter what that means.