to my breastpump.
(My limited male readership has now left the building.)
After 8 months of lactation consultants, latch issues, supply issues, blisters, bleeding, lightning pains, Fenugreek capsules (and smelling like maple syrup as a result), and gobs of lanolin cream, I have thrown in the towel.
(If they didn't before, they have now.)
This is tough for me. Like so many things I thought I had a good plan for before Kaelyn was born (including the whole "she's in the crib in her room from day one" stance), breastfeeding just wasn't in the cards. So we had to adapt. In the hospital, we figured out that it would be a challenge. She'd latch well enough, but would nod off soon after. We were having to supplement already with formula. It bothered me, but she needed to eat. We persisted once we got home, but her latch was becoming...painful. I was told to nurse on-demand and try to boost my supply. At Little's hospital followup with the pediatrician though, she had dropped more than the average at that point. So we supplemented and got her back to where she needed to be weight-wise.
I kept trying to boost my supply, but nursing hurt, Little would either fall asleep or get frustrated (she also refused to nurse on one side in particular, which wasn't helping my supply), and the Lansinoh pump we bought was...useless. (I'd use profanities, but I'm trying to clean up my occasional pirate mouth.) I sought the help from a lactation consultant, who turned out to be the handsy instructor of the Breastfeeding class we took before Little was born. Kaelyn hated her. She made me strip her down to nothing so she could get a before feeding and after feeding weight. The result wasn't good and neither was her latch. Ms. Handsy commented about how it was like she was biting and no wonder I was in such pain. Seriously, every time she latched, I would suck in my breath, trying not to whimper (and scare Kaelyn off her latch), and every time I wanted to cry. She told me to keep up with nursing, but made the (to me) barbaric suggestion to have Kaelyn's tongue clipped. Yes, clipped. Meaning having the little part underneath that connects the tongue to the bottom of her mouth cut. She said hers was short and was contributing to her poor latch. Well besides swooping my defenseless newborn away from her like a momma lion protecting her cub, this completely tossed out her credibility in my mind. Clearly the woman was crazy and it troubled me that I had just voluntarilly put myself through round 2 of having my boobs manhandled with a woman who was suggesting I put my 2 week old through an elective, controversial and painful procedure. Yeah. I. don't. think. so. (Oh and at our next trip to the pediatrician, I mentioned it during the discussion about Kaelyn's feeding schedule. He had heard of it, but when he checked her tongue himself, he was shocked she had made the suggestion because it wasn't even short.)
The fact remained, even if on that point I found the woman to be a quack, that Kaelyn simply wasn't getting enough with nursing alone, even after a decent length feed. I had her look at the said useless breastpump prior to the "clipping" suggestion and she agreed it wasn't doing a darn thing. She suggested getting a Medela pump, as well as their brand of lanolin to help the soreness, which we did. Pronto.
So I started pumping to try to boost my supply. The suggestion is to nurse/pump a minimum of 10-12 times a day. Every feed went a little like this: Try to nurse. Supplement. Pump. Every 2 hours or so. This fills up a day pretty quickly. To make matters worse, I was getting depressed. It was becoming too much to carry on this schedule, I felt like I was taking away from time with Kaelyn, a lot had happened that I hadn't dealt with, including some family issues and that my dog of almost 15 years died 2 days after we got home from the hospital. A tearful followup visit to the doctor resulted in a diagnosis of PPD (post-partum depression), a prescription for Zoloft, and a suggestion from her to stop breastfeeding. She had a similar experience with having to pump and after she made the decision to stop, she didn't feel depressed anymore.
I considered stopping for the first of several dozen times, but we kept hearing from the pediatrician about how wonderful breastmilk is for babies, regardless of the amount, and I so very much wanted to provide that for Kaelyn. But then I didn't want to take the Zoloft. But we had dropped almost $300 on the pump. I was incredibly frustrated.
My solution for the time-being was to only bottle-feed Kaelyn. I'd continue to pump, but not the recommended 10-12 times a day. I'd take what I could get. I did, however, start trying "natural" supply boosters. Like a special recipe for oatmeal cookies that included flaxseed meal and brewers yeast. And Fenugreek, which according to the instructions, isn't working until you smell of maple syrup. Seriously. It's used in artificial syrups and in large doses, starts seeping out of your pores. Yumm-ay.
I didn't see much of a difference, but adding chocolate chips to the cookie recipe made them really pretty good. Just don't refer to them as "breastmilk" cookies to your friends. Not only will they drop the ziploc of them like a hot potato, but they'll look at you like you have 3 heads. The downside to now pumping all the time was that I traded soreness and rawness from a poor latch for blisters from the pump. Lovely. It didn't matter the setting.
I gave up the cookies at some point--first I traded the chocolate chips for raisins to be "healthier" and started and stopped the Fenugreek several times when I just couldn't stand the smell of syrup 24/7. I continue to take what I could get as far as the breastmilk was concerned. For awhile, we'd end up with maybe 3 bottles a day. Then it was maybe 2. Then, because the number of ounces per bottle Kaelyn needed was increasing and I couldn't pump as much once I went back to work, it was down to an average of a bottle a day. More recently, it was down to a bottle every other day. I was still getting blisters, but was so used to them that it didn't phase me anymore. I had so many times when I cried to the Hubs about it. I wanted to provide it for Kaelyn, but I was in pain, I was spending so much time sitting there pumping when I wanted to be playing with her. He was incredibly supportive even when I was a basketcase and would decide to quit and then be back to it the next day. I just wasn't ready to let it go, which sounds silly maybe, but breastfeeding is an emotional topic for a lot of women. It's something I felt I should be able to do and had planned to do. (For some families, formula is the better choice for any number of reasons and I respect their decision. Breastfeeding/pumping was simply my plan and my preference.)
So at the end of last week, I quit. The amount I was getting each pump was hardly measurable and though I had begrudgingly started another regimen of Fenugreek, I decided it was time to let go and move on. I've been baking, steaming, boiling, and pureeing Kaelyn's "solid" diet and I feel good putting the energy that I was using to pump into making her other food. So far, I have noticed it's much easier not having to worry about pumping before bed when I'm exhausted or in the morning when time is tight already, or pumping in the car when we go out on the weekends, and this morning, I didn't have to tote in my Medela Pump in Style backpack into work, which was strange. Maybe liberating?
Oh and in regards to the Zoloft, I did end up taking it for 4 months and then quit cold turkey, which I absolutely do NOT recommend anyone doing. I went through withdrawal, including dizziness, even when I had been on a very low dose. I'm still not sure if it was true PPD I experienced or if it was a diagnosis jotted down on my checkout paper for coding purposes because I hadn't managed to explain to my doctor that I just had a dump truck unload a steaming pile of stress, drama, and grief in my front yard that would cause anyone to feel overwhelmed and emotional. It wasn't Kaelyn or motherhood that had me breaking down emotionally, after all. I felt more myself and more in control when I was taking care of Kaelyn than any other time in my life. Being her mom came as naturally to me as breathing. I felt so much better when the Zoloft finally cleared out of my system.
Now, I feel good. Parenthood can still feel overwhelming because there simply aren't enough hours in the day and babies grow way too fast, but I feel good about my decision. Kaelyn's a very healthy nearly 8 month old and that's really all that matters. That's all I wanted all along and she's gotten to that point thanks to both breastmilk and formula (and now lots of yummy fruits and veggies). I just wish that there wasn't such a stigma about whatever decision families, specifically moms make about whether to breastfeed or use formula. For awhile, I felt like I was being judged when I'd give Kaelyn formula in public or when I'd be directly asked "Aren't you nursing her?" On the flip side of that, women who breastfeed in public are judged, Hooter Hider or not. I wish people would realize that some things are out of one's control, there are a thousand reasons why a mom would choose one over the other. I think people just assume that they know best and don't consider the circumstances. Yes, there are health benefits with breastmilk, but to me, if a woman doesn't want to breastfeed, if she feels forced to, it's not going to be a positive experience. If a woman can't, it's really awful to make her feel bad about it. Ultimately, it's the individual family's decision to make.
By the way, the Hubs and I joked after the forementioned Breastfeeding class about it seeming to be sponsored by Medela, but their pumps and supplies are awesome. Just do yourself a favor and use a coupon.