Thursday, December 17, 2009

Breastfeeding Dropout

Shortly before Baby G was born, I stocked up on various breastfeeding supplies like nipple cream, breast milk storage bags and breast pads. Today, I packed all of it away into a bag to bring to my friend as I no longer have any need for them. No longer is a misnomer. I never had any need for them and as you might have read earlier, I desperately wanted to.

I have always considered myself fairly aware of the messages society sends to me and as such, I've tried hard not to be dominated by them or to let them rule the way I feel about myself. However, in this case 'breast is best' haunts me and somehow not being able to breastfeed has made me feel like less of a mother. I am painfully aware of it every time I put a bottle to his mouth and I think I subconsciously liken formula feeding to mashing up McDonald's french fries and shoving them down his gullet. TOTALLY irrational, I know, and despite all of the examples of bright, thriving formula fed children in this world (Mr. S being one of them), I can't help but shake off this incredible guilt.

It all began just hours after his birth. While G latched on right away and nursed for 30 solid minutes after birth, his latch became tentative after that. Then he was diagnosed with jaundice and prescribed formula supplementation every 2 hours to help rid his body of the toxins more quickly. I wasn't a fan of the plan, but I was of course more devoted to his health and well being than my need to breastfeed. After he began his foray with bottles, his latch deteriorated from there and every time I went to breast feed him, he not only didn't latch properly, but became angry after a minute or two when it was clear that the breast was not giving at the rate of the bottle. Add onto that the myriad of nurses who came in, all with different techniques. As their shifts rotated throughout the few days, G and I became increasingly frustrated. Every time a new nurse started a shift, they had me 'demonstrate' for them. I swear I had my top down the entire hospital stay, whether in pumping or demonstration for yet another stranger walking through the door.

We were eventually visited by two different lactation consultants before we left the hospital. While their approaches were more similar, in combination with all of the nurses, my head was spinning. I decided that in the very least I would pump and provide him with breast milk that way, so before we left the hospital, we rented a hospital pump for the next month. However, I wasn't quite ready to give up the idea of breastfeeding.

Desperate, I made a one hour appointment with another lactation consultant after we were discharged. When we came into her office, the look on her face as I showed her how upset G got when we attempted to breastfeed said one thing to me: we were a lost cause. She prescribed a nipple shield (it's a plastic cover for the nipple and I'm assuming it works on baby's like G with nipple confusion and poor latch) and while he took to that much more readily, I was told that it was not a replacement and that I needed to continue trying to breastfeed without it and pumping after each feeding, which I did. Every time he fed, I tried breastfeeding first and every time I did this, G got upset. Then I tried the nipple shield and eventually, he got upset with this as well. It was disheartening to see this over and over again. Pumping, for those not familiar, is often a 15-20 minute process during which little interaction can occur with the baby given the equipment attached to your front side. And if used after each feeding, we're talking up to 200 minutes a day not spent interacting with your baby (and not spent sleeping!). This level of devotion is nearly impossible, but nevertheless I tried.

And then my Mom was hospitalized. Up to that point, I had been able to provide at least half of G's meals by breast milk thanks to pumping and my supply was steadily increasing. After 2 weeks of getting one, maybe two pumps in at best as I was taking care of my parent's errands, visiting her in the hospital, and living out of someone else's house, my supply just one day essentially stopped. It was bizarre. If I were to pump today, I might get 5% of his meal at best. So, I've given up pumping and will hand the rental in this week.

It makes me sad as my body reminds me of what it should do. Often when he cries and especially when he roots, I still get a small let down. The simple fact is, like most parents, I want only the best for G and I somehow feel as if formula feeding has failed him. I think infertility (as always) plays a large role in this. First, I wonder, is it yet another failure of my body? I also wanted that closeness and of course all of the nutritional and immune benefits so often described. On top of all of this, G has had some reflux and gas issues and although he seemed to have these even when he was taking in breast milk, part of me wonders whether formula is the culprit given that it is more difficult to digest.

So this is the end of the line. I'm officially a breastfeeding dropout (sung to the tune of Beauty School Dropout from Grease).


Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

I'm sorry that it's been so hard for you, as it also has for me. I have another post about BF coming up this week, in part about the mixed messages from professionals.

The 200 minutes per day never really added up in my mind (not that I've ever pumped 10 times in a day, but still, wow).

I hope you're able to come to peace with the decision and instead enjoy those 200 minutes with G.

Me said...

I think I understand where you're coming from. I very much want to breastfeed myself. That said, if you've done all you can do, then that is all you can do. And you should not feel bad.

cheryllookingforward said...

I'm sorry you couldn't breastfeed like you wanted, but I wanted to give you my support. You did try your best!

Nikki said...

I'm sorry that things have been so rough with breast feeding. You have done your best, so please don't feel guilty.

If you want to try an old Indian tactic for increasing milk supply for BF, here it is. Just get some fenugreek seeds (I understand you can get them in supplement stores). Just take a spoonful of the seeds and drink them down with water (like medicine). Apparently that really helps a lot. And it's all natural. Just don't chew the seeds - they are bitter!!

Lorraine said...

Breastfeeding is wonderful as long as it's working for everyone - at a certain point all of the lovely benefits are probably outweighed by too much frustration.

I've never heard of anyone managing to work their way to happy breastfeeding late in the game, but I suppose it's possible if you really really want to. That said, there are so many things that you have to figure out with new parenting, and maybe picking your battles is the key to overall happiness in parenting.

And, by the way, that doesn't seem to end - I'm still relying on that philosophy with my middle-schooler!

Claudia said...

Oh wow, I absolutely hear you on this one. I didn't even get to try breastfeeding (didn't give birth, which makes it pretty difficult!) and I totally know what you mean about feelign like a junk-food mother. I know that the whole 'breast is best' thing is true, but the volume at which that message is preached can make things pretty hard for those of us who can't pursue it.

Thanks for writing this. I don't think it gets discussed often enough. And ENJOY your extra 200 minutes per day actually spending time with your baby!