As a mother, sometimes the things that hit you are totally unexpected. They are things that you never once imagined might be so profound.
I had one of those moments this last week [Edit: late February 2013]. Allow some back story. As a first time pregnant lady, I fully expected nursing to be a breeze. I anticipated possible problems with it being painful at first, maybe him learning to latch taking awhile, etc. I anticipated painful engorgement and wishing I had less milk. I worried about the stories I'd heard from friends--spraying milk when a baby cried in Target and soaking my shirt. Not having an extra shirt, forgetting my soaking shields, and being at a family gathering where it was troublesome to feed the baby, leaking like crazy, and getting crazy bewildered looks from my father-in-law. It never occurred to me that I might struggle with supply because everyone everywhere all the time says mothers always make enough milk for their babies (or so it felt like, and usually still does).
This picture breaks my heart like none other. Roger's 4 months pic, him frightfully thin :(
Breastfeeding with Roger went nothing like I expected. I struggled CONSTANTLY with enough milk supply. At his four month appointment, the likes of which you can read about here, Roger's weight was very low. In fact, his weight-for-length wasn't even on the percentage chart. There was a 5, then where 0 would be, and his little "x" was way below that. So, so sad. At that point I was nursing as much as possible and giving very little formula, just a few ounces after nursing at night when he'd scream with hunger for hours and refuse to nurse. Everything I read said it's incredibly rare that a mother's body doesn't make enough milk if you put the baby to the breast enough (I did) and they have a good latch, etc, (he did) and if you think you are the exception, that rare case, you aren't.
At that four month appointment, I found out I was.
So I busted my bum, putting him to the breast as much as possible, taking a bunch the nastiest drops you ever tasted (Fenugreek and Mother's Milk drops and marshmallow root), eating a range of galactogenic (lactation inducing) foods, pumping 'round the clock (including waking up in the middle of the night which made me a mental wreck), taking a lactation-increasing prescription, everything I could find. None of it helped and at 5 months we switched to exclusively formula. It was painful. I felt like a failure who didn't try hard enough. Before my post-partum depression after Juliet was born (which I suppose I still need to write about) it was the hardest emotional experience of my life. You can also read about that here.
When I was pregnant Juliet I prayed I would make enough. And the first 3 months were amazing. Juliet ate great, she seemed to be getting plenty, I was able to pump 5 extra ounces a day (sometimes more) just by pumping on one side while she ate from the other during the first morning feed, and by mid-December she slept 6 hours a night a few nights in a row.
Jules, chunky, happy, and healthy and exclusively breastfed at 2 months.
And then, suddenly, in late December, my supply tanked. Juliet would scream with her hungry cry, and I not only couldn't pump jack, but she would eat off of both sides at every feed and cry in frustration by the end. She stopped sleeping more than 20 minutes at a time, even sleeping only 45 minutes while being held. A bunch of other things happened, too, that made it obvious--wearing a diaper through three feeds and still basically dry. Not pooping for 8 days when every 2-3 days had been normal. A bunch of things that just piled up.
So I decided to try the Fenugreek supplements and the like, the power pumping, etc, until her 4 month appointment at the beginning of this month (February). She was 12 pounds, 8 ounces...a gain of only 8.5 ounces in the 2 months since her 2 month appointment. Even with my low supply Roger gained four times as much in the same span of time between his two and four month appointments. That was WITH starting a lactation prescription around her 3 month birthday. Plus she was SCREAMING at night and wouldn't sleep...we thought she was just more needy of being held than Roger had been but we realized that, like he had been, she didn't sleep at night because she was hungry.
This punched me in the gut like the Hulk on steroids. How did I get here again? Did I learn nothing the first time around?
In my next post on Wednesday, you can find out what that profound moment I referred to at the beginning was and get a bit more of the story. On Friday you can catch up to the present, early May 2013.