Saturday, October 26, 2013

Breastfeeding Woes

Its been three and a half weeks since I started breastfeeding and I have been frustrated, scared, sad and fairly emotional about the whole experience so far. I'm just waiting for happy/thrilled to make it into the mix.

As I mentioned in my post about my blood loss after the delivery of my beautiful baby boy, my milk was slow at coming in. The first few days, no one really says anything, because well, that's to be expected. But when the nurse walked in from the nursery with my baby and says "you aren't feeding him enough, he's lost 10% of his body weight and we need to supplement with formula" I started to freak out.

"Formula" seemed like such a bad word. So much so that it felt like a punch to my gut when she said it. I grew up watching my mom breastfeed my younger siblings and I will admit that all of my dolls were breastfed as well. My mom is actually a lactation counselor and breastfeeding advocate for her county.  I grew up "celebrating" breastfeeding awareness week by dubbing videos, making posters and banners for her! I knew "breast is best" and formula was "second rate" at a very young age.

To hear that my baby needed formula was a lot like hearing "You're a failure." My body was not doing what it was made to do. I never imagined I would have troubles with this; I felt I had been trained for it! I was an emotional wreck about this. I was terrified. What if I can't breastfeed at all? What will happen to my baby because I can't give him what he needs? How will we afford all that formula?

Every breastfeeding resource I read pointed out over and over again how great breastfeeding is and how formula should only be used if medically necessary. Even formula says right on the packaging that breast milk is better than what you're feeding your baby. I felt bombarded by messages of failure.

I felt this way regardless that my situation made it "medically necessary." The doctor said that my milk production was probably affected by my blood loss and they hoped it would come when my body had recovered. How long would that take?

They gave my son the formula and brought a hospital grade pump to my room and hooked me up telling me to get to work. After a few times of pumping, I thought I was doing well. Something was coming out after all. But it turns out, it was only one-fifth (or less) of what my son needed in a single feeding. Chris was feeding him the milk I pumped via syringe. I still tried to breastfeed too but it was difficult to tell if he was getting anything. The formula feedings continued. They showed us some tricks to avoid using the bottle if we were worried about nipple confusion and showed Chris how to "finger feed."

A lactation counselor came in and helped one morning, but when she left, I still felt like I wasn't getting it . . . and he wasn't getting it either. I should have asked more questions. I should have clarified what she said so I understood it better.

Once we got home, I tried to just feed him all the time so I wouldn't have to use the formula, but the pediatrician vetoed that idea when she saw he still wasn't gaining weight as he should be. So we compromised. I would breastfeed all day long but then at night we would give formula.

Yesterday I met with the lactation counselor again and she gave me some encouragement that this can get better. There will be a lot of work on my end to get my supply up, but now that I'm feeling more like myself, it should in fact, increase!

I recently read this blog and was encouraged to keep up the fight, that it is worth it. And I'm realizing that using formula doesn't make me a failure. It may be necessary for my family. It is necessary for a lot of families -- that's why its there. I realize that I may have judged others who have decided not to breastfeed, but that was wrong. I never knew where they were coming from or why they decided to go with formula. I never even asked. (Can you ask that?)

I've been humbled. I'm still sad, frustrated, scared and the tears still come when I think about this struggle . . . but I'm going to do the best I can.

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