Sunday, October 04, 2009

Got Milk?

I’d say 99% of my conversations these days with fellow mothers hit on the topic of breastfeeding. As a new mom, your life can be consumed by it. The schedule, the technique, the accessories, the whole process...

As they say “breast is best” and any breastfeeding you can do is highly encouraged. Enough medical evidence and social pressure exist to support breast milk as the best food for baby which is a shift from a generation or two ago, where formula was the modern and best way to go. We certainly agree that breast milk is optimum but why do so many women find it unintuitive and confounding to breastfeed? To put this in perspective, think of the most frustrating experience you’ve ever had where you didn’t accomplish your goal--now multiply that feeling by 10. That’s breastfeeding for team Moore-Sakai.

Sidney and I just could not even get out of the starting blocks on this one. Here’s the full story on our experience of breast feeding.

When I gave birth, the 2 mounds of flesh on my chest finally had a purpose and I was looking forward to this ability to produce something within my own body that could completely and efficiently nurture our child. And that’s where my enthusiasm for the process began and ended. Several issues contributed to our consummate failure at nursing/breastfeeding…

  1. Because Sidney was born 3 weeks early, she was very tired so her sucking was under-powered. This didn’t allow her to get the hang of how much effort she’d need to put out to get milk from the breast.
  2. We used nipple shields (plastic sheaths that go over your nipples that have holes in them) to give her something more defined to latch onto since her lower jaw was slightly recessed and limited her range of opening. From the outset, her latch was bad.
  3. As the days went on, we found out she needed to be treated for jaundice and the amount of hydration she was getting from the scanty colostrum I was stranded with before my milk came in was not flushing the bad stuff out. Not only did she have to be put on a light box to help dissipate the toxins, the doctors also recommended that we give her formula to start flushing out her system. So within days of her arrival and well before breastfeeding was established, she was sucking down formula from a bottle.
  4. Since breast milk works as a supply & demand phenomenon, the fact that she wasn’t adequately demanding meant my body wasn’t supplying so the amount of milk I was creating was not keeping pace with her need for it. We had to supplement with formula anyway.

But we soldiered on. We consulted a lactation specialist, our doula, rented a hospital grade pump and attempted to use SNS (supplemental nursing systems) which mimicked feeding from the breast. This included a tube and syringe that was precariously placed within the nipple shield that pushed liquid into her mouth or “finger feeding” where Ken would use that same tube and syringe but use put his finger into her mouth to ensure that she was sucking and latching somewhat correctly. So it took 2 of us to feed her every 3 hours and it was so tedious yet we hung in there.

At her 2 week check up, she gained back her birth weight plus 4 extra ounces so the doctor suggested we try removing the supplemental systems at SOME of the feedings. I, in my sleep deprived and eager state, heard “let’s cut over to nursing for all of the feedings.” At the time, she needed 2 ounces at each feeding so we supplemented ½ oz. of formula just to give her a safety net. We assumed she’d get the other 75% of her meal from the breast herself. We started this on a Tuesday night and noticed that while she would be fussy after most feedings, she seemed to be “doing it.” (Note: For the night feedings, we straight up gave her 2 oz of formula from a bottle per the doctor’s recommendation.)

We decided to be on the safe side and rent a highly calibrated scale where we could weigh her before and after feedings to see how much breast milk she was actually pulling. The scale did not arrive until Saturday, 4.5 days after we switched over to Sidney-powered nursing. You know what I said in the previous blog about her “latching and nursing pretty well”—yeah, not so much. To our horror, we realized that Sidney was only pulling .1-.2 oz. of breast milk on her own. That’s well below what we assumed she was doing and as a result she lost a total 6 ounces in those 4.5 days from her 2-week checkup. We immediately began giving her a bottle of 2 full ounces at all feedings from then on to get the weight back up.

I was traumatized by this turn of events. Despite our best efforts, there were so many obstacles in our way to make nursing successful. Our pediatrician was very empathetic and supportive of us. She commended our dedication to try to make breastfeeding work but glad that we had discovered & corrected the supply problem. She said many families would not have stuck with it as long as we had or gone to the lengths we did to try to make it work. So at that point, we decided we were done. Done struggling with a process that was supposed to be natural but was anything but for us. With my supply stagnating, her demand per feeding increasing and so much of her feedings being formula any way, we decided that we’d be weaning from breast milk entirely around 5 weeks.

She would already have received the vital antibodies at the 3 week mark which our pediatrician advised us was important and we’d know that for all of our efforts, we had really tried. It would also eliminate a huge piece of anxiety that surrounded all feedings. I know there is a very adamant and vocal community who would condemn our decision. Perhaps they would call us selfish or not committed enough to our daughter’s well being and welfare. But we really tried and it was heartily disappointing. Ultimately though you have to do what is best for everyone involved. Being raised on formula isn’t the end of the world though. So many of our generation were and thankfully there is that option when the breastfeeding just doesn’t work.

My advice to all soon-to-be and new moms who want to breast feed is to line up resources and contacts as soon a possible. Don’t be afraid to reach out immediately when you have questions or things don’t seem to be going right. Hospitals usually have programs that can assist and there are doulas & consultants ready to help in-home as well. If you want to try to make breastfeeding work, there are the tools and folks out there. I will say the breast feeding is definitely worth trying even if it doesn’t become the long-term feeding solution.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Your milk supply doesn't determine what kind of mama you are. I too, struggled with breastfeeding both of my little ones and wasn't able to do so for as long as I'd hoped but it is AMAZING how much relief and downright euphoria comes from knowing your little bundle is getting WHAT she needs, WHEN she needs it, to be growing strong.

Take care,
Can't wait for more pics!