Posted by: birdsandsquirrels | June 15, 2010

decisions

I had a horrible weekend because of problems with breastfeeding. I’m not sure if I am looking for encouragement to stick with it or permission to stop spending so much energy on supply and supplement with formula. Ugh.

I finally got Birdie weaned off of using the nipple shields before our trip to California, at 5 months. I kind of thought that once I got off the shields that things had to get easier, right? Well, not exactly. I thought all of my nipple pain this whole time might have been due to irritation by the shields, but it got even worse without them. Then with all the stress of traveling, my supply dropped. And the last few weeks, Birdie’s nursing time has decreased to 5 or so minutes per side before she starts PULLING OFF THE NIPPLE WHILE SUCKING. Now once she pulls off twice, I say “OUCH” and put the breast away.

I went to my doctor last Thursday thinking that maybe I had thrush again, because my nipples were burning and hurting so much. I saw a nurse practitioner there who said she didn’t think it was thrush. She observed our latch and said it looks good. She gave me a prescription for more nipple ointment and said I should find more lactation support. She also gave me Reglan for the low supply.

I was wary of taking Reglan because I have issues with depression to begin with, but I figured hey, maybe more milk will keep Birdie happier and there will be less pulling off and less pain. So Friday night I started taking the Reglan. By Saturday evening I had lots of milk, but got a wicked blocked duct, in a new place on my breast that never gets blocked. I spent Saturday and Sunday pumping and using heat and all of my blocked duct tricks. At one point I crumpled up onto the floor in a heap of tears and said to myself “I just can’t do this anymore.” I was convinced that if I give her formula with regularity, it will start the downward spiral of weaning early, and I really wanted to breastfeed for a full year at least.

I’m feeling a little better today. The blockage has resolved. I stopped the Reglan. I’ve been pumping every 2.5 to 3 hours trying to work on the supply without Reglan or Fenugreek (which I had been taking at max dosage for months). I got the book “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk”. I found a breastfeeding support group through the hospital to go to this week. Maybe I can salvage this.

I am still just so discouraged. It has been SO DAMN HARD THE ENTIRE TIME. From initial nipple trauma (cracked and bloody) to shields to thrush to low supply to weird infection to herbs and medicines and a gazillion blocked ducts. I spend so much time stressing and worrying that I almost feel like I would probably enjoy Birdie more if I supplemented and let the downward spiral begin. And with my low supply, I do think that without much effort to keep it up, it would dwindle.

What should I do? What would you do? I know it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she weaned early. We have made it to darn near 6 months. I am driving myself crazy over this.

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Responses

  1. Here’s what’s worked for me:

    1) Give yourself huge credit for making it this far.

    2) Think of a small way you could give yourself (and your poor nipples) a break. Maybe dropping one pumping session, or supplementing one feeding while still pumping. Just one small break.

    3) Figure out what parts of breastfeeding really matter to you. Is there a way to retain those good parts while giving yourself some sanity breaks?

    4) Give yourself credit for all the good things you do for Birdie, regardless of how you feed her.

    I’ve had horrible supply issues (although none of the other struggles you’ve had… you are a tough warrior woman for dealing with all of those), so I’ve had to make peace with supplementation. Now that I’m “there,” I have trouble remembering why formula felt so taboo in the first place. My number one priority is that he is fed well and with love.

    Good luck with whatever you decide, and know that you’ve fought the good fight!

  2. I’m in a similar quandry, but at the 3 month mark. You’re amazing for having made it to 5 months! Would you start solids at this point? I’ve been given the green light to start stuff like avocado, banana, sweet potato at 4 months to get some extra cal into K. They actually told me to skip cereal. That might start to take some of the supply issue off. Only thing I could find in studies was that there is an increased chance of GI illness before 6mo by starting solids before then.
    But really, like everyone says, formula’s fine. And I think I just have to get over myself soon to ensure decent weight gain for K, rather than making it about me. I’d still keep feeding and pumping, but might worry less. I think we could still have some kind of nursing relationship.
    You’re not a bad mother if you supplement (repeating this to myself as the same time).

  3. Girl, you have done enough. Breastfeeding is great but NOT SO GREAT THAT YOU NEED TO TORTURE YOURSELF. Is it keeping you from enjoying Birdie? Birdie has gotten a lot of good from breastfeeding already. I think Kate is right, solids will give you both some breathing room.

    You are not dooming Birdie to life in an iron lung if you stop. Think of the benefits, you will be able to look forward to feeding her without struggle. It would be fun to snuggle her without pain.

  4. I give you LOTS of credit for hanging in there this long considering the pain you have put yourself through to keep Birdie healthy.

    I tried the breastfeeding route and lasted 7 or 8 weeks best before my body just stopped producing and formula it was. It broke my heart and I felt like I failed her but she is strong and very healthy still to this day 8 months later. You can only do what you can do until your body tells you otherwise.

    You will know when you have reached a limit with the breast pain and issues and you will make a choice either way. Just know you have done AWESOME with going this far in the game and she knows no matter what you are taking great care of her always.

    Good luck. Hope you feel better.

  5. Not sure how I found your blog but I’ve been lurking a while. πŸ™‚

    I have a good friend who went through the same thing recently, except she only made it a couple weeks. And when she switched to formula she was happier, she enjoyed her baby and feeding more, and she was able to relax. You’ve done a great job to make it almost six months!

    Nursing is so hard and there’s so much we don’t hear about ahead of time. My baby is seven weeks. I’m lucky to have a good latcher and a great supply. Should make nursing easy, right? Nope. I get blocked ducts daily, have had mastitis twice (so bad I needed an ultrasound to determine the extent of it) and ended up sharing thrush with my daughter as well. The antibiotics I’ve been on for weeks have upset my baby’s tummy but I have no choice but to take them. My doctor says I will be “one of those people” constantly battling the ducts, and thus constantly on the verge of infection. It’s frustrating.

    So, though a different challenge than yours, know that even a good supply doesn’t guarantee breast feeding ease. You just have to do your best. I wanted to nurse for a year but the prospect of being on and off antibiotics for a year, and subjecting my baby’s tummy to the meds for a year, doesn’t sound great. So I take it a day at a time…

    Sorry this is so long. Hang in there. You’re doing great.

  6. You do what’s best for you. If you can make it to 8 months, you won’t need to do formula. My older son decided he was ‘done’ at 8 months (did not want to nurse anymore and weaned himself). I asked our doctor what to do and he said I could give him regular milk and didn’t have to do formula. We did and he didn’t have any allergies to it. So if that makes any difference, you could try and make it a couple of more months and she’ll be on more solids, drinking less of your milk and you could start supplementing with regular milk.

    Then again, if you are done, you are done. You made it this far mama.

    Whatever you choose will be great and Birdie will be a happy baby no matter what you choose because she has you as a loving mama.

  7. Just my opinion, but I think supplementing is just fine. ENJOY YOUR BABY! At this point she’s gotten the most immunity benefit from your breast milk. Babies grow up so fast, don’t miss out on enjoying all her baby moments because you’re making yourself crazy trying to exclusively breastfeed.

    At this point with my girl (6.5 months), my supply is so low that nursing is basically a snack. And comfort. Happy mommy = happy baby.

  8. you may remember i had a similar dilema around the same time with the kids. i finally decided to give them each a bottle of formula when they were at daycare. i did it for about a month, built my supply back up and also started solids about the same time.

    now my supply isn’t an issue. they’re taking in more solid food and nursing a little less. they haven’t had formula in a long time!

    i also agree with the ladies above. the funny thing? after a few weeks of supplementing a few feedings with formula i couldn’t remember why i spent so much time crying about it before. πŸ™‚

    hang in there. it *is* tough, but you’re doing a GREAT job!!

  9. I have been a lurker for a while and I love reading your blog! I try to catch up on it as much as I can. I have a 10 year and have been TTC for 5 years. With my daughter I breastfeed for 3 weeks! I couldn’t do it anymore! Too much worrying and hassle! I wanted to enjoy my baby and share fun experiences with her – so I switched to the formula. She was more gassy but healthy as a horse.

    Birdie has gotten a great deal of immunity from you. Do NOT feel guilty about supplementing! I completely gave up after only 3 weeks and you have made it 5 MONTHS! That in and of itself deserves a big cake in celebration!

    So stop the mommy guilt – you have many years ahead of you for mommy guilt (trust me!). Do what helps you and Birdie to be happier together! Good luck sweetie! πŸ™‚

  10. you can only do what you can do, do not judge yourself based on your ability to produce enough milk and breastfeed successfully, you have no control over it, and i can’t tell you how many women i have heard say that they feel inadequate based on breatfeeding. i wish that i could have breastfed, i really do, i tried for a couple of days and i knew that i couldn’t put myself through the mental and physical pain of it, louise needs me to be a happy mama so i can take good care of her, not just a boob. anyway, if you can keep breastfeeding, great, if you can’t just know that you gave it one hell of an effort, don’t beat yourself up over it, you are a good mom.

  11. BF is a struggle for me too. I say move over to formula if it will help you enjoy your baby. You can also do a little of each and if your supply dries it dries at least you gave her the best possible start possible and FIVE months is HUGE.

  12. I have no advice… I pumped for 4ish months, was never really able to breast feed, and have exclusively formula fed since mid-November. Yes, I regret that I wasn’t able to breast feed… but Colby is happy and heathy, so that’s all that matters. πŸ™‚ Do what ever is best for you and Birdie… but you have done an AMAZING job. I don’t think I have known anyone who has gone through so many hurdles and STILL kept at it.

  13. Ooops, mrsjamersonsclass is me. πŸ™‚ I forgot to sign out from my class site!

  14. Keep up the good work, you’re doing great and it sounds like you just need some encouragement and support. All breastfeeding moms have gone through that.
    Read what I felt compelled to put together on the 10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding on my post at:
    http://perfectingmotherhood.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/10-things-people-dont-tell-you-about-breastfeeding/

  15. Yes, do not torture yourself. Try deciding on the times of the day that you want to BF her and when you would like to use supplements… if it were me, I would use the formula for afternoon/early evening and nurse in through the morning and at bedtime. Maybe even dedicate one of the bottle feedings to S so that he can have that time with Birdie every day (and maybe you can get a nice break during that time). You have done a great job feeding Birdie, there is nothing wrong with using some, or even all, formula. Honestly, I don’t think breastfeeding is worth doing if you can’t enjoy it, so find a way to enjoy it and ditch as much of the stressful stuff as you want. Oh, and good job getting off the shield! Too bad it hasn’t been as much of a help as you would have liked.

  16. I’ve been supplementing since H’s first week, and he’s done so well with it I hardly even think about it anymore. I had such a hard time with supply that it was never really a choice — he was hungry and screaming crying and losing too much weight. We still nurse 2-3 times/day. I would make the same decision all over again — his weight is great, he’s thriving and we enjoy feedings together. I fully understand and applaud your commitment to breastfeeding for this long, but I think you can give yourself permission now to try something else. I do believe that you will enjoy your time with her more if you’re free of the stress and physical pain of nursing exclusively. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but I think if you turned to formula for 1-2 feedings/day, the times when you do nurse will go more smoothly. Of course it’s just my two cents — you should do what you feel in your gut is the right choice for the two of you.


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