I feel like such a failure at this very moment. I am going to start at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey, 4 weeks ago today. Cohen is born. He happily drinks colostrum for the first 2 nights. On the 3rd night when he awoke for a 2am feeding, I hear gulping sounds and I’m ecstatic because I was having doubts about my milk since it never seemed to come in with my first (this was almost 10 years ago when I was just 16). I always felt like I hadn’t tried hard enough to breastfeed my first- actually, I didn’t try hard enough. With my first baby, after a week, she was always hungry and crying and when I went in, they measured my milk output, told me it wasn’t enough (2 cc’s after 45 minutes of pumping) and told me to put her on formula. So I did, without second thought.
Fast forward now, to my son. So, he’s happily drinking his new milky meals and everything’s great! Until the next night. The inconsolable crying starts. Was he hungry? Gassy? Tired? What did this little man want? He was just on my breast for almost an hour! After 30+ minutes of trying to console him, I would put him back on my breast. He would suck for another hour. Take him off, he would be inconsolable. It was a vicious cycle. We thought he seemed hungry, but how could he be hungry??
This went on for a few more days until we took him to his one week appointment with the Midwife. He had lost a whole pound (he was 7 lbs 5 oz when he was born). So we pretty much figured that he probably wasn’t getting enough to eat. I was determined not to put him on formula though. I know how nasty that stuff is and I wanted my baby to have his Mama’s natural milk no matter what.
I took him to the Dr. to get her advice and make sure everything was OK with him. I mean, he was completely inconsolable and had lost a whole pound. Physically, the Dr. said he was fine, but she was concerned about his weight loss. As was I. I started taking Fenugreek. Drinking mother’s milk tea. Lots of water. I broke out the pump and began to pump any little bit I could when I gt the chance (although hardly anything would come out). I made sure to let him use my breast whether it was for drinking or just sucking. He was still at my boob pretty much all day every day. If not, he was probably crying or asleep from so much crying. I saw a lactation consultant. Got a better hospital grade pump from them. Got a supplemental nursing system to feed him the pumped milk. Nothing changed.
By the end of week 2, we had been to the Dr. 4 times for weight and consult. Each time, she commended me on my efforts, yet tried to talk me into using formula (surprise). The first 3 times, I told her that was not an option. The 4th time, when she told me this was now detrimental to his health and development and I needed to do something NOW, I gave in. I had already tried to concoct a homemade formula a couple of days prior using goats milk, but I was not confident that he would be getting the right nutrition. And When he drank that ounce of goats milk, he was a completely different baby. So content and happy for a couple of hours. I knew he needed more milk. He was hungry and I couldn’t provide for him. It’s the worst, most stressful feeling.
On my way home from the Dr., I cried. And cried and cried. Looked at the formula ingredients and cried some more. My Husband sympathetically reassured me, and it did no good. I was going against everything I believed in. How could I be one of the few ‘rare’ women (that you only hear about when people are talking about how almost ALL women can breastfeed exclusively if the try hard enough) who can’t provide milk for their baby? Nobody would believe it anyway and they would label me a crappy, lazy, garbage feeding Mom which I was everything BUT. I just wanted my baby to be content and to gain some weight and I certainly didn’t want to hinder his growth and development when it was something that could be fixed.
Starting that first day that we gave him formula, he was so different. Complete change. Happy, good sleep habits, periods of alertness with no crying, bowel movements…amazing. He was eating between 1 and 2 ounces after almost every nursing. 3 days later, we had him weighed again and he gained 6 ounces. This made me feel both WONDERFUL and completely saddened. How am I going to bring up my supply now? For every ounce of formula I feed, that’s an ounce less of breast milk my body thinks it has to make. So I pump more and for longer- still only getting 1/4 of an ounce to 1/2 of an ounce each pumping. That alone is very discouraging. I know you’re not supposed to base anything on what you get from a pump, but it’s still very discouraging.
The formula then starts to give him extremely painful gas. Writing in pain, turning bright red from straining, poo-stains on his diaper gas. Can this baby never get a break? We switch formulas. Same thing, but without the extremely rotten gas he would pass with the last one. We switch him again to the most expensive cow’s milk based (I refuse to use soy since 85%+ of soy is GMO) formula, and it’s half of the gas and pain that the last one was. Still not comfortable for him, nor ideal.
Throughout all of this, I’m talking to my friend/Doula and she’s giving me awesome support. Tons of ideas, books, encouragement etc. Nothing is working. I start to wonder if it’s my diet because I’ve hardly been hungry, so I start drinking protein drinks since I can’t seem to get extra food down my throat. I start to make sure I’m getting more veggies and fruit, whole grains, etc. Still, nothing has changed. I start to question why I am using formula at all and I get a suggestion from a friend to stop formula altogether and just let him be at my breast all day everyday for a week or so and my milk should definitely come in then. Genius! Right?
Wrong. I started tonight. 9pm rolls around, Cohen’s hungry, I give him my breast. Then my other, then back to the first and so on and so on… he’s vigorously sucking and after the first few minutes on each side, the swallowing always stops and he starts to get frustrated or just falls asleep. This time, he’s just frustrated and on top of it, has horrible gas. I let him suck and suck and 2am rolls around and I can’t handle it anymore. If I take him off my breast, even if he’s sleeping, he cries. He’s OBVIOUSLY hungry.. viciously sucking at his hands, his blanket, anything he can get his lips on. I cry as I walk into the living room and grab the bottle to clean it. I give him formula. I think to myself- he should only want an ounce… he was on my breast for most of 5 hours. Nope- he took both ounces. I even stopped and tried to get him to go to sleep after one ounce but he was still hungry.
I feel so defeated and screwed over. By formula. By my body. By God. By everyone around me. I feel guilty, ashamed and incompetent. I’m calling another LC tomorrow. I will let Cohen be on my breast as much as he wants tomorrow. Other than that, I just don’t know what to do. As long as he’s hungry, I need to feed him. If the LC can’t help me, I will go to another. If she can’t help me, I will find a Dr. that will stand behind me in my choice to supplement with goats milk, and I will get a recipe that I can feel confident in. Lets hope the first LC can help me and this terrible situation can soon be a closed chapter in my life! I just want what’s best for my baby.