Old feelings are new again

This post is about breastfeeding.  And how I suck at it.  Well at least that’s how the Committee of Assholes talks to me.

We’ve had a rough go from the start.  I didn’t have Max with me for very long when he was first born and then I could’t go see him in the nursery for about 12 hours as I recovered from the forced delivery of the stickiest placenta known to womankind.  By the time I got to him, he was on formula for his low blood sugar and had a soother stuck in his mouth.  I started breastfeeding him right away but only a few hours later, he was diagnosed with bad jaundice and had to go in the tanning booth.  He continued to need the soother since he was in there unless he was eating and being changed.  And he had to keep drinking formula to flush the bilirubin out.

We saw the hospital LC the day after we were released and had to come back for the bilirubin test.  She told me then to ditch the bottle if I wanted to EBF because in a short time, he would reject the breast.  Enter the feeding tube (a.k.a. the thing that made me nearly lose my marbles).  The feeding tube was placed in a bottle of formula which I would stuff into my bra strap for holding.  Then I would fight with the little tube to get it perfectly in place so Max could suck and still be at the breast.  It was a bloody fucking nightmare.  Ideally you are supposed to tape it to your breast but that never worked for me.  So I was constantly readjusting the tube because it would move… or Max would get the tube wrapped around his hand an pull it out.  Feedings were taking up to an hour or more sometimes.

We continued to see an LC through our family doctor pretty much every week after his one week check up.  I was taking Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle.  And after 2 or 3 weeks I got put on Domperidone.  And now I’m on the highest dose at 4x10mg, 4 times/day.  My supply is still crap.  When I pump without a feed — that’s right — we also have a rented hospital grade pump and I’ve been pumping after feeds to try to increase supply.  Got that puppy the day after our release from hospital too.  So when I pump without a feed, I’m getting about 2-3 oz.

Just after 5 weeks, we got the okay to ditch the feeding tube and switch to a bottle.  Sanity restored instantly!!  We bought a special Medela bottle that has very slow flow and reduces nipple confusion/drinking too fast.  All this time, Max was not gaining weight like he was supposed to.  Hence the continued visits to the LC for weight checks.  We were giving him bottles at every other feed in addition to breastmilk.  While he was peeing and pooping fine and did not seem dehydrated, he just wasn’t gaining.  We went up to formula at every feed and that’s when he started to gain.

Probably in the last couple of weeks, he began pulling off the breast.  We attributed this to slow flow.  I don’t know if this is truly the case or if it was nipple confusion, because I think he started it after the switch from the the tube.  Over the weekend, he flat out refused to nurse.  Screamed blue murder at the breast.. and then happily gulped back 5oz of formula from a bottle when offered.  When this happened a couple more times, I just gave up.  It’s torture to offer my breast and have him be so unhappy.  I’m pretty sure feeding your baby shouldn’t feel like child abuse.

So I think I’m done.  And I feel like a failure.  Logically, I know that he’ll be just fine on formula.  We’re both happier — well, he’s happier, I’m less stressed.  But it brings up so many old feelings.  I can’t make a baby, I can’t keep a baby living and I can’t breastfeed.  I am less than.  Funny how this experience can negate that fact that I grew a perfectly healthy, full-term, ginormous baby boy that I delivered without any drugs.  All the confidence and good feelings washed away but the immense guilt of faulty boobs.  So much anger at a body that’s failing me once again.  So much wondering if things could have been different “if only”.  Such a feeling of loss of another experience taken away from me.

I posted my defeat on Facebook and was shocked by the support and all the people who either commented or messaged me to say that I wasn’t alone.  So many people struggled to breastfeed and ultimately switched to formula.  Why the hell does nobody talk about it?!  It’s almost as taboo as infertility and loss for crying out loud!  So much guilt out there for those can’t or don’t want to breastfeed… when there’s a whole club of us!

Max will still breastfeed at his early morning feed — because he’s too dopey to protest and because my boobs are full of milk.  Although this morning, the little dude slept extra long and needed a bottle too before he was happy to go back to sleep.  I guess we’ll continue on like that as long as he will.  And I’m still pumping when I can.  Two pumping sessions gets me enough for one feed.  I’ll do this for as long as I can and for as long as it’s worthwhile.  I can’t say I’ll keep it up if my supply starts to dwindle.  I booked an appointment to meet with the LC tomorrow — even though we were “dismissed” last Friday due to the good weight gain.  There’s a big piece of me that is relieved to formula feed — so much easier and less stressful.  But there’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to “give up” — and she needs to make sure that there is nothing else she can do.  C asks me what I was hoping to get the LC to “fix” — and I don’t know.  What I really want is to be able to breastfeed my child with ease to his satisfaction.  But I don’t think that’s ever going to be possible.  I have to make sure.  I don’t want to have any regrets — because there have been so many regrets along this “journey” to Max.

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11 responses to “Old feelings are new again

  • Courtney

    Your body didn’t fail you, it sounds like your boobs are doing their job. You just had A LOT working against you early on, which can doom the breastfeeding relationship. Its not your fault, it your bodys fault. It just happened.

    Don’t be hard on yourself… Just feed your baby the best you can however you need to do it!

  • Cristy

    So I’m going to join the choir about how you are definitely NOT a failure. Breastfeeding is hard. HARD!!!! Hard enough for those who are immediately ability to begin breastfeeding within the first hour of birth AND have no issues with supply. Never mind adding in treating jaundice, dealing with LC who suggest feeding tubes (seriously, this practice needs to be reconsidered as I’ve yet to see anyone have success with this) and just trying to get one’s supply up (Fenugreek made my boobs burn).

    All that said, I get the feelings you’re experiencing. It’s so difficult to go through this after dealing with infertility and loss. It’s like our bodies are failing us all over again. What helped me so focusing on a couple of things: 1) usually the reason things aren’t working has nothing to do with what I was doing (because if it did, I most certainly would have fixed it by now) and 2) most of the people who preach the “ideal” are those who never had to struggle (think of people who believe that child-rearing looks like a Pampers commercial).

    So, be kind to yourself. Do what is right for you and Max (and DH). And remember that the most important thing is that Max is growing and healthy. You’re already doing that, so keep up the good work!

  • nonsequiturchica

    Oh no I’m so sorry you are having so much trouble! My daughter wasn’t gaining enough weight in the beginning too so I know how worried you can get as a mother. It sounds like bf is just too stressful (which can’t help the situation)- but if you are pumping and getting milk you could continue to do that while supplementing with formula…. Of course it is completely understandable if it all gets too much- there are plenty of happy and healthy babies that were fed only formula!

  • Mo

    Oh hon, it kills me sometimes the pressure and torture we go through to BF. I’m not sure how fresh quitting is for you, but I can tell you that it took me about three or four days and then all I felt was pure sweet relief. You known I get how you feel but I promise you that very very soon you will be able to savor this- you can now enjoy feeding with love and not with pressure, you’re not tied to the house, you can feed your inner control freak by always knowing how much the baby is eating, and your husband will consistently be able to feed the baby and have some extra bonding time. Good for you for knowing when enough is enough! You are not a failure you are a great mom who deserves to enjoy her baby!
    Xoxo

  • Amy

    While I didn’t struggle personally, I have really come to detest many lc and breastfeeding supporters for how horrible they end up making so many new mom’s feel. Before giving birth they act like it is so easy and natural and it isn’t for many women. I hope you feel supported in your choice. Please remember to take care of yourself!

  • missconception

    Oh my gosh, this sound exactly like my BF posts last year. The low blood sugar, jaundice bed, baby screaming at the boob, feeling let down about it all, etc. We supplemented from about 9 weeks on after taking all if those supplements and drugs to induce milk. My supply kept going down with the pump and C didn’t want much at all to do with the boob. I know exactly how you feel. Its very hard to make the decision to switch over after IF and loss especially, but when I couldn’t get more than half a bottles worth a day from the pump it became clear I didn’t want to do it anymore. It is sad but freeing to accept what is easier for everyone. My stress levels dropped drastically once I went to formula and I finally enjoyed feeding my baby, even if his suck was still weak. I would not dream of telling you what to do in this situation, but try not to feel bad about what will be the best solution for both you and your son.I stuck with breastfeeding, more pumping then breastfeeding, for as long as I could and I feel good about that. yes I am disappointed that it wasn’t easier and more fulfilling, but my baby is healthy and happy and I wish someone had encouraged me to follow my heart instead of pressuring me about trying harder.

  • Jenny

    I wish I could give you a big hug right now. I understand how you’re feeling and it took me a long time (probably way too long) to be ok with my inability to breastfeed. I cried for AGES over it. I felt like such a failure because I couldn’t give my baby enough milk and he wound up in the hospital with bad jaundice. All the doctors and nurses kept encouraging me to keep at BFing and pumping, but I was lacking support from my husband and I was just so damn tired and stressed I didn’t have it in me to try anymore.

    You had a lot going against you from the beginning and none of it was in your power. You’ve been a rockstar and tried everything you could. Please don’t beat yourself up. *hugs*

  • 17hobbitt

    Bf is so damn hard. One of my friends couldn’t watch bf moms as it made her feel a failure and I have one family member who had both her children refuse her breast after seventeen weeks. Little max will thrive if he is bf or formula. It would be nice if u could express and give him some milk even if it is once a day so he gets some of your antibodies to fight any infections, but this is only if u want to. Perhaps he just prefers the bottle it doesn’t mean your milk is an issue. Being a mom is hard, especially one who has struggled to get there. Formula or breast, or bit of both only u can decide, either way u are an awesome mom so please don’t beat yourself up.

  • lifeishard76

    It’s not a failure. You tried your best for your son. If you and him are happier on formula, then there is nothing wrong with that. I was always told the first few days are the most important for the baby, you have given him those, and a lot more.
    Don’t feel guilty about it. Really. hugs

  • warriorgirl2

    Before I had my first baby, I thought breastfeeding would come easily. It’s natural after all, right? When I was pregnant with my first baby, I met a mother pregnant with her second child who said that she was going to start with formula from the beginning because her experience with trying to breastfeed her first baby was so horrible, and I secretly judged her. Then my own breastfeeding experience was so horrible that I only lasted 9 days (the story is too long to describe but the primary reason was severe toe-curling pain–the kind that made me dread seeing my baby and put off feedings for longer than I should, and lactation consultants couldn’t help me). My mother hadn’t nursed any of her 4 children, so she was no help. My older sister hadn’t yet had a baby. I felt so sad and guilty about quitting, but then the relief came, and my baby thrived on formula. But when I was pregnant with my second baby, I decided to try again (and by this time my sister had already “failed” to breastfeed her firstborn, though she had really wanted to nurse). Well the same scream-worthy pain was waiting for me again when my second baby was born, even though the lactation consultant said the latch was good. And it’s even easier to quit the second time when you remember that your first baby seemed to do just fine on formula, so that time I quit after just 3 days. Guilt was quickly replaced by relief once again. But later came the regret. I was jealous of other mothers who could nurse so easily (like my MIL who nursed my husband for 2 1/2 years). It was one of my life regrets, and I was also secretly mad at my mother for not being able to help me and not being supportive of breastfeeding (she actually made fun of it). When my third baby came, I didn’t even try. I just told the hospital nursery to keep him at night for me and feed him formula right from the start. I thought he was my last baby and that I would never nurse a baby. I considered myself the poster girl for breastfeeding failure. Then halfway through my pregnancy with my fourth baby, I suddenly got it in my head to try again. My husband was shocked and a bit worried. Then my baby was born 5 weeks prematurely and I felt that he needed breast milk even more. But of course he was in the NICU and couldn’t nurse! I was pumping (and of course, this consumes your life–you have no other life), and I thought that the NICU stay would kill any chances we had of having a successful nursing relationship. Drinking a certain amount of milk from a bottle was a necessary requirement for discharge, so he was hooked on bottles fairly quickly. When I brought him home, I only tried to nurse him once a day for a while. Mostly he got bottles and I pumped. I could never seem to coordinate my pumping schedule with his eating schedule, and when I did breastfeed, the pain was excrutiating. Everyone said it would get better, and this time I didn’t give up, but even at the 4 MONTH mark, I would still have to do deep breathing and sometimes even curse involuntarily (and I don’t even swear!) each time he would eat. I took medicine for Candida. I talked to a bunch of mothers who were perplexed and had either never experienced pain or had only experienced pain for days or weeks instead of months. I finally went to a lactation consultant who had nursed 5 of her own babies but had never consulted on a 4 month old baby before. She taught me the laid back nursing position. The pain lessened but didn’t resolve. Then I got Strep throat and took some antibiotics. I don’t know if that had anything to do with what happened next, but when my son turned 4 1/2 months, the pain just vanished and has never returned. He’s about to turn 10 months old and now prefers the breast and will hardly take a bottle while I’m gone at work. Breastfeeding is the best and hardest thing I have ever done. It was something on my bucket list that I had given up hope of ever checking off. And yes, my older children are smart and healthy and did very well on formula. Your baby will too. But if there is any part of you that thinks you can compromise and make a go of this even part of the time, then hold on and don’t give up. I understand the desire (and NEED) to quit very well, and you are right–feeding your child should not feel like torture. I STILL don’t get why it had to be so hard. Of course, I want to be supportive of you quitting (it really helped to have people tell me that it was okay to quit when I was feeling guilty about it). But on the other hand, I also remember wishing that someone had helped me to stick with it. Everyone I know either struggled with breastfeeding and quit (like I did) or instead found it fairly easy from the beginning (an experience I will never understand!). You can be an awesome mother no matter how your baby is fed, so I don’t say any of this for your baby’s sake (as some lactation consultants would have you feel). I really say it just because I know how I felt later. If there’s any further help you can get anywhere else, take it. I once read that if your baby is less than 3 months old, it’s not too late to teach them to latch. I wish you the best on whatever path you take.

  • Sarah W

    I don’t normally comment on blogs, but as a Registered Nurse, I have to tell you that the most important thing is that your baby gets fed! It doesn’t matter if it’s breast or bottle or breast milk in a bottle, as long as your child is getting fed. That is the one important truth that gets left out of any debate/propaganda on breast vs bottle.

    You have been through so much, it’s time to enjoy being a Mum

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