Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm especially bummed because I don't get to burn those calories

In the grand scheme of things, I think I've had a pretty easy go of the breastfeeding thing. I never had any pain, never had any latching problems, supply was great. I found breastfeeding to be lovely right from the get-go, except perhaps for the sleep deprivation. Many of my friends complained about the hours and hours spent trapped on the couch breastfeeding, but none of that bothered me. I'd just curl up with Gabe in my arms and a good book resting on the edge of my boppy and I was happy as a clam.

When I look at the last 9 and a half months objectively, though, I realize that breastfeeding isn't really, per se, easy. In the early days, I spent 1/3 of my days sitting on the couch breastfeeding Gabe, when his marathon feeding sessions would take up to an hour each time. Then I spent hours upon hours pumping so that I'd have enough for a frozen stash and for an occasional bottle if I ever left him with Josh. Around 6 months, I dealt with his nursing strike, then recently, I dealt with his bottle strike. For the last 3 months, I've dealt with him not wanting to feed long enough to initiate a letdown. If the milk isn't there the second he is hungry, he'll arch his back and try to get out of my arms. This means that I often have to pump until the milk starts flowing, then put Gabe on, at which point he'll eat. Needless to say, this is very annoying.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's been worth it. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

In order to do all this work, though, I've realized that I have to believe that what I'm doing is the best thing for Gabe. I have to believe that breastfeeding him is worth all the work. It doesn't really matter whether I know that logically formula is totally perfect too, because in order to justify all this work, I've just internalized the idea that breastfeeding him is the best thing I can do for him right now.

Over the past few weeks, I've had some trouble with supply. Gabe wants to feed 6 times a day one day, 3 times a day the next. Sometimes twice a night, sometimes not at all. My milk hasn't been meeting his demands, so I see a definite drop in supply. I used to be able to pump one additional bottle for him after he'd gone to bed, but lately I can't get anything when I try to pump. Sometimes I'll have to pump 10-15 minutes, just to get my letdown to start at dinnertime. It is so frustrating. I'm very emotional about the whole thing, and I'm trying everything. I drink tons of water throughout the day, upwards of 12 glasses per day. I'm taking fenugreek up the wazoo, and I'm making sure I eat enough as the day goes on. Still, we're slowing going through my frozen stash and I'm getting nervous.

At his most recent well baby check-up, the pediatrician's advice was clear- give him formula in his cereal instead of my frozen milk. In the meantime, I can continue trying to get my supply to come up. He said that if Gabe seems really hungry after I feed him, I shouldn't feel bad about supplementing him with formula. I'm not willing to supplement with a bottle of formula, at least not yet, because I know that if he doesn't stimulate my breasts, my supply will really never come up. On the cereal front, though, it sounds so reasonable. It would be so much easier to just add formula to his cereal instead of agonizing over the frozen milk and restricting Gabe's cereal consumption out of fear of wasting milk.

The problem is, I care. Even if it is ridiculous or stupid, even if I know that babies thrive on formula, even though I know that Gabe has made it almost 10 months with nothing but breastmilk, even though I know it would be so reasonable, I still care. I keep thinking that in just another 2 and a half months, he'll be moving onto cow's milk, so why don't I just try to hold on until then? But I'm making myself crazy in the meantime with the pumping and the stressing and the drinking of water.

I never thought I'd be in this position. One of my friends referred to me as a cow because I'd sit down to pump for 5 minutes and get upwards of 5 ounces per session. Turns out that everything can change at any minute, just like the rest of life, huh?

So this morning I did it. I put formula in Gabe's cereal, just an ounce, the rest breastmilk. And guess what? He survived. He didn't even notice. I feel a tiny bit sad, but a lot relieved. I love my pediatrician, and I know he's right. Parenting is all about adjusting your expectations. The adjustment has only just begun.

Like I said, though, he's totally worth it.

"Mom! Formula is good! It tastes better than feet!"


Chatty said...

Sigh. So much of parenting is trying to hold onto your expectations, no? You're an awesome Mom, and since you and I already chatted about this I'll simply say that it speaks volumes about how much you would do for Gabe and how much you'd sacrifice that you struggled over the decision to formula or not to formula his cereal.

Gabe is a very lucky little boy.

Meika said...

Right there with ya, sister. I felt like I had to start supplementing my daughter when she was only four months old (she's eight months now - I think five weeks younger than Gabe), after a streak of several weeks where she was nursing every two hours and never really seemed satisfied. And I haven't been able to achieve letdown while pumping in a long, long time. It's kind of like trying to make cider by squeezing an apple in your hand. :) Now that we're back Stateside, I've started drinking vats of that Mother's Milk tea and am just hoping that I can keep producing SOMETHING for her for the next few months. The thing is, I was perfectly willing to keep nursing her until she was well past a year if that's what she wanted. *sigh*

jo(e) said...

I breastfed all my kids, but I always made the cereal with water. It never occurred to me to use breastmilk or formula.

It seems like you are putting an awful lot of pressure on yourself. Save some of that worrying for the teenage years.

And give that very cute child a hug for me!

ccw said...

My goodness he is so big! And gorgeous!

I always made the cereal with water also.

When my supply died when NSBH was still very young it killed me. It took some time but I "forgave" myself since I really had no control over the issue.

You're a wonderful mother and Gabe will thrive whatever you feed him.

Layla said...

I don't know if the advice here in the uk is different but, I use cows milk for cooking and cereal, just not as a whole drink until they are one. Or I use water for cereal topped off with full fat yougurt.

twoxthefun said...

We are having some similar issues. My little one will go 6hours during the day without nursing. The next day she wants to eat every 3 then get mad because the milk isn't there instantly. I just keep putting her on though until she finally gets a letdown.

Like a few people already commented I use water for the cereal or I take a jar of fruit and mix a few tablespoons of the cereal with that.

Something that has really helped us has been attending La Leache League meetings. Not everything that is said there I always agree with but the support they give to nursing moms is great. Plus they always have a topic at the meetings to discuss and I usually learn something at every meeting.

Just relax, I know it's hard, but enjoy this time with him it goes by way to fast.

Stacy said...

Don't give up!
And please don't think that there is anything magical about 12 months and him moving to cows milk. Most babies want to nurse beyond 12 months and its still much better for them.
As far as supply goes. try to stay consistant. If he nurses 6 times a day and 2 times at night, anytime that he should nurse and won't, try to pump. Massage can also help, manual stimulation to keep the production going.

My Wombinations said...

I am going through the same thing. It is really hard, but I keep telling myself that making it 9 months (and ten in your case) is even more than the AAP recommends. Hang in there. I know how painful it is.

Anonymous said...

Parenting is all about adjusting your expectations. The adjustment has only just begun.

You don't know how right you are, sister!

Hang in there. Don't be so hard on yourself. You're a wonderful momma. The proof is in the pudding. He's so gorgeous. And HEALTHY! Gracias a Dios.

liz said...

He's so gorgeous!!!

Moxie, of Ask Moxie, suggests Flax Seed Oil to increase breast milk production.

She's got lots of advice on this stuff. Including a whole post on the 9-month dry-up.

Just as an aside, 9 months is when I stopped pumping for MM since I wasn't getting more than an ounce each session. Whatever you decide to do, it will be the right thing for you and him.

Kris said...

I second what lots of the other people said, take it easy on yourself. I think I always used soymilk or water to make cereal. At 9 months, my kids were started to eat more and more, so I didn't worry so much about my supply. HOWEVER, I did not experience the 9month dry up, so I'm not sure how I would have reacted. The only assvice I can think of re: the letdown problem is to give him a little drink first so that he's not absolutely parched when he starts nursing. That way maybe he'll be a little more patient. Also, stimulating the nipple a bit with your hand might be enough to create a letdown.

xoxo to both of you!

Knitting Mama said...

Good luck with the breastfeeding. For me it only lasted 6 weeks... (and the end was mainly pumping). Sean's a healthy boy and he's been on formula since 6 weeks old..!

Angie said...

Don't stress over this. You know this could be his natural signal to you that he is ready to wean and move on to cups and straws and all sorts of new things.