Sunday, February 17, 2013

Trying but failing

When I first started planning to try to have a baby on my own, and up until a couple months before I gave birth, I was fairly certain I would not breastfeed. I don't know why I wasn't interested specifically, except I couldn't really conceptualize what it would be like, and as an adoptee in the early '70s, I was formula fed so that idea didn't seem too bad.

But I was torn. All the reading I did said how good it would be for my baby to nurse - that the benefits of breastmilk far outweighed that of formula. Conclusion: Forumla = fine/breastmilk = ideal. As time got closer I struggled more and more with not really wanting to breastfeed versus wanting to give my baby every advantage for extra good health from the start. So after lots of internal debate and late night conversations with my mom, I decided that I would try to breastfeed for at least the length of my maternity leave. At my age with hypothyroidism and weight issues, and then pre-eclampsia, nursing might not even have been possible, so I was pretty happy that once he was born, I did seem to be able to nurse. And while I didn't exactly love it, I did love that I was giving him that extra boost and the time we spent that close together. It wasn't close to easy, and I did have some concerns based on his 'output' during that time that he wasn't getting enough milk or that he wasn't getting to the hindmilk, but at about 2 weeks in, it seemed like we were figuring it out and I was sure he was thriving. Because of the holidays, our 2 week check up turned out to be at 3 weeks and when he was weighed then, not only had he lost 12 ounces in the first 5 days after his birth, he hadn't gained ANY of it back. The doctor was actually pretty concerned and immediately had me start to supplement with formula and feed every 2 hours, which we did for the next 2 weeks. And thank God my boy dramatically turned the corner within a couple of days and by a week later was finally beyond his birth weight by a small margin.

Since then, I have been doing a combo of breastfeeding and formula for every feeding, which by its nature takes a lot of time, and as a single parent, figuring out how to also pump during this time has been nearly impossible if I planned to get anything else done at all. Also, since then I started to become convinced, probably because I'm surrounded by recently new moms who have been very successful at breastfeeding and pumping, that I would continue beyond my maternity leave. I bought the fancy pump and have planned to pump at work twice a day. In the middle of the last 2 weeks however, I went back to work part time, and also got a terrible cold - and with going back to work and concerts coming up, I felt I really had to take some kind of cold medicine. So with less nursing, minimal pumping, cold medicine and stress my minimal supply has been getting less and less. And for weeks now, I have been beating myself up relentlessly about the fact that I can't seem to get my shit together enough to do all the '25 ways to increase your milk supply' in addition to everything else, but I've just been trying to keep my head above water. And doing both the breastfeeding and/or pumping and the formula just takes SO MUCH TIME. Time that I feel would be better spent holding or playing with my baby or frankly, washing his clothes, or grocery shopping. And truly I don't think I've trusted my body's ability to give him what he really needs since that 3 week check up, which means I've trusted the formula more for quite a while now.

So I'm at a crossroads. I have to decide about whether to try to continue or not. And I have to figure out how to face those who are so lucky to have been so able to nurse their babies with such success, because I'm afraid of the judging. I'm afraid that I've failed my boy fantastically. And the pressure to be better at this because I CHOSE to do it on my own, feels enormous.

Addendum to original entry: 
I have found a couple of websites that talk about partial weaning. One of the big questions I've had is if I only pump a couple of times a day and get anywhere from 2-5 oz in total, is there any benefit to the baby with that small amount of breastmilk, is it worth the time and effort? These sites seem to think so, which is really helpful information and motivating to try to continue. I have a feeling we're done with actually breastfeeding now, but I'd like to be able to continue for at least a few more weeks to give him some breastmilk every day until he's 4 months and if I'm lucky, until he's 6 months..

Here is one of the sites:

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