December 21, 2010

Ups and Downs

I've been working on this post for awhile...

As most of you have read, Owen has had issues with his weight gain the past few months.  The doctors said things seemed alright and that he was probably just going to be on the small side.  I tried to listen and not to worry, but I felt like there was something else going on.  He was happy and seemingly healthy but I still felt like something was off.  At 4 months old he was sleeping through the night most nights or only waking between 3-4am for a quick snack and then went right back to sleep.  By 6 months he began waking 2-3 times a night, sometimes only a couple hours after putting him down.  I thought it was teething, but the teeth came in and the sleeping stayed the same.  I tried letting him cry a few minutes before going up there, but he just got louder and more upset.  I tried not feeding him, but he would refuse to go back to sleep and continue to wake up every 30 minutes or so until he ate.  The only thing I could think of was that he was waking up so much because he really was hungry...

...and I was right.

Several weeks ago I did what I should have done the moment I started having concerns about Owen.  I called a lactation consultant.  Seems obvious, right?  Well, not really.  I had talked to our pediatrician about breastfeeding several times before and he really didn't seem to think there was a problem.  His only advice, try to nurse where there were fewer distractions.  Well, I did my best, but it's not like I could lock Austin in the bathroom while I fed Owen 5 times a day!

So, I worked with a lactation consultant, someone who's job is all about breastfeeding, and I finally got the answers I needed and (unfortunately) confirmation that my assumptions were correct.  The problem was with me.

I was sad, mad, frustrated and felt enormous guilt....not only that my body wasn't doing what it needed to be doing, but that I had put so much trust into a medical doctor and not my own "mother's intuition" and let it go on for as long as it did.  The simple (yet so complex) issue was that I just wasn't producing enough milk.  In a matter of a couple months I went from having an overabundant supply to producing a little more than half of what Owen needed.  The reason is still unknown, could it have been stress from Ryan taking this new job and learning that we would be moving?  Was it that a certain monthly visitor returned much earlier than expected? Or was it an issue with Owen just being a lazy eater or too distracted to concentrate?  All three happened around the same time and all are possibilities.

So, what do you do when you have low supply issues and a strictly breastfed baby?

Believe it or not, the lactation consultant felt our issue needed immediate attention and she suggested supplementing with formula while I try to build up my supply.  Now, lactation consultants can be a little nutso when it comes to breastfeeding, so when the first thing she suggested I do was to supplement, I knew it was serious and she meant business.  I cringed at the thought but knew it had to be done, but that brought on a whole new set of issues.  Owen hated the bottle and hated formula in his bottle even more!!

After realizing my problem and feeling like I was starving my baby, I felt this overwelming need to feed him as much as possible and as quickly as possible.  Right away I pulled out the bottle and a sample can of formula I had gotten in the mail when I was pregnant.  I made Owen his very first bottle of formula and when I put that bottle in his mouth, he gagged at the few drops that fell on his tongue and then looked at me all confused with the saddest most pitiful little eyes.

Again, I went back to the lactation consultant and tried to get some more advice.  I tried different bottles, different formula, I mixed half formula half breastmilk, nothing seemed to be working.  But after 3 days of frustration and tears and small panic attacks, we achieved success.

Flash forward to the present.  The good news:  Owen is now happily taking 4-5 7oz. bottles mixed with half breastmilk and half formula every day.  My work has tripled as I am now pumping every 3 hours, giving Owen his bottles and having to wash bottles and pump parts numerous times each day, but I am determined not to give up breastfeeding before my initial goal of 1 year.  Determined I tell you!!  The great news:  Owen has slept through the night since his first full day on the bottle and in general seems like a happier and healthier baby.  He is already gaining some weight and filling out his clothes better.

As for me, I am still trying to build up my supply and hoping that soon we can find a balance between bottle and breastfeeding.  I still nurse in the mornings when my supply is at its greatest and hope to add one more breastfeeding session in each day.  I swallow 27 pills a day which are a mixture of prescription meds, vitamins and herbs known for increasing milk supply.  I don't know if I can ever get things back to where they used to be, but my baby is worth the effort!

So, to breastfeeding moms everywhere, please take my advice.  If you feel like something is wrong, don't wait, immediately call a lactation consultant.  They are breastfeeding experts and are better equipped and have the tools to determine if it is a supply issue or something else.  Most hospitals even allow you to bring your baby in to do a special weight test that allows you to see exactly how much your baby is getting when they are breastfeeding.

And finally, for those of you with supply issues, here is the recipe for my supply building cocktail:
1 Prenatal vitamin
3 Fenugreek 3 times/day
3 Blessed Thistle 3 times/day
1 Domperidone (by RX only) 4 times/day
1000 mg Calcium
500 mg Magnesium

I have already noticed a significant increase thanks to this "cocktail" recommended by my lactation consultant.  The herbs can be found at GNC or Whole Foods and your OB/GYN can write the RX if needed.

My lunch = a PBJ with a side of pills!

1 comment:

Kristy said...

I'm glad you got it all worked out! I still have guilt about letting my supply get low and then not being able to get it back up. I will definitely be using a lactation consultant next time if I have another issue like I did!


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