This story belongs to my whole little family – O, J and myself. We made it through together.
I knew from the very start of my pregnancy that I would breastfeed. My mom breastfed all four of us (that’s saying something – it was back in the 70’s!)
My mom is a midwife, and my sister is in school to be a midwife, so there are always lots of resources and information lying around at my parents house. I remember being about 4 months pregnant and my sister had just purchased a copy of Dr Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. I remarked “What do you need a whole book on breastfeeding for? How complicated can it be?” My mom laughed pretty hard at that.
My beautiful baby boy was born at home on June 4th, 2008. The birth was smooth and quick. The midwives helped him latch on within about an hour. I don’t actually remember how that went! I think he latched on, I don’t remember what it felt like. The next few days were really tough, though. O arrived with a hungry tummy, I guess all babies do. He was not satisfied with the colostrum he was getting and he kept getting angrier and angrier. I fussed around with different positions and it took both J and I working together every time O needed to eat. J would have to hold his little arms down away from his face so I could keep him latched on.
By day five, my milk was in, but O was so upset with nursing that he would start scream every time I got him into position. It didn’t help that I was stressed and tense and sleep deprived and hormonal! That day he went too many hours (6? 7?) without eating and my midwife suggested we use a tube to feed him. I was able to hand express about 50 ml of milk into a cup and I put the tube into his mouth and he sucked on the tube and my finger. Jeff held the cup in the air so the milk would come out more easily. It worked really well and he was able to get some milk into his hungry belly.Things started to turn around after this, he was calm enough to latch on again and started to eat more regularly again.
It was rough going for the next few weeks, just getting the hang of things. I started going to La Leche League meetings and the support I got there was great. I was nervous about nursing in public, but after the first time, it got so much easier. now I don’t even think about it.
O was a high-needs baby. He cried and fussed a lot, it feels like it was almost all the time!. We found out that he has food sensitivities and that helped him to not cry and fuss so much when he was nursing. Things got easier. I remember at around 3 months, I felt like I had a handle on breastfeeding. Them my supply started to drop, although I didn’t know this was the problem at the time. O started to cry after he nursed, like he was still hungry. His time at the breast got shorter and shorter and he nursed more and more frequently. I was so devastated that we were having probelems again. I was still really sleep deprived and it was a stressful time for both J and I.
I made an appointment for O and I at the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic. We are so lucky to live close to this clinic. Dr. Jack Newman and his partner Edith Kernerman are world renowned in their ability to help and support women having issues with breastfeeding. They were able to see us within a few days. They diagnosed a low supply and suggested I try Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle to increase my supply. I also worked at making sure O had a good latch every time. The herbs did help. O started to nurse more easily, less fussing and pushing away, and he seemed less frustrated. When we went for our follow-up appointment a month later, they suggested I switch over to Domperidone, a drug that is very safe, and effective at increasing milk supply. It had the added bonus of not making me smell like curry – a side-effect of the herbs I was taking!
The Domepridone made a HUGE difference. Nursing became so much easier for O and I. It was such a relief to feel like this breastfeeding thing was finally under control I started to enjoy nursing O, rather than have it be a stressful experience for both of us.
About 2 months ago, our old problems started to reoccur. O was fussy and frustrated at the breast, and nursing ALL the time. We went back to the clinic and they upped my Domperidone prescription. I was now taking 120mg of Domperidone a day, up from 90 mg/day. This helped again, for about a month. We went back to the clinic. They upped my script again. As of today I am taking 160 mg of Domperidone a day, and my supply is great, *knock on wood*
The doctor and lactation consultant at the Newman Clinic are not sure why my supply keeps dropping. I’m doing everything ‘right’ – feeding on demand, co-sleeping and feeding through the night and O’s latch is good,. It could be my thyroid, which I’m getting checked next week, or it could be some other issue. It’s clear that I have more than a ‘run-of-the-mill’ supply issue. I’ll probably need to be on Domperidone until O weans, which could be for a few more years. Hopefully we’ll be able to decrease my dose as he starts eating more solids and nursing less. I very much want to breastfeed O until he weans on his own, so right now I am just happy that my supply is holding up, and I hope it stays that way!
Looking back on everyhting, I am SO proud that I was able to keep going with breastfeeding, and that I never had to turn to formula, or even bottles of pumped milk, to feed my son. That being said, he was always gaining weight. I don’t know how much harder it would have been if he were not gaining weight and acting like a healthy, thriving baby. I do remember understanding, one night, when O was screaming from hunger, how parents would be so tempted to turn to formula. At that point it feels like nothing else matters but getting some food into your baby. I also know that i am very, very privileged to have access to amazing support and good resources, a loving partner, the knowledge of where to turn for help. I often think – if it was this hard for me, it must be so much harder for other peopl, who don’t have the same access and support that I do! I firmly beleive that no mother is ever a failure at breastfeeding. When a mother turns to formula after trying to breastfeed (unless it is a legitimate, medical need, of course!), it is always and only a failure of society.