beauty for ashes

21 May 2011

breastfeeding: frustrating and fulfilling

When I was 28 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  I had to check my sugar and completely cut out carbs and sugar, but I was able to keep my sugar levels reasonable.  Everything I read went on and on about how babies born to women with gd (yes...I called it gd...) tended to be massive.  Easily ten pounds.  Or more.  This freaked me out a bit since I was planning on doing this all natural.  It sounded extra painful.  So, you can imagine my surprise when Alice brought my sweet Jonah back and announced that he was a whopping 5 b 3 oz!  What??  Where was my gigantic baby?  This guy was so tiny!

He was able to latch like a champ before we left the Birth Cottage, so I felt pretty good.  There was never a question in my mind about breastfeeding.  It was was was perfect. 
I patiently waited for my milk to come in...
and waited...
and waited...
Meanwhile, Jonah was screaming and screaming.  And his weight dropped to 4 lb 8 oz.  At that point, my midwives encouraged me to supplement with formula while they looked for mama's that would be willing to donate milk.  It was clear that my milk was NOT coming in.  They also encouraged me to drink mother's milk tea to see if that would increase production.
This was exceedingly difficult for me.  I had always dreamed of nursing my child, of the bond this would create.  It devastated me.  When it came time to call the pediatrician and let him know that we would be supplementing, I dissolved into tears (which quickly turned to gut-wrenching sobs) and handed the phone to Joshua.  I knew my son needed to eat, but it was like tearing out my heart to not produce enough milk for him.  I felt inadequate.  I felt like I was letting my son down...not giving him the best.  I cannot describe in great enough detail the sorrow this caused.

Layla recommended that I try using a supplemental nursing system to keep Jonah to the breast as often as possible.  For those who are unfamiliar with this device, it looks like this:

You hang it around your neck and tape the tubes to your breasts so they end at your nipple.  This way, the baby stimulates your breast while getting the nutrition they need.  I was able to get donated breastmilk that carried us through the first three weeks or so, which was amazing!  I am so grateful to the ladies that helped us out.  It means the world to me.
The sns was frustrating.  It is nerve wracking to put it on and tape it in place with a screaming baby in my lap, especially when Joshua was back at work and I was trying to keep quiet so he could sleep.  But, I was willing to do whatever was necessary.
When Jonah was 10 days old, I went to a lactation support group.  There, Vicki (who taught my childbirth class) encouraged me to pump often and pick up more milk special blend with goats rue in it.  At the class, I weighed Jonah before we nursed, then nursed him (he still latched like a champ), and then weighed him after.  My heart sank as I did the math a figured out that he was getting less than 1/4 of an ounce from me.  No wonder he was screaming!  I was starving my baby.  This, of course, brought on a fresh meltdown.
I faithfully pumped and took my supplements.  Vicki also encouraged me to bottle feed at night and do the sns during the day.  This was a great move, since we were getting really frustrated at 3 am.
Eventually, we had to start formula, which sucked.
All the while, I still pumped and took my supplements.
I wish I could say that my supply increased enough to exclusively breastfeed, but no such luck.  My supply slowly increased to one ounce every couple hours.  It has been a lot of work.
But Jonah loves to nurse.  We nurse before and after each nap.  I love it.  I love the feeling of closeness.  And we will continue to nurse until Jonah is ready to wean.

These pictures are why I love nursing.

I get to look down at my sweet boy.  And it makes my heart happy.


Ashleigh-Anne: said...

My milk never came in either. I just resolved that it wasn't meant to be and I was thankful that there was good formula out there that would give her what I couldn't. I know every Mom is different, but I definitely don't think it's the end of the world if you can't breasfeed. It's not like you (or I) didn't at least try. I'm pretty sure when our kids are 16, it won't matter whether they were nursed or bottle fed! :) As long as they are healthy and happy, that's all that matters! I admire your determination!

Christi said...

I'm so sorry to hear how hard it's been for you and Jonah! Good for you for working so hard at it and for sharing your story. Hearing other women admit their trials can be such a blessing to other struggling moms. I nursed two babies... both had different challenges... and I feel like I got robbed of a fully satisfying experience both times due to different medical things that came up. My first was 13 months and still EBF when I started miscarrying and was advised to stop in order to maybe save the pregnancy. We got to 13 months but it started out rough when he would latch, so I am familiar with the SNS and a nipple shield. My second was only 7 months old when severe MSPI and GERD, low weight gain, and a dwindling supply from all the stress and no sleep and restrictive diet made it neccessary to put her on an elemental formula. Ugh. It still saddens, frustrates, angers, and pains me to this day... nursing is such a beautiful way to bond with your child... the emotions are so real and so hard to describe to someone who hasn't been in your shoes. I just want you to know I feel for you and I will be praying for an abundant supply!!!! *At least your little cutie has a great latch- that's a blessing!!!

Stephanie said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I feel your pain, I really do. Have you read all my breastfeeding posts? They would be good to read. It is not too late to get to exclusive nursing.

I prefer the Lact Aid much better, it is much, much easier for both baby and child. I will have to send Layla and Alice an email about recommending it versus the Lact Aid.

Also, have you thought about taking Domperidone. I know its expensive, but you can find some online for a fraction of the cost at a compounding pharmacy. I highly recommend Domperidone. It is an amazing, amazing drug!

Please email me if you need anything.

Courtneybee said...

I found your blog from the Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby Carnival link up and I was exactly like you. I had borderline gestational diabetes and had to have a C section after 72 hours of cervadil and milk took forever to come in and when it id it was meager to say the least. My daughter lost almost 2 lbs. her first week and we were saved by Vicky and Molly at Best Beginnings! (how do I miss that store...) Keep pumping, take whatever herbs you use regularly and try so hard not to feel bad about supplementing. I had to use the SNS as well and we supplemented all the way through, I was never able to go it alone on just my Mama's daughter is 16 months old now and just fine! Your's will be too! God Bless your family!