Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I ain't no Bessie the Cow

Before I begin this heavy post, I thought I would start off with a funny story. Did everyone hear about the mother in Kettering Ohio that was breastfeeding her child while driving and talking on her cell phone? Are you kidding me? I guess she took the logo to the left and "drove" with it! Check out the link...

As some of you close to me may know, I have really struggled with my milk supply since Sophia has been born. I have been very quiet about this b/c it was (and still is) very hard for me. As those of you that know me, breastfeeding has been one of the things I have been most excited about with the birth of my child. The chance to bond and provide the best nutrition possible to my child -- a win win situation. It should be easy right? It is the most natural thing we can do -- feed our child! After all, that is what they did for years and years before bottles and formula was invented. However, I am no "Bessie the cow" and breastfeeding has been an emotional roller coaster for me! I can see why people give up -- it can be soooooo hard and almost impossible. I am determined... here is my story.

(Disclaimer: These are all MY personal opinions and thoughts. I am by no means judging anyone in the way they feed their child. Everyone has to do what is right for their families and their children. Every situation is unique and different. There isn't a right or wrong way. I hope I don't offend anyone. Please know that is not my intent. I share with you my story from the bottom of my heart! I know many people probably have had similar struggles, and I hope I can encourage those that might be having or will have the same struggle.)

To those of you that don't know much of my story -- let me start from the beginning! I probably hurt my supply the most by hitting the gym after 1.5 weeks postpartum. I felt fine and was discharged with the instructions, "Do what you feel comfortable doing and what you are used to doing." Well, those of you that know me, know I worked out until the very end of my pregnancy. I even hobbled into the gym during the nerve pain and all! I was working out about 3x/wk and by week 3, was back to my normal speed/rate. I felt great (mentally and physically). By Sophia's third week of life, we had Sophia's weight checked and she hadn't gained enough weight and I wasn't able to pump out much milk. I attributed it all to getting used to the pump and my daughter having "killer" metabolism like her dad. Well, at that weight check, the first bomb dropped, the doctor wanted me to supplement with formula. I about lost it in the doctor's office! I thought to myself, "Are you kidding me? She is still gaining. It is OK she isn't going to be a porker." I went on a search for organic formula b/c I was not going to purchase anything that could have a hint of melamine. I only could find two, "Kroger's organic and Similac Organic." I was still at the "almost meltdown stage." I did as I was told and by the following week, she had gained a "good" amount (which is relative I have come to learn). The doctor told me I could drop back down from 4 oz of supplement to 2 oz/day. I was thrilled. In the mean time I was taking two herbs to increase the supply (blessed thistle and fenugreek -- 12 caps/day total plus all my other vitamins). I started feeding her every two hours (and still am currently doing so) during the day (which it took her 45 min - 1 hour to eat, basically she was attached to my boob 8+ hours/day). I was also going to a breastfeeding support group at Clarian West. I started getting more milk out when I was pumping and was thrilled!! I even had a feeling of engorgement which was very painful, but encouraging b/c I had never felt that "full before." By her 5th week at the breastfeeding group, she hadn't gained as much weight as they would like (with the decrease of the supplementation). I gave her more of my pumped milk as a supplement. I went back at week 6 for a weight check and they weren't pleased, but she technically gained her 3.5 oz for the week. (The AAP recommends 1/2 to 1 oz/day for breastfed babies). They wanted me to start supplementing more often. I was so ticked off. They didn't even sit down with me and see what was going on and how hard I was working to get my supply up. After talking with a few midwives, I compromised and did 4-6 oz/day of supplementation (formula and breast milk). At her 2 month appt, she was up to 9 lbs and 3 oz and gaining weight steady, at her speed. She was still on the growth curve, just not 75% if you know what I mean. I finally got the doctors off my back. That brings us to this week where she has had a cold for the past 7 days and lost a few ounces. In our household, EVERY ounce counts!! I was very discouraged again!! Today she was in for a sick visit and was up 3.5 oz in two days (only b/c I have been doing more supplementing while she is sick and not nursing well). I think she is going through a growth spur too and my body hasn't gotten the message to kick up the supply.

To top things all off, many times Sophia can be a very "lazy" eater. She takes forever to empty my breasts. I know the breast is a place of comfort and peace for her, so she likes to take her sweet time (and all my time too). So that is the story in a nutshell. Obviously, I left out many of the emotions associated with each event.

The past two months have been very emotional. Breastfeeding has taken a toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally. I wanted to solely breastfeed my child. I know breast milk by far is the best thing in the world for the baby. It is loaded with all my antibodies, DHA for brain growth and development, and many more wonderful nutrients. It has stood the test of time -- been around since Eve. It creates such a wonderful bond b/w you and your child! The benefits go on and on. So many of you may ask, "What is your beef with formula?" After all, I was a difficult baby and didn't nurse well and ended up being a formula fed baby and turned out all right (well -- I guess huh? That might still be up for debate). I just have a hard time giving my child powdered milk when the third ingredient listed was vegetable oil followed by tons of preservatives. I know formula isn't the end of the world, but to me in my world... it seems like it.

As I meditate and try to get to the heart of the matter.... here are my collected thoughts....

1) In my life I have always set goals and been able to accomplish them if I work hard and dedicate all of myself to them. I am a very determined person. If I want it, I go after it. (Those of you that know me well, know this is dead on). I have done this and beyond with breastfeeding and I am still not making enough milk. It is the first time that I, myself can't do it! It is very frustrating, discouraging, leaving me with feelings of defeat.

2) It takes a HUGE bite out of my pride. The ability to be the sole provider for my daughter's nutrition. I took such good care of myself during pregnancy and beyond to assure her health, and I can't provide enough milk for her now. I know having to use some formula isn't the end of the world -- but to me it is. (I know, get a grip Allyson, it could be worse).

3) It is very frustrating that something so "natural and good" has to be so hard!! I have to admit, I get very jealous of those people that are "Bessie the cows" per se and have it easier breastfeeding. I want so bad for that to be me. I know my jealousy is not going to get me anywhere beneficial, but the feelings are real and I am still working through them. Maybe one of the ten commandments should have read, "Do not covet their neighbors breasts and milk supply."

4) I know Sophia can nurse well if she wants too and tries too. She demonstrates that in the wee hours of the morning when she is starving. She clears out one side in record time (for her). Why she won't do this at every feeding is beyond me.

5) I have realized that our good days are always connected to how well Sophia eats -- if she eats well, she usually sleeps well, and mama is happy! If she is lazy, she tends to not sleep well, then is cranky, then it is hard on mama -- it is a vicious cycle.

6) I don't want to give up!! I want to nurse her for her first year of life, but I am realizing, it might not be able to be 100% just me. I am processing through this and coming to terms with it! It is VERY VERY hard!! It will take time.

Wow, that was a very long post. Sorry to unload on all my readers, but I have been wanting to do this for sometime now. It just never felt right -- now it feels right.

So, slowly I am working through all my emotions -- trying to sort them out. Praying for God's peace on this matter and in my situation. I have a huge support group and many encouraging people surrounding me. I wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for my wonderful husband, parents, and sister. They have all been my stronghold and have come in to "rescue" me during the hardest times. Each day just seems to be in the "survival" mode. I know that in a few years, I will look back on this post and (hopefully) laugh and see what a mountain I made out of a mole hole, but now -- I feel like I am trying to cross the Grand Canyon!

Well, those are my thoughts on the matter! I will write more as time allows and/or I think of new things!



Erin A. said...

I'm so sorry you are having troubles. I wish I had the magic words to fix things and encourage you. Know that I am proud of how well you are doing as a new mommy and that God is in control (even when it comes to milk supply).

Katie! said...

Breastfeeding is no walk in the park for anyone. You probably know this from your support group and your friends with kids, but what you're feeling is completely normal. Of course you want to be able to give your baby the best food possible. Of course you want to be able to sustain her with just your body for as long as possible. As you are starting to realize, everybody's "possible" is different. You may not be able to breastfeed for 12 months. That's okay! You're doing a great job, Sophia is perfect and will be fine, and that's it.

Everything with motherhood is a game of planning for the best and preparing for the worst. It looks like your breastfeeding has landed in the middle. Do what you can, congratulate yourself for giving it your all, and let it go.

Hope you're feeling better about everything soon.

DEBSIK said...

Wow- a blog straight from the depths of the heart!
You have done an amazing job at motherhood- Im so proud of you!

Katie definitely says it best!

Loads of love,

Steffany said...

I don't have much to say about this topic since i've never been through it, but i'm sorry you are having such a hard time! You are still in my prayers (as always). Stay strong!!! Love ya!!! Steff

Steuer Family said...

Hang in there, Allyson. I understand your feelings completely. I will say each breast feeding experience was different for me with each birth. The boys and I did not sync well, but Mia was solely breast fed until 6 months. I am also like you in that I like to have control of everything and work hard to make it that way, but I have changed alot since having kids. They definitely have their own personalities and schedules you have to consider and you end up letting things roll off your back and go with the flow. Try not to feel guilty. It's really all about the love you give.

Amanda said... willingness to share from your heart is amazing. and, girl, i can relate...completely. when i was pregnant with elizabeth i dreamed of how fabulous breast-feeding was going to be...good for my baby, bonding, happy, etc. and then she arrived...and my story mirrors yours...almost completely. i was devastated and completely unwilling to give in...somehow i was going to make it work. i cried...a lot. i felt like no one could relate...especially the myriad of bessie the cows i knew..those i met at church...people, even the well-intentioned ones at breast-feeding groups, etc., kept reminding me that it was natural and best for the baby. i was pumping and nursing and supplementing, and elizabeth was barely gaining weight...just barely the minimum, even with supplementing...she wasn't sleeping long nap stretches during the day...and i felt like a crazed failure. at 4 months the decision was pretty much ripped out of my that weight check she had actually lost weight...which quite honestly scared me...and yet, by that time, it was a bit of a relief...finally hearing someone say, "while breast milk is BEST, it is clearly not doing its job...what would be BEST for elizabeth is nutrition...and at this point, that means formula." i was relieved, and yet i felt so i had failed my baby with this basic need. and so i kept pumping and mixing that with formula. it was my husband who finally spoke to my emotions and pain...sharing the tole he noticed this taking on me...recommending that perhaps what elizabeth needed more than my breast-milk was a mama who was rested and content with the reality of the our case formula.

you would think it would have been easier to accept when the same thing happened with kate. it wasn't...and yet, it didn't take me as long to make the decision to switch to formula...5 months instead of 6.

so...that long spiel said...i am praying for you...whatever route this takes. i feel like breast-feeding was something the Lord used to really humble cause me to trust in Him and seek His wisdom in a new way. ultimately He was in control and could have easily made me produce enough milk for ten babies...and yet, He chose not to. rather He chose to break my pride and my "i can do this" mentality. and i must admit, as much of a struggle as breast-feeding became, it wasn't all that "bonding" for made me want to make me tense and exhausted...and so once we made the switch to formula and complete bottle-feeding i suddenly found myself bonding with my babies in a new and incredible from the emotions and feeling of to simply soak in the moments.

this got really long...and i pray it doesn't come across as telling you to give up. rather, just wanted you to know you are not alone. i understand the pain and struggle...and i would love to talk anytime. feel free to e-mail me thefeiocks AT hotmail

may God use this to do a great work in your life...even if it is a bit painful. praying for you! :)

DEBSIK said...

God Bless Amanda and all your wonderful friends for their support and encouragement and willingness to share their own struggles.

Sophia is so blessed to have the BEST mommy in the world- God has given you His greatest gift- along with His very own son.

Love her unconditionally- thats what is the most important- and I see you doing that every second of every day!

love mom