Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Let's Talk About Breastfeeding

All throughout my pregnancy, I heard stories of how difficult labor is, how hard it is function on so little sleep in the newborn stage, how hard it is to not have any "me" time. Everyone failed to mention, however, how hard breastfeeding is, and I really wish someone had told me.

I don't want to scare anyone who is pregnant, or still trying, but breastfeeding, and eventually deciding to stop, is one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.

Once my milk came in, Kieran had a pretty good latch, and was a good eater. He ate best in the football hold on the right side, but we were able to do the "normal" cradle hold on the left. My nipples were sore for a few days in the beginning, but they never cracked or bled.

From the outside, it looked like we had breastfeeding down. But internally, I was constantly worried about my supply. I started pumping almost from day one because I thought Kieran would be going to daycare one day, and I wanted to have an ample freezer stash built up. I could never get more than an ounce out of each side per session, but everyone told me not to worry because what you were able to pump wasn't an indicator of what baby was able to get.

At Kieran's one month appointment, he had only gained 12 ounces from birth and had dropped from the 92nd percentile to the 43rd. At his two month, he had only gained a pound and 7 ounces. At four months, he had only gained two pounds, 10 ounces and was up every 45 minutes throughout the night to eat. I knew then, that he wasn't getting the food that he needed.

Even though I was pumping multiple times a day, breastfeeding on demand, taking fenugreek, eating oatmeal, and drinking enough water to drown, my supply was still tiny. It was suggested that I start supplementing with formula to make sure Kieran was getting the nutrients he needed.

Breaking out that can of formula I had hid in his closet "just in case" was the hardest thing I ever did. I bawled when I gave Kieran his first bottle of formula because I felt like such a failure and a bad mother. Everyone told me that "breast is best" and no one complained about how difficult it was, so I figured I was doing something wrong.

Since starting formula, my supply continued to drop, and eventually pretty much disappeared. I decided last week to stop breastfeeding when I tried to feed Kieran and he screamed at the breast because nothing was coming out. I was only getting half an ounce after pumping both breasts for 30 minutes, so I knew my supply was next to nothing.

Deciding to stop breastfeeding has come with a lot of guilt. I had dreams of breastfeeding Kieran until he self weened, even if that meant he waited until he was two. My dream of a drug free vaginal birth was taken from me, so I was really hoping breastfeeding would work out, but it was just one more thing my body failed at. I am thankful that Kieran was exclusively breastfed for 4 months, and getting some breast milk up until 7 months, but I will forever wish it was longer.

Even thought I know I'm doing what's best for my son, there will always be a part of me that will feel guilty for not trying harder, for not trying one more supplement or pumping schedule that promised to increase my supply. Even though I talked to Kieran's pediatrician, and the hospital lactation consultant, both who told me to use formula, I wonder if I had searched for a more understanding expert, that things would have turned out differently.

I am lucky to have met a wonderful group of women on Twitter who have supported me throughout these tough decisions. Some of them exclusively breastfed, some exclusively pump, some do a mix of formula and breast milk, some use formula. All of them, however, have never judged me for my decisions, and have always been there with a kind word. I've also learned that I'm not the only one who has struggled with breastfeeding, or the guilt of not succeeding.

I wonder why women can swap stories of torn vaginas and multiple-day labors like they're nothing, but they can't discuss the difficulties of breastfeeding. Is it because breastfeeding is supposed to be so "natural" and admitting to anything else will be looked down upon? I, for one, vow to share my difficulties in hopes of letting expectant mothers know that breastfeeding is hard work. There are resources out there that can help, and I am always here if you have questions or need someone to talk to. Over my TTC and mothering journeys, I have met a lot of wonderful women, so if I don't know the answer, I'm sure I can find someone who does.

If I can offer any advice to expectant mothers, it is to have someone on your side who will support you in your breastfeeding journey. My husband always cheered me on while I tried to breastfeed, and was a wonderful shoulder to cry on when I decided enough was enough. I'm sure I would have given up a lot sooner if it wasn't for the support of my husband and Twitter friends.

Anyone else had breastfeeding difficulties? Have any amazing resources, tips or tricks to share?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quick Life Update

I never wanted to be one of those bloggers that went weeks without updating, but here I am.

Life is busy with a baby, blah, blah, work, blah, blah, no sleep, blah blah blah.

You get the gist of it.

Here's a quick update is bullet points because I have maybe half an hour before Kieran wakes up from his nap.
  • In all seriousness, work is ridiculously busy. I have 4 coworkers, and they've all been out of the office lately for various reasons. On a regular basis, I'm doing the work of two full time positions, but with my coworkers being out, I'm also picking up their workload. For the past month, I've been having to bring work home with me, and it's starting to really drain me. Our biggest fundraiser is this week, so hopefully things will slow down after that. 
  • Along the same lines, Kieran still comes to work with me, but I'm starting to look for part-time daycare. He's getting to the age where he's not content just laying around and watching the world go by. He's wanting more one-on-one time and I unfortunately can't give it to him all the time at work, especially when I'm covering for my other coworkers. We've started looking for part time daycare (ideally, Tuesday/Thursday half day,) but there's a waiting list almost everywhere, so it may take a while. I have so many feelings on this topic, but that's for another post (hopefully.) 
  • Kieran is now breastfed, bottle fed, and eats solid food. I've posted a bit on our struggles with breastfeeding, but haven't posted the entire story because things keep changing. As of right now, he breastfeeds right after he wakes up for the day, as well as any time he wakes up overnight, but most of his nutrition comes from formula. He'll also get a bottle of pumped breast milk when I'm able to fill one (takes about 4 pumping sessions to get 5 ounces.) We've also started solid foods and he loves them. We're doing a mix of purees and baby led weaning. We give him purees to make sure he gets some more calories in him, but give him safe-sized pieces of food so that he can practice chewing and feeding himself. So far, we haven't found a food he doesn't love!
  • The topic of baby #2 has come up. We're pretty set on trying again after Kieran turns one, but adoption has also been discussed. Keegan and I both want to adopt someday, but I'm not sure if now is the right time. However, I also don't know if I'm yearning to be pregnant again. I had a fairly easy pregnancy (besides gestational diabetes) up until I went into preterm labor, and then had a pretty rough delivery. As much as I loved feeling Kieran kick inside me, I don't have this great desire to feel that again. However, I do want to give Kieran a sibling, if possible. Lots to think, and talk, about. 
  • I'm having body issues. About 2 weeks after delivery, I had lost all of my baby weight. I was so happy that my body finally seemed to do something right. Over the past 7 months, however, I have gained all of the weight back, plus some. I'm back at the weight I was before I lost about 40 pounds over the year and a half it took for us to conceive. I've been working out more and watching what I eat, but it's not putting a dent in the pounds. I know that Metformin is the key to me losing weight, but after talking with both Kieran's pediatrician and my own doctor, we've decided it's not safe for me to go on while breastfeeding. I really want to lose at least 40 pounds before I get pregnant again (if that's how we decide to grow our family,) but I also don't want to deprive Kieran of the small amount of breast milk he gets now. It's a decision I've been struggling with lately and I'm not sure if there's a "right" answer. 
So, there's a quick run down of life with a 7 month old, and it only took me 4 days to write!