Thursday, March 24, 2011

I spend all day thinking about my boobs

So I've mentioned this before, but I really am not digging breastfeeding. I think its a combination of factors:
- my son is not the greatest latcher and so has been compressing my nipples in a way that caused a lot of pain during and after feeding. Most likely because he is small, but he also is a bit tongue tied, but I'm not really up for doing the frenulum snipping procedure.
- Per the pediatrician, I had to supplement with formula early on because he was so small (he was 5 lbs 6 oz when we took him home) and my milk wasn't in yet, and so bottles were introduced early.
- I got some lousy advice (from a pediatrician, no less) to not start pumping right away, so my supply was never up to the demand since formula was already in the mix, and I am still trying to catch up
- I got other lousy advice to switch boobs after 10 minutes, and therefore ended up with a baby still hungry after each feeding session and having to either go back to boob 1 (which in light of the pain, I really loathed) or get topped off with a bottle, usually of breastmilk, but sometimes formula, thereby causing more supply issues.
- My son is a very aggressive eater, and gets really really worked up before he eats and so is all gaping mouth and flailing arms and legs when I try to latch him on. We call it the hungry shark routine -- he roots around so violently it's like a shark in chummed waters who will grab onto anything. So in the wee hours of the night, and sometimes in the middle of the day, it is not super fun to get him to latch on, and usually involves one of us crying.

I guess I thought that breastfeeding would be just this dreamy, wonderful way for us to bond and that it would come easily to both of us. Because, you know, the whole getting pregnant and childbirth parts had gone just exactly according to plan, so why not this? (Here, I jest. I appear to be completely unable to actually learn from my experiences or, for that matter, from the experiences of others -- there are plenty of women who have detailed their breastfeeding woes on their blogs, and I have read them. But I was certain that I would be different.)

But breastfeeding is not dreamy, and feeding my son has become, for me, fraught with stress and self-doubt. Because what kind of mom hates breastfeeding? The rational part of my brain knows that, for the time being at least, he is still getting as much breastmilk as I can produce, which is right now 100% of his intake, just from a bottle. And that feeding him and keeping him growing and healthy, no matter how, is more important than some preconceived notion of ideal motherhood. And that we still snuggle and are close and spend the same time together.

Yet the emotional part of my brain is telling me that I have failed. I feel like, once again, my body has let me down. And I feel that, if I really really was meant to be a mom, that this would work and that I would love it. And that I am shortchanging me and Benjamin from an important experience and that his development and nutrition are suffering. Frankly, I *know* that's crap, but I have trouble not letting those doubts about what I am doing seep in.

Case in point: despite the fact that I am either breastfeeding or pumping 8-10 times a day (and this includes waking up at night to pump while the baby is sleeping, which is really sucky), I don't appear to be able to keep up with his demand. He's been unusually hungry in the past couple of days, and neither sticking him on my boobs nor feeding him his bottle appears to be satisfying him. So I am coming to a point where I am running out of food for him, and will likely need to resort to formula if he is to remain satisfied. Honestly, there is nothing quite so heartbreaking as nursing your child for over an hour (letting him nurse until he drops off each side -- twice!) and then having him be visibly hungry 30 minutes later. Because that's what happened yesterday afternoon, and when offered a bottle of breastmilk, he downed 4 oz.

So here I am -- facing the fact that I have run out of my refrigerator stash of breastmilk, knowing I don't pump enough at each sitting for a full feed, and recognizing that, no matter how long I keep him at my breasts, he's likely not going to get enough, and will start getting frustrated before he gets full. It sucks, and it makes me feel broken and pathetic, but I'm going to have to supplement with formula tonight if I don't have some sort of miracle pumping output.

Combine that with the fact that he still causes a decent amount of pain and that I had a clogged duct on the left side that would not resolve with nursing, pumping and hot compresses (it has, but it took about 20 hours), it's no wonder I think that this breastfeeding thing sucks.

So that's the stressful part of being a mom. Everything else is actually going really well -- he's a good sleeper, is easily consoled when he cries (well, except for 2 nights, but those were outliers), and he's alert and playful for much of the day. But feeding him makes me super anxious, and I'm either going to have to figure out how to make more breastmilk (and yeah, I'm drinking the tea, taking the fenugreek, which makes me smell like Indian food, and eating oatmeal) or I'm going to have to just be ok with supplementing with formula when the need arises.

Here's my request of you -- tell me it's ok that I am getting him as much breastmilk as I can produce, that delivery mechanism doesn't really matter, and that formula won't kill him or make him hate me when he is 18 and doesn't get into his first choice of college (yeah, I TOLD you I was irrational.)


  1. He'll probably think he hates you at some point between the ages of 14 and 20, but not because of formula :).

    I HATE how all the 'natural' gurus (natural childbirth, exclusive breastfeeding, wearing your baby 24 hours a day like a tribal woman and never putting it in a swing EVER) and their minions make all of this shit so HARD on real women. I know you know that formula is FINE and that the last 3 generations of people in the US were raised exclusively on it because they were told by their doctors (who were told by the formula manufacturers) that formula was better than breastmilk. I know you know that it's fine. But at the same time, I completely understand why you feel the way you do. I remember being TERRIFIED that my milk wouldn't come in. It's something that you want to enjoy so much. And after having trouble conceiving, particularly, it's hard not to feel let down by your body again (I felt let down by my body's failure to give birth vaginally, but put it behind me very quickly).

    I think that once you actually make the transition to supplementing, and get used to it, all will feel well ok. At least that's how it seems to go for other women whose blogs I read about this. Good luck, and I'm sorry your boobs are causing so much angst!

  2. you're being too hard on yourself!! i have soo many friends who were formula fed as babies, and they are way healthier (not to mention MORE FERTILE) than i am. there's nothing wrong with it. my sister's boobs grew from a C cup to DD's during her pregnancy last year and the universe's trick on her? her milk barely ever came in. she'd just get a few dribbles each time, despite trying and trying for a month. so, she had to mostly formula feed my nephew and he's doing great! after watching her struggle and get soooo upset over it all, i've resolved to TRY to breastfeed, but i'm going to call it a day and switch to formula if it doesn't work for me. my sister was practically downright depressed and spent the first few months of my nephew's life crying about it. i'm hoping i can just move on really quickly to the formula if it doesn't work. xoxoxoxo!

  3. Of course you know that formula is fine, but I'm also wondering if you've had time to talk to a lactation consultant or go to a breastfeeding clinic (much, much cheaper). It sounds like B. might just be in a growth spurt and this isn't a long-term supply issue. I'm asking largely because we were told never to feed the fusspot more than 3 ounces of pumped milk at a time because some breastfed babies suck on a bottle for comfort and her body couldn't handle more than 3 ounces of breastmilk (even when she was 18 months old and her daycare buddies were getting 8 ounces of formula in their bottles) and overfeeding her bottles of pumped milk explained some of her stomach issues/discomfort (you can also tell by the poo color which switches from yellow to green). Which is not to make you feel guilty at all, but just that there's lots of professional support out there to help with your supply, comfort, etc. (I was at a very nice breastfeeding clinic this afternoon for a weight check. Feel free to e-mail me for details on different locations if google fails you).

  4. My mom thinks I'm insane to breastfeed as she hated it and never even considered breastfeeding me by the time I was born (I'm a second child). Granted, I have my issues, but I can't imagine a way to blame these on the lack of breastfeeding... not that it wouldn't be nice to find another way to blame someone else for my problems. :)

    I am so sorry you are having such a hard time. If it makes you feel any better, I get the impression that things are going really well for me but I still find it a struggle. My breasts hurt, tingle, and are huge. My nipples are unbelievably sore and bleed. I am constantly attending to them. M hurts me when she latches on, because like Benjamin she likes to chomp down quickly and doesn't get a good latch. And she doesn't like to open her mouth wide enough for long enough. We are working on it, but it causes me a lot of stress and anticipation as we get to every nursing session. I hate to admit that it sucks, and will do everything I can to try to make it to 6 weeks before I give up, but it does rather suck to have to be so breast-focused all the time. It is the one serious down-side I have run into so far. I can handle the irrational crying, but knowing that I have to get up and nurse when I hear her stirring in the middle of the night...

  5. Duuuude, if you don't breastfeed him until he's 8 he will have severe attachment issues and he'll never be a real man. Srsly.

    And formula will damage him beyond belief - it will totally screw up his future - all of it, forever.


    I cried for the first 8 weeks of breastfeeding the Little Guy. It was like having knives sucked out my nipples when he sucked. He, like B, had a small mouth and a tongue-tie which I was unwilling to cut. Amazingly though, his head/mouth grew and after a couple of months it became easy and lovely. Your boy is doing his best to help your pituitary gland by sucking lots - if he's too hungry then top him up with formula. It really is ok to do whatever is best for you.


  6. Oh, I just want to wrap you up in a big hug. It's fantastic that you're enduring all this to give him as much breastmilk as you can, and of course the delivery mechanism doesn't matter! And when he hates you as a teenager and gets into his top college but chooses not to go because he wants to spend a year traveling and "getting to know" himself it won't be because of formula!

    I've watched a couple people go through this and from what I can see, it's utterly heartbreaking, and made a thousand times worse by IF. Just do your best to be KIND to yourself and not buy into the hype--as L. suggests, the extreme things you hear are often a reaction to previous generations' weird decision making. I hope you can get some better advice from professionals, but ultimately, you can only do your best to make this work.

  7. Ok, you need to know that whatever is best for you and him is best. Period. And right now, what is best for both of you is to at least supplement with formula. You need it for your sanity and boob health, and he needs it for the nutrition. Don't listen to these breastfeeding-is-all-happiness-and-light people, because that is their experience, not yours.

    You know I have had a tough road with breastfeeding too, and I know the guilt you feel. But seriously, 2 years, 10 years, 20 years from now, it won't matter. As long as Benjamin is getting the calories and nutrition he needs now, it won't matter then. And I'm sure that seeing Benjamin satiated will be a huge reward for you, no matter how you get to that point.

    Stop the guilt and do what is best, what your gut tells you is best. You are his mother, and you and only you, know what is best for him (and you!). Trust that gut.

  8. Breastfeeding is super hard work. I don't know if you read this post of mine a little while back but it may be helpful. I put a bunch of resources on there for help.

    I also had latch problems. It's not too late to get those resolved and that could really change things. At least you will not have pain. Supply changes constantly. When a baby needs more it takes your body a couple/few days to catch up. If you feel like you don't then supplementing is OK.

    Please don't feel like a failure because you are doing the best you can, and it is bleeping hard. If you want to email me my email is in my about info.

    If you want to continue trying I suggest finding better help. I went through tons of crappy advice and 7 lactation consultants until I found one that helps. It really made the world of difference and my experience positive overall.

    PS- I had clogged ducts a few times, and I recall it taking a day or two to resolve. I even made my dh nurse. ha, He was totally grossed out by that but I was DESPERATE for relief. I would have nursed myself if I could have reached.

  9. mixed baby, right here, and not too much the worse for wear. i even got into my first-choice college ;)

    [feel free to ignore this, but: i think you're in nyc, yes? if you want the name of a great LC -- and i'm not just saying that; we certainly met some useless ones -- who has practical, concrete advice that isn't just "drink water" or a bunch of garbage about traditional societies, drop me an email.]

  10. I know that some quarters believe that formula is the devil, but I know several women who either didn't want to breastfeed, couldn't, or had to mix because demand outweighed production. Every single one of those kids? Healthy.

    It's a hard and emotional thing, I understand. But you are being way hard on yourself about this. And you are doing great, and deserve every kindness (from others and yourself).

    (Read N's comment and am killing myself laughing at the idea of telling my DH to help me unclog my ducts:)

  11. I have to comment on this post. There is SO MUCH pressure by friends, family and the medical community to breastfeed, that you guilt yourself into feeling like a shitty mom when it doesn't work out for you. I pumped for 5 weeks for my twins and I just had to give it up. We introduced formula very early because they were jaundiced and my milk didn't come in for 5 days. So - I never caught up on production, it hurt like hell, I hated pumping because it also hurt like hell and I couldn't make enough BM for one child, let alone 2. Switching to formula was guilt-inducing for me, but once the hormones righted themselves, I felt at peace with my decision. I could SLEEP instead of pump when they were sleeping. How wonderful! Don't beat yourself up. Formula is not going to hurt your baby one bit. It's society making us all feel like we have to be that breastfeeding mom whol absolutely loves it. If you do, that's great. if you don't, you're just normal.