May 2, 2007

On Breastfeeding and Stupid Weeks...

Last week was high on the stupidity scale. It was a rough week in the skerrib house.

To begin, His Highness and I had a cold. We are now on the upswing of things with only a remnant of symptoms, but a week ago at this time we were definitely ailing. "Snuffly" is how I would describe us.

Despite the cold, however, the doc declared His Highness healthy enough for his 4 month vaccinations. Guess what? Vaccinations when you're healthy are no fun, but vaccinations when you're snuffly are really no fun. They're, like, negative on the fun scale. I was spared from the sticking-and-screaming, as the Cat Daddy accompanied the Monkey Boy this time around, but of course I was around for the ensuing traumas of his body processing the dead bugs.

The hardest part of the whole thing was the realization that it's time to begin formula supplements with His Highness. Now to some, this would be a non-issue; to me, it was hard to accept. I'm all for people making their own informed decisions about breastfeeding vs. formula, but for my family I'm a huge advocate of the breastfeeding, and I am quite proud of the fact that for his first four months, His Highness had nary a drop of anything except breastmilk, plus a couple doses of anti-gas drops and Tylenol. I was working really hard with the pumping so he would have enough to eat at daycare, but to me it was well worth it.

Well, while he was beefy at birth, and then had settled into a weight curve on the lower end of the growth charts, this time he was not registering on the charts at all. And while I could debate the validity of such charts since they tend to be based on formula-fed infants, who tend to gain quicker than breastfed ones, the doc was concerned. And, as I mentioned before, it was the Cat Daddy who accompanied His Highness that day, so it was he who was there to talk with the doc and take her recommendations, and share them with me after the fact. And I have come to trust the doc--she has fervently supported the breastfeeding all along, and wants us to continue as long as we're comfortable, but she also wants to see a heavier Monkey Boy. So she and the Cat Daddy devised a good plan--formula at daycare, breastmilk at home, and no more pumping-under-pressure for me.

I was highly disappointed, but agreed that it was the best thing for my boy. Beginning that day, we offered His Highness some formula or pumped milk after each feeding and he took it...he was still hungry. Right away he slept easier and became even more laid-back than normal.

This was see results so quickly was a huge relief, but at the same time it was tough to think that my boy had been hungry and I hadn't realized it. And even amid the relief was a bit of grief that, for whatever reason, my own milk supply was not enough to sustain His Highness. My friend the Reverend's Wife says that you die a million deaths with your kids, meaning that moms are continually letting go of how they "thought things would be." As a crunchy-breastfeeding-type, I so wanted to exclusively breastfeed until it was time to introduce solids, which would not be until at least six months. From reading several websites I had concluded that if I just worked hard enough, that could and would (and should) be the case. Now I was faced with succumbing to the formula-monster. Rice cereal wasn't even an option (yet) this point it would make him feel fuller and he might not take in the calories he needs to put the weight on. No, it had to be formula. The one thing I'd hoped to avoid. Rats.

I chalk up my hangups to two main issues: pride and control. It's a noble cause for a mommy to want to breastfeed her child. It's a gift that many of us are happy to give. It's also a pride-thing, for me at least. I take some part of my identity as a mom from it. I think about the hard work I'm doing and my head puffs up ever-so-slightly. I am His Highness's food source. For anyone else to hold such a privilege requires me to relinquish a bottle of pumped milk. I'm the mommy and I had the control! Now I had to let go of my ideal.

While that first day was hard to take, several things have made this transition much smoother.
First has been the encouragement and concern from the doc and other friends in His Highness's and my life. Knowing my priorities/hangups, many people have deliberately reassured me that I'm doing everything I possibly can to feed and care for my son. I'm no lazy mom. Mrs. Roots, my cohort in crunchiness, went thru her own time of formula-supplementing Baby Roots. She not only understood why I was disappointed by the need for formula, but also was able to share some tips and tricks she had how to tell the difference between a bottle of formula and a bottle of breastmilk. Piece of cake, unless you've never even thought about it. Now I know.

Second has been the Cat Daddy, who is quite the able dad and most decidedly King of the House. He sensed when I was feeling overwhelmed, ordered me to take the day off, took a half day off himself, and encouraged me to call the lactation consultant.

Third was the Lactation Consultant, who came over one afternoon to see him feed, take some weights, and do some math. Guess what? My supply has never been all that big. To me this is a relief...there's nothing I've done or not done to make a previously-sufficient supply go down. It's always been on the low's just that now His Highness has outgrown it. We set up a plan to increase my supply. If it works and my body starts producing copious quantities of excess milk, then it's that much less formula we have to rely on. If it doesn't, guess what else? None of us are any worse for the wear. I'm maintaining the supply I have and His Highness is getting the calories he needs to grow, and I can be confident that I've done everything I can to breastfeed exclusively. Oh, and the news is encouraging for any future (and as-of-yet hypothetical) kiddos. For various reasons, women's bodies tend to produce more milk with subsequent kids.

Finally, I called my mom. Turns out she started formula supplements with me when I was about the same age. My mom is also a champion of breastfeeding, so to hear the same from her was again a relief. She reminded me to read the breastfeeding book she sent me. I reminded her that it was that book which recommended beer as a means of increasing milk supply, a method at which she was horrified. I hate (HATE) beer, but I loved horrifying my mother for the week I tried it. But alas, it didn't work. No more Killian's for me, and no love lost there, either.

I still have to remind myself not to take it personally that the Monkey Boy will eat more from a bottle after he breastfeeds about half of the time. I know it in my head, but it takes time to internalize. I'm getting there. In the meantime my happy, sleeping baby is a good reminder.

No comments: