Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Breastfeeding, Pumping and Weaning Decisions

So I just knew I was going to breastfeed. I wanted to do it so badly - it just seemed like the right thing for me and for Beckett, the health benefits for her (and me!) were astounding, I was home for 12 weeks so plenty of time to get the hang of it before going back to work, and my company has a 'Mother's Room' and so I planned to move to pumping once I went back. Austin was super supportive and so were so many of my mommy friends.

My sister loaned me her breast pump (amazing favor!), showed me how to use it, and pointed me in the right direction for buying my own parts (tubing, membranes, etc.). I found great articles online and quickly bought a second sets of breast shields and a second pumping bra and nursing cover, and all kinds of stuff like soothies, a few different nipple creams, ice packs, breast pads, a hand pump, a nursing pillow, etc.I also just knew I was going to make tons of milk, optimistically buying lots of breastmilk storage bags and a freezer system.

I took a breastfeeding course, read a breastfeeding book, made my own breastfeeding guide - I was SERIOUSLY excited and 200% on board for making this happen.Well, it paid off at first! Within 15 minutes of birth Beckett breastfed! 
Our Beckett right after delivery
I felt so comfortable with the C-hold, what a good latch was, different positions, etc. - it was very easy, didn't hurt and I was so excited! We continued to breastfeed every 2.5/3 hours at the hospital, and when I could I would get a nurse or lactation consultant to double-check to make sure the latch looked good, the position was right, etc. Each person I spoke with gave more personal tips and was so encouraging. One lady even showed me how to hand express my own colostrum and spoon feed it to Beckett since she kept falling asleep at the breast. I just really learned so much, had great experiences and all was going well! I was over the moon.

By Day 4 we went to the pediatrician and they informed us that Beckett had lost a pound. Weight loss is normal, but this concerned them (from 8.1 pounds to 7.1 pounds). They asked if my milk had come in. I said yes, I was feeding her the colostrum and she was eating well. They were like no, your milk milk. Well, I apparently hadn't gotten the memo that it didn't always just magically come in when the baby was ready. Beckett was ready for the real thing and I simply didn't have it to give her. The pediatrician suggested we  supplement with formula until it came in, but to continue pumping any time I gave her formula and to try to feed her on the breast first each time. I called my OBGYN and they said they felt my milk may come in later since I was on fluids/epidural for so long. Anyway, I followed their advice and WOW, Beckett seemed so happy. I would put her on the breast until she seemed frustrated/rooting for more/head shaking, then give her a bit of formula and then pump. By Day 6 my milk came in! I had an a second pediatrician appointment the following week so I kept up 'the plan' until the 2-week appointment when I could confirm that BG was indeed gaining weight, back on track. I was pumping 8 times a day for 20 minutes and getting about 23 ounces - she was fully on breast milk and I was thrilled!

Day 7 drinking mom milk from a bottle
We went to our 2-week appointment and they told us the best news - Beckettt was back to her 8.1 pounds - she had gained back the weight and they gave me the green light to go back to the breast! They actually gave me the room and I breastfed her for 15 minutes on each side. She took right to it! About 2 hours later she was hungry again and we had another great session, about 20 minutes on each side. Then 30 minutes later she was hungry again... She was hungry, and wasn't getting what she needed from me and I was so upset. Was she used to the faster-flow/easier-to-get milk from the bottle? Was I not making enough milk for her after all? I immediately pumped and decided that I would be an exclusive pumper - maybe i'd try again after I was sure I was making enough, but until then I would pump and bottle feed her. I was upset, especially when sweet girl would go for the breast while I was getting her situated for the bottle, but I wanted to do what I felt was the right thing - making certain she was getting plenty of food.

Again, all was good. I pumped 8 times a day for 20 minutes, and was making plenty of milk... until I wasn't. She was slowly needing more and more (2.5 oz. a bottle.... 3 oz. a bottle... 3.5 oz. a bottle). I couldn't keep up and my supply went down to 18 oz. so I started supplementing with formula, while in the meantime asking   friends, doctors, etc. how to get my supply up. I tried power pump sessions, breast massage, fenugreek. I drank enough water for 18 people. I rested as much as I could. Nothing worked and before I knew it was she was drinking 4 - 5 oz. 7 times a day (28 - 35 oz.) and I was only making between 10 and 15 oz. I was like okay... I'm no longer making 50% of her daily intake... is it worth it?

No one answers that question. They say "anything is better than nothing." Well, I had to think. I'm pumping around the clock. I'm plugged into a wall for 2.5 hours a day, if you counted pre-pump activities and post-pump activities, it easily takes 30 minutes, so 3.5 hours. My breasts and nipples were super sore. I found myself having to miss some of Beckett's 'awake time' to pump. The whole sleep while she sleeps wasn't working because I was pumping while she was sleeping (and often having to start/stop a lot if she cried). Then I started thinking about going back to work. Was I really going to be able to pump at work? What about meetings? Would I be able to leave at 4:30 to go get Beckett from daycare if I had eaten up a few 30-minute breaks to pump milk? I started thinking: what's more important? Making an ounce or two of milk for her bottle or being able to be with her to give her the bottle?

I have struggled with this decision. I have felt incredibly guilty for even thinking about stopping pumping since I am making something which several say is better than nothing.  I have asked asked everyone's opinions and, at the end of the day, if I was pumping 35 oz., heck even 25 oz. a day I would pump for 3.5 hours easy (longer, too!). It would be worth it. I'd be pumping and she'd be on 100% (or at least more than 50%) breast milk and I'd feel like the results were worth the work - no question. But that wasn't my situation. I felt like I was taking time away from Beckett and the return simply wasn't worth it.

With that, as of today, I have decided to wean Beckett on to 100% formula and start working towards drying my milk up. Part of me feels super selfish (still all hormonal over here and cry a lot!), but another part of me just knows that this is the right thing for my family based on the situation at hand. It's not at all what I expected and that's a lot of why i'm writing this post - things I would do again as well as things I would do different next time given the opportunity, and maybe it can help someone else!

1. Breastfeed as long as you can. Even if you plan on exclusively pumping, breastfeed for at least 6 weeks to make sure baby is up to their maximum daily intake. This way, if you decide to move to pumping, you'll be more likely to be able to meet or exceed their needs.
2. Have milk enhancers on hand. Have the tea, fenugreek, a solid pumping schedule with power pumps, etc. ready to go should you face low supply if/once you move to pumping.
3. Track your breastfeeding and/or pumping sessions diligently. This way you'll know if your supply is decreasing over time so you can correct it sooner rather than later. (whether that's with more sleep, more water, etc.)
4. Try your hardest to NOT introduce formula until you're ready to wean. If you give an ounce of formula this means you're not going to produce that ounce. So it's best to stay on breastfeeding for supply/demand until, again, you meet or exceed their daily needs.

I could go on and on - but basically I am so glad that Beckett will be getting breast milk until she's 2 months old and, while I'm clearly struggling with this decision, I know it's right for us and am just so glad our sweet, happy girl is healthy, thriving, eating well, sleeping well and gaining weight! I didn't know I could love this much!

I'm sorry for the super long post - just had to get all of this out there into the universe. Just writing this out helped me get even more on board with my own decision. LOL Reason #77 why I love blogging. I hope you're all well and are preparing for fun Easter weekends! :) 

1 comment:

Kate @ Daffodils said...

I had to supplement with bennett too after i got an infection when he was about six weeks. After that, i was just never able to produce enough to keep him happy and was completely unable to pump. I finally switched him over to all formula at five months and felt horrible about it, but clearly he is a strong, healthy and smart boy! It definitely sounds like you are making the right decision!