Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My breastfeeding journey - Part 2.

The first lactation consultant we saw was of the same mindset as most of the websites I mentioned in part 1. According to her, low supply was a hurdle, but one that could be surmounted with enough dedication and effort on my part. To fix my supply issues, she recommended that I either breastfeed or pump every 1.5-2 hours around the clock. She also encouraged me to make sure I was getting enough rest, eating enough good food (not take out or cereal, but good, balanced meals that I guess I was also supposed to be preparing), getting plenty of liquids and staying calm, as stress can further decrease a low supply. I also needed to be spending as much time with the Numa skin-to-skin as I possibly could. And she was serious. How in the hell was I supposed to do even one of those things with a newborn, much less all of them? To say that I found her unhelpful is way too kind. I spent the day after meeting with her crying more (sensing a theme here?) and called my doula again. She apologized for what was clearly a bad personality match* and recommended a second LC who we met with the next day. My husband and I were both home and my MIL was in town and the LC listened very patiently as I described what we had been doing, showed her our records of feedings and diapers and cried more. Then she asked me to show her how I had been breastfeeding and as soon as I took off my bra she got a knowing look on her face. As I started to breastfeed, she told me that she was 99% certain that I had hypoplastic breasts. I should explain that my breasts have always been different from those of other women. Both my breasts and my nipples are distinctly different sizes, they are wide set on my chest and they point out, rather than forward. I had always known my breasts were different, but it never really bothered me. I think I was fortunate in that my high school never had the shared locker room showers that you see in the movies (Sixteen Candles, anyone?) so other than occasional jokes about my small-ish chest in high school, no one ever really noticed or pointed out the issue. I certainly never suspected that their appearance was an indication of deeper problems.

I had done some internet research after the pediatrician visit where we learned that Numa wasn't gaining weight that made me a little suspicious about my breasts, but hearing her say it out loud suddenly made it real. I was both relieved and heartbroken. Women with hypoplastic breasts have less of the glandular tissue that produces milk and while some women with this condition are able to exclusively breastfeed, most cannot and some don't produce any milk at all. I was producing some but not enough for the Numa's needs which meant that supplementing was now with us to stay. The lovely LC helped me with Numa's latch and gave us some great tips, but most of all she reassured me that there was nothing wrong with feeding your baby with formula. She was very supportive about supplementing and she will make a reappearance in a later chapter of this story. I was still disappointed but the diagnosis helped me to make some peace with the situation and I was able to move forward with fewer tears and really enjoy breastfeeding. Plus, everyone kept telling me that it is usually better with the second baby so my hopes of supplementing even less the next time were high. Numa breast and bottle fed until he was 4 months old, when he finally determined that the effort it took to breastfeed for so little reward was just not worth it. I had many mixed emotions about weaning him so early (not that I really did of the few pluses of a low supply is that you can basically just stop breastfeeding and not really deal with engorgement issues at all). I was sad that he was done because I really enjoyed breastfeeding. It created such a cozy closeness for us and I always enjoyed how he looked completely different from my vantage point while he was at the breast. M got some great pictures so that I can always remember what that was like. At the same time, though, being done with breastfeeding meant that feeding Numa got a whole lot easier. For all of his first 4 months, he would breastfeed and then do a bottle, which meant that feeding him took forever. Going to just a bottle gave me more time to just enjoy him and to deal with the dreaded 4-month sleep regression that I now realize was likely part of the cause of his weaning. Also, I was pretty proud of him for wanting to be more efficient - a trait I like to think he got from me.

Ultimately, I was glad that I had been able to breastfeed the Nums, even if not exclusively and even though it was such a short time. I knew that we would eventually try for another baby and had hope that the breastfeeding aspect of being a mom would improve the second time around. I also knew it would be easier to deal with, since perspective is the greatest gift of being a second time parent. I told myself that it wouldn't be nearly as disappointing if it didn't work out and that if I could do just as well as I had with Numa that I would be satisfied. And then I had a second baby.

Be well,


*It would be unfair if I didn't address the personality match aspect of my issues with the first LC. Having a productive and helpful relationship with a doula or an LC (to a somewhat lesser extent) is, in my opinion, highly dependent on finding someone whose personality is compatible with your own. When M and I were interviewing doulas, we met with 4 before finding the one we ultimately chose and  though we talked about our decision before making it, I knew right away when we had found the right one. Meeting with her was like meeting with an old friend and we saw eye-to-eye on all of the issues we discussed. I immediately felt confident that she would be able to support me in the way I needed during Numa's birth and I was not wrong - she is a huge part of the reason I was able to have a completely unmedicated birth experience with first the Numa and then the little one. She was one of the first people we called after finding out I was pregnant with baby number 2. It is the same for LCs. The first one we met with was clearly not a good match for me personality wise and she didn't seem to understand my overall goals and how to help me achieve them. This is not to say that she is a bad LC in general, but for me, it was a terrible match. If you are looking for a doula or LC to help you, asking questions up front about their methods, beliefs and background can be hugely helpful in the search process and potentially save you from having a bad experience.

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