Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Goodbye, boobjuice

It's been an uphill battle almost from the start.

I had no idea you could attempt to put newly-born babies to breast. Of course, when Nova was born, he was 6 weeks early, and went from my vajayjay into the hands of the neonatalists. Once they were done assessing him they asked if I wanted him on my chest - I hadn't even been sure if I'd be allowed to hold him at all. He was wrapped up, and I had a gown on.. I also had no idea what to do, so he just stayed on my chest. I remember remarking on how heavy he felt. So we missed out on initial skin-on-skin *and* immediate suckling. Did he had an oxygen mask on? I think so. I don't recall.

I don't remember *when* it was that we first tried getting him to nurse, but I do remember how he struggled a bit and the nurse immediately brandished a nipple shield and declared he needed it. That kinda set him and me up for expecting him to not nurse, y'know?

I also remember [another?] nurse being so aggressive about trying to get Nova to latch, by holding his head/neck and really roughly waggling his head up and down into my boob, and Kosh and I sat shell-shocked, totally unable to process what was going on.

I also remember that I didn't even start pumping until about 24hrs after Nova was born, because I had no idea what to do, and hey whaddaya know, I musta slipped through the cracks of the lactation consultants' system. They say the first few days are vital in establishing the necessary connections within the mammary tissue. Ummm, oops?

No one told us that we could get one month's free rental of a breast pump... not until Kosh mentioned to a NICU nurse that I was trying to pump but the manual pump was really a pain. Two days after I was discharged. Four days after Nova was born. We got the pump the next day.

Nova was in the NICU for 10 days. Most of the time, he underwent phototherapy, and there were strict instructions as to how long he could be taken off of the lights for feedings. Max 30mins, but at one point it was max 15mins. Fifteen minutes. To try to put a days-old 6-week-early baby to breast PLUS bottlefeed the required volume of food. To say that visits were stressful is putting it mildly.

Already early on, despite my milk having come in, I was not producing enough. When his feed volume was upped to 2 oz/feed, they already started supplementing with formula (without telling us! Sure, they 'warned' us that they would need to start supplementing with formula, but as far as I am concerned, I didn't pick up on the immediacy).

While Nova was in the NICU, I *was* able to pump on a regular basis. I think I pumped about 6-8 times a day (later I found out I should have been doing every TWO hours... but again, I musta slipped through the cracks... I figured I should pump at the same frequency that they were feeding him at the NICU: every 3 hours), and I actually got up to almost TWO ounces PER BOOB at my best.

Once he came home, though...

by the time he came home, I had convinced myself that he wasn't able to nurse properly, that it wasn't worth the effort to sit and try to get him to latch PLUS supplementing with a bottle (either pumped boobjuice or formula)... especially when he was also crying a lot, and I had no idea how to handle him, and I was doing this all totally solo.... .... .... and the little downtime I had in between feedings I chose to unwind on the computer rather than tie myself for another 20mins to the frigging breastpump

... so the pumping suffered ...

At six weeks I asked for and got belated help from a lactation consultant: the advice felt like a step backward because I was supposed to nurse nova every 2 hours then supplement with 2oz boobjuice/formula then pump for 15mins, while by that time Nova was on a 3(-ish) hour interval. Also, that entire routine would take almost 1.5hours, leaving me with about 30mins before the entire rigmarole was supposed to begin all over again.

But it did get my milk back up a little... and [after a LOT of coaxing] I could get Nova to latch on... [and later, he'd latch on without the nipple shield, yay!!]

... but once again ... the whole feeding thing required so many things upfront: I had to prepare the bottle first [either prep fresh formula, or warm up refrigerated formula or boobjuice], then try to nurse, then feed him the bottle, then try to burp him, then be able to leave him so I could clean up and pump... then clean up the pump equipment...

.. oh and did I mention that he gets upset really fast when he's not fed? And that he doesn't give much warning that he's hungry? I began skipping the nursing step and would just shove the bottle in his mouth (once I managed to get it prepared) rather than try to nurse him, then deal with more screaming while I got the bottle ready.

Does that even make sense to anyone? It made sense to me, anyway. Anything to make the screaming stop sooner, longer.

and between all this I was supposed to sleep? Eat? Do laundry? Stay sane?

... and I've not covered the fact that for the longest time, Nova was pure gremlin, turning into a screaming monster between midnight and 6am most nights. That I just could NOT burp him and therefore he'd spit up SO MUCH, EVERY TIME.

... there was so much going on, the last thing I wanted to do once I had any down time was to submit to getting my boobs pumped.

so I pumped less and less often each day

and so we then find us about 3.5months into Nova's time here, with boobs that produce barely 3mLs each when pumped...

... today was the final straw, though.... at the weekly moms' breastfeeding support group session where we get to do a before/after weighing, Nova spent a good 20mins on each boob, suckling away, and I could have sworn he took some good swallows like he usually does, so I was expecting we'd have a 10g gain, as usual ... but he had ZERO weight gain to show for it... zero ...

that's been popping in and out of my head all day ... zero gain ...

all is not lost, if I can commit to pumping the hell out of my boobs every two hours all over again.

I can't.

I have tried. I can't.

I've popped fenugreek; I've drunk nursing tea; I am even taking some mammary health pills made from cow boobs or something. Unfortunately I am also taking anti-histamines for my allergies. Depending who you believe, the anti-histamines dry me up, or don't. I'm guessing for me they cancel out whatever benefits I may be getting from these supplements.

There *is* a drug option. But Kosh is leery about going that route, citing concerns about side effects. I step back and look at myself, and agree that I don't want to mess with my body even more than I already have.

I've sought help/advice from a few different/alternative sources/approaches, and they all point to my liver.

What I will do then is work on cleansing my system, especially my liver. This will require losing weight, exercising more, eating better... but I will also be consulting an acupuncturist... and working on my own long-neglected meditation and foot-soaking...

... in the hopes that whatever obstacles to breastfeeding / breastmilk production that come from *me*, I will have tackled and cleared so that *if* Nova ever gets a little brother or sister, we'll have a more successful breastfeeding effort.

and if you read this all the way through, wow, thank you :) I'm not going back to reread it until after I hit publish, I know it's going to be a rather incoherent mishmash of thoughts :p My eyes are raw, but my heart is slightly less broken. Or, I guess I've managed to blunt the edges of the pieces a little bit.

I still intend on blogging about the whole hospital and birth experience; I just had to let this out first.

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