I think I have mentioned that Kale and I have had some struggles with breastfeeding. I don’t really get into too many details about breastfeeding because 1) the Internet doesn’t need to know too much about my boobs, and 2) what I write today will most certainly be different tomorrow. I’m going to lift the boobie censor for a post, here, because there’s been some good stuff as of late.
One of the constant struggles we’ve had since day one is a crappy, crappy latch on my right side. What felt like a good latch was actually terrible, and I would be in so much pain afterwards I’d be in tears. When Kale was about 3 or 4 weeks old, I started using a breast pump instead of trying so hard to work through the problems on that breast, and we would bottle feed Kale when it would normally be time for him to feed from the right side. This system worked for, well, about 2 months now.
Little lactational science lesson here: one of the problems with exclusive pumping is that the breast responds differently to a pump than it does to an infant, no matter how bad the infant is and how good the pump is. And so as time has gone on, and my hormones have stabilized, I have gotten less and less milk when I pump and it actually dropped to a point where I was supplementing the feeds with either my freezer stash or by having to latch him to my left breast for a while. I tried supplementing with fenugreek for a week or so and it wreaked havoc on my ulcerative colitis so I had to discontinue it. Also, it made me smell like maple which was slightly disconcerting. I could have dealt with the smell had the digestion not been so unbelievably painful.
This past week things got kind of bad with breastfeeding – as I mentioned we were on Poop Watch (which, thankfully, ended without intervention or confrontation about an hour after I posted that entry) – and one of the best solutions for a poop strike is to nurse nurse nurse nurse. Since breastmilk is so highly digestible, its not (that) scary to keep putting in more milk, and eventually nature will do its thing and the absent poop will come. Couple our poop-free days with some teething, and you have an infant that is angry about food in general and so the screaming? Yeah. It got bad. And the Bad? It made it really damn hard to let down not only to my pump, but also to Kale.
The number one goal of breastfeeding is so obviously simple I think it gets forgotten sometimes, especially when you are trying so hard to do everything else. Number one is feed the baby. Number two? Maintain the milk. So in the moments of misery and awfulness late last week, I chose to feed Kale a bottle of formula because I simply could not let down after almost thirty minutes of us trying and him just going over the edge with misery. Because I remembered that number one rule: above all, feed the baby.
I am not opposed to formula but at the same time, I really want to be able to breastfeed and I am surprised at how much I enjoy breastfeeding. What started as a “means to an end” and a money saver has become something I actually enjoy when the screaming isn’t happening. That one bottle of formula, however, gave Kale and I a break we both really needed – his tummy was full, my stress level went down and it actually made something happen I honestly didn’t expect.
In the hour after the bottle of formula, where Kale was sated and I was calm, I tried relatching Kale to the right side – the bad side, the side that I normally pump from – and wonder of all wonders, it was an excellent latch. FINALLY Kale’s mouth and my right breast match. Seriously. FInally. Whoa.
For three days now (knock wood) I haven’t pumped once because I’ve been able to meet Kale’s needs with BOTH of my breasts. If you can imagine the relief and the pride I feel at FINALLY being able to make it work like its supposed to. I had gotten over the feelings of failure and was feeling like we were making do with the pumping and bottling, but now? Imagine the little imaginary clouds above my head have parted, and some cherubic voices are harmonizing because Halle-freakin’lujah – Houston, we have liftoff.