Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Challenge

Breastfeeding is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

Liam is an exclusively breastfed baby. I haven't talked a lot about our experience with breastfeeding here, because we've been lucky to have relatively few issues, so there’s not a lot to tell.

Last Friday, Liam had his 4 month checkup and when the nurse announced that his weight was 11 lbs & 4 oz, I was hardly surprised. Two weeks before, we'd made a trip to the lactation consultant to weigh Liam before and after he ate and he was 11 lbs even, which is below the 5th percentile. When our pediatrician greeted us and asked how we were doing, I responded, "Great! And skinny!"

While the doctor wasn't pushy, he said that he would like to see Liam put on some more weight, and as an experiment, he asked me to feed him everything that Liam could drink over the next few weeks, then bring him back for a weight check.

I know (from several trips to the lactation consultant) that Liam gets about 5-6 oz in a 35 minute nursing session, and it seemed to make sense to pump and bottle feed him for a while so that I could give him more than that each feeding and monitor what he ate. When we got home from the appointment, I made him a 10 oz bottle (double what he typically eats) just to see how much of that he could take.

He sucked down the whole thing.

So the next feeding, I gave him 10 oz, and the next... Liam was gulping down every ounce and ate over 50 oz on Sunday. I can't pump 50 oz/day so I watched my freezer stash of milk dwindle down to 30 oz from well over 100 oz.

I worried & I cried, "I can't keep up with this! I'm going to have to supplement."

All weekend, I struggled. We've made it 4 months breastfeeding & I don’t want to give up on it. Everyone keeps assuring me that formula will not hurt Liam, it's not poison, etc and I know this, but I don't want to give it to him.

I always knew I would breastfeed, preferably for a year, until he’s ready for cow’s milk. I think that our experience with infertility just made me more resolved to do so. My body was going to do something right for once! My supply has been good and Liam eats, on average, the same amount of milk as most other breastfed babies. But now, realizing that he could suck down 10 oz at a time, I felt really defeated. Thinking about how (once again) my body seemed to be failing me sent me into an emotional tailspin.

I must have picked up those sample cans of Similac (that I was bombarded with while pregnant) ten times and tearfully acknowledged that soon, I would be feeding Liam formula instead of my milk. I felt like I was having a panic attack every time I thought about it. I felt so defeated and depressed that I only pumped several times a day over the weekend-- what was the point in pumping throughout the day if I was going to have to use formula anyway? It's a slippery slope (as my lactation consultant put it)-- once you start formula, it's so much easier to give them a bottle than to nurse, so I had a feeling that if I made that step, I'd be giving Liam formula more often than breastmilk.

::And then, I said no.::

While I agree that Liam has a very high metabolism and could benefit from extra milk, 50 oz+/day is way too much for him. And even though I know that he can keep it down, 10 oz bottles are not necessary for him to grow. After three days of binge drinking, he looks like a completely different baby-- squishy cheeks and full belly. I can tell he put on some weight... but I can also tell that he doesn't need to continue to eat like that.

So, I've decided to add an extra 10 minutes to our nursing sessions & up Liam's bottles of pumped milk (that he gets while I'm at work & at night from Rob) from 5oz to 7oz. I visited my lactation consultant on Monday who suggested that I rent a Medela Symphony to help increase the amount of milk I can pump and start taking Fenugreek (again, I took it a few months ago and saw results).

We have an appointment next Friday to have Liam weighed & let me make it clear-- I will never let my pride stand in the way of my son's health. If Dr. Farr is not satisfied with Liam's gain, then I'll reevaluate our plan. But giving up on breastfeeding without a fight is hardly honoring the relationship we've built so far.

So now I just have to keep up with the increased amount of milk I need to pump as well as work to rebuild our freezer stash. 30 oz is only enough for 4 bottles and I need to be ahead of that if we ever want another date night. I always said that I wanted to have 150 oz in the freezer—I’ll settle for 10 bottles (70 oz) at this point. Needless to say, I won’t be away from Liam very much for the next few weeks— I can’t afford to waste precious pumped milk. I'm setting alarms in the middle of the night, waking up early & staying up late to pump.

I know that I can do it and I will do it. Exclusively breastfeeding is the biggest commitment I’ve made to my son & it's a promise I made to myself.

No more tears. I’m up for the challenge.


  1. if anyone can do this you can!! i thought you were crazy for having such a big freezer stash (in comparison, i have 12 oz in my freezer right now), but it turns out that was a great thing for you to do!!! i definitely disagree with the consultant who said "It's a slippery slope (as my lactation consultant put it)-- once you start formula, it's so much easier to give them a bottle than to nurse". bottles dont sound easy at all. good luck but dont overpressure yourself either, that wouldnt be good. sometimes when i really really want to pump a lot, nothing comes out. best wishes!

  2. Bottles are not easy by any means. Mia is a formula only baby and there's so much planning into formula feeding- making sure she has enough for the day, plus extra in case of a growth spurt hunger that comes out of the blue. Not to mention having enough bottles to hold it all- we did have the chubby 5oz bottles, but now she's taking between 5 and 6 oz every three hours or so and we had to make a mad dash to buy bigger bottles and faster nipple flow. It was much easier to pop her on the boob the few weeks I was able to breastfeed her...but she's full and im sane, so its all good now. I wish you well on your challenge.

  3. Perhaps I should clarify-- I believe my LC meant that the "production" of formula is easier. (As in, if there is a growth spurt, you can purchase more formula but with BM, what's there is there, and if you've pumped all of the milk out of your breasts, it simply takes time for your body to make more.)

    Since Liam is a breastfed baby who takes bottles of pumped milk while we're apart, we experience all of the challenges of both breastfeeding and bottlefeeding-- from planning how much milk to send while I'm at work, to selecting the right bottle size and nipple. Keeping bottles, nipples, nipple shields & pump parts clean is a pain in the ass.

    Anyway, feeding your baby can be challenging no matter what method you use...and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. These are simply the challenges I'm currently facing.

  4. Wow! He ate a 10 ounce bottle???

    Good for you for sticking up for what's important to you. We are starting supplementing tomorrow because I just can't pump enough to keep up with both girls anymore. I'm not thrilled about it, but I can't starve my babies either.

  5. Erin, you have done an amazing job...I can't even imagine trying to keep up with twins! And while I'm firm in my decision not to introduce formula right now, there may come a time when I really can't keep up with Liam's needs. And then, of course I would supplement! We're just not there YET.

  6. Best of luck - I hope this new plan works. I am a bit scared of breastfeeding for so many reasons and this is one of them. You are doing your best!

  7. Steph....if you look up "shari crisco" you will get a lit of help....she is awesome and teaches a ustream video every monday. This week she told us that bfing babies shouldn't eat more than 3-4 oz of pumped milk each feeding ANY AGE is still 3-4. When eating from a bottle when he closes his eyes...he's done! Burp him...and if he screams then maybe a little more...but not over 4oz. This made me feel better because I was always pumping for work and my mom was blowing through my supply!!!!!! He should only eat what you make for him....and that was my biggest problem! She also sad that we should only be pumping one extra session a day...not after every feeding....she really helped me this week! On babydickey.com you will see the rsvp and directions on how to join....she's amazzzzzzing!

    Also my dr. Said at our 4 month that we can start some solids. Rice cereal, etc..

    Email me if you want! Mother milk plus pills help too!

  8. Ok. That makes more sense. I've come across tons of folks who have said that and mean the other thing and im like "whaaatt? Come to my house, lol"

  9. I Agree with the more milk plus pills too Stef although it sounds like you are pumping enough. I always heard that babies eat more than they usually would from a bottle but I'm sure every baby is different. Is he going down the chart or staying on it? My pediatrician says that as long as he isn't going down there's nothing wrong regardless if the percentile is low. Elijah's did go down but we knew why (he was refusing bottles and food at daycare). Hang in there!! You're doing just fine!!