01 October 2013

the complexities of milk

This breast-feeding thing has gotten more complicated in the last few weeks. I have to admit that I'm getting tired of my relationship with my daughter centering around food. Admittedly, her needs right now involve being fed, changed, and kept warm, so that's inescapable to a certain extent, but this is getting frustrating.

It started with my milk taking a little longer to come in than normal, or at least, coming in but there not being that much of it at first. Then my supply went up a bit, then went down, and we got to experience a screaming child who was being fed every two hours at a minimum but was still hungry and was gaining weight at a rate of at least 2 ounces less per week than the low range of normal. Then I got thrush, which is now improving, but the visit to the doctor to find out what I needed to do for the thrush resulted in him saying that I might have a low milk supply.

Off we went to the public health unit to weigh her before and after a feed and to talk with one of the nurses. Naturally, we hit the fussy point of the afternoon, so the visit consisted of the nurse and me trying to calm E. down enough to eat so we could see how much she got in. After she ingested a staggering 5 grams of milk, she calmed down and fell asleep. The nurse and I talked through what we could do to up my milk supply. I'd already started downing more water, and now I'm doing breast compressions while feeding and trying to make the time to do some hand-expressing in-between feedings. The look on her face when we started syringe-feeding her some expressed milk was priceless. Milk had never come out of a finger before and we definitely messed with her paradigm for how the world works. Cup feeding elicited similar expressions.

This got us to the point where E. is sleeping better, screaming less, and seems much happier when she's awake, but not to the point where she's gaining weight faster. My tiny child and I went back to the doctor yesterday and I'm now on medication to help boost my milk supply, and we've got a couple tins of formula in reserve in case that isn't enough.

Every medical professional I've talked with so far has been very encouraging and fairly helpful (the doctor from our practice that I spoke to yesterday was more in favour of supplementing than the one I spoke with last week, but they all still want me to keep breastfeeding as much as possible and want to make that happen). It's frustrating that everything else is fine with her except for her weight gain. She's growing bigger, she's alert, she's wetting the requisite number of diapers, she's getting better at holding her head up, and she can even roll over sometimes and she's not quite six weeks old. If the medication and possible supplementing don't do the trick within the next month, we get to visit a paediatrician to see if there's something else going on that's affecting her weight gain.

I'm not as stressed about all of this as I would expect to be, but I think I'm too tired to worry much. Whatever happens, we'll do what we need to in order to get her fed. I'm giving the medication a week or so after it kicks in to see if it's making a difference with her weight gain, and if not, then we'll add in a bottle or two of formula per day to round things out. I really wanted to get to the six months of exclusive breast-feeding, but making sure my child is getting enough food is more important. Now if you'll excuse me, she's dozed off so it's time to try expressing some extra milk. Sigh.

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