Thursday, October 22, 2015

Supply Fail

When Oscar was about four months old, we hit a speed bump. The kind that isn't painted well, and the are no signs to warn you, so you slam into it and your stomach does a flip.

If breastfeeding had ended in a way that respected the four months we fed, or from him weaning himself- I feel like I could've handled it ok. It would have been bittersweet, but manageable. However our breastfeeding journey ended with a burnt-out doctor, a too-late reflux diagnosis and a whole lot of tears (mostly from me).

I do want to note, (before I start spilling all my rambling thoughts and emotions) that this post in no way judges any other parent's choices. I respect that breastfeeding isn't for everyone, and I'm ultimately grateful for formula. I'm not 100% grateful for the abuse of power that some formula companies have shown, but that's a whole other post...

Oscar was a good eater. I wouldn't call him voracious, but he ate when he needed and I was lucky to have a lot of milk. Like, too much milk. I would go to sleep with washcloths shoved down my shirt and pump like crazy (which I know now makes things, well... fuller). I thought things were going well. He was growing, he had a little pudge to his legs, and only had some minor belly problems. I mean, what baby doesn't spit up? Nothing was excessive enough to cause concern. So when we went for his 'Well Baby' checkup at 4 months, we felt side-swiped.

It was an off day for the office-busier than normal. There were about 15 doctors in this practice which gave it a factory-esque feeling (and reputation) and about a million kids in the waiting-room. Our normal pediatricians were busy so a new doctor came into the room. Right off the bat she was withdrawn and cold. She started taking his measurements and after entering them into her fancy computer programs, she looked up and said "His growth is stalling".  When we asked what could cause that stall, she responded (without looking up this time), "Well, its likely your supply or a disease".  Not exaggerating at all, this woman was  ridiculous.

So of course, our first time parent mental response was, "WHAT?!?!? OUR BABY ISNT GROWING?!?!? WE'RE STARVING HIM?!?! HE COULD HAVE A DISEASE?!?!?!"

Likely seeing the terror written across my face, the doctor backed off a bit. She told us that they'd do blood-work, to start supplementing, take Fenugreek to help boost my supply, and come in for a feed and weigh. (Which ok, is that not the most ridiculous thing? Sure, I'll just get my baby to eat at the appointment time, disregarding his normal schedule...He'll totally be hungry and not weirded out by the nurse hovering over us and being thrown on a scale every few minutes...). We walked out of that office in a near panic.

Now remember, up until then I had a washcloths-shoved-down-my-shirt supply. I was almost always in pain from how much milk I had. That next morning? Dry.

Oscar was obviously aggravated at the boob now, and when I pumped I could get maybe 2oz, where I used to get 8+. This doctor's voice of judgement rang loud in my ears and for the life of me, I could not up my supply. I tried pumping, fenugreek, teas, supplements, everything I could come up with, but nothing worked. It was mental at this point, and I couldn't get her voice out of my head.

So many feels. I felt inadequate. Unequipped to fully care for my baby. Anger at myself for letting this doctor get into my head. Fury towards my body for failing me-for failing him. Disappointment in that doctor. Confusion. Depression. Yearning.

I felt like a failure.

It took me a while to get out that negativity and depression. I missed feeding him; I was so incredibly sad. I couldn't even stand looking at people's breastfeeding photo's on social media. Each photo made all those painful feelings flood back, and honestly- I was jealous. Reflecting back, I hate that I unfollowed so many incredible Mama's feeding their sweet babes. I'm not proud of that jealousy, but it was so real and so consuming. (For the record, I just unfollowed photos. Reporting photos of breastfeeding Mamas is whack, and I'd never do that).

About two weeks passed and the kicker in all of this emerged. It turned out that he had reflux all along. REFLUX. That was the source of his belly troubles (that progressively got worse). And that was the cause of his very slight change in weight gain. It was absolutely not my supply. At this point it was too late. I had barely any milk left, and was emotionally exhausted. He drank formula until her turned a year, and my heart healed (mostly). 

I absolutely don't want my story to come across as a 'Don't trust your doctor' type thing, because I respect medicine a whole bunch and a stall in weight gain can be very serious. We're lucky that it was a fixable problem with Oscar; it could have been so much worse. The doctor had the right to be concerned about what was causing this change in Oscar and I'm glad she didn't take his wellbeing lightly. She didn't however, have the right to shatter my ego by by being cold and unresponsive to our family's needs. We're now with a different practice; a much better fit for us.

Nora is getting close to the age that Oscar was when this all went down, and I'm feeling a little wobbly. Breastfeeding has gone great so far (she's consistently been in the 85th percentile :-0), and I'm more experienced this time around.... But I'm justing waiting for that other shoe to drop. I know that stress can decrease supply so I'm trying to keep my emotions in check (hence writing this post) and I'm proactively eating milk bars etc. I even had a conversation with our pediatrician in the hospital, when Nora was 2 days old. I told her what happened, how badly it shook me and she responded so perfectly. She basically said that the other doctor was out of line and the experience shouldn't have looked like that (THANK YOU). She said if there are ever any concerns that we'd look at them gently, and that we'll likely be just fine.

Deep breaths. We'll be just fine. 

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