Thought all that boobie talk was behind us? No way – I just had to start the new year with an update on my progress!
It’s no surprise that it was a very important goal of mine to breastfeed my son. Having chosen the formula route the first time, I wanted to do everything in my power to give breastfeeding my best effort. (Check out chronicles of my initial attempts – and success – here.)
Well, almost 8 months in, I’m happy to say that Reid is still a boob man: on 100% breastmilk and a happy, healthy baby. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing.
Just over a month ago, three things happened simultaneously: Reid began solids, started to teethe profusely and stopped sleeping through the night. As a result, I was stressed out and incredibly over-tired – and within days, my breastmilk supply went from abundant to barely there. Previously, I was able to pump 3-4 ounces between feedings in under 10 minutes; you can imagine my surprise when barely 1/2 an ounce trickled through the pump after 15-20 minutes. I freaked out – did this mean my milk was drying up prematurely? Was Reid getting enough to eat? Was it time to wean to formula? His diapers, once heavy and soaked, became light and barely wet. Oh no.
So I pulled out the formula and mixed him a bottle. Coaxing him in my arms, I slowly brought the bottle to his mouth while I hummed a lullaby. He greedily took the nipple in his mouth (he is accustomed to drinking expressed breastmilk) but after just half a sip, pulled away and frowned at me in confusion.
“Go ahead,” I encouraged. “Try it, you may like it!” After one, two more sips, he angrily let out a growl. And within seconds, I witnessed a tantrum like no other. Swinging his head to and fro, crying, screaming – even batting the bottle away with his hands – he looked at me accusingly.
“What the hell’s wrong with your boob, woman?” he seemed to be demanding. Ugh.
I suspected I had waited too long to introduce formula – his window of being reasonable and accepting of manufactured milk had long since passed. Panicked, I worried about the best way to go about satisfying his needs. My breasts stilled seemed utterly deflated and I knew my supply would not meet his demand in the long run. What to do, what to do, what to do.
Then I remembered that help was available. Denise! I thought. I’ll see Denise! She was the sole person responsible for helping me succeed at breastfeeding in the first place, and, thankfully, most regional clinics do not set a limit on the time that you have to seek assistance. So I called Peel Public Health and sure enough, was able to bring my then 7-month old in for a visit.
Words cannot describe how happy I am that I followed up. First, I had the reassurance of seeing a qualified lactation consultant – someone who understands how breastfeeding evolves past the first couple of weeks. Second, I was able to ask as many questions as I wanted, and Denise did her absolute best to alleviate my concerns and provide an explanation for my “perceived” drop in supply. And finally, Reid was weighed and cuddled, and I was reassured that he was doing just fine.
Now I say “perceived” drop in supply because it turns out my body was just adjusting to Reid’s changing needs. Since he’s quite the solids enthusiast, he naturally had less need for breastmilk. His teething also curbed his appetite, and at 7 months, he seemed more interested in the outside world – again, making his feedings shorter and less frequent. So I simply increased my water intake, stopped stressing about my supply, and took naps whenever possible to catch up on sleep. And like magic – two weeks later, my supply is back up again to what it once was! You can bet I’ve been freezing all that excess milk – in fact, I put aside one 4 oz pack every day so I’ll be able to take longer breaks from him in the new year.
I suppose the moral of my story is that it is NEVER too late to seek breastfeeding support. If Reid had taken to formula, I may have weaned him early for fear that my supply was low or that I had dried up prematurely. The truth is, it was just a normal variation that was easily overcome. That is not to say that I won’t try to wean him onto formula again – breastfeeding must be enjoyed by both mother and baby to work, but for now, I’m happy to keep him on the boob and use expressed milk when necessary.
Eternal thanks once again to Peel Public Health, and, of course, Denise (I ♥ You!) – and to all the mamas out there, may your children (breast and/or bottle fed) enjoy a healthy and happy 2011!