Chicken vs. Eggs … Lots of eggs

See this pillow? I woke up at least twice or maybe three times holding it in a breastfeeding position. The last hold was a crazy contorted hold, which I frequently use with my right arm stuck out like a chicken wing.

I talked to our lactation consultant yesterday afternoon to refocus my goals of bringing my milk in. Seems I have had a bit of trouble, which I think stems from my lack of breastfeeding from the very beginning after Lucy’s birth.

I guess that I should have skipped the AJ Jacobs book and skimmed the hippie birthing book a little faster. Because the real trove of info was found in the breastfeeding book, Seven Natural Laws of Breastfeeding. I packed both the birthing book and breastfeeding book for the hospital. When I asked for it the first night after my delivery, Henry said I didn’t need it.

By the time I made it home from the hospital, he had checked a couple out of the library for me and was reading passages out loud to me. Who is this man? I have never been able to get him to summarize anything for me since I’ve known him! Last night, he also talked to me in the bed with the lights out for the first time ever. Having a baby really does change things.

My breastfeeding book describes a lot of the symptoms I’ve faced with Lucy. First she had a heavily medicated entrance into the world. When I “should have been” feeding her, I was completely numb from the waist down. I was scared to hold her. Plus the grandparents were there in the delivery room and everyone enjoyed passing her around. Breastfeeding during this time never entered my mind.

Second, Lucy was beat up from the forceps and we were both exhausted. We just wanted to sleep. She had a headache and it hurt her little jaws to eat.

Furthermore, she was three weeks early. Even though she was technically a full term baby, she was a near term baby in other books. One nurse kept cramming her head into my breast telling me that she was old enough to know what she was doing. But when she would suck her fist, she would try once and then fall asleep. The latch/suck/swallow
reflex was not working together.

But I still didn’t realize where things were headed. I guess because I hadn’t read the book that described the sleepy baby syndrome and extreme jaundice very clearly. We were going home on the 16th until they came to me and said that Lucy was staying in the hospital because she had jaundice, which makes her sleepy, which means she won’t eat, which means she won’t poop, which means the jaundice gets worse, which
means she just sleeps…

Hence the chicken vs. the egg. I can only speculate where this went wrong. Or it was completely inevitable. I don’t really care. I do know that if she had listened to my in utero pep talks in the shower about working together to get out of my body, some of the problems would have been avoided – like the drugs and the bruises. Or if she had
listened to the doctor who turned her into position, but she just rolled back over.

But as I’ve noticed so far, Lucy prefers to do things in her own time. And she is incredibly observant. So I’m not surprised that she wanted to see the look on everyone’s faces when she actually made it out on my very last push before being rolled off for a c-section.

I pumped while she stayed to tan in the hospital nursery for three extra days. But once she returned home, I didn’t keep it up. We were feeding FOREVER. So I had no idea that she wasn’t stimulating my milk production. At least not until after our lactation consultation on a Friday night before a holiday weekend. Once I started pumping, my
numbers had totally dropped. Here is where the books are not helpful.

They all say “use it or lose it.” That’s it. With reason after reason with why it’s important to feed her immediately after birth. Only buried in passages of various books did I find seeds of hope. But not until after I had a total breakdown. I was completely devastated that I had obliviously let my chances of breastfeeding pass me by. And it was only slipping farther away every time I supplemented with formula,
had visitors and skipped skin-to-skin interaction. This was insanity. An insightful article on the case against breastfeeding in The Atlantic helped me put things in perspective.

Yes, I suppose I do fall into the demographic Hanna Rosin describes in the article. Unlike the author’s experience, I haven’t alienated any of my friends who stopped breastfeeding for various reasons, including many of the same ones I am currently facing. I knew that there was an even chance that I might not be able to breastfeed Lucy for various reasons. Plus my mom only breastfed me for eight weeks. I made it okay. And I certainly wasn’t going to let my child die. We would figure out a way to pump her full of food before it came to that point. But it did help me think about why I felt so passionate about breastfeeding with all scientific evidence (or lack of) set aside.

Convenience… Clear and simple. In three months, I would like to pick her up, head across the neighborhood, and not have to worry about washing bottles along with paint brushes at the studio. I’m all about being light. In fact her name means light and merry. So I didn’t just want to quit just like that without even reaching her two-week birthday. I was even on the fence about a Cesarean. I could have been swayed, except I just wanted one area to heal. So once I started with the forceps, I wanted to finish there.

After emotionally bottoming out, I actually stopped reading the books and read through a couple of my favorite art magazines, found another class at Penland, and in general thought about life beyond now… Could I go to Penland in August? Probably not, but I can dream. And it lifted my spirits just enough to know that there is an artist (Helen Hiebert) out there who makes paper lanterns and homemade hot air balloons. And I can learn from her. It really helped me to think about life beyond the weekend and the endless feedings around the clock.

So despite the book’s foreboding advice, there are some helpful things I learned. Adoptive mothers can breastfeed. Yes… That’s crazy. And that fact gave me a lot of hope. I almost expected to read that even a transgender mom can breastfeed. Plus there is a term called relactating. I don’t think that just because I didn’t pump for 24 hours and I let Lucy sleep for four hours between feedings that I qualify as someone relactating. Like Taylor said, it’s supply and demand. Instead of being frustrated by not having enough milk for her, I read that Lucy was finally working with me to bring in the milk that I need. Don’t just keep giving her more and more formula. Instead, feed her more often.

So as I waited to hear from the lactation consultant, I made Henry head out to Whole Foods to buy Mother’s Milk tea, which contains fenugreek, an herb that enhances milk production. I also scheduled my third postnatal acupuncture appointment. The first two did wonders for my healing and recovery, aka pain and swelling.

In preparation for my appointment, I printed out a diagram of a little Chinese acupuncture model for low breast milk and showed it to Peter, Dr. Wu’s son and partner. He said that he would do the acupuncture for low breast milk, but I really need to eat pig’s feet soup. Plus whole milk, not low fat. And eggs, lots of eggs. Maybe a half an hour after my appointment, I was feeding Lucy once again, according to her on demand sucking. I received a call from Mrs. Wu. She told me she had something special for me and to send my husband over to the office next door. He returned with a small paper bag of herbs for my pigs feet soup and a jar of sweet rice pudding, which I am supposed to cook with eggs.

I finally spoke with my lactation consultant. She helped relieve my fears. She knew all about the pig’s feet soup, which she said gives you greasy breast milk. And while I’m out shopping for pig’s feet, I could be pumping, which works. She gave me a focus and a plan. I’m going to pump, pump, and pump. Yesterday I pumped 347cc and my goal is
700 a day. Although not in one day! So I pour little bottles into one another and pour over the numbers I’ve logged into the spreadsheet seen at the top of the screen. Then if she is alert, we can practice her breastfeeding. But Henry feeds her my milk from a bottle, otherwise. Each day she is a little stronger and eats a little more. Which also means she poops more, pees more and is even more alert after naps. Plus I need a lot of skin on skin action with the little one. That’s not so bad. She’s a very sweet baby to snuggle with.

I am just looking forward to having my milk in and relaxing on the pumping. Even better, when she is x months old and I can be a recreational pumper, which is what I planned to be after taking the breast pumping class. I hope that she will continue to be an excellent sleeper beyond this early stage in her life. Because if there is anything about this family, we like to sleep and that 3 am pump/feed is very, very hard.

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  1. Sarah

    I can’t believe y’all spent precious in-the-bed-with-lights-off-time talking rather than sleeping!!

  2. carolinagirl

    I ditto Sarah…Brendan was born in the am hours after all night of laboring…he too had jaundice…readmitted for bililights and NEVER latched on. I was attached to the medela pump for 4.5 months full time – at which point I gave up and switched to formula. Jackson was 3 weeks early and latched on right away – he couldn’t find my boob fast enough. I had two very different experiences. It just showed me how much it is really up to the baby and how they get it or don’t get it. My lactation consultant told me that Brendan would “catch on”, and we almost starved the poor fellow and he ended up back in hospital dehydrated! I have NO words of advice for you. I am not an expert. I have been through breast feeding twice with two very different outcomes though, and I can totally empathize with you!!!

    Hang in there…there will be another challenge tomorrow! Such as life of parents – it’s all worth it with just one glimpse of your precious little one though!!!

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