For something that is supposed to be so easy and natural, breastfeeding has been insanely difficult. Somewhere around the time of the phone call from our doc about Zach's thyroid hormones, my milk supply started to drop off. Of course this was timed perfectly with one of Zach's growth spurts, which sucked. He wanted more milk, I was making less, and we had to rely on more and more supplements. And so the vicious cycle started. I tried everything. I tried to be stubborn and refuse to give him supplements, letting him nurse as often as every 30 minutes. I tried taking Fenugreek. I tried giving him supplements and just pumping every hour. I was seriously worried that my supply would be completely gone with the added stressor of my return to work. Unfortunately, none of these things seemed to improve the situation. It didn't worsen, either, so I guess it could be worse. I am only able to pump a pitiful 2 ounces each time, where before I was able to get anywhere up to 6 ounces. Huge drop. So back we went to the lactation consultant. It seems the only thing left to tweak is Zach's latch, which we worked on. If this doesn't do the trick, I am out of options.
While there yesterday, the lactation consultant asked, "Why don't you schedule an appointment at Children's?" Me? At Children's? She is of course referring to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, which is all of 5-10 minutes' drive from my house. I have always felt lucky to have them there. An award-winning pediatrics center, known throughout the country. Ground-breaking research. State of the art care. Heaven forbid anything were to ever happen to either of my boys, but if it did, some of the best doctors, from every pediatric specialty, are just right there. But I had no idea there would be any reason for me to be seen there. Well, it turns out they have their Center for Breastfeeding Medicine. Breastfeeding Medicine????? Yep. I didn't even know that specialty existed. Apparently it is a team of pediatricians specializing in working with a lactating mother and her baby to determine the cause of, and correct the underlying issue with, virtually any breastfeeding issue that may arise. In my case, there is nothing physiologically wrong since I once had a huge supply. It just dropped off as a result of stress and poor management, and I have not been able to get it back. So I have an appointment there on Wednesday of this week.
In the meantime, Zach is eating like a pig. He would literally nurse for 24 hours a day with no break if I could do it. He is up to 9 pounds, 11 ounces as of yesterday. My little chubbers. This is such a huge difference from Evan, who weighed 16 pounds on his first birthday. He was happy and healthy, but just tiny. But we equate chubbiness in babies with health, so it is nice to see Zach packing on a little bit of weight. Regardless of the problems we are having, I know he is getting the nourishment he needs.
In the meantime, I am reading a book called The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West and Lisa Marasco. The lactation consultant recommended it, and so far it is very informative. It lays out the different causes of low supply so you can, detective-style, figure out what may be the culprit, since apparently any tiny detail could be a causative factor. This way, I am getting ideas to discuss with the doctor on Wednesday. I know them having me give Zach supplements after birth is a factor. I know stress has been a factor (and continues to be--a stressful situation caused the drop, then I got stressed about the low supply and trying to preserve the BF relationship, and so it goes...). But I am learning tons of new info, like progesterone lowers supply! Progesterone! As in the injections I got every 5 days up to the week of Zach's birth. Like the active ingredient in the birth control pills my OB gave me, which is ironically the only safe BCP for nursing mothers. So I am gathering all of these clues and will have a list for the doctor.
What I was not prepared for was the emotional attachment I would have to nursing Zach. This whole breastfeeding issue came up initially not only because it is healthiest for both of us, but because food allergies run rampant in my family. I am allergic to everything! Evan had eczema an is following in my footsteps. I wanted to avoid this all with Zach, and BFing is the best start for that. But now? Now I feel like a broken-down, deflated failure when we have to give him more after he nurses. And I am so protective of the milk I do have, fearful that there will come a day when it will be gone completely. So I am truly hopeful that they can fix this next week. If not, I'll just have to do the best I can with what I've got!