I was thinking about my breastfeeding journey. Emma is now almost 7 months old, and she is still breastfeeding. This is, in itself, a small miracle. I have come such a long way with the struggle, that I am almost not realizing anymore what a struggle it has been, and continues to be. To recap events, I was very intent on breastfeeding from the beginning. In Canada we get pumped full of information about the benefits of breastfeeding, and we feel like failures if we don't succeed, or like small criminals if we don't attempt it. I can only speak for myself, but I have noticed the guilt that comes with not breastfeeding in today's climate. It is simply not the "right" thing to do.
However, I really wanted to do it. Before I even got pregnant with Emma, I would have dreams in which I was breastfeeding a baby. Those dreams made me happy, and I wanted them to come true. At almost any cost. I ignored the excruciating pain of the first few weeks, thinking that it was supposed to hurt, not realizing that Emma was very hungry and that is why she would cry and latch and cry all night long, instead of taking a few hours' breaks in between feedings. There was no milk, and when the milk did come, it was very little I think. Finally, towards the second week post partum, I think we were doing well, with the milk supply a bit better, and Emma gaining weight but still not up to her birth weight. Then I had the massive bleed, and was in ICU, and lost all my milk supply. I realized that I did not have any milk left about one week after I bled, when I was at home trying to recover. Emma was four weeks old and still not back to birth weight. She was looking more and more skinny, and one night she kept on pulling off the breast repeatedly. That is when the moment of truth came, I tried to express some milk and there was nothing. I booked an urgent session with a lactation consultant, and started supplementing right away. I used a rudimentary self-made SNS-like contraption, which allowed me to supplement at the breast. It was additional torture. (A lady I know tried the SNS and threw it against the wall!). I was (and still am) on lots of domperidone to augment the milk supply. Eventually, both Emma and I settled into a routine where we would use the SNS much easier, and I would pump, but the most I ever got was 1 oz. When she turned 6 months, she learned to suck through the tubing and spit out the breast, so I gave my SNS away to a lady who adopted a baby and wanted to breastfeed.
At the moment, she breastfeeds with the same dedication and skill that I would expect from any baby that was exclusively breastfed. She gets way more nutrition through the bottle than from the breast, and she knows that the breast is slower, so when she is hungry, she refuses the breast. I know not to push, I give her the bottle, and then when she is no longer hungry, she uses the breast as a pacifier. She gets all the closeness and some breast milk (at the moment I am making about 2-3 oz three to four times a day), and I got to breastfeed up to now. I don't have my period yet, and my prolactin is as high as anybody else's who breastfeeds, giving me all of the usual breastfeeding bodily changes, with the only difference being that my production is very limited.
It took a lot of struggle, just like anything else to do with my body and pregnancy-related stuff, but as usual it worked out somehow. Not exactly the way I was dreaming of, but hey, we are still doing it, so we must be getting something good out of it. I am just writing this because when I lost my milk I was devastated and I really would have liked somebody to encourage me, to tell me that it is still possible to breastfeed, and to have both a satisfied mom and a satisfied baby at the end of seven straight months. I felt like a failure. I still do when I read about how much milk other women are producing, and I worry about having had to give Emma formula, but this is the hand we both got dealt, and we played it to the fullest. (Yet another exercise in letting go of visions of perfection :)