Thursday, November 4, 2010

The latest from Breastfeedingland

Yesterday I had an appointment in the afternoon & Sprout was going to need to eat after I had to leave, so I decided to try pumping before I left. I also wanted to see how much milk I could get out, as I'd never pumped except after a feeding. I confirmed what I'd suspected for a while: my right side produced only about half what my left side did. I only ended up with about 105mL, which is a bit less than Sprout probably needs per feeding, so I was a little sad about that. However, it was nice to finally know why I haven't had enough milk--one breast just can't produce enough. I resigned myself to supplementing, hoping to be able to continue the breast + bottle routine for another three months or so.

Today we had an appointment at the Vancouver Breastfeeding Centre. It's been three weeks since we last went & I was looking forward to telling Doctor Lin what I'd figured out yesterday then seeing what her suggestions were. We weighed Little L when we arrived, discovering that he'd gained 20 ounces in 21 days: right on track! Then I fed him on each side, weighing him twice more to see how much he was getting from each breast. This is what the doctors call a test feeding--the only way to know how much Linnaeus is drinking when he breastfeeds. The results were great: 5890g, 5947g & 6024g. He got about two ounces from my 'bad' side, then nearly three from my 'good' side. Dr. Lin was impressed & said that with a feeding like that, I no longer qualify as having a low milk supply!

We also talked about how much supplemental formula Sprout's taking. He rarely seems all that hungry after breastfeeding & we've all but stopped bothering with a bottle for his 'first breakfast'. Sometimes he flat-out refuses to drink from the bottle we offer: when we put it to his lips, he pushes it away with his tongue. Occasionally he humours us briefly & sucks a little bit of formula, only to spit it all out a few seconds later with a grin. He's also been feeding less frequently--sleeping through the night & sometimes going four or five hours between feedings during the day. Dr. Lin said it seems he might be taking the formula just because it's there & we are fairly persistent about offering it to him. If we just don't offer it unless he seems to be still hungry, he might start breastfeeding a bit more frequently. Higher demand might further increase supply. More importantly though, it would mean I might not have to always have a bottle, boiled water & powdered formula with me, at the ready every time I go out.

I came away from the appointment today incredibly happy. It's been my dream for over two months now to achieve exclusive breastfeeding without supplementing. I've fought through tears from pain when my nipples were cracked & bruised. I've wrestled with a flailing baby, desperately trying to get him to latch properly so he could drink deeply. I tried tickling him, poking him, rubbing his feet, cool wet cloths, anything to keep him awake & drinking. Day & night for a week both Oli helped me struggle with a lactation aid, feeding a tiny tube into the corner of Sprout's mouth as he nursed, so that he'd get supplement while stimulating more milk. I've tried herbal tincture, lactation tea, Domperidone & Guinness to increase my milk supply. I fed Sprout every time he asked for it, then pumped for at least ten minutes after every single feeding, even when I was away from home. I've worked for it: I really want this.

Besides the fact that breastfeeding is more convenient than formula feeding, it's better for Linnaeus: my milk is perfectly balanced nutritionally for his needs & easier for him to digest than something based on cow's milk or soy. I know Sprout would be fine even if he got no more breast milk at all--as a baby I was fed on formula only, as was my husband & many of our generation--we turned out fine. However, if I could stop using formula, I wouldn't have to worry about expiration dates or product recalls. I'd love to leave behind the never ending bottle-washing, sterilizing & keeping track of how long prepared formula has been in the fridge or at room temperature.

Another reason I keep breastfeeding is emotional: I love the bonding with my baby when I hold him against my ribs & watch his little face. I like the relaxing oxytocin haze that I often get while nursing. It's an amazing feeling to be able to instantly calm this little child when he's tired, cranky or just got his first vaccinations. I believe that the benefits of breastfeeding to babies (decreased chance of allergies, eczema, asthma, increased immunity, lower chance of being obese, better cognitive, social & psychomotor development, etc) as well as their mothers (lower incidence of breast, uterine & ovarian cancer, faster loss of 'baby weight', lessens osteoporosis, etc) are worth promoting. I think that if the women who are able to breastfeed did so for at least the first year or two of their baby's life, we might have a whole generation of healthier adults. Imagine the long-term consequences of that on the health care system!

I believe strongly that all mothers should be made comfortable to feed their babies in public. Forget the Udder Covers, Hooter Hiders & all the other brands of tent that women use to 'spare' the general public a glimpse of breast while feeding their infants. This is a political issue to me: I refuse to use one of those things, although I was given one, because I feel I should not have to hide my son under a curtain, or worse, feed him in a public toilet. He has the right to eat wherever & whenever he needs to & I have the right to breastfeed him where & when I choose. I think that my doing so as much as possible might encourage other women to do the same & also normalize it for whoever might be watching.

Well, that's enough ranting for me & now you've all got an update, I'll sign off.

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