Thursday, December 19, 2013

Breastfeeding, this time

Those of you who've been following me since Callum was a baby will remember that breastfeeding didn't go so well with him. I had a seriously, seriously low supply, so even though I breastfed him for four months, until he weaned himself, he had formula from when he was one day old, and quite a bit of it.

I knew it would happen again with Annika. The reason I knew this is that while for many women, low milk supply is a murky, unexplained thing that can change with each baby, in my case there was a clear reason for it--lack of glandular tissue in my breasts. I read some things between pregnancies about Metformin (a mild drug typically taken for diabetes) possibly helping that situation, and so after consulting with my endocrinologist, my lactation consultant, and my midwives, I did start taking that, but when, like last time, I had zero breast changes during my pregnancy with Annika, it seemed pretty clear that I would have supply issues again. And I have.

The nice thing is that this time? I don't care. I truly, honestly, do not care. With Callum I remember all sorts of crazy feelings about the whole thing. When we were in the hospital still and he was one day old and jaundiced and not peeing and the doctor recommended formula and it was four a.m. and Torsten was at home sleeping, I felt like I couldn't give the baby formula because I would be poisoning him, basically, without my husband's consent. I sobbed. I tried so hard to wean him off the formula once we were home, only to see his weight plummet and my supply remain low. I felt like I was letting him down, failing to perform the basic function required of me as his mom--to produce good nutrition for him. I felt like I was letting Torsten down too, and costing us lots of money and hassle. I felt like a failure.

This time? None of that. From the very start, none. Breastfeeding actually started better this time--if I hadn't been through it before, I wouldn't have suspected that anything was up until a few days after Annika was born. I had colostrum, she nursed happily from the start, she wasn't jaundiced, her blood sugar held steady, she had multiple wet diapers, and she lost about 6% of her body weight in the hospital, which is on the high end of the normal range, so still acceptable. My milk came in when she was 2 or 3 days old--but like with Callum, I could barely tell. No engorgement, no pain, no let-down, only the tiniest bit of leaking. So we've been giving her formula since she was two days old. And it's working really well for us.

When she was four days old I went back to my amazing lactation consultant just to kind of discuss everything. I brought her there hungry and she had a great nursing session--latched beautifully, nursed 10+ minutes per side, sucked happily, looked perfect. Even though she knew my history of low supply, the LC was still shocked when Annika's after-nursing weight was exactly the same as her before-nursing weight, meaning she had transferred very little milk--just enough to keep her from actually losing weight from the exertion of feeding. Well under an ounce. I left with a plan to continue nursing her and giving her bottles after, and the knowledge that I was doing everything I could to breastfeed her as much as possible, and that she was thriving, and that our plan of giving her formula was the right one. When I spoke with the LC a few days later and told her how much formula Annika was eating each day (at that time, age one week, it was about 19-20 ounces per day), she was thrilled and said that meant that she is getting probably 5-7 ounces of breastmilk per day, a theory which is corroborated by the amount of breastmilk we see in her poops. So she is getting something. But she is now, at age 6.5 weeks, up to taking somewhere around 25 ounces of formula most days. And she's gaining weight perfectly--tracking beautifully on a percentile curve in the upper 70s.

Honestly? I should probably not say this here in this world of exclusive breastfeeding, but I'm legitimately glad that it worked out this way. Yes, if I had a full milk supply and breastfeeding had turned out to be easy and awesome, that would have been great, but I like the set-up we have. I have read a ton of primary literature about the health impact of formula vs. breastmilk, and I have come out of it absolutely comfortable with formula from a health perspective. I have zero concerns about it whatsoever. I like that we are able to nurse (especially since the literature seems to be concluding more and more that a huge benefit of breastfeeding comes not from the breastmilk, but from the act of nursing), but I like the way formula feeding fits into our lives. Our baby is healthy and growing. We are all sleeping. Torsten is an involved parent. I'm able to leave the house on my own if necessary. I'm not panicking about what's going to happen when I go back to work. I like that we know, truly KNOW, that we are doing what's right for our baby and our family. I don't feel bad about it. I don't feel like I'm letting anyone down. I don't wish it had turned out differently. I don't feel like it's second best. It's not that I've come to terms with this set-up; it's that I am actively glad that this is the way it worked out for us.

And Annika seems to be doing pretty well with the whole thing too:



  1. Yay! Glad that the process of figuring out what she needs was so much smoother for you this time around! There's something wonderful about that second baby, and just knowing that the world is not going to end if you don't do it the way you thought (or other people thought) you would, huh? 2nd babies are pure bliss from a mama worry perspective, I think!

  2. I love your attitude! I can definitely see perks to formula as an exckusive breastfeeder whose baby refuses a bottle. I know my husband would be so much more confident and comfortable with her if he had a way of feeding her. Glad you are all doing well!