Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Let it Go

I'll issue a warning right from the get-go. This post might contain some information you might not want to know about me. So, if you're not in the mood to hear about breastfeeding you might just want to stop reading. I'll try not to ramble and rabbit-trail too much, but this is mostly for my own catharsis anyway.
Today I took Katrina in for her six month check-up. She stopped gaining weight at about 3 months and has been slowly losing a little each month. At three months she was up to 16lbs, 2oz and now she is 14lbs, 12oz. I've been trying really hard not to be an overly neurotic mother, but I have been a bit worried about that. The up side of working with my kid's pediatrician is I can get free information without making an appointment. Up until now he had not been worried because she was still in the 90th percentile for her weight. Today however, she was down to the 25th.

Now, turn back the clock 3 years. When Emily was five months old, I felt like she was losing weight, but I couldn't prove it and no one really believed me. I had gone from pumping 4-5 oz at work to only getting 1. Everyone assured me that babies are better at getting milk then the pump, and besides, look at those fat cheeks. Instead I looked at the skin wrinkling under her arms and the outline of her ribs across her abdomen. I decided I'd just offer her some formula and see how she reacted. Breastfeeding was important to me, but I wasn't going to starve my child for principles. From the first moment she tasted formula there was no going back. Every time I offered her my breast she clamped her lips and turned her head. I won't lie that I felt a little sad that I had only made it five months, but it seemed to confirm my theory that she was hungry and not getting satisfied from me. At the time it was easy to rationalize my failure. After all, it was my first baby. I was working full-time night shifts, swinging back and forth between staying up all night, sleeping and nursing during the day, and then trying to have a normal schedule on my days off. Add to this my job being pretty intense at times and gearing up to move 1000 miles to a new state where we knew no one in a 200 mile radius. "The next time I'll do better," I told myself reassuringly. "Emily is happy and healthy and that's all that matters. She's a Daddy's girl anyway."

Fast forward to Katrina. Throughout my pregnancy I tried to gear up for the breastfeeding thing. "This time will be better" became my mantra, my hope, my dream. Did I mention that my first two months of breastfeeding Emily were an agony of sore nipples and plugged ducts, never feeling the elusive and highly talked about "letdown" or any reassuring engorgement? I tried to convince myself I was just lucky not to have to go through that additional pain. I digress... The second time was better. The soreness and pain only lasted two weeks this time and I think I actually felt a glimmer of the letdown reflex. I had moved to a part time position in a much lower stress environment and I was working during daylight hours. I have a lactation consultant as my boss and I work with a bunch of pediatricians who, by nature of being pediatricians, have to support breastfeeding. The first three months passed in a haze of fairly confident and joyful breastfeeding (I'm too insecure to ever be 100% confident that I doing it right). Then the little niggling doubts started coming back. I had been pumping 4-5oz, now I only get 1-2...She seems to be peeing less...I don't feel that glimmer of letdown any more...oh and she's losing weight! I talked to my lactation consultant and started taking a herbal supplement, but it didn't seem to make any difference. Again came the reassurances, "she looks fine...she's still in the 90th percentile...some women just don't let down for a pump."

Then came D-day. Katrina's weight is down more, and she's got those same little wrinkles under her arms. As her pediatrician put it, "she does look a little like someone who had gastric bypass surgery and needs to get some skin folds stapled up." He's just lucky I'm married to someone with a twisted sense of humor. So, we went and got blood work done and tested her urine looking for kidney or liver problems. Fortunately we have no family history of genetic disease and she was gaining weight really well at the beginning. "It's probably just a calorie problem," the doctor reassures me, "but we should cover all our bases." The plan is to start giving her formula and let her eat as much solids as she wants.

Funny, it sounds so easy when you put it that way. Never mind the fact that she already eats 3, 4 ounce jars of baby food a day plus cereal, and all the books say she shouldn't be eating that much until 8 months. Not to mention breastmilk or formula should still be her main source of food until she's a year old. Not to mention the fact that we have tried and tried to give her formula and she will not take it. She acts like we're trying to poison her when it is offered.
So, I guess I'm finally at the heart of this saga. I can't rationalize my failure away this time. Katrina's not turning happily to formula without blinking an eye. She wants Mommy and Mommy's not there. She would rather nurse and nurse, even if almost nothing comes out and she is slowly starving, as long as she can get enough to take the edge off. So, what does that mean for me? I have to stop taking the edge off. I have turn my back and let her get really hungry so she will drink the formula and start growing. I have to put aside my own feeling of wanting to satisfy my baby's desires and make sure her needs are met. No matter how much her crying, sad face breaks my heart in two. Because either my worthless body isn't making enough milk, or it doesn't have enough calories for a growing baby's needs. Ironic how there is no shortage of fat anywhere else on my body.

Lest you all (all three of you who have actually read this whole pathetic, self-pitying rant) think I'm totally out of it, I am trying to look on the bright side. I did read Pollyana growing up. I keep listing all my blessings and thinking of the pros to try and get outside myself. I have two beautiful daughters who overall are healthy...I can go out and buy formula...I can wear dresses again...I won't have to deal with biting...Katrina's blood work came back fine, other then showing slight dehydration, so there is no long term, crippling genetic illness to deal with...She breastfed for six whole months. But, even though I know all this is true and there are much worse things I can do as a mother then just not being able to breastfeed, I still feel like I'm letting my baby down. I'm not quite up to snuff in the motherhood category. I keep wondering what I did wrong. Maybe I should have a better diet...drink more water...pump every hour...take more herbs. And tomorrow I have to listen to her cry and not be able to comfort her in the most natural way I know how.

Wow, I guess I had more pent up emotion then I thought. I better go sleep so I'll have the energy to be rational tomorrow.


  1. Poor Boo- you are a wonderful mommy, and I love you and your baby girls with all my heart.

  2. So sorry to hear about your troubles with breastfeeding! I know we totally beat ourselves up as mothers. If it's not one thing, it's another. For me, I have to deal with Sophia's crying in the night because she's learned that I will come running every time and we are trying to re-train her to sleep on her own (all the way through the night). This mommy thing is hardwork, no?