It's not working...

Those cheeks! That's where all that milk is going!
So I had about four days of bliss, where my bubba was audibly gulping down my milk.

It reminded me of the one night when I lost my sh*t in hospital... It was perhaps five days after birth, and I was sharing a room with a wonderfully friendly lady and her sweet new girl. These two had it sorted! While I was feeding between 20-22 hours a day, literally non-stop, changing sides sometimes every two minutes, she only needed to feed every few hours for around ten minutes. I'm not exaggerating. How did I even know the intricacies of her feeding schedule? Well her baby was the noisiest gulper I've ever heard. Milk was literally pouring down her throat! And so came the night where I just couldn't listen to that anymore, and so I 'slept' in the spare bed in the feeding/changing room.

For around three nights, I had a gulper. God it was good!

Then I reduced the amount of Domperidone I was taking by just one tablet per day, taking five instead of six. It seems my milk has drastically reduced. He is back to needing formula, usually around 90ml, at every feed except the early hours feed (thank god), but then he pretty much stays attached to my nipple for between four and six hours while we sleep. I'm so thankful that my nipples are healed to the point now where we can do lying-down feeds!

So for the first time ever, I am going against the advice of my beautiful, much loved midwife and lactation consultant, and I am going to self-medicate and up my dosage to the original again. Everything I read and everyone I've spoken to who has used it successfully says to remain at full dose for as long as you want to feed, if it is working for you, and if you reduce the dosage and notice a change, go back up again.

If I wasn't so integrated into the Swiss way of life, I'd probably have no problem calling my midwife now to talk this through and reassess, but I'm tentative about doing this over Christmas, seeing as I feel as if I must be the most demanding client on earth... But we will chat soon. In the meantime, I'm upping my dose again.

I'm calling it! Dorkiest Christmas photo ever :)

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It's working.

It is ten days since I started taking Domperidone in an attempt to increase my milk production.

The last four days, my little one has only been needing between 150-200mL a day as opposed to around 450-550ml(ish) before I began taking it. And that amount seems to still be slowly decreasing, too. Yesterday, for instance, my boy had 150mL, split over two feeds, and today we are at only 120mL, and I think that is all he will have.

Can I just repeat that? Yesterday, he needed extra formula for only two feeds. That means that I am managing the majority of feeds with only my boobs.

With only my boobs!

That is the dream.

I dreamt of being able to do one feed with no need to supplement. Now, it is the majority.

This is what I have wanted. This bond, right here. Just him and I.
And the nights? I hear my little one start to smack his lip together, to suck on his fingers, and so I skooch him over from the baby bay towards me. There in the dark, lying down under the crook of my arm, he latches on and feeds while I half doze in the magic of those amazing moments.

Wow.

I cant begin to express how much I have longed for those nights, so filled with love and sweetness, so devoid of plastic and screaming and having to turn on lights.

Even if this all stopped tomorrow, I feel as if I have done it now. I have experienced the side of motherhood that I have always longed for and for some inexplicable reason been unable to attain.



Yes, I am feeling very tentative about it all, unsure of whether my boy is actually getting enough or not (his poo is pretty darn thick lately, so I really am very unsure, and will be watching it like a hawk...), but hell. I'm taking this as a win.


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How to be a good husband

As a tribute to my incredible husband of five years (today!), I'm writing this post. He has been there for me through all of the crazy ups and downs on these two breastfeeding journeys, in ways that I never knew I needed. Here is what I have discovered that I need.
  1. Bring water. Anytime I feed my boy, my man is there offering me a glass of water (or coffee, or breastfeeding tea, or with a splash of elderberry juice or a sachet of magnesium). This may seem trivial, but it is truly fabulous from a practical standpoint, and can make the feeding experience feel like more of a partnership.
  2. Make sure she is eating, and eating well. Food, obviously, has a huge role when it comes to being at your physical and emotional best. When I am extremely stressed, I stop eating, and I can be a real bitch about it. Keep offering food, ask what she dreams of eating and make it happen (okay, within reason...)!
  3. Be the washer and steriliser, and take on that job with gusto! Whether it be bottles, teats, pumping equipment, SNS tubes or silver 'booby hats' (as my big boy calls them), get washing. And anticipate – There is nothing worse than a baby who is hungry before you expect it, and realising that your tubes aren't clean.
  4. Be in charge of supplements, if you need them. I love the fact that there is always warm water in the thermos, ready to go, and there is always the correct amount of formula measured out in the dispenser. This and doing the dishwasher are the two jobs that can change the course of my day.
  5. If you can, come to any lactation consultant appointments. Then you can understand more, you can learn new ways to be a support, and she then knows that this is important to you too, which can mean the world.
  6. Respect the boobs. No doubt, this is probably the hardest for all the men out there. Those boobs right now are not yours to touch; don't even think about getting within a couple of centimetres. It is time to accept their new role as (hopefully) life-giver to your new baby, and to accept the fact that your lady now has a very different relationship with them too! You'll get them back one day...
  7. Be there. Give cuddles. Know that there are deep, often primal emotions attached to breastfeeding a newborn baby. Knowing this means that all the massive emotional turmoil that surrounds this issue is justifiable, and that it is totally okay to feel that way. You are not there to advise or, dare I say it, even to suggest, you are there to hug. Hug well and hug often.

Thank you, my beautiful man, for being there and for giving me the strength and the support to navigate this in the only way I know how. Thank you for never telling me what to do, what to try or how to feel, and for just giving me hugs and water and chocolate. Though more hugs never go astray ;)




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Monkey Brain

It feels a bit like things are not running so smoothly with the feeding over the past few days. When I analyse it, it has 100% coincided with me taking the meds, though I can't blame it on them at all.

I subconsciously began to change things a little, really trying to ensure that he fed very regularly with no long gaps between (though holy moly, we have been blessed with a real sleeper this time! The total opposite of our sleep-allergic first boy!), and offering just a little less formula in the SNS than usual. I have been feeding him until he just stops fussing for food. I just kind of upped my determination a bit, I suppose. But that has gone hand in hand with me losing my confidence, never knowing for sure if he is hungry or tired or bored, when just a few days ago I had that totally sorted.

... And I read this stupid thing on a stupid website run by a renowned service that I have never received good advice or support from, that pleaded with new mothers to remember that every supplement you give, every millilitre of external milk you give, is doing your milk supply damage and drastically reducing your hopes of exclusively breastfeeding. It is rash, unsympathetic advice like this that sits in my belly and festers away, making me question everything that I am doing and every decision I make at every feed. I would love to have the strength and the will to ignore such things and know that I am doing what I can and what is right for us, but it still sticks and eats away.

So today my boy was the fussiest  he has ever been, screaming blue murder every moment he seems to have even a twinge of hunger, and becoming frantic in an instant. And it is tough to get a frantic baby to latch on with the SNS tube.

Plus for some unknown reason, he has never liked my left boob, and today he has pretty much blankly refused to drink from it. I did the football/rugby hold with him this evening for that side and it worked, which has me convinced that it is because of the way his body comfortably lays that he doesn't like that side.

And then of course there is that thing in the back of my brain that just notices that my boob doesn't hurt or feel full or really any different at all, even after a full day of not being drained...
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Medication

I have started taking Domperidone. Let's add that to the list of 'things' I am taking each day:
  • 6 x Domperidone 10mg
  • 1x Burgerstein Schwangerschaft und Stillzeit (pregnancy and breastfeeding multivitamin)
  • 3 x Saint John's Wort 300mg
  • 2 x Magnesiocard Magnesium 10
  • 2 x 7tabs of Sch├╝sslersalz Magnesium Phosphoricum (Mg for the vasoconstriction I get in my nipples)
  • 3 x 3tabs Burgesrtein Lezithin (Lecithin in English? I think? For the milk blister that has been there for weeks)
  • 3 x 10 Arnica globuli (heal that bloody blister, damnit!)
  • 2 x Weleda Stilltee (breastfeeding tea)
  • A big bowl of porridge (not sure if that counts, but I use it as such!), always with raspberries :)
Then there's the topical stuff - Weleda Heilsalbe (healing ointment), Heilwolle (healing wool), Medela PurLan lanolin, and the silver cups . And today I'm getting myself some quark to pop on that blister and see if that helps in some way...  *


Domperidone
I'm not really sure what to say about the decision to take Domperidone, to be honest. I suppose it is a big step to start taking medication to (potentially) increase my milk supply, but I am surprisingly calm about it. I'm not actually even expecting it to work, I realise. I feel as if I have ticked so many things off my 'How to Make More Milk' list, and none of them have worked, so I'm not holding out hope for this one. If it doesn't work, then we just keep on keeping on, and that is okay by me.

Us right now, as I write this one-handed, with 
the tube from the Supplemental Nursing System.
I have been thinking about taking this drug for a while, but always felt a little uncomfortable with it. Lactation is actually just the main side-effect of this drug, with its main use being for gastrointestinal disorders. That makes me uncomfortable, for some reason. To take a drug because you want its side-effect? That just seems a little... backwards. I also harbour a fear that they may uncover a terrible side-effect, in the same way that they did with thalidomide. Again, an unwarranted and totally one-hundred-percent unsubstantiated fear. I used to feel the same way when I was a teenager about inhaling helium!

When doing a little research about it, I came across this great websiteI initially found myself tensing up when they listed all the things you should try before taking this medication, and then my jaw dropped. I almost stood up in the middle of the living room and cheered! They discussed pumping, which for me is the most dirty word on earth at the moment and brings about the most horrendous feeling of doom. They then say, “Do what you can. A mother exhausted from pumping is probably no further ahead with milk production. And yes, it is not necessary to express your milk if this is a burden and makes you want to stop altogether.”

Um, can these guys win the award for Greatest Three Sentences Ever Published Online?! Thank you, Dr Jack Newman.

So my curiosity has won out, and I am taking it. I mean, what if it would mean that I would be able to exclusively breastfeed, and I just didn't try it because of an irrational fear? It's worth a shot. 
A just-because-photo. My gorgeous boy, thriving in his eight-week-old glory!
* Please please please please please don't provide me with a list of other things I could be taking or trying in order to increase my milk. The list of things that I have tried in the past is probably in excess of fifty, and the thought of having to defend this decision is emotionally draining. Just trust that I have exhausted all avenues.

(Edit: I later increased my dosage dramatically, read about it here.)
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A different baby

My littlest baby is eight weeks old today.

I remember when my big baby was eight weeks old. He is two and a half now, and yet, while I sit here rocking side to side with my new little boy inside the baby carrier, I could swear that if I squint my mind's eye hard enough it is blonde hair in there and not brown; my first boy and not my second. It seems just a few weeks ago, not years.
My first baby boy at eight weeks old.
When my first little bean was eight weeks old, he began refusing my breast. Vehemently. We had been giving him both the breast and the bottle for weeks, keeping track of the time spent on each boob, then giving him a bottle (while getting more and more down about its increasing volume), and then spending forty minutes pumping. I was doing that for every feed, day and night, with only twenty to thirty minutes 'break' before starting again – Just enough time to wash all the equipment, apply ointment to my still-raw nipples and get a drink of water. Sleep? Pfft.

Then came the day that he would not go anywhere near my breasts. I would open my shirt and he would scream, arching his body away from mine, tensing every muscle in his body in an attempt to get away from me. Oh the heartache of that was incomprehensible... Oh I can't really explain it.

Of course, because I am me, I kept trying. He would take it maybe once out of every three attempts, and the research told me that we could work through it, that perhaps it was a phase, that perhaps I was premenstrual and he didn't like the taste of my milk at that particular time of my cycle. But there was a chance it'd get better.

I spent my nights crying as I pumped every three hours while my husband fed him the bottle, all the time being aware of the lack of milk that was coming out, and that my stress was most certainly not helping. There is nothing worse than knowing that your stress is causing the problem.

BUT.

My midwife keeps telling me over and over again:
This is a different baby.
I am a different woman now, a different mother.
We have a different story.
Poor little boy does not want to come out of the carrier today!
8 weeks old with a grumpy face :)  

I can see why eight weeks was the time when my first boy started his breast refusal. My littlest one is looking around now. He latches on and then keeps his eyes open, pulls back while sucking away and scanning the room. The world is becoming interesting to him. He doesn't want to just close his eyes and breathe me in anymore.

Is it weird that this excites me? We have gotten to the point now where he pulls on my nipple not because he wishes there was more milk (there is enough milk coming through the feeding tubes and my nipple together), but because he wants to look over there. I have heard about mothers having to endure that! And we have made it to that point!

We keep experiencing new things, things I never experienced with my first, and I am loving that.

Leaky boob? Check.
Feeling the pinch of letdown? Check.
Being able to feed with no pain? Check.
Having my nipple contorted as my baby observes the world around us? Check.

I'm not ruling out breast refusal in the future. In fact, if the witching-hour-feed was anything to go by last night, things may begin to get more complicated from here on in. But hey, we are eight weeks in and doing a-ok.

An alert baby, SNS bottle, advent calendar chocolate,
water,  and a book entitled 'The Highly Sensitive Child'.
A pretty good summary of life right now!


2

"Just Enjoy Him"

Goodness. Would anybody else like to tell me to stop worrying and to 'just enjoy him'? I might just wallop you one.

I've had to do a little introspection (no surprises there) to figure out why it drives me so crazy and gets me into such a tizz when someone tells me to stop worrying and to just enjoy my children.

Here it is: That person thinks that I am not enjoying my children. They are such a joy! They are my joy! It is that simple. I am not too sleep deprived to enjoy them. I am not so overwhelmed with xyz difficulties to enjoy them, though yes, it is not possible to enjoy every moment – it is ludicrous to even suggest that. I didn't think that I had to repeatedly overtly express how incredible I think they are. Isn't that obvious?

I am striving to do what is best for my family so that all of us are the happiest we can be. That, for me, means doing what I am currently doing – Feeding with the SNS. It is not just for my boy, it is for me too. Sure, it is not my ultimate dream realised, but it is pretty darn close. Feeding my little one using the SNS does not take away from my quality of life, it gives me the chance to do what I have always wanted. When he is upset or overtired or in pain, I can give him my breast. He enjoys it, it calms him, it provides him sustenance and comfort, and it allows me to hold him in the closest way that I can. 'Letting it go' and giving him the bottle would make me sad to miss out on having this special relationship with him that I am currently enjoying.

Obligatory BF photo. The more the better!
This, right here among these words I write, is the person that I am. I am a thinker, an analyser, a person who is constantly on the hunt for ways to improve. I am also an overthinker, an overanalyser, probably too sensitive and a bit of a catastrophiser. And yes, there are obvious negatives there, but that is just me! I am also a person who is so filled to the brim with love and who has fun with my family, playing trains, dancing, doing puzzles, hiding in a cave of blankets, making animal noises, pretending to be aeroplanes, singing, tickling, wrestling, jumping, counting, drawing, reading, cuddling, loving.

Sucking in those little moments


Yes, I have my downs; I'm still postpartum, and everyone who actually knows what they are talking about tells me that this is normal. I am aware of this and I am doing things to help me overcome it. Also, I feel as though there is not enough literature out there exploring the intricacies of the downs of new parenthood, so perhaps writing how I truly feel at some times will lead to fewer mothers feeling so isolated. Wouldn't that be nice.

But this blog is about my breastfeeding journey, not about how much I laugh and play with my babies.


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Still not thinking about it

So I'm not meant to be thinking about my milk production, haha. And I think I have done a surprisingly good job at that today! I can't remember how often he has drank, or if he has been having the whole 120ml or 60 or 30... I do know that my boy slept from 11.30 til 4 again (!) and I woke up with one side leaking, which is pretty bloody awesome.

My gorgeous big boy feeding Baby Peter
with his boobs and a special bottle, just like Mummy :) 
The downside to not thinking about it? I went out today and forgot the SNS bottle. No, I can't just get one from the shops or the pharmacy across the road (I needed to order it). So that was a real organisational failure, but one I will never do again! But the awesome thing? I could feed my boy breast milk only while my husband drove home to get the bottle and bring it to me, which took half an hour. I remember once forgetting the formula when I went out with my first boy, and oh I will always remember the bloodcurdling screams while we raced through the city to find some...

Going out of the house is quite the event-management project with two little ones. I'm thinking I may need to buy two of everything and keep one bag always stocked and ready to go, so this doesn't happen again. Bummer that this one little bottle is 70 Swiss Francs.

Feeds are more efficient, I am happier, I have time for both of my healthy and happy boys, and my husband is my supportive rock. A good day.

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Grading Myself

I had a long chat with my midwife on the phone yesterday. She asked what it is that is getting in the way of me accepting my current feeding situation, and why I feel as if I am earning a C in my ridiculous internal breastfeeding exam, instead of an A+ (and anyone who truly knows me knows how much I need my A+s). I am breastfeeding! I give my boy all the milk I can and all the other breastfeeding benefits. Plus I have found a way to ensure he is healthy and growing perfectly. But for me it is still a C. I need to take steps towards accepting that this is our story, and making the most of it, enjoying it, feeling like it is ENOUGH, and that I am enough. And I need to find a way to make 'acceptance' feel just like that, and not like giving up.

My midwife asked me why I am still trying to make more milk. She says that, after ten months working with me so intimately on this issue, the one thing she knows for sure about my milk production is that when  try to make more, my milk shuts down. I can take seventy supplements, travel internationally for lactation-promoting foods and drinks, do my hypnobirthing training exercises, pump all day and night... But it is when I chill the f#*& out and not think about it that my milk gradually increases. But seriously, how screwed up is that?! So now if I want to make more milk I have to stop trying to make more milk? But isn't that me trying to make more milk too? Oy oy oy bodies are weird things. I said from the get-go that if someone wheels a pump into my hospital room, that I may just smack them over the head with it, and that I never in my life want to see one again. I said that I don't want to burden myself with the obsession of increasing my milk production, and yet slowly it has crept back.

So I am going to stop trying so hard. Am I doing that so that I can make more milk? I don't know... But I know that something in my mindset at the moment has to change.
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