When Will Help Arrive?

I had planned on seeing a lactation consultant while here on holiday in Australia. It seems that the medical professional's approach to breastfeeding is very different here when compared to Switzerland (the almost ubiquitous knowledge of domperidone, for instance, and what seems to be the greater awareness of the implications of tongue ties... when so very much of the breastfeeding support I received in Switzerland revolved around the idea of trusting that your body and your baby know what to do, and then coming to a point of acceptance when this goes awry), so I wanted to see if any great light could be shed on our feeding difficulties. It still, every day, perhaps every moment of every day, drives me crazy that nobody has any real answers for us.

God how I love being able to breastfeed this little boy. 
I had been emailing one particular recommended consultant, and she was very eager to help, but now that I am here and ready to make an appointment, she has disappeared off the radar. There exist some wonderful breastfeeding clinics, where you and your baby can go for up to six hours at a time for intensive breastfeeding help, but you must have birthed your baby at their hospital to be eligible.

But one thing I have been able to do is call a Breastfeeding Help Line (how cool is it that those exist?), which is permanently manned by lactation consultants.

I wrote a few notes to myself to get my head in order before I called:
- 5 month old baby, born in Switzerland
- Chronic unexplained low supply, same problems with my first.
- Been using a supplemental nursing system for 4.5 months
- All tests come back as normal; natural unmedicated birth; theoretically should be fine.
- I have used every galactagogue under the sun, plus 120mg domperidone per day
- Questions: Tongue tie has been repeatedly ruled out, but ask for clarification; slow flow, versus low supply? (Edit: See my future post on our tongue tie situation...)

Three medical professionals have checked for tongue tie and confirmed he doesn't have it, but I still have my doubts, particularly with his very clear heart-shaped tongue. Is it possible to have enough milk, but for the flow to just be very slow? Or for me to have many letdowns throughout a feed that each take an age, and that this frustrated waiting is why he wants supplement? Is there anything I can do to speed my letdown, to increase flow rate (if that is possible, exclusive of the amount of milk, as such)? Perhaps tongue ties are diagnosed much more readily here, and that may explain also why my first boy had problems? (Brain explosion - maybe it isn't me, maybe it is them...)

His cute little heart-shaped tongue
While I still have unanswered questions, I can't accept it.

So I braced myself and called.

The woman on the phone was understanding and listened patiently, asked the right questions, did everything right. But she didn't offer me any help. She just encouraged me to believe that I had done the best that I could, that he is getting so much milk from me, that yes we do have a breastfeeding relationship and for all of that I really should just be feeling grateful.

Hmm.

She explained to me a lot of the physiology of breastfeeding, which I already know - about letdowns, about oxytocin and prolactin, about having insufficient glandular tissue (which I don't), about galactagogues.

"I'm not really sure what else you want," she said. "Congratulations, you've done a great job!"

Why can't I find somebody that will help? Why am I unable to keep this baby alive on my own?
I could not love this photo more.
That little face, so content, so perfect.
Disclaimer: I am so so happy with what we have managed to achieve with feeding. I love that people congratulate me and acknowledge how far we have come, almost as much as I love when people ask questions (besides, 'Have you tried fennel tea?'). I just wish that a health professional out there might take me seriously and realise that I want my milk to be enough. It isn't an obsession, it isn't at the centre of my well-being, it isn't the cause of anxiety and depression, but it is a passion of mine, a simple want, in the same way that somebody may do many things throughout their day and make particular choices on their quest to achieve good health, this is me doing that also. 


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5 months on and still boobin'.

5 months on, and we are still boobin'.

Still using the tubes.
Still using Domperidone.
Still eating and drinking galactagogues.
Still taking Saint John's Wort.
Still getting frustrated at the fact that it just ain't bloody simple for us.


But I finally bought myself some beautiful breastfeeding bras. I always said if I managed to actually breastfeed this time around, I'd treat myself to that. I've been waiting, thinking that it is bound to end any day now, and yet we are still boobin' on.

Still feeding him to sleep while his hands touch my fingers and my face.
Still being able to calm him when distressed or in pain.
Still having my heart melt when he stops feeding to look at me and smile.
Still loving when he rolls his body towards me, arms outstretched for my breast.
Still enjoying every moment that he manages to get something that he needs from me.

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BOO articles like this.

I'm having a super grumpy morning. Be warned. Yes, I know, if you went by this blog alone, you'd think that my entire life was one piece of grumpitude, but hey. Writing is therapy and all that. I ran away from the playground, left my big boy and my hubby there, and am sitting in a cafe with a double-shot latte and a croissant, my little one sleeping against my chest, hoping that will help somehow.

I read an article. I really should stop doing that. It was entitled 15Weird Ways Breastfeeding Messes With Your Mind, and I was interested. I KNOW that my mind is royally messed by breastfeeding, but what about everyone else?

Turns out I'm not like everyone else.

Boo articles like this.

'It makes you hoard milk like you are secretly a squirrel.'
Right, so I should have taken that as a sign and stopped reading there. I suppose it has made me hoard milk, but not my own. And yes, I am very precious with it, but no, I don't feel 'such a strange sense of pride when I see those little milk badges of honour', though goodness I'd love to.

'Crying babies in public scare you... Must retreat quickly before my milk lets down!'
I have many cute, lace-lined washable breast pads that were bought particularly for this reason. Do you know where they are? In land-fill. At least I didn't burn them.

My favourite?

   10. You feel like flexing when your baby gets weighed at the doctor’s office. Yeah! Look what I did! Milk power, baby! Cue cheering in your own head as you leap onto an imaginary    pedestal and accept your gold medal for most powerful breast milk ever.


I've already posted a disclaimer about the fact that I may write completely irrational things with regard to breastfeeding. Here is another one: I look at my baby's beautiful beautiful beautiful little chubilicious feet, and instead of feeling proud that I am feeding him the amount that he wants and needs (and my boy really does believe that he needs feet that chubby!), I wonder how much of that is from my milk, and how much from supplement. The first knuckle – Is that the supplement knuckle? Ridiculous, I know. This is absolutely the thing that I crave most – this knowledge. I did that. All by myself.




I've never been good at accepting help. From people or from milk.
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In Australia - In flight and on the ground.

I'm writing this right now from a couch in a little beach shack in Manly, Australia. We are visiting from Switzerland for five weeks for a beach holiday / working holiday / family and friend catch-up. Trips 'home' always involve a lot of organisation and quite a bit of stress, particularly when my big boy gets so incredibly overwhelmed so easily, and now with two bubbas, it is a real doozy! But we have taken the first few days to do absolutely nothing but settle in and experience the summer.

Beach feeds, with my big summer boy looking fab in his sunnies

But goodness I wish I only had to bring my boobs. The easiest thing to do was to not use any donor milk while away, and just use formula for supplementation. And the really cool thing was that I used the last bag of frozen donor breast milk on the day before we left -- Serendipitous! So now the research for what-is-the-Australian-version-of-Swiss-Aptamil-HA-Pre begins.

I was a little trepidatious about the sleeping/feeding issues on the flight (23 hours), as the longest leg was a night flight. I have been having to feed my little one pretty much continuously all through the night for the past few weeks, since he was sick. Oh how I love not having to do any of that evening bottle business. We had a bassinet, but he had never slept apart from me. As it turns out, the seatbelt sign was on for 90% of the fourteen hour flight, so he just stayed on me anyhow, and I tried very unsuccessfully to doze a little.

He thinks I'm doing a great job on the aeroplane :)
An aside. I had a bit of a breakdown, literally, during some very rough turbulence. I have been trying so incredibly hard to not develop anxiety issues about flying, as I know that is simply not an option when we live so far from family. But I couldn't remove myself from all those incredibly tragic stories from the past few years about big passenger planes... my imagination is way too overactive, and I just kept putting myself in that position, imagining the exact moment, imagining my family, how I would hold them, who I could hold, what we would look like, what everyone else would be doing, imagining, imagining, imagining, trying so hard to control my breathing and my tears and my heartbeat and my crazy brain. Trying all the tricks to stop myself from thinking about it, and failing. My husband kept reminding me that this is the biggest and safest plane in the world, but those ones were too... and people just like us have been lost. And so I found myself sobbing through one particular incredibly bumpy feed, as I held him tight and tried so hard to keep breathing so that my milk would flow. In the past, I know that becoming a mother has made me stronger, having to hold it together for the sake of my boys, to not show fear, to do things that were in the past unthinkable to me, such as pointing out the beauty of a spider in its web. But at that point? I have rarely felt more exposed, vulnerable and completely out of control. I may need to become a pilot. Ha.

I am planning on visiting a couple of lactation consultants while I am here. I'd love to get a different approach, and I hear that Aussie consultants have a different focus and look for different things, so I am very curious! I am also tentatively planning (am I really writing this?) on doing all the enormous amounts of training and practical work that is required for me to actually become registered as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). This will require a lot of study, in a country where I am still very limited with the language, and one thousand (!) hours of practical hands-on booby work. More about that later though... So I'm also pretty excited to visit some consultants here just for my own interest's sake.

Hot weather feeds - a new thing for us!
When this boy was eight weeks old, I wrote about a few new experiences. Last time, it included a leaky boob, a pain-free feed, the feeling of let-down, and nipple contortion. My boy is twenty weeks old now. Twenty! (Yes, I had to look that up and figure it out. Four and a half months, I say.) Time for a few more!

- Feeding him on a scorching summer's day! Oh the sweat!
- Feeding on the beach
- Feeding in the snow
- Feeding on an aeroplane
- Feeding on a wide variety of public transport
- Feeding him in hospital
- Feeling entirely comfortable feeding him in a cafe
- Having to pull onto the side of the road to feed him.
- Having his teething gums working away at my nipple...
- Having pain-free feeds 95% of the time
- Breast milk poop!

Funny how these really are now just all about time and opportunity. The longer we go, the more we will experience.
Seems he may be into baby-led weaning?!
He'll be onto 'real' food before I know it!





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