Well if the title of this post doesn't tip you off, here is the big, bold TMI warning:
I am now going to talk lots and lots about breastfeeding. If this makes you uncomfortable than feel free to leave and come back another day. Consider yourself warned!!!
The breastfeeding talk will begin after these photos of Michael. . .
When Harper was young we were really lucky in that I had very little trouble breastfeeding her. I think I even managed to realize this at the time. She took to it right away, I produced plenty of milk, and I never had one single complication. The biggest problem we had was keeping her awake to eat enough and that was just at the very beginning. Harper never would take a bottle, so the most difficult part of breastfeeding her was that no one else could ever feed her for the first six months of her life.
Michael has been eating fortified breast milk since birth, which means I have spent lots and lots of time with the breast pump. When he finally got the go ahead to try directly breastfeeding he didn't take to it at all, but he was so little I didn't fret about it too much. Now here we are, he's nearly two months old, and the child has still not taken to breastfeeding.
With the exception of middle of the night feedings, I have offered Michael my breast every time I've fed him, but he was still not getting it at all. Last week we had an appointment with a lactation consultant at the hospital where he was born (totally free, by the way, for babies delivered at that hospital). The lactation consultant helped me work with a nipple shield and at least made a good show of being convinced that Micheal would get the hang of it. Incidentally the pediatrician said that Michael was gaining enough weight that if I wanted to battle him over breastfeeding a bit she wouldn't be worried about him burning too many calories in the process.
So now Michael's feeding time looks a bit like this:
Part One -- Struggle with Michael and the nipple shield. About 40% of the time he just snuggles up to me and falls asleep. About 40% of the time he gets really, really angry and screams. About 20% of the time he seems to actually get some milk from my breast before resorting to one of the other two options.
Part Two -- Feed Michael from a bottle until he seems full. There has yet to be a breastfeeding session where he doesn't take at least another ounce from the bottle, and he usually takes two or more.
Part Three -- More quality time with the breast pump, to make sure the girls were emptied and keep producing milk.
The whole process, when you add in diaper changes, bottle preparation, and cleaning of all the bottles/equipment, can take from an hour and a half to two hours. Michael eats every three to four hours, from the start of the previous feeding. You go right ahead and do the math to figure out how much time that leaves when I am not engaged in feeding or producing milk. Not much!
This is not a sustainable way to live/function for us as a family. Especially on nights when Matt has practice and isn't really home until after Harper is in bed. If it weren't for continued help from our parents we wouldn't even be having this discussion because I would have had to ditch the pump long ago.
Here are my options:
1. Continue things as they are, which is not really much of an option.
2. Forget trying to get Michael to breast feed directly, but continue pumping several times a day so that he can continue to drink breast milk from a bottle.
3. Continue giving Micheal breast milk until our supply of frozen milk is exhausted and then switch to formula.
4. (The Best Possible Scenario) Continue to struggle with the direct breastfeeding until Michael gets it and we are able to ditch the pump and the bottles, at least most of the time.
Here are the reasons to continue feeding Michael breast milk/encouraging him to breastfeed:
1. I had a wonderful experience breastfeeding Harper and I want that bonding/closeness with Michael.
2. There are health benefits for both of us if I breastfeed him.
3. If Michael gets the hang of it we will be able to leave the house and I will have everything I need to feed him without any extra equipment. I loved that I could feed Harper almost anywhere with nothing to prepare or clean up after (diapers not included!).
4. Formula is ridiculously expensive.
5. I have spent so much time pumping to make this possible that I hate to quit now.
6. I really want to do it!
Here are the reasons to say we've tried this long enough and just switch to formula when our supply of milk is exhausted:
1. Unless Michael learns to directly breastfeed soon this just does not seem like a sustainable situation.
2. I spend so much time pumping and feeding him, I am hard pressed to find time to interact with Michael outside of feeding times. I don't feel like I have any time to enjoy my baby because the window of time when I'm not engaged in pumping or feeding I'm frantically trying to do everything else.
3. Under the current circumstances I have very little time to give Harper my full attention or any attention at all.
4. I have found I must pump at least once during the night to keep up my supply which leaves me with even less precious time to sleep.
5. Other people will continue to be able to feed Michael. Matt always takes one of the overnight feedings and that makes a huge difference in my ability to get some sleep.
6. There is at least one moment in every day when I want to collapse in tears because I just can't do this for one more minute.
So what do I do? The lactation consultant would have me give Michael at least another six to seven weeks to transition completely to the breast. The pediatrician says I have to weigh the benefit of breastfeeding against the stress of our current situation and will be totally understanding if I never use the breast pump again.
I am actually asking for advice here. I know that breast milk is the best for babies, but I also know that formula is not poison and may end up being the most realistic option for us. Please chime in here! I am calling on your collective wisdom for some guidance.
(Seriously, if you actually read all the way through this post, you must have formed some opinion. . . spill it!!!)