[A quick note: I am typing one-handed while nursing. Almost every post has been composed this way.]
I have been trying to nail down just exactly what is so difficult about breastfeeding, trying to isolate my problems so that I may seek advice, trying to put it into words so that I might understand it myself. For now, I’ve narrowed it down to my four most pressing concerns.
1. six minutes in heaven
When Lydia is good and hungry, I can get a very good latch and she will actively suck in a regular rhythm for almost exactly six minutes (sometimes seven). I have clocked it so many times.
After this six minutes, she often falls asleep. But if she is awake (or if I keep her awake), she becomes agitated and won’t stay latched. If she does latch, she will only perform shallow comfort nursing sucks, she slides down the nipple, she clamps down, she pushes away with her hands, and she constantly breaks suction (making clicking noises).
At this point, I usually burp her, check her diaper, walk around a bit to calm her, and try again. Sometimes it helps to switch sides at this point, but I’m worried about her not getting enough hind milk. All of this maybe buys me another minute or two. But in general, after those six sweet minutes, it is mainly me fighting with her and her tearing up my nipples.
If instead I delatch her, she cries and seems like she wants to keep nursing, but if I distract her for a minute she usually drops it. Then, of course, she wants to eat again in 30 minutes or less.
And then again sometimes, she won’t drop it (especially if she’s crabby). She demands to comfort nurse, but she will only give me a shallow latch and she won’t take a pacifier.
It has become easiest (though, I’m not saying best) to let her actively nurse for 6-7 minutes and allow her to fall asleep (rather than keeping her awake, as I had been doing). And then doing it all again 20-30 minutes later when she wakes up still hungry. This is clearly not an efficient method, but I don’t know how effective it is to fight with her either.
Maybe she is just a snacker? Maybe I should try different types of pacifiers (I’ve tried a couple)?
I wouldn’t mind as much if I didn’t start teaching two classes this week. I have to leave her for 3.5 hours per day, and I’d really feel a lot better if I knew she had a full belly when I left. But . . .
2. she never seems “full”
Related to the above concern, but also a little different, she never really “stops” nursing on her own. She either falls asleep or gets fussy or lapses into comfort nursing. I have to manually delatch her, and she usually cries or fusses, and continues to exhibit hunger cues, even if she’s been at the breast for a looong time. I can either work to distract her and calm her down or allow her to comfort nurse all day (even though she’s giving hunger cues, she’s not really eating). I switch between both of these methods depending on how much time I have and how sore my nipples are.
3. pumping is for the birds
I pump three times a day: once in the morning, once in the early afternoon, and once in the early evening, always while nursing Lydia on the other breast. I yield only about 0.5-1.25 ounces per session, for an average of 2.5 ounces a day total. I am only leaving a 2 ounce bottle of milk* with the babysitter when I go to work, so this is technically “enough,” but jeez, it’s not really that much. And it doesn’t leave any extra for Rafal to give her a bottle once in a while, or for to me to ever be apart from her. (Furthermore, the few times we have given her a bottle at home, she has demanded to nurse afterwards, even though she “should” be full. I truly hope she is more satisfied by bottle milk when I am not around.)
I eat oatmeal every day and I have for years. I drink tons of water. I eat almonds every day. I have been taking fenugreek supplements. I eat fruits, veggies, protein, and whole grains. I have been wanting to make lactation cookies, and I bought the ingredients, but for fudge sake, who has time to bake cookies??
The good news is that I have noticed a tiny increase in my pump yield–like 0.25 ounces per day–over the past few days. So here’s hoping that I’m doing something right.
*Note: Does 2 ounces seem like enough to you? At first I read that I should be leaving 1-1.5 ounces for every hour I will be gone (which would mean leaving 3.5-5.25 ounces, but that seems like a lot, and I’m not pumping that much). However, La Leche League leaders, the lady at the WIC office, and L’s pediatrician all said that if I nurse right before I leave (and right when I get back), I should only need to leave a 2 ounce serving. But despite three reliable sources telling me this, I CAN’T LET IT GO. Which leads me to me next point . . .
4. being the baby’s only food source is heavy, man
I have a primal, instinctual need to keep the baby fed, which often manifests as an irrational fear of her going hungry. And my physical body is her only source of food. And she never seems all the way full, even though I’m nursing all the time. And I’m terrified to leave her, even for an hour, even if I have a bottle to leave behind, because when she’s hungry she seems inconsolable and I don’t want to do that to her or the person taking care of her.
And when well-meaning people suggest that I “take a break” or “go get a massage,” I want to laugh or cry because that would be impossible. (Like I said, it’s irrational, but at the same time, kind of true.)
We’ve been at it for over six weeks now, and it has gotten and continues to get better. The fact that I can even articulate some of the challenges we are facing in a cogent way–rather than just a blur of “holyshitwhyisthissohard?!”–is a huge step forward. And bottom line, she is gaining weight. So I know I’m doing something right. Now please, experienced mommies of the world, give me your advice! ❤