Saturday, 14 December 2013

Making mistakes

Feeding my baby is not a simple process. To help keep my milk production going, I try to eat oatmeal/porridge every day (usually with a boost of brewer's yeast in the mix) and take a dose of herbal supplements - fenugreek, blessed thistle, and marshmallow root. I also need to express milk several times a day in order to keep up supply for the bottles she needs.

I aim to give the baby between 13-16 oz of expressed milk each day. The rest of her intake is "straight from the tap" as it were. Due to her tongue tie issues, she really can't take in all the milk from that she needs; she gets tired out after a while and can't seem to suckle strong enough to get the second milk let-down. The first one is easy and she copes fine, but after the initial flow slows down, she can't seem to manage it. This is, apparently, typical behaviour for a tongue tied baby.

She can't cope very well with a bottle feed,either. We do the best we can for her - keep her sitting upright, limit the flow of milk into the teat to just a trickle so she can regulate the flow herself, let her take breaks to get her breath back and ensure that she only takes in the amount she wants for herself (not what I've decided). She still coughs, splutters, and gets overwhelmed at the bottle during every feed. Her little eyes bug out and her nostrils flex in utter concentration as she tries to protect her airflow and drink at the same time.

So it's not all roses over here. I mean, it is what it is, and there isn't anything much we can do about it aside from wait it out and hope she gets better as she gets bigger and stronger. She's gaining weight nicely now, and is definitely looking pudgy, so that's good news! Eventually, I will try to reduce the amount of bottled milk we give her, but only in tiny increments to encourage her to work harder at breastfeeding. If we reduce the supplements too quickly, she will lose the progress we have made so far. To be honest, I'm nervous about it - I probably won't start reducing until her weight gain puts her onto the 75th centile or so. When she was born, she was at the 98th centile, and she dropped to the 25th at her lowest. She's on the 50th centile now, which is fantastic! We are getting there, slowly but surely.

As you can imagine, this feeding regime sort of takes over my life. I've gotten into the swing of things now, and it's becoming habit, but I've become an obsessive reader/researcher on baby feeding topics. I plan to attend a conference next year that discusses tongue tie, even. I recently read a book entitled The Politics of Breastfeeding, and it was a real eye-opener. The fact is, infant formula companies have systematically destroyed cultural and societal knowledge of breastfeeding to the point that it is completely out of the norm to breastfeed a child in many parts of the world. My experiences are not unique - a baby that is losing weight, with a seemingly good latch, and a decreasing milk supply - but the fact that I've received support and knowledge from people who know what they are talking about is pretty rare. I am in a privileged position to be able to stay at home with my baby, have the time and resources to express and store milk, and am able to seek out the knowledge and expertise I need to achieve breastfeeding my infant.

This shouldn't be a privilege, it should be the norm. It is not acceptable to me that women are faced with untenable situations where they don't have anywhere to turn or anyone to help them overcome breastfeeding difficulties. The use of formula has had terrible repercussions on the health of mothers and babies worldwide, for many years. Reading about these affects in the book I mentioned above has filled me with such sadness for our world.

I am lucky that my body responds well to a pump and galactagogues. I am lucky that my breastfeeding troubles happened with my fifth child, after my body already had the chance to create milk production cells in my breasts with previous babies. I do not expect other people's experiences to be the same, and I certainly can't say "If I could do it, then so can you!" because it's blatantly not true.

Unfortunately, I have made mistakes in trying to convey this information to other people. I recently started a discussion about formula feeding on a chat forum and it (obviously) blew up in my face. I have thought about what I said, and I am sorry that people felt attacked by my words. I don't know how to bring up this topic without hurting others -- how can you discuss the negative affects of formula feeding with other people when the majority of the population has either fed their babies formula or been formula fed themselves (like me)? This is a genuine question; I didn't handle the on-line forum situation well, and want to do better. But I also feel like there needs to be more awareness of the negative impact formula companies have had on our world. It is no accident that breastfeeding rates are low in every country that allows the sale of infant formula - the companies have systematically destroyed breastfeeding knowledge over the past fifty years. Lack of maternity leave, hospitals that don't allow for "rooming-in", doctors who are courted by the formula companies .... all of these elements and more create an environment that makes formula use an easier, or perhaps only, option in the face of breastfeeding difficulties.

People accused me of preferring a child die than be fed formula. That stings. I am not an extremist - I think it's possible to recognise the need for formula while at the same time point out that much of that need is manufactured and orchestrated by the formula companies themselves. They are not manufacturing their product out of the goodness of their hearts.

I don't know if anyone on that forum reads my blog, but if they do, please accept my sincere apologies for any hurt I caused. It was not intended - more of a clumsy effort to open a dialogue based upon new information I have recently learned. It was the wrong way to do it, and trust me when I say I will keep my mouth shut unless specifically asked to discuss it in the future. I do not judge other mothers for how they feed their babies. If anything, I point a finger of blame and accusation at the governments and business that have not valued breastfeeding and allowed it to be eroded out from under us.

As it stands, I am too emotionally attached to this issue to go back to that internet forum. I walked away a couple of days ago when I was being ripped apart by some very angry mothers, and the accusations they were making genuinely hurt my feelings. I don't feel up to dealing with that, and I probably won't go back. My life is full of stress and worry over feeding my baby every single day (will I have enough milk? have I pumped enough to make milk tomorrow? etc) and I can't willingly take on more stress. I sometimes think this is the coward's way out of it, and I should log back into the forum and wade through the vitriol to make my point, but I just can't face it. I'm done there. But I'm sorry for it.


Jenn said...

To get this far is a fantastic achievement - the key issues are already covered - you are responding well to expressing, and you have the determination to see this through.
It is hard to explain to other mothers that whilst I don't really care how they feed their children - I assume everyone makes the best choices they can with the info they have - I still think formula is a bad thing. I know I'm not good at that particular conversation ;)
Formula manufacturers have so many dirty tricks, I just wish we could hold them to account somehow :(
Don't feel you have to wade back into the fray - you have far more important things to do, and there is no point trying to make people see the things they wilfully ignore.
I get quite annoyed about the whole "Guilt" argument. An individual only feels guilty if they made a wrong choice and know it - other feelings like sadness, regret, even envy are being mislabelled, and as such the debate gets mired in judgement and defence rather than facts and support.
FWIW, with Luke, whose TT was never snipped, he mastered the co-ordination of "suck, breathe, swallow" at about four months. It was such a relief when I could feed him without it looking like he was drowning! Then about five months he got stronger, and was able to begin to switch to nursing - the change over took us almost a month, but by six months he was nursing exclusively :) For you I hope things will be faster - because you have some nursing going on, and the tie has been snipped, I really hope it's not too long before you se things turn around and get easier all round :)

RaisinCookies said...

Thank you so much for your comment. It really helps to hear other people's perspectives and hear their stories. I am hopeful that feeding will get easier before too long, but trying to stay realistic and assume it will happen later rather than sooner. Any major improvements before 6 months will be a bonus. ;)