I've been dealing with an internal struggle about breastfeeding for several weeks now, as I have witnessed a decrease in the amount of milk output during pumping sessions. I thought maybe the pump was defective, or maybe my breasts have gotten smaller since I've lost a little weight so the flanges were too large and therefore not working most efficiently. I've thought maybe I'm drinking too much caffeine, or not enough water. I've thought maybe I'm not getting enough rest or eating right. I've tried altering everything and the milk supply continues to decrease.
Coinciding in a parallel fashion with the fall in production has been a rise in Theo's episodes of waking in the night. More and more over the last two weeks, he has been increasingly difficult to calm when he wakes. We thought his stomach hurt or he was getting more teeth. Maybe we were spoiling him and providing too much "help" in getting him to sleep...rocking, singing, swaying, shushing (all of the above at the same time). It's not the end of the world to have to do that for 20 minutes at 8:30pm, but it's a big deal at 1am, then again at 1:45am, and 3 or 4 more times between then and 7am, when we finally just give up and get up for the day.
So we decided to try a few nights of letting him cry to see if he could figure out how to get himself to sleep without so much parental intervention. It's awful. We've seen a decrease in the amount of time it takes him to get to sleep, but the 1am waking is a given. And letting him cry is no longer an option at that point, because it's brutal. He's seriously pissed. I broke the rules and ended up picking him up, nursing him back to sleep, etc. several nights. He was not going back to sleep otherwise.
Well, we took him to the doctor for his 6 month checkup last Thursday and I was shocked to find out that he had gone from the 50th percentile to the 72nd percentile for height and from the 25th percentile to the 13th percentile for weight. My jaw dropped. The doctor could see that I was distressed by this and I commented that he had dropped by half. The doctor explained that you have to look at the numbers out of 100% and that he had actually only dropped by about 10%. He also mentioned that he was not concerned as he would rather see long, lean babies than fat babies, and it wasn't as if he had quit gaining...he just wasn't gaining at the same pace he had been the first 4 months of life. We began talking about his night waking and what it could be related to. At that moment, it clicked. I realized that he's not getting enough to eat during the day because my milk supply has dropped. I suggested this to the doctor and he agreed that I was probably right if I had noticed a substantial dip in my pumped supply. It's a bit perplexing, because he is always satisfied when he finishes eating. I assumed he was getting plenty to eat as he never complained and always chose when to un-latch on his own.
He suggested feeding him a bottle from our frozen reserves before bed, or to begin supplementing with formula. Yep, he dropped the F-bomb. Up until now, I have been hell bent against using formula. When all of this came together for me at the doctor's office, I finally felt at peace with it. I feel confident that if I was a stay-at-home-mom, I could have made it to a year. But there's something about pumping and being away from your baby for 20 hours a day through the week that confuses the body. I feel proud of what I have been able to accomplish up to this point. We have a month's worth of frozen breastmilk that he will be able to drink at the babysitter's house and I will continue pumping and nursing until nothing is coming out (or until he turns 1, whichever comes first). Otherwise, he will be eating more solids and having some formula.
I'm okay with it. Or at least as okay as I'm going to be. I'm not going to let my stubbornness and determination about breastfeeding until he turns 1 get in the way of my baby's growth. Last night he slept through the night for the first time in over a month. He also had two 4 ounce bottles of formula during the day yesterday.
I'll just be glad to start getting some sleep again...until the next phase.