Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Breastfeeding Battle

There was never any question in my mind whether I was going to breastfeed my child or not. I only knew that there was a good chance that my breastfeeding would be cut short when I needed to go back on my meds. So I had a plan in place - breastfeed as long as I could, and pump, pump, pump to build a stash so that my baby could have extended benefits. So I got my free breast pump through my insurance, got supplies, and was all ready for baby.


Life never presents us with what we expect. After this saga, a woman I work with said something that stuck with me - something always goes wrong when we have a baby - either it's a hard pregnancy, or a tough labor, or feeding the baby is an adventure.

Well, I fell into category number 3.

Apparently, my little girl did not have a good suck, despite living on my breast for hours at a time and she constantly fell asleep while nursing.  After a few trips to the pediatrician, we had to start supplementing with formula. I made a bottle - and then immediately put it back in the fridge for my husband to give to her. I felt like a failure. It took her a little over 3 weeks to gain back the 12oz she lost at birth (most babies take 2).

I started regularly attending a breastfeeding support group at the hospital. It was there we figured out that she was only getting about an ounce and a half of breastmilk after nursing for an hour and a half. Her lack of suck had killed my supply. Breastmilk is produced on a supply and demand basis - she wasn't sucking enough, and so I wasn't producing enough. For the record, I am well-endowed (I had to go to a specialty shop to get my nursing bras), and I think that may have had a little to do with it as well. Big boobs do not equal lots of milk. If anything, I think milk likes to get trapped in mine easier than it does in someone with smaller boobs. Anyway.

The lactation consultant in the group suggest renting a hospital grade pump, and following the odious schedule of feed (15 min per side) supplement (with breastmilk/formula) and pump 15 min. Every. Time. She. Ate. Every 3 hours we'd start this cycle. I hated every second of triple feeding (as it's called). I did it for 4 weeks. 4 whole weeks. I'd have to listen to Kaley cry while pumping, otherwise, it wouldn't get done. And I was determined to get rid of the formula supplement.

After 4 weeks, I went to the support group and was down to about 2oz of formula a day (from about 8-10). However, she only gained about 2 oz that week (Babies should gain about 0.5 - 1 oz per day - I have since figure out that my little peanut gains on average .5 oz a day, at the very bottom of the curve). I was discouraged. However, when she ate, she was now eating over 3 oz in a half an hour nursing session, so we had made significant progress on that front. Then Life decided to throw a wrench in the system and my ankle gave out while I was walking down the stairs that afternoon, and I sprained my ankle.

I couldn't walk for 2 days. I had to take care of my 8 week old baby in my bedroom for two days. Pumping was not an option. So, for those two days, we spent the time in bed. And I realized that because I didn't have to pump, and I wasn't constantly looking at the clock, hoping I could get my pumping session in, we actually had fun together. She was just beginning to smile and play with toys (although at that point I was her favorite "toy"), and I was missing it because I had to ignore her while pumping.

I only pumped a few more times in the evenings, and then finally put my pump away and never looked back.

She still only gets about 10-12oz of formula a day, which is about 1/3 of her daily food intake. And we have a nice system now - and lots of smiles and laughs.

My biggest fear, though, during that 4 weeks of pumping hell, was that it was all going to be for nothing when I needed my Enbrel. I started taking prednisone at about 5 weeks postpartum. By 3 months, it was doing nothing. I was scared - I couldn't imagine not being able to breastfeed anymore. And I didn't have the stash I had so hoped to build up in the early weeks. But, my lactation consultant saved the day again, and pointed me to We looked up Enbrel and found out because it is such a large molecule, and is biologically unavailable via the digestive tract (the reason it has to be injected), it is a lactation category 2, and is safe for breastfeeding (although, there has been minimal research done and should be taken at the users risk). I took the info to my doc, he did a bit of research himself, and we both decided that it was fine! I've been back on it for 4 weeks, minus one where I caught a cold and had to wait a week to take it again, and it is amazing how good I feel compared to how bad I was feeling before it.

This may have been one the the hardest battles I've fought in my life. Breastfeeding is so very hard for some people, and there is so much pressure and judgement surrounding how your your baby (or parent in general...), but to have the added worry of what my RA would add to the mix, made it that much more difficult for me. However, my mom said to me a few weeks ago, that the one thing this whole thing had taught me was patience - because it requires a ton of patience to do what I did for those 4 weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Breastfeeding can be such an emotional experience - and an even more complicated one when RA is involved! I'm so glad you found a solution that worked for you! ~;o)