Saturday, December 4, 2010


This is seriously hard for me to write, but I may be about to stop nursing William, and it is not because either of us is ready for it.

Ever since I started this new job (and started nursing him less), I could tell my milk supply was steadily dwindling, but for a long time I thought, after everything I've been through, there is no way I can be going through Low Milk Supply again.  I've fixed that.  We're done with it.  This dwindling is normal.  We've made it past a year, and now there will be no reason for me to stop nursing him until one day he says to me, "Mom, I'm done with that," and I say, "Okay," and we have a piece of (vegan) chocolate cake or something.

But that's just not what's happening.  After my last bout of mastitis, things seemed okay for a while, but then (and brace yourselves for TMI), my long and blissful bout of lactational amenorrhea ended.  Aunt Flo is what seemed to put the nail in the coffin.  Will nurses, but I can't ever feel any milk coming out, and I rarely hear him swallow.  I even took the breast pump to work, to try to increase my milk supply (but recall how pumping between feedings was fantastic failure when I was dealing with Low Milk Supply).  After feeding him in the morning around 7am, I've been trying to pump around 9 or 10am at work.  Maybe it's having some effect, I don't know, but even if it is, the effect is miniscule.  If I pump closer to 9:00, sometimes I get nothing or maybe just a drop or two.  If I hold off till 10:00 or even a little after, I might get enough to thinly cover the bottom of the Medela bottle (so what... 1/8 of an ounce? 1/4?) but never anything more than that.  It is seriously depressing.  Not in the sense that I want to save the milk to give to him (I just rinse it down the sink), but just because it seems to confirm the fact that I've run dry.

Admitting all this is hard because first of all, I am stating that my body is a complete and total failure.  But beyond that, I think the larger issue is that I'm feeling like, oh my god, I've made a huge life mistake.  If I wouldn't have accepted this position, if I would have just stayed home and kept nursing him whenever he wanted to, we wouldn't be in this boat now.  Even though this job (if I keep it until then) will provide him a free college education, and I have tried to convince myself that my working (and this job in particular) has been positive for William, I have clearly not acted in his best interest.

So do I have to go over the reasons why I want to continue nursing him?  Apparently, because the last time I wrote something about my nursing problems, some moron posted a comment insinuating that I was a selfish freak for nursing a baby past 1 year.  (Freak... I can understand why an idiot would think that.  But selfish? WTF.  I didn't delete the comment simply because it was so fucking ridiculous.)

So here are the reasons why I would like to continue nursing William:

1) He still wants to nurse.

2) WHO guidelines indicate nursing to at least 2 years.

3) As a biological anthropologist, arbitrarily stopping nursing at 1 year makes no sense.  Across mammals, weaning generally coincides with the eruption of the permanent molars (which doesn't happen until like, age 6 or 7 in humans).  And cross culturally, many societies nurse for much longer than one year.

4) The immunological properties of breastmilk.  Will has survived outbreaks of stomach flu, hoof and mouth disease, and impetigo at his daycare, all unscathed. He's had a runny nose practically since starting daycare, but in the scheme of things, I feel pretty lucky.  Is breastmilk giving him an edge to stay healthy?  I don't know.  But I don't want to find out by stopping and then having him get sick all the time.

5) I love him so much.  I just want to what's best for him.  And that's not because he is anyone's grandchild, nephew, cousin, whatever.  Please.  As if.  He's mine.

I go back and forth about what I should do.  Sometimes I sit there and think, you know, we've had a good run.  I bet not even a La Leche League leader would fault me for weaning him at 16 months.  Considering how we started out, we've been remarkably lucky.  When everybody and their freaking brother was telling me to give him formula (including my OB and a pediatrician, who both told me that giving him formula would INCREASE MY MILK SUPPLY), I refused.  Thank god I knew my OB and the pediatrician were dead wrong about that, because had I listened to them (and the throngs of other people who told me to give him formula), it would have been a completely different story.  He never had one drop.  I tried everything, literally everything, to increase my milk supply, and I got it to work.  He thrived, and is still nursing at 16 months.  He's made it past the critical 1-year point, so we'd be fine to just stop and move on with our lives.  In some ways, that would probably make my life easier.  I could go running in the mornings before work, without having to worry about leaving enough time to nurse him.  Or I could go running, grocery shopping, etc in the evenings without having to be the one who puts him to bed.  Rob could put him to bed, or we could even go out together and have a sitter put him to bed.  In his whole life, I have always been the one to put him to bed, every single night.  I like putting him to bed, but it would be nice if for some reason I had to go somewhere or do something, someone else could do it and I wouldn't have to worry.  For a while I thought about just cutting his nursing down to once a day, either in the morning or the before bed, or maybe even as soon as I get home from work.  But given the problems I am having maintaining any kind of milk supply on twice a day, I'm afraid my milk would dry up completely if I reduced it to just once.

And the reality of that freaks me out.  I'm Melissa.  I am not going down without a fight.  I've gone to heroic measures before, I'll go to heroic measures again.  I will do whatever it takes.  Breastmilk is this wonderful, magical, substance of perfection, that will keep my kid healthy and have long term positive health benefits throughout his entire life.  Sixteen months is too young to take that away from him.  I will pump, I will power pump, I will quit my job if I have to, but I am not giving up.  I will stop nursing him one day when he tells me he's done with it, or he otherwise indicates that he just doesn't want to nurse anymore.  But not a moment before that.  As long as there is a breath left in my body, I will not give up.

The thing about heroic measures though, is that I'm not sure what measures to actually take.  None of the usual galatagogues (ie, fenugreek, blessed thistle) worked for me during Low Milk Supply, and I swear that pumping/power pumping made it worse.  None of the easy things, like eating oatmeal or drinking lots of water, worked either.  Domperidone was the only thing that worked for sure, so I guess if I was really going to heroic measures, I'd call up Vanautu again and place an order.  One other thing that may have had a slight positive effect was the Motherlove More Milk Special Blend.  I have no idea where to get that in St. Louis, but I am leaning strongly towards ordering some online.

So, that's where I'm at.  Who else out there has been through this?  Anybody?  I feel kind of like, probably not.  But if you have, please drop me a line and tell me what you did to get through.  Idiotic comments, however, will be promptly deleted.

Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

Rixa said...

Okay, so I haven't had low milk supply per se--but I have had low/no milk supply when I was nursing during pregnancy. During the first trimester, my supply got lower and lower. During the second trimester, I can no longer express even a drop, no matter how long it's been since my child nursed. Then around 7 months along, I start seeing a tiny bit of colostrum.

Both my kids have nursed through this dry spell and it didn't seem to bother them. They didn't nurse as much or as long, but they still continued through the whole pregnancy (well, my 2nd is nursing and I'm 6+ months along, but he hasn't shown any signs of stopping except when he was sick and had a nursing strike for about a week). So even if your supply is super low, or even seems gone at some point, you don't *have* to stop nursing if Will still wants to continue.

Is there an IBCLC you could send your questions to? I don't know what else to suggested except nurse & pump as much as you can...but you already know that.