A spare arm


Let me begin.  Bump number one… Born after an easy-ish induction but a lowsy end to my pregnancy as I had chronic itching and no sleep for 6 weeks due to Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy.  I weighed 5 kilos less then when I signed up for midwifery care.  Bump arrived and promptly had a fit and was sent to NICU where they had no chairs (hard to BF there). Oh and he had no suck reflex, so “had to be bottle fed”.

I got the ‘baby blues’ when the milk came in which no one had said would include visual and aural hallucinations, palpatations, and further total insomnia.  Scared the living poop out of me as I truely and genuinely felt that Daddy would have to take Bump home alone and leave me in a padded cell.

Thus began our breast-feeding journey.  Milk arrived in what seemed like an abundance but would not leave my body.  My brain chaos thought that the habit Bump had of rolling his eyes whilst bottle-feeding was his judgement of me poisoning him with evil formula.  Every time he screamed and forced my nipple out of his mouth felt like a physical rejection.  And I thought PMT was scary.

We eventually got latched once at home but really the fight was lost.  I was making 10-20ml of milk each pumping session which doubled on Domperidone.  There was one splendid feed where he had everything I pumped over 24 hours and it satifsfied him.

Once my milk had gone, at about 4 weeks or so, I wrote down some 50 reasons to bottle feed (and there are some very good reasons) and bought myself some beautiful matching underwear.

We’d always wanted two children so I read and researched the possible causes of my low milk production but, as no doctor wanted to do any tests (prolactin, blood sugar, metabolism…) then I was working blind.  I decided that, given no information, to decide that it had been purely due to the stress and lack of feeding from my breast, i.e. it would be fine next time if I obeyed the rules.

Bump 2 is twelve weeks now and we’ve had a journey too.  Terrible pregnancy (same itching problem for about 20 weeks plus hypertension, severe anaemia and diabetes), marvellous induction, calm start. Ignored the fact that I’d had no breast development.  I put her to my breast every time she cried and she latched with a mighty suck.  She latched almost continuously for the three days in hospital, by which point milk had arrived (and the second batch of hormonal crazies had ended).

We had about a week of a happy, settled child between feeds but then feeds became longer and closer together until at about three weeks we were spending (no word of a lie) about 90% of the day joined.  Not easy with a four-year-old too.  Oh, and she didn’t poo.  Nothing yellow and grainy for weeks, she was yellow though and wasn’t getting any better.  She was gaining weight but so slowly, and, to be fair, it was probably all poo.

So people said “top her up!” and I said “NO! Its against the rules!”. I had faith that the hard work would end and life would get better.  I rested, fed lying down, pumped the other breast whilst feeding, drank litres, went on a very low GI diet, thought about waterfalls and fed and fed.  Well, we found that another week went by and there was no change.  I seem to make very low levels of prolactin.

At three and a half weeks I had to admit defeat as all of the world said to give her a bottle of formula if she didn’t settle after feeds even whilst taking Domperidone again.  Pleasingly, she looked disgusted with formula on every occasion for about a week and because we did so much breastfeeding she doesn’t seem to have had any nipple confusion.

Gratefully I’ve not got the strong feelings of grief at the lack of milk that I had last time.  I know that might sound dramatic especially as nothing awful happened but I’d been indoctrinated to think that hard-work was all you needed to succeed.  This child got all the hard-work and a much wiser lactator and it still didn’t work.  Somehow that’s easier to take.

Nine weeks on and I have made peace with things a little more.  Somehow I’d made failing my fault and resented the plastic bottles I had to wash and sterilise, but now, knowing that I’d given it the best chance and it still didn’t work, I’m a bit happier.

We are, for the moment, mixed feeding.  If I don’t take double rations of Domperidone (about 8mg per day) then baby rapidly loses interest in feeding.  She’s having seven or eight feeds a day (twenty minutes BF before a 4oz bottle) and from what remains in the bottle, I guess she’s having 1-2oz from me per feed.  Given the situation, I’m really glad to have got this far.

However, not always having the spare arm that breastfeeding gives you is chuffing annoying.


3 thoughts on “A spare arm

  1. Well done lady. Sounds like you have done a marvellous job. Losing an arm whilst bottle feeding does make drinking tea rather troublesome. Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Awesome post. I spit out my drink when I got to the part about the baby rolling his eyes at you every time you gave him formula. It’s nice to see someone being so honest AND funny about a topic which is usually so volatile. Regardless of how much breastmilk your kids get, rest assured that they have a kickass mom who can write beautifully and find the humor in struggle. That means a hell of a lot more than what’s in the bottle.

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