Monday, March 30, 2009


I've been really really upset about the on-going nursing strike, probably fueled in part by hormones and exhaustion. I've lost all perspective, I think. When I take a deep breath, step back, and calmly assess the situation, the position we're in right now is really not bad at all. Basically, I'm in desperate need of some perspective. So, before I let myself wallow some more in how much I miss nursing my baby boy, here's some purely good news: LL is the cutest and happiest baby in the whole wide world. (I'm being totally objective here.) He smiles and laughs at everything. He loves toys. He loves toes. He loves singing. He loves being sung to. He loves animal sounds. He thinks that robots are animals.

He loves watching me and S get ready in the morning. We have hundreds of little games that we've made up to play with him, and he therefore thinks that we're the most awesome people ever. His current favorite game: the fireworks game. With him laying on his back, I close my hand into a fist and rest it on his chest. I slowly raise my fist into the air above him, pause, then open my hand really fast and really wide like a firework going off. Then I "rain" my hand back down to him with my fingers wiggling, tickling him with them when they reach his body. There are appropriate firework noises along the way. As my hand is going up, he stares at it with intense concentration; when it bursts open, he squeals with delight; he giggles the entire time it's coming back down. Fun stuff. And let's not forget the most important things: he's growing and developing and learning new things.

The bad news is that he has apparently decided that six months was plenty of time to breast feed, and he's never going to do it ever again. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose this doesn't really matter. He drinks formula, it provides all the nutrition he needs, and recent studies are starting to question whether there really is any difference between breast milk and formula anyway. Either way, today is Day Twelve of his nursing strike, and our breast feeding relationship is apparently over. We have ruled out all fixable problems -- it's not my milk, it's not thrush, it's not an ear infection, it's not a sore in his mouth, it's not something different he's smelling on me, it's not the location or the position or the time of day. I do still believe it's the teething, but that could go on for several more weeks, and there's nothing that we can do about it.

We have made some progress. He doesn't arch away from me when I try to hold him now. In fact, he's more cuddly these days than ever before, both with me and with S, probably because his gums hurt and he's not getting nursing cuddling time anymore. He doesn't cry when I lift my shirt. He doesn't scream in protest when I unhook my nursing bra. Instead, he cuddles against me, and he'll even take my breast into his mouth. If I squirt milk into his mouth, he doesn't protest (much). What he absolutely will not do, however, is nurse. Instead, he just bites. Every single time. I offer him my breast, and he obliges by biting it. He actually bites everything that goes into his mouth these days, including bottles -- feeding him anything at all is a chore, because he just chews on the nipple of the bottle. But at least with the bottle, he does get some food.

I'm still pumping, but I'm not driving myself nuts about it anymore. Two weeks ago, I had a post all queued up about the mathematics involved with how much LL eats by bottle at daycare, how much I can pump at work and on the weekends, how much I'm using from my freezer stash each week, and when that freezer stash would be gone. I was driving myself nuts with trying to produce enough breast milk to keep him off formula for as long as possible. (My goal had been eight months, which seems to be kind of a tipping point where babies start getting more nutrition from solids as opposed to milk.) That post is totally irrelevant now. My freezer stash is completely gone. LL eats anywhere from 26 to 40 ounces of milk each day. (He's highly variable, but he averages in the 30-35 ounce range.) Relying solely on pumping 24 hours a day, and being unable to take anything to enhance my supply, I'm now able to produce 16 ounces total on a good day. That's some pretty easy math. And it turns out that pumping 4-5 times a day instead of 8 times a day makes very little difference in output (for now) but a huge, immeasurable difference in my sanity. So I've scaled back the pumping a bit.

I hate hate hate pumping, partially because it's not very comfortable, partially because I'm tired of endlessly washing pump parts (on top of the already endless bottle parts), and partially because I have to be at home or at my office to do it, which chains me to the house in ways that breast feeding never did. Mainly, though, I hate it because as I sit there listening to the rhythmic drone of the pump, I dutifully think about my baby to encourage let-down, and inevitably I think about how much I loved nursing him and how I don't get to do it anymore, and it makes me cry. Which is quite an emotional beating to take several times a day.

I've thought about giving it up, which would free up several hours each day, not to mention freeing me to drink caffeine for the first time in two years and wear normal bras and eat tuna, among other non-lactating perks. But I'm not ready to let it go. (Also, I don't really miss tuna all that much. Except in sushi form, and we rarely have time to out for sushi these days anyway.) I like to think it's because I want to provide my child with at least a few bottles each day of breast milk, which is better for him in unproven, intangible ways that probably don't matter much after six months. Also, he seems to prefer the taste, even if he's picky about its method of delivery.

But the real truth is that I imagine that some time in the next month or two, he's going to come to his senses and say, "Hey, wait! Nursing was so much better than this silicone nipple nonsense! Where is that woman with the boobs?! I'm ready to eat directly from the source again!" And if he comes to that conclusion, and latches onto me, and I've let my milk dry up... well, I think that I'll just want to shoot myself. So I'm still pumping, so that I'll at least have a little something to offer him, should that day come. Which is kind of pathetic, but there it is.

But I really am going to stop at eight months.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

And The Hits Just Keep on Coming....

LL is still on strike. Tomorrow will make it a full week. I spoke at length to a lactation consultant, who suggested continuing all of the things I was already doing, but taking a break for 24-48 hours from even offering him the breast. Honestly, though, I don't think she suggested this because it will help him to calm down... I'm pretty sure that she suggested it because it was making me too distraught to keep offering it to him over and over and over, only to be rejected over and over and over. But whatever. I didn't offer him my breast all day Tuesday, and then I tried again this morning, and I got the same reaction.

The lactation consultant also told me to start preparing myself for the possibility that he may never nurse again. I really didn't expect to hear this from a lactation consultant. She thinks that the root of the entire thing is the teething, which is also what I believe. But she also thinks that he won't want to nurse until after the top two teeth come in, which might not be for weeks. And because he's already so small, she thinks that we really have to keep offering him bottles for every feeding, to make sure that he gets enough food. And going that long with all bottles and no breast almost always makes babies never go back. So we're screwed. LL may never breast feed ever again.

As for my milk supply, she told me that I was still seeing a drop in production because I wasn't taking enough fenugreek, so she upped my dosage. She also warned me that I might experience an upset stomach from it, which explains a lot. I've had a persistent stomachache and headache for at least two weeks (or longer, I can't remember exactly when they started, though they've been a lot worse the last several days) and I'd been blaming it on stress. Yesterday, I also started to feel a bit faint, which seemed like it had to be from exhaustion and stress. Total misery.

Anyway, since LL is not nursing, there's technically no reason that I have to get up to feed him in the middle of the night, other than pumping, and I finally decided that sleep and stress reduction were becoming more important than my milk supply. So, last night, I decided that I would skip the middle-of-the-night pumping, just this once. I made a bottle for S to feed to LL at 4am, and then informed S that he was on his own until morning. And I slept all night long, for the first time in eight months. (Well, I did wake up a few times when LL was crying and S hadn't managed to soothe him yet, but I didn't have to get out of bed.)

I expected to feel better this morning, but I was still feeling dizzy and headachey. I tried writing a check for a bill that I had to pay, and I transposed numbers, added incorrectly, and misspelled the name of the company I was writing the check to. When I drove to work, I almost got into three separate car accidents, all entirely my fault. So then it finally occurred to me to look up side effects of fenugreek. The upset stomach I knew about. Migraine trigger is one that I probably should have seen coming. The ability to block absorption of NSAIDs like Advil explains why the headache hasn't gone away for several days. But holy crap I wish someone had mentioned that, in semi-rare cases, fenugreek can dangerously lower both blood sugar and blood pressure.

After seeing spots during my afternoon lab seminar, I had to call S to come to pick me up from work, because I didn't think that I was capable of walking to my car, much less driving it home. The room just kept spinning spinning spinning around me.

So... no more fenugreek for me. No more magic potion. If LL breaks his strike in the next day or two, I might be able to nurse him enough to bring my supply back up that way, but otherwise, I think we're at the end. Really not how I wanted my breast feeding experience to conclude, but there it is.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Non-Union Boobs Have Got to Go!

LL has decided that his wages are too low. He wants more benefits. Better hours. He's sick and tired of The Man (me) keeping a strangle hold on the working masses (LL). So, he's on strike. We have a full-on nursing strike on our hands. Since Thursday afternoon. And it sucks. Big time. (S has made it clear that he's more than willing to be a scab -- he'll happily cross the picket line in order to get access to my breasts for the first time in a long time. But S is also acting as mediator to try to negotiate a new contract, and that's no way for an impartial third party to behave.)

We've gone through periods before, usually when the teething is at its worst, when LL fusses while nursing. Suck, pull away, cry, root, suck a little more, cry, suck some more.... That sort of thing. But this nursing strike? This is a whole different beast. He screams as soon as I sit down with him in the glider. He arches his back away from me, screaming bloody murder, as soon as he sees my boob. He won't even let it touch his mouth. He's hungry, but he absolutely refuses to even consider taking his milk directly from the source. He won't even let me hold him in a cuddle position when I'm fully clothed -- as soon as I start to tip him onto his side, he freaks out. I haven't even been able to put him down for a nap or for bedtime in days, because he won't let me rock him.

We have tried everything to end the strike. Try when he's sleepy. Try in a dark room. Try a different location. Try a different position. Try letting him hold a comforting blankie. Try expressing a little milk first so that I've already let down when he gets there. Try giving him teething toys and Tylenol first in case this is all from teething pain. Try starting with a bottle and then swapping in the breast. Nothing works.

Following the advice I've gotten about nursing strikes, I'm not pressing the point. As soon as it's clear that he's getting upset and refusing to latch, I put away my breast, stand up, soothe him, wait a little while, then try again. But it's always the same. And eventually he's so hungry and frustrated that I have to get him a bottle. The problem, as I've mentioned, is that I can't pump as much as he eats. And my ability to pump is rapidly dwindling again, despite potions and capsules and tea. I had built it back up again, but as we enter Day Five of the strike, with no baby stimulation and only expressing using the pump, I'm again down to barely 2 ounces at most pumping sessions. And he's currently eating 4-6 ounces per meal, so I'm falling further and further behind. Once upon a time, I had nearly 200 ounces in the freezer, but after only two months of working and several days of the strike, I have only 5 ounces left. I'll be using that up tomorrow. After that, I'll be officially out of breast milk.

So depressing. Totally totally depressing. My little boy looks at me and cries. I cannot describe how totally devastated I am. S says it's like watching me ask someone out to the prom and get humiliatingly rejected, seven times a day. And each time, I have to just hand LL over to S so that they can cuddle together and S can feed LL his bottle while I sit miserably in a corner and pump. I know that feeding him formula isn't the end of the world, but the thought of never nursing him again? Devastatingly depressing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Six Months!

Hard to believe that LL is already half-a-year old. He had his checkup yesterday with Dr. K. His head size is still right around the 50th percentile, where it's been since he was a month old or so. (It was giant at birth, but he's grown into it since then.) His length had been dropping a bit, but now he's back up just above the 50th percentile, as we suspected; he suddenly started looking really loooong a few weeks ago.

But his weight... try as we might, we just can't seem to make him gain much weight. This kid LOVES food. He slurps happily when he breast feeds. He astounds Natasha and Rosie with how much he eats from bottles during the day. He still wakes up 1-2 times each night to eat, and he tends to eat a LOT during those feedings as well. We resolved his GI problems more than a month ago, and he's been eating even more ever since. Yet despite starting life around the 85th percentile for weight, he's been dropping ever since then. At his 4-month checkup, he was at the 25th percentile, and he's looking a lot chubbier now than he was then -- he's got the classic baby leg rolls, the chubby cheeks, everything you look for in a healthy baby. But he has now dropped to the 18th percentile. (You would think that at 18% for weight and 55% for length, he'd look thin, but somehow he still looks chubby. All fat no muscle? He really does take after his mommy!)

We had been waiting to start solids, so that we could stuff him with more high-calorie milk instead of nutritionally-empty cereals and watered-down vegetables, but we can't really wait any longer. So, he starts solid food tomorrow (for some loose definition of "solid"). Probably oatmeal and peas.

I am a little worried about him, because he doesn't seem interested in much gross motor development. He loves playing on his back, and is amazingly active, but when you put him on his tummy, he just puts his head down, resting his cheek on the floor. It's very cute, but it's not doing anything to strengthen his arms, neck, and back. He doesn't roll over anymore unless you get him started. He's not interested in sitting -- if you try to put him in a sitting position, he straightens his back and wiggles until he's flat again. He's also not interested in standing -- if you try to stand him up, he bends his knees and refuses to support any weight. I know that he CAN bring his chest off the floor on his tummy, and he CAN roll over, and he CAN sit, and he CAN support himself on his legs, because he'll do all these things when he feels like it. But most of the time, he doesn't want to be bothered. He'll just lie on his back and chew on his toys, thank-you-very-much. Laziest baby ever. I'm trying hard not to stress about it.... I always swore that I would never get worked up over these milestones, and I know that boys often do all of these things later than girls, but it's hard. Especially when he just doesn't seem interested in any of it.

His top front teeth still aren't in, and the teething sucks. He's drooling and chewing like a mad man (including several downright vicious bites to my nipple), he's in too much pain to nurse on many evenings, and he's starting to refuse to take his afternoon nap, which only makes him crabbier. And he is still waking up several times a night -- once or twice to eat, and anywhere from zero to six times for soothing. Every time I think we're past the night wakings, the teething gets worse and it starts up again. We're not having much fun lately.

Anyway, I'm hoping that solid food might just help to fill him up a little more, so that at least he'll sleep better. And we persevere with the tummy time and free play on the ground, including a LOT of dragging him into a sitting position as much as possible, to try to strengthen him up, even if it's against his will. And with the exception of the late afternoons when he's in pain from the teething, he is always always always in an awesome mood, smiling and giggling and laughing and babbling. So really, how bad could it be?

I keep going back and forth about buying him a jumperoo... will it encourage him to jump and strengthen his legs and back? Or will it just be another thing for him to sit in and be lazy, in which case he's better off on the ground?

Oh, and he had a lovely little stomach bug Monday and Tuesday. He recovered very very quickly, which makes me think that it may have just been the teething, but on top of everything else, it's made for a tough week. TGIF.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Milk Magic

For the last few weeks, my milk supply has been decreasing. I have to pump twice while I'm at work, and I had been getting ~7 ounces combined for these two pumpings. Which, I'll note, isn't enough to cover LL's two feedings during this time, but I also pump in the evenings and on the weekends, so it was kind of close enough... but I'll leave the full Milk Math discussion for a future post. For those non-lactating people out there, I'll just mention the basic fact that an electric breast pump is less efficient than a baby, so pumping less than the baby would eat is totally normal.

Most women are told to expect to get 3-4 ounces per pumping session, which would mean that I should be able to get 6-8 ounces each day at work, so I was okay with my output of 7 ounces. Then I started struggling to get 6 ounces . Then I was regularly getting closer to 5 ounces. It got to the point where, instead of getting 7 ounces while I was at work, I was lucky to be getting 4 ounces. Which sucks. And creates a serious shortage as far as being able to feed LL.

Friends, books, and lactation consultants all told me that the herb fenugreek is the answer to all lactation ills, so off to the store I went. Herbal lactation assistance came in three forms: capsules, tea, and liquid. The capsules are straightforward: take two, several times a day. The tea contains a mixture of various herbs that are all supposed to increase milk supply, and the instructions explained that I was to brew it, covered, for exactly 10 minutes, and drink it 2-3 times each day. The liquid (heretofore referred to as "the potion") came in a mysterious dark bottle, contains the same basic ingredients as the tea, and the instructions said to take 1-2 droppers of potion 3-4 times each day, without drinking any other liquids for 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after taking the potion.

I've never been much of an Eastern medicine, new agey type person, so I bought the capsules (and, surprisingly, the tea. Because I like tea.) but I couldn't bring myself to buy the potion, which just seemed too "out there" for me. It probably wasn't helping that I kept calling it "the potion." After a cup or two of the carefully brewed tea, and several of the capsules, I confided to S that I didn't really expect them to work. Why would tea encourage my breasts to make more milk? It seemed really silly.

But here's the thing: several weeks ago, when I had a cold, I read that the menthol in cough drops can decrease your milk supply, so I strictly avoided cough drops. Why would I wholeheartedly believe that cough drops can decrease milk production, but tea can't possibly increase it?

Which reminds me of when I was trying to get pregnant, and I read that certain foods can decrease the chance of conception, so I religiously avoided those foods. But an actual honest-to-goodness medical study found that eating ice cream can increase the chance of conception, and I dismissed it as hogwash, even though I really love ice cream. So apparently I'm just an inherently pessimistic person. Something could be bad for me? Run like the wind! Something might be good for me? Sure, whatever, that must be superstitious nonsense.

S also tends to think that all of the various herbal whatnot is superstitious nonsense, but he also thinks that me buying it in one form while laughing at it in another form, then doubting the effectiveness while I put myself through the careful timing of tea-brewing several times a day, is just my way of torturing myself. (Have I mentioned the incredible guilt I've been feeling because of the decrease in milk supply? The crushing belief that if I hadn't gone back to work and been forced to rely on pumping, my supply would still be fine, which means that I'm putting my own selfish desire to finish my PhD ahead of the basic nutritional needs of my helpless infant son? No, haven't mentioned that? Hm.)

So at the end of last week, I went out and bought the potion. Fenugreek is used to flavor artificial maple syrup, and I love love love pancakes, so I had been hopeful about the taste. Sadly, the potion tastes disgusting. I feel silly drinking it. But as I take it, I chant to myself, "This will work. This will work. Magic potion. This will work." Then, you know, I spin around three times and throw salt over my shoulder.

And at work today, I pumped 6 ounces. So score one for the magic potion.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thank You, Pump-In-Style, For Being So Discreet

Know how to freak out a young male computer scientist?

Say it's the middle of the morning, and you're walking out of your office carrying your Pump-In-Style, in its stylish black shoulder bag, cleverly disguising the pump, cones, milk cooler, etc., hidden inside. A colleague spots you exiting your office, and hurries to catch up with you. He says that he has a question that he really needs your help with, and is it okay if he walks with you so that he can tell you about it? Then he spots the black bag. It's too small to be a laptop... it's too big to be a purse..... He grows uncertain. He asks, "Where are you off to, anyway?"

Answer him honestly: "I was on my way to pump some breast milk!"

Then enjoy the awkward silence as he tries to decide whether you're still eligible to help him with his question. Observe with amusement how he suddenly can't quite figure out where to focus his eyes, and finally shifts his gaze to stare intently at a doorknob. (Read his really obvious thoughts as his brain chants over and over, "Don't look at her breasts! Don't look at her breasts! Don't look at her breasts!") Throw him a bone by suggesting that you talk to him later, then wait patiently while he desperately searches for an appropriate farewell. ("Okay, have fun! Umm.... I mean...... see you later, I guess.......")

So, next time... less honesty?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Bit

Apologies if this seems like nonsensical gibberish to some of you, but I'm going to be geeky for a moment. Today is my birthday. It's not a particularly significant birthday, except to us computer sciencey folks: I got a new bit today! (My sixth one.) I'm 100000 years old. I'm likely to only get one more bit in my lifetime, and I've got to wait a long time for that one, so I'm trying to enjoy receiving this one. S pointed out to me that we didn't even know each other when I got my last one. My little LL has, um, zero or one, depending on how you want to look at it, but he'll get a bunch in fairly quick succession very soon, which is kind of amazing. (Yes, I'm still able to be amazed by exponents. Sue me.)

S got me a birthday card from him and LL. It says, "One of us remembered your birthday! The other one of us just kind of lives in the house and is totally unaware of everything." It's not clear that the card was supposed to be from a father and baby combo, but I'm not sure who the intended card-buyer is. Partner and pet? Roommate and ... bad roommate? Wife and clueless husband?

For my birthday, LL woke up at 5:00am, refused to eat, refused to go back to sleep, and just whined and cried for two hours. Have I mentioned that teething sucks? I finally just handed him to S and told him that all I wanted for my birthday was another hour of sleep, followed by a shower. Good times.

Monday, March 2, 2009

If He Weren't So Cute, I'd Be Concerned

LL's appointment with the pediatric gastroenterologist (GI) was this morning (finally). We had to wait almost three weeks for the appointment. Our pediatrician had given us a series of things to try to help to relieve LL's symptoms, so we've been trying each one for several days, then trying something new, then trying combinations of them... and today we reported the results to the pediatric GI doctor. Based on LL's responses, he was able to rule out several things, and he ruled out some more things during his exam. He thinks that it's a minor problem that LL will just grow out of, but he wasn't able to rule out several more serious problems quite yet. But for now, it probably doesn't matter. One of the things that we've been trying seems to have eliminated the symptoms, which is all that really matters right now. (The doctor said that he could do a bunch of ugly invasive tests to try to pinpoint the problem, but if we're able to eliminate the symptoms without it, there's nothing to gain.) So, for the next few months, we just continue what we've been doing, and hope that LL continues to feel good. Since this is a GI problem, the doctor pointed out that LL's entire gastro-world is going to be thrown into disarray in a few weeks when he starts solid food, so we may need to reevaluate at some point soon, anyway.

The only big concern that I still have is that LL is growing soooo slowly. He started out huge (around the 90th percentile for height and weight) and at each appointment, he has dropped percentiles, so that at his appointment today, he's at the 25th percentile for both. Back at his first pediatrician appointment, Dr. K told us that the percentile doesn't matter, as long as he more or less stays along the same growth curve. But at 2 months and again at 4 months, he dropped curves. And it certainly looks like his 6 month appointment later this month is going to show that he has dropped curves yet again. I asked the GI doctor about it today, since I thought that it might be a food issue, but he was unconcerned. He looked at LL's birth statistics (big) and then looked at me and S (both more on the short side). His theory: LL was born big, then looked at his parents and recalculated how big he was "supposed" to be. He made his entrance into the world, and then said, "Those are my parents? Whoops! Um, I'd better adjust my expectations...." He said that LL is showing all the signs of growing just fine, at his own rate -- he's hitting developmental milestones, he's happy, and he's cute. (GI doctor: "If he weren't so cute, I'd be concerned. But he's very cute.")

Moving on.... LL's bottom two teeth have finally stopped causing him pain. He had several days of renewed normal eating, which was great. (His latch had been horrible for the last week or two before the teeth erupted, as he tried to soothe his gums using my breasts.) Then, at his middle-of-the-night feeding last night, he bit me, hard. And now his latch sucks again. I have a sinking feeling that he's working on two more teeth. Teething sucks.

In better news, LL returns to Natasha's daycare tomorrow. Yay! I'm at home with LL today because of his doctor's appointment, but I'll be going into work for the rest of the week. LL is feeling better, daycare has reopened, I'll be back at work, S's work has eased up some.... It finally feels like things are settling down into a good groove. I'm not sure how long it's going to last, but I'm going to try to enjoy it while it's here.