This week’s baby weigh-in was statistically the point at which it became absolutely certain that Louisette won’t be on breast milk alone by the time we go to China. It also turned out that my breast milk production hasn’t actually increased in six weeks.
Six weeks of constant medication and time-stress (trying desperately to fit seven feeds and five pumps into a day with one-hour breaks between each one) and physical pain.
I’m pretty sure there was a slight increase for a while, but the instant I took care of my own weight (dieting* and going off domperidone) there was a drop of about a quarter in my supply.
So here are my choices:
Extreme Number 1
Switch to exclusive formula feeds.
Benefits to me: No more pain, anyone can feed her (I could sleep ten hours in a row if I wanted), no public embarrassment ever.
Benefits to Louisette: She will definitely get enough food, at last (it’s difficult to measure breast milk supply).
Disadvantages: Breast milk is better for Louisette’s health and for my budget.
Extreme Number 2
Go back on domperidone, continue pumping five times a day and feeding 7 times a day (or 8, if I wake up Louisette at 4am and thus make sure both of us are murderous the following day), eat much more food and chocolate.
Benefits to me: Lots of chocolate, yay!
Benefits to Louisette: Possibility of exclusive breastfeeding in a few months.
Disadvantages: 5-10 kilo weight gain for me (necessitating a new wardrobe and a resizing of my wedding ring, plus various health and self-esteem issues), inability to do anything outside of the house other than walk short distances with Louisette. Quitting one or more of my tutoring jobs (I have three precious hours per week, each on a separate day – two are at home so could theoretically still continue). Extremely miserable and probably painfully awkward/humiliating travel experience (because I’d probably have to breastfeed in public places, where I’d already be the centre of attention due to being a Westerner with a baby – and people wouldn’t hesitate to openly stare) – I’d need to stay home alone as much as possible, since stress decreases milk supply. Extremely rigid feeding schedule for Louisette, and likely hunger and tiredness due to constant attempts to reduce the amount of formula.
What I’ll actually do
Suspend attempts to increase my milk supply until after we get back from China (and are recovered) – no domperidone, and no pumping unless I feel like it. Feed Louisette on demand (ish) six times a day instead of seven (seven a day necessitates feeds closer together than three hours, and has I think been interrupting her need for sleep, thus causing feeding problems due to her tiredness), and supplement every feed with formula (I’ve been supplementing every second feed, and supplementing the in between feeds with expressed breast milk) – which means her feeds will be more consistent. Continue dieting (before the weather turns cold and it gets even harder – I am not a happy dieter).
In China: Leave the pump at home, but finish off my week’s supply of domperidone while we’re there, and ease off on the diet (my motto will be “Try not to binge”). Always have formula ready to go when I leave the house – enough for a full formula-only feed if I’m not comfortable breastfeeding at the time (an extremely likely scenario). Feed Louisette six times a day on demand (ish).
When we come back, see where things stand (with her weight and with mine). It’s very likely my milk will have diminished further, and that’s fine. We’ll give her more formula, and if she ends up on just formula it’s not the worst thing in the world.
Don’t bother trying to comfort me over the word “failure” in the title. It’s no reflection on me, and I know that. I’m so glad to have a definitive failure so I can take action instead of working so hard for an uncertain outcome.
And yes, I know a lot of women never lose their pregnancy weight (or their “I haven’t slept properly in eighteen months” weight after having the child) but to me, having a healthy weight is worth fighting for – for me and for Louisette (and presumably CJ benefits too, although he’s never once given me even a hint that my weight bothers him in the slightest). I can’t expect my children to grow up into adults of a healthy weight if I don’t model what that looks like (and eats like). Plus when I feel fat I eat more, so that doesn’t help things – if I gave up, I’d just keep getting bigger until I didn’t fit through doorways.
Given a choice between a definite and major improvement in my health or a possibly-maybe improvement in Louisette’s health, I choose me. Also, the stress of pumping, scheduling etc probably didn’t help, since stress or embarrassment reduces milk supply too.
I began doing on demand (ish) feedings yesterday. After a four-hour sleep (instead of the hour and a half she’d have had on the previous system), Louisette woke up looking like this:
During that four hours I put away the dishes, did washing and hung it out, washed and sterilised bottles, ate lunch, wrote this blog entry, and did a bunch of sewing including my first successful zipper (the steampunk dress is now one piece, and technically wearable although lacking a proper hem and two modesty panels).
She still slept six hours last night (after many more happy periods than usual), so I definitely made the right call.
I lost three kilos this week, which is a record – clearly domperidone interrupted my body’s normal post-pregnancy weight loss. This photo was taken this morning, and you can clearly see that my top is riding up over my pregnant-style belly (still). Hopefully in a month or two that won’t be such a constant issue.
Next week there’ll be another month of daily pictures.
*This is my version of a full-on diet:
Breakfast: Special K or Nut Feast cereal with full cream milk.
Morning tea: Fruit
Lunch: Ham, avocado and beetroot sandwich.
Afternoon tea: Milo.
Dinner: Anything from (frozen supermarket) fish and (baked) chips to lasagna.