BFAR. That is how we “survivors” refer to it. This post is tough for me to write. A little more intimate that I’d like to be. But here goes.
I had a breast reduction when I was 19. When I found out I was pregnant years later, I scrambled to find information on BFAR. I found Diana West’s wonderful book and website dedicated to the topic. I learned and prepared–as much as a first-time mama can. I knew it was a very real possibility that I would not have enough milk but I was determined to make it happen.
My milk came in slowly. Norah was a reluctant nurser and a fussy baby–how much because of supply, I don’t know. We carefully recorded diaper output, weight, and feedings. We worked closely with our midwives and the lactation consultant at our pediatrician’s office.
On her 8th day, Norah’s blood sugar was low and our midwife gave her a bottle of supplement. Of all the moments I wish I could change during that painful time, it is this moment. With so many ways to feed a baby, why did it have to be a bottle? It wasn’t even a good bottle–it was a bottle made by the formula company [read: fast flow]. I bet you know what happened next. Yep, nipple preference. It would take another three weeks to woo Norah back to the breast. The LC showed us how to use an SNS. Norah was a smart one, though, and she learned quickly how to simply suck the SNS like a straw. So, the LC gave us the life-saver: a hazelbaker finger feeder. There was no way Norah could eat from this device without getting a work-out. No lazy gulping down milk. It was tedious and awful; each feeding took close to an hour. My smart little girl began to prefer another nipple then. Mine!
Of course, during this time, I was pumping with a hospital grade pump, taking fenugreek until I smelled like maple syrup, and guzzling mother’s milk tea. But without the gold standard–my baby–I couldn’t reach a full supply. The LC even prescribed Reglan which can increase milk supply (though with considerable side-effects; I would not take this drug again). This LC told me with (I think) false optimism, “I think you’re going to be fine. You’ll make enough.” Then she sent me home with two cans of formula. A second LC I saw offered the same happy message (sans formula). Neither gave the kind of involved help I wanted/needed. (Why didn’t I contact La Leche League? I have no idea and cannot remember now. I think I didn’t want to *bother* someone. I was paying the other LC’s).
Thus began a routine of nursing Norah at the breast and then supplementing. And then pumping. An exhaustive, emotional journey. I would proudly nurse in public. Then hide in a bathroom to supplement. I furtively purchased formula and hid it under my other groceries like I was buying junk food. I was so happy when Norah began solid foods and I could cut down the supplements. And I threw a little party when she reached a year and I could stop using supplement entirely.
It turned out that Norah was a boob-baby. We enjoyed a nursing relationship until she was 19 months old. And she would still choose to nurse if I had not made the decision to wean (pregnant with Leaf–I was a wimp–it hurt). She still nurses her stuffed animals and has serious plans to nurse baby Cedar. 🙂
So what is the plan for Cedar? Oh my, it is a massive and thorough plan. Stay tuned…I’ll post THE milk-making plan in part 2.