The wait for my milk to come in was long and trying. Even knowing it takes time and others had experienced the same thing didn’t seem to make it go faster (though it did help). She just seemed insatiable in those early days and I had a sneaking suspicion that she was just insatiable by me.
This seemed to be confirmed one night at dinner. I’d been trying to feed her while I ate and she just stayed fussy as she did not get enough. My husband had offered to hold her / try to soothe her so I could eat, but nothing was working. He said – that’s it. I’m getting the bottle. I couldn’t argue. I was too tired to argue! But I thought it was worth a try. But as she grabbed on to the bottle, sucking down its contents like it was Oxygen, my heart fell. I could barely chew my food to get it past the lump in my throat. My in-laws were having dinner with us (well, let’s be honest, they’d brought us dinner) and said – oh, how good. She’s eating and happy. While my heart just hurt. I tried to make it through the rest of the meal and then excused myself to go pump again. I went into the bedroom and wanted to pull the covers over my head, but was trying so hard to keep it together lest they hear me crying or see the after effects. I was just barely holding on when my husband came in with the baby and asked – is everything alright? I choked out – later! Thank God he understood. He got his parents to leave quickly and came back and asked if I wanted to talk about it saying that just seconds after she latched to the bottle, he knew what a mistake it was.
I just felt so useless. I couldn’t produce enough milk – heck, she seemed to prefer the bottle. I was starving my child for what? My own sense of self worth or dignity or pride? Or worse, was I starving her because I thought I’d fit back into my jeans faster if I nursed?
I tried to nurse her again as we talked, but did so somewhat despairingly – wondering if there was any point. But she latched on and seemed happy enough to eat what I offered. I nursed her during the night and used the milk I’d pumped as a supplement. I even managed a small amount of sleep that night and started to feel better. (Note - We did still supplement with formula on occasion, but we limited it not to affect supply.) The other hard part about this time is that nursing was also beginning to become quite painful. My nipples started to crack and bleed some and I found that I couldn’t stand the cold. I know that sounds really odd, but it’s a symptom of something called Raynaud’s disease (diagnosed over the phone by the lactation consultant). Basically my nipples would blanch (turn white) and be a bit burny when she came off. It also hurt a lot for the first few seconds when she attached. According to the lactation consultant, I needed to keep my nipples warm (the variety of means she suggested to do this were interesting and amusing). I also used an ointment (lanolin) to help with the dryness / cracking.