Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A few notes about Breastfeeding and other lessons learned.

I’m not entirely sure when and why I decided to do cloth nappies, sometime in the early stages of my pregnancy because I remember searching for them while I was in Munich. Which was a mammoth task because, and I don’t speak for the whole of Germany but this was certainly the case in Munich.. There are literally 3 baby shops in the entire city centre - and I’m referring to as far as Ost Bahnhof (and when your central point is Schwabing, this train station is pretty far away. In fact generally speaking, any S-Bahns indicate a faraway land.. for me anyway).

My schmommy had given me a list of things to bring back with me to give me a headstart on the whole having a baby thing, namely baby vests that fasten at the side and “swedish” nappies. Now whether or not these nappies originate from Sweden, this name stuck. Translated directly from the Serbo-Croatian name for them being “Svedske pelene.” I couldn’t find these anywhere, and I think the Germans thought me a bit mad for trying to find something as seemingly primitive as cloth diapers but I persisted and eventually found some. I only bought one pack of three as I wasn’t sure this was the right thing or not and later when my schmommy saw them in real life, turns out they weren’t what she was referring to as a swedish nappy. However, these cotton knit nappies are amazing. It’s still early days for us, Maksi is only 15 weeks old but he’s a heavy wetter and these guys take him through the night which is most excellent. On Schmommy’s most recent trip to Europe, I begged her to bring me back at least 10 more.

Now initially the cloth nappy idea started as that which Schmommy was telling me to find swedish nappies because it’s really good for the baby’s hips, to keep them open so they can develop nicely and this turned into full blown "let’s do cloth nappies". Shame, poor huzzband had no idea what was in store for him. In the end it wasn’t such a sad story that nobody threw him a nappy party because we weren’t touching disposables anyhow.

And so, 15 weeks on and we are still going strong with the environmentally friendly diaper option. It’s tough in the beginning, a matter of getting used to - but honestly, it’s a matter of getting used to even if you use disposables. Our Maksi basically pees every hour on the hour as soon as he wakes up but then weirdly enough leaves us in peace when he falls asleep at night. So yes, that’s a lot of nappies. Among the other child care aspects of life, I have added extra laundry to my list of tasks. And before the comments regarding water usage (which by the by is 6l per wash cycle) I’m not judging you for washing your clothes, so why would you think that a washing cycle is causing worse situations than the 550 years taken for a single disposable diaper to decompose? And on this note, I do not judge parents who use disposable diapers. Cloth is a heavy commitment, and due to the readily available disposables, the new age cloth can be an expensive investment. And nothing is more expensive than something purchased and never used. At first I felt like a cheat because my Schmommy is a legend and she sewed many diapers for us, the pocket nappies for newborns, her own version/s of swedish nappies and even bought some AIOs both new and “pre-loved.”

But the investment is even more so in the action; changing that nappy, using biodegradable liners or even reusable ones, and washing and drying the nappies. I am thankful for the tumble dryer, thank you tumble dryer gods.

from the start we used cloth, this is Schmommy's homemade newborn pockets.

Naturally you would think that I would like to do the next economical aspect of child rearing, and this would be breastfeeding. Breastfeeding which remains my biggest saga in my life. My Schmommy had four children which she birthed all naturally, zero epidural and exclusively breastfed. I thought I would be set for life with these kind of genetics, but as much as you can rely on such things, you are unique too. For one, I couldn’t do it without the epidural (not that I didn’t try or wouldn’t do it again - lolzy) and now I have breastfeeding struggle.

I never quite understood why there were SO many books about breastfeeding out there. Ignorantly, I thought this was the most natural thing in the world. I was also of the opinion that it was the best thing in the world - hey so convenient, hungry? Here, let me pop my boob out, it’s the right temperature, right amount and creates any antibodies required at every feed. 

Since then I have read just about every kellymom webpage, la leche league Facebook post, breast feeding chapter there is about the damned subject. And I’m still not outputting more than 60ml during a fucking pumping session. Which upon reading some new material just the other day, have discovered that anything between half and ounce and two ounces is considered NORMAL. Anything above that is an over supply. Go fucking figure.

By 6 weeks of life, Maksi had still not regained his birth weight. Already at 4 weeks, there was madness surrounding this discovery from the nurse checking his weight and the hospital’s lactation consultant. It was determined that the cause for this was my stress levels. I was exhausted, I had been on painkillers since the birth on account of something going horribly wrong with my stitches causing them to get inflamed, then infected, and then surgically repaired. Hey, it happens, I’m just so damn pleased to sit/stand/lay and not feel my crotch anymore. Nothing prepares you for post part, even if you read about it, the real thing is rather intense.

And then I determined that the best possible solution for me was to pack up Maksi and all his cloth nappies and take us to Knysna for a break and some much needed help from my Schmommy. He was such a good little baby, he kept growing in length but his weight gain was under the books prescriptions, about 50g to the recommended 115g-200g. My little baby looked quite skinny but he was alert and reaching milestones and making plenty of wet and poopy nappies. We stayed in Knysna until the 6 week check up with the paed and I thought the 100g we had gained in that time was mission accomplished.

WRONG! At 3,69kg my son was still 40g under his birth weight and this after it says in all the books that the birth weight should be reached by the 4 week mark. And I had done everything all the fuckers had told me to do: skin to skin, plenty of liquids, lots of protein, schlehen concoction, feeding every 2 hours. The only thing I refused to do was to wake up my sleeping child to feed him at night. Not that I didn’t try within reason, before I went to bed I’d try giving him my boob but the child wouldn’t even “dream-feed”.

And so maybe the painkillers, and the surgery, and the death of a friend diminished my milk supply, or maybe that’s just the way the coin landed for me, the matter of fact was that I didn’t have enough milk. The paed knew instantly without me telling her that Maksi slept for looooong periods of time during the day and night, he would feed for 40 minutes on each boob, that when I expressed I only got 30ml from both boobs. She plain stated that my starving child passed out from exhaustion after sucking on an empty breast. Oh and that he also looked that way too. A "starving Sudanese" baby.


And before I get assaulted with comments that I should not go back to this doctor, I want to explain that this appointment broke my bubble. I was in denial. How can I have low milk supply? How how how? Especially when I yearned so much to be able to breastfeed my baby for the first year of his life? How was this possible and how was this happening to me? The paed told me not to get depressed after this appointment, that it mattered not what had happened until now but that it only mattered what we did going forward. But I wept as soon as we reached the car park. How can you not at the idea that you’ve been starving your child for his whole life? Ok, it’s dramatic but it’s what I felt.

Sobbingly we started with the recommended formula and it was a struggle for us all. I was at my wits' end, my baby is hungry, I don’t have enough milk to feed him, he’s just not into the powdered milk and how are we to go on like this?! I even begged the doctor to prescribe a different formula because I was convinced that this one tasted so bad and that’s why he hated it. But she said persist, he’s too young to know the difference. And persist we did and now that nightmare week is just a memory.

This is not to say that I am no longer breastfeeding. Nope, no sir-ree. Even with my 30ml (okay, exaggeration here, I’m sure I can safely say that it’s 60ml :P) I offer 10 minutes, 10 minutes on each boob before topping up with the formula. So yes, I make it even harder for myself that I must do the whole sterile bottle, boiled but cooled water and formula thing PLUS the wrap a sheet around us in public to boob feed. Because breast is best and you can be sure that until my 30ml dries up, I am never giving up. Even when the brag posts about “ebf” 6 month olds make me want to hurt myself. I mean, if you’re going to brag, then write it goddamn caps EXCLUSIVELY BREAST FEEDING. For fuck’s sake.

I’ve drunken the jungle juice, I’ve taken the anti-psychotic that supposed to increase the supply. All it did was increase my already enormous appetite and drain my energy. And I gave it 6 weeks to work, 6 weeks of fattening and no more than 60ml did my milkshake bring.

the result of "power pumping" after an hour. I'm proud of this output.

Motherhood means no judgement. It does. There’s no right way or wrong way - there’s just the way that works for you and your baby. And even though it means I can’t go on a diet to fit into my damn clothes, or that even when my baby sleeps through the night I’ll still feel like a trainwreck, I will persist. I just wonder if I’ll ever get over my jealousy at women that have an oversupply. What I would do to feel engorged! Engorged moms, please don’t kill me, I’ve just never felt it.  And so I press on, the days pass quickly, and i catch myself feeling exasperated at the fact that I am always wearing a bra, and not even a remotely sexy one but the clip nursing kind. But then I think how quickly 15 weeks have passed and I instantly regret feeling that way, because before I know it, he won’t want to feed from my body anymore and that’ll be the saddest day of all.

Mami loves you Maksi, for always and so much more each and every day.


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