Thursday, May 23, 2013

The breastfeeding crack hormone

     I mentioned in my very first post that Rose is breastfeeding.  I didn't mention the love/hate relationship that I have with breastfeeding.  I formula-fed Punkgirl and Happyboy ten and twelve years ago, and other than a tendency for Punkgirl to projectile vomit if you didn't burp her at EXACTLY two ounces, they were fine with it.  We had a strong relationship, we bonded perfectly fine, and my husband got to share in the feedings.
     Unfortunately Punkgirl inherited my celiac disease.  For those of you that don't know, cd is a digestive disorder that controls your life.  The only remedy is to go on a completely wheat/gluten free diet.  In researching symptoms in children (I suspect Happyboy has not escaped the inevitable gluten free--GF--diet) I found a study that concluded that if you breastfed for at least 6 months and introduced gluten in the 5th/6th month, you drastically reduce your child's chances of cd.  It was worth it to me.
     Then came Rose.  Removed by c-section, she came out unhappy that she had been removed from my nice warm womb.  She cried vigorously until the moment that my husband held her next to me and she held my pinky in her hand.  From that moment I was hooked.
     I firmly believe (through no scientific evidence) that the hormones released during breastfeeding are like crack.  They are a feel-good hormone, which I will admit, skeeved me out when I read about it.  Who wants to feel good with a baby on their boob?  But it happens, and the only way to describe it is that there is actually nothing sexual about your breast when your baby is suckling.  And she did, the very first time I put her on, she was a champ!  She knew exactly what to do and where to go, and she fed and filled her little belly, then burped and feel asleep on my chest.  It was magical.
     That lasted a day.  On day two (after your chemical mind is hooked on the love  and pride you feel when breastfeeding goes well) Rose forgot how to breastfeed.  I know, I know, how the heck does she forget?!  But she did.  She couldn't latch on, which made her cry, and thanks to complications from a spinal headache I very nearly had a breakdown over it.  But I pulled myself together (as I often do) and sucked it up and called the nurse.  I was pretty unprepared for the, uh, hands-on portion of the "breast is best" philosophy.  They don't tell you when they say breast is best that you may find a nurse squishing your boob like it's one of those stress-reliever balls to try to fit it into baby's mouth.  I looked at her in horror, looked at Rose in horror, and vowed never to push that call button ever again.  She finally decided, after twisting my breast into a mammary pretzel, that I would need a nipple shield.  The shield is a small piece of silicone that fits over your nipple to help the baby find it.  It's messy, it's a coordination nightmare, and it's going to be your worst enemy if you don't realize that it's only supposed to be temporary--which I didn't.  But it works.  And getting that milk into your baby's mouth will be your priority, so you will grin and bear it first, then cry and bear it, and then finally beat down the door of a lactation consultant despite the fact that you swore you wouldn't go there because you need to feed without the damn thing dribbling milk all over you.
     The other thing they don't tell you, after helping you pump in the hospital, is that you only need to pump both breasts until your milk comes in.  So there I was, at home, happily pumping away, saving ounce after ounce in the freezer! I was a milk machine!!  But in doing so, my breastfeeding relationship with Rose became my nightmare.  I had a massive oversupply, causing reflux, foul exploding diapers, and worst of all, it would cause Rose to choke horribly on all of that milk. It was as if I was water-boarding my baby.  I almost resolved to quit (but I swear, those breastfeeding crack hormones make you want to succeed at breastfeeding--there's no other explanation.)  The bf crack coupled with Rose's milk allergy (discovered through an elimination diet after she broke out in an itchy rash all over her body) meant we couldn't even just switch over to formula, so I scoured the Internet (after finding the first lc's direction to stop pumping completely and to block feed, switching breasts every three hours, unhelpful.  I did them, but still my milk would literally squirt across the room.)  I found all kinds of resources...but none of them worked.  As one friend put it, I had turbo boobs that just wouldn't quit.  I later rationalized that I must love Rose so much that I over-produce as a direct result of that love.  It sounds silly...but try pumping without looking at a picture of your baby, and then try it while looking at one.  You'll see a difference, because your brain is thinking "awwwww I love you" and causing your milk to respond to that.  It's a bio-mechanical marvel.
     So hours of crying--on both our parts--led me to Marie.  I was searching for any answer...I had tried uphill feeding, block feeding, I never pumped (which also meant I couldn't go anywhere if I didn't want to supplement with soy milk, because I never had reserves.)  Marie was a lactation consultant--lc-- in CA who I met online and who saved me from feeling yet again like I had completely failed at the stay-at-home Mom portion of the program.  I had felt like I was constantly covered in milk, like I had too much to feed Rose but also couldn't give it to her without a crazy dance of drink a little, splutter, cry, drink a little more, splutter, get squirted in the face, cry--and that was just me.  Marie took detailed information about Rose's poop, her sleeping habits, my pumping habits, her reflux, her fussy times....and turned it into a plan to get us back on track.  Now, I should mention, most of my bf friends had told me I would get to this point if I "just hold on a little longer", but I was slowly losing my sanity and I began to think they were lying!  (You know, fellow baby-crack addicts do lie sometimes.)
     And it sounds like such a good problem to have--too much milk? How is that a bad thing?  But it is, and it leaves you feeling like you can't even feed your baby properly.  Now, I know, I just explained that Marie saved us, so what's not to love about breastfeeding?  Try cooking dinner.  Rose instinctively screamed for milk every time I cooked.  I changed dinner time.  I tried making a bottle (back when I still had a stockpile of milk) so Coffeeguy (that's my man) could feed her.  No, Rose won't have it.  She has to either be feeding as I cook or be sitting in an infant chair watching me cook, eyeing me like a little tyrant waiting to lash me should I stop talking to her.  She has begun to follow my every move, keeping an eye on her precious milk supply as if pirates were bound to come forth and steal me.  Again, it sounds so cute, but try going to pee and having to take her with you just to avoid the piercing screech that all three of my children were "gifted" with!  
     I guess my point here is that I'm still not sure if breastfeeding is as rewarding as they say--I mean, yes...there are (now) those moments where you lay quietly feeding her in the morning, and she looks into your eyes and you feel like the Queen of the World...but I have to wonder why I have continued so long?  I've said before, I'm a suck-at-home-Mom, so it's not out of any earthy-crunchy or breast is best mentality...and it certainly hasn't been "easier" than bottle-feeding!  I have to go back to that theory.  The breastfeeding crack hormone theory.  Any of you suck-at-home Moms have a breastfeeding crack addiction?

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