Thank you all so much for your sweet comments yesterday. I'm definitely using the word "failure" very lightly in this series of posts, and I have come to terms with the fact that Ethan is a formula fed baby now. I'm using the term failure simply because I don't think the phrase "it didn't work for us" communicates our situation appropriately. I wanted it to work, but it didn't due to mistakes I made, Ethan's crazy appetite, and other circumstances. This series is to discuss the entire situation for my own documentation as well as discuss the mistakes we made in hopes that it may help another new mother "troubleshoot" earlier than we did. Thanks again for being so sweet and encouraging.
We introduced the bottle to Ethan fairly quickly. My milk came in quickly and easily, Ethan's latching was going extremely well, and my pain (for the time being-I ended up with my fair share of pain, but more on that later) during nursing was at bay. We felt well established in nursing extremely early, and at three weeks we started discussing bottle introduction. I had already begun building up quite a freezer stash because I would nurse and then pump out the leftovers at every feeding.
The only reason that we discussed this option so early was due to our uncertain future with my job status. We didn't know when I would find a job, or how long it would be before I would actually return to work. I wanted to make sure that Ethan would take a bottle well in case I had to leave him earlier than I wanted to in order to return to the work force. So we did a bit of research to figure out an appropriate bottle for Ethan to switch back and forth from nursing to bottle feeding. We found a perfect match immediately, he took the bottle immediately, and nursed at the next feeding without missing a beat. Again, I was amazed at how easy this was for us.
After talking with our pediatrician on bottle feeding, he recommended that we start Ethan off with 2 or 3 ounces of breast milk per feeding. He told us that it was highly unlikely he would be able to handle more than that at such a small age. We tried 2 ounces. Ethan SCREAMED for more, so we obliged. 5 ounces later, my 3 week old son was satiated. We couldn't believe it.
I kept nursing as much as possible, but I did allow Jason to give Ethan one bottle during the night while I pumped during that feeding. We upped the bottle feedings to one in the evening to one during the day when I would be out and about. While I think it is a wonderful thing that other mothers are comfortable with it, I was completely uncomfortable nursing in public. I found it difficult to nurse out in the open even with a cover, and finding a comfortable place in a restroom at Barnes and Noble was difficult. So I opted to bring one bottle with me when I would leave the house for public feedings.
Things were going smoothly for about a week until I started to wear down. I attributed it to my adrenaline finally wearing off. I thought my exhaustion was just part of being a new mom, and my aches were recovery from delivery. It wasn't until the chills came that I started to pick up on something being horribly wrong. It was the end of July and I was in my winter pjs drinking hot chocolate under the blankets in bed. The next morning, I called my obstetrician. Without even seeing me, I was diagnosed with mastitis and ordered to start an antibiotic right away.
After talking with a few professionals and a few non-professionals, it was a general consensus that my mastitis was likely a result of oversupply. I was nursing and then pumping, and my body was creating way more than it could handle and creating a backup. I was told to nurse through the infection, but to only pump an ounce or so out to tell my body that I didn't need what it was providing. This was a huge mistake on my part. My complete ignorance told me that what I had been told made sense. I needed my supply to back off so that I could be healthy enough to continue to care for Ethan. What I should have done was continued the same route that we had been going on and let the antibiotic take care of the infection.
Like I mentioned, I wanted to build up a large enough freezer stash to provide Ethan with breast milk for as long as possible even if I did have to return to work. While introducing the bottle didn't provide any confusion for Ethan, working on a freezer stash ended up being a problem for us. Since I was trying to tell my body not to make so much milk, I spent more time trying to build up supply for later and less time nursing on demand. Since I wasn't nursing on demand as much, I know now that this was the beginning of my struggles with supply.
My other problem with supply? Ethan's appetite.