This is my first post here so I hope this is the right section.
My son is 6 months old and we have been exclusively breastfeeding up until Thanksgiving when we started exploring baby food, but no regular feedings with that.
We have never had an easy breastfeeding relationship. He was born by c-section and the first few weeks were an exhausting struggle, first waiting 5 days for my milk to come in (which seemed a lot longer with the pediatricians breathing down my neck to get me to supplement with formula) and then trying to get the latch right. Then for about 8 weeks things went well with the exception of massive spitting up after feedings which at the time I attributed to his digestive system needing to mature and managed by holding him upright after every one. He was gaining about a half a pound a week.
At about 11 weeks he started sleeping 12 hours through the night. The first night took me by surprise and I woke up in sooo much pain. After that I started waking up in the middle of the night to pump but everything seemed to continue fine until he started fussing at the breast, maybe 2 weeks later. He would suck to get a letdown then after letdown suck a few times and maybe swallow, and maybe do that twice before getting upset and pulling off crying. Since it seemed like he was still getting milk I thought it was gas because when he pulled off he arched his back and straightened his legs. Then his bowel movements changed from liquidy mustard color 3-4 times a day to a brown/green toothpaste consistency once every 2-4 days. I asked the doctor about this and they said it was fine as long as he seemed generally happy and had enough wet diapers, which he did. Shortly after that, I got my first bout of mastitis. I took to bed, massaged, heat, etc and it cleared in a day. The fussing has continued off and on since then. and each time it recurred I tried something different. I alternately cut dairy, honey, nuts from my diet with no change. A few days fine, a few days to a week fussy. Around 5 months I finally scheduled an appointment with a LC. While waiting the week or so for my appointment I did more research and thought it must be over supply (he had all the symptoms going back to the first weeks where he was spitting up a lot). I started block feeding which was an arduous task since to get him to stay latched on between let downs I had to walk/bounce/entertain him usually all at the same time, in addition to taking him off during initial letdown and leaning back to slow milk flow for the first few minutes. This was the greatest improvement we had and when we went to the LC he nursed perfectly. It could have been the video they use to teach breastfeeding! That lasted about a week. Since then we have one good day, one mediocre, one terrible, one improved, one good etc. I've tried continuing to block feed. I've tried switch feeding in case my supply got too low. I now realize that I have had varying degrees of blocked ducts the entire time I've been breastfeeding. After feeding, even during that glorious perfect week, the bottom of my breast feels empty but there's still a firm portion at the top middle. It feels solid and not like the little lumps of blockages I identified before. I always thought that was just normal anatomy since I always had it, at least that I can remember, but there's a lot I don't remember from those sleep deprived first 4 weeks. I now realize that firm portion is several blockages grouped together. After 2 hours of nursing and massaging last night I finally managed to clear my entire left breast, only to wake up 4 hours later with the same blocks! Which I just spent another hour massaging to clear. After more research last week, I found that recurrent plugged ducts can be caused by high fat content to for a week now I have been on a no saturated fat diet, taking 1200mg of lecithin 4 times a day and 400mg ibuprofen every 6 hours, and apply a heating pad to my breasts a couple times a day including when I go to be and sometimes before I nurse/pump. The only change I've noticed it that the blocks clear more easily and quickly, but they keep returning. And Monday, I had another bout of mastitis.
I have been wearing gently fitting tank top style sports bras. I don't wear tight clothing or regularly carry any type of bag. I was baby-wearing but I've stopped.
I love nursing (you'd have to to put up with all this) but my son is not gaining weight as he should. He has dropped from the 90% of weight at his 2 month wellbaby to the 10-25% now. I don't know what else to do. I don't know if I all the effort I'm making is making a difference. The diet is difficult, the massaging is time-consuming and I'm still having to do nursing acrobatics to keep him latched on between let downs. I'm exhausted and starting to feel really guilty that I haven't supplemented or switched to exclusively pumping earlier. I always thought he would let me know if he was still hungry but now I'm not so sure. After his last shots I realize he has a really high tolerance for discomfort. (He had a fever and must have been uncomfortable but I never would have known if I hadn't taken his temperature because he was his usual happy-go-lucky self). I feel like I've tried everything and I'm starting to believe that after 6 months my ducts are so distended from being blocked that they'll always get blocked. I really want to keep nursing but because of my concern over his weight I feel like that's selfish and I should give up and transition totally to solids and maybe pumping. Please, any new suggestions or words of encouragement or stories of other moms who overcame recurrent blocked ducts would be really helpful.
Sorry for writing a book I just don't want more suggestions of what I've already tried.
Thank you all so much!