Hi all, I'm new to posting but have been scouring the forums for weeks. I've reached the point where I really need some advice and support from all you smart mamas out there. I apologize for the long post but want to share all of the things I've tried.
I have a sweet 13 week old son who is 12 lbs 10 oz. We had a very lucky and wonderful start to breastfeeding. He has a great latch and strong suck and after the first couple days, everything fell into place wonderfully. He was diagnosed with reflux at 2 weeks old, but still ate well and gained on average an ounce a day. The reflux is much better now and he has minimal spit up. (Yay!)
Around 8 weeks old, he started getting very fussy while breastfeeding - kicking, pulling on and off, and often crying. I spent a couple weeks trying everything I could think of or read about. I'm still on maternity leave so I'm able to spend all day everyday with him (which is lovely), but my whole life has become wrapped up with if he will eat and how much.
I let him nurse whenever he wants for as long as he wants. After the first letdown finishes, he appears to get frustrated and impatient - or just bored and stops eating - even if it's just a little bit of milk. I have tried heating compresses, hot showers, relaxation techniques, lots of skin to skin, breast compressions, etc. But he usually only eats a little bit and then pulls off and won't re-latch. We were in a cycle of trying to eat, him crying, me calming him, and trying again. After about 10 days we started to notice greenish poop, his wet diaper count went down and he started losing weight. We went to a lactation consultant multiple times (and have since talked to others as well) who concluded my milk supply had dropped. Probably from his fussiness and not eating - a vicious cycle.
We have tried a "nursing vacation" many times over the past few weeks. Unfortunately it usually ends with him losing weight and me beginning to worry my supply is dropping more. He will only eat a tiny amount and then stop. Either fall asleep or get angry or even just not look interested at all. And if he goes too long doing that he will eventually get hungry and fuss and scream and not latch at all. This would go on all day.
I tried a number of things to boost my supply. Pumping a lot, pumping right after nursing, power pumping, fenugreek, skin to skin, oatmeal, mothers milk tea, brewers yeast, carrot juice, v8 fusion, fennel essential oil and nursing as often as possible with no more than three hours between. I believe I'm eating plenty (more than I was before) and I drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. Sometimes it does seem to be a supply issue as I'll pump after I nurse and not get anything or I won't hear him swallow much when he is trying to nurse. I know I used to pump more. Other times it seems to be a behavior issue where I know I have milk but he just won't latch ( whether he's too overtired, sleepy, impatient or just not interested - even when I know he's hungry). What confuses me most is pumping seems to be counterproductive to me - any time I pump to drain my breasts he won't eat at the next feeding. After I did a few days of the power pumping hour (10 min on, 10 min off for 60-90 minutes ), he wouldn't nurse at all for several feedings afterwards. It seems he only likes to nurse when I'm really full - overnight and mornings. Fenugreek helped my supply but it made me very sick (dizzy and lightheaded) so I had to stop taking it.
We've taken him to the pediatrician who said he looked healthy besides his weight. (no thrush, no ear infections) I had bloodwork done myself and everything came back normal.
The only thing that I've found to work is to let him nurse (if he will at all), and if he still seems hungry afterwards to pump a short time (so he won't fuss at the next feeding) and supplement him with expressed milk. If he doesn't nurse at all, I do a long pump session. We've managed to get him gaining doing that. If we let him nurse at his own rate, he won't gain. When he refuses to nurse all together, I end up giving him a bottle of milk and then it'll end up being bottles the rest of the day because he won't nurse again when I pump that much. I can't always pump enough to keep up with the bottles so every couple days I will have to give him an ounce or two of formula. With the EBM supplementation, he is currently having about 5-6 wet diapers per day but they are less wet than they used to be.
I'm still looking into more things to increase my supply. I'm starting motherlove more milk (without fenugreek) and going to an acupuncturist (never been before but what the heck!)
So my question is - does this sound like low supply? My body seems slow to regenerate milk for the next feeding. Any advice on other ways to increase it? Nursing constantly doesn't seem to work for us as he simply won't do it. Either I let him eat as much and as long as he'd like and he is less fussy but loses weight (not an option!) or I give him bottles and deal with the fussing on the breast (due to pumping). Are there things I could do differently? I was thinking of doing a couple days of pumping every 2 hours to build up my supply and just giving bottles but I worry about him getting used to the faster flow and refusing the breast all together. The lactation consultants are stumped as to why he's not eating and I worry my supply will drop more. It breaks my heart - I could go to exclusively pumping, but especially since I'm home with him all day I would love to figure out how to get him back to the breast.
Any advice? Or simply words of encouragement would be appreciated. I feel very alone in this journey as every expert I've turned to doesn't know what to do so just ends up leaving me on my own to figure it out! I'm very determined to figure this out, but after 5 weeks, I'm getting exhausted and feeling pretty down. Thanks in advance for any advice (and sorry for the long post!)