MIlky, Milky, Where Art Thou, Milky?

Of all the issues I thought I’d face as a mommy, low milk supply didn’t make the list. I’ve mentioned this before: when I took Dane for his four month appointment in March, he’d gained significantly less weight than the doctor expected. She then asked me some questions about milk supply. Breastfeeding was about the only thing I felt confident in as a mommy, and so I told her it was fine. When we came back in for his weight check two weeks later, having eliminated all other possible causes, she held my hand and told me my milk was low. I’m certain she said it very nicely, but what I heard was, “Your baby is starving because you, you stubborn, unfit mommy, aren’t feeding him enough.”

From there, I did everything the doctor, lactation consultant, internet and urban legends recommended: increased water and protein, ate flax and and other galactologues, ate my weight in finugreek supplements, pumped before and after every meal and fed my five month old baby eight to ten times a day for over two weeks (and this while he wasn’t sleeping at night and only napping on my chest). These all brought some improvement in milk supply, but the pumping/feeding schedule also pushed me right up to the edge of exhaustion and insanity. Finally, at my doctor’s recommendation, I took a tapered dose of Reglan over a three week period.

Reglan is the brand name for metoclopramide, a drug designed to treat stomach issues. It also inhibits dopamine, which in turn allows an increase in prolactin production (or something like that), and thus, bumps up  milk production (or, in my case, opens the flood gates). There are two major concerns: (a) it inhibits dopamine, which could cause depression and (b) one of the major side effects is dystonia (muscle contractions, like tics) and it could even cause tardive dyskinesia (prolonged dystonia, kind of the opposite of Parkinson’s, but I’m no expert, so don’t take my word for it, look it up). It’s a pretty serious drug.

I took it without thinking twice.

But see, that’s how desperate I was to breastfeed. You want me to take a drug that could send me spiraling into depression and possibly cause permanent tics? Sure! There should be some larger debate here about societal pressure to breastfeed, yadayadayada, but that’s not my point (We’re talking about me, people. Focus.). I had (and have) no problem with formula. My problem was that if I quit breastfeeding, not only would I lose my one confidence-boosting mommyjob, I would also have to change all the accompanying stuff: how he went to sleep, how I soothed him, even how we traveled. I have no idea to this day how to make a bottle of formula. Hell, I barely know how to warm up a bottle of breastmilk (that’s Jon’s domain). I guess what I’m saying is not only was I terrified of losing the physical connection of breastfeeding, I was also intimidated by the idea of having to change the system I’d fought so hard to work out. And beyond all that, I ended up feeling really alone, because to mommies who fed their babies formula, I was crazy, and to breastfeeding mommies, I was pitiable.

In the end, the Reglan did the trick, although I noticed some pretty significant mood swings and lethargy after taking every pill. By the time these got to the point of concern, however, I was able to stop taking the drug. I’m still breastfeeding, and Dane’s also on solids three meals a day. Whether it’s because of the increased milk supply or the solids, for the first time in six months we went to the doctor and he’d bumped up on his growth curve. So here are my conclusions (I’m an engineer, after all, everything needs a conclusion): (a) Whatever decision is best for you and your baby is best, period, (b) If you’re having milk supply issues, you’re not alone, and don’t be afraid to tell people who don’t understand to go the hell away and (c) Growth curves suck, every baby is different, and while I don’t espouse ignoring your doctor, don’t be afraid to draw your own conclusions. You know your baby best. At least, I think I do.

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