not an inappropriate sobriquet for my breasts. nor a happy one.

i seem to birth lean kiddos, kiddos who then proceed to suckle like mad but somehow stay lean. bitsy would barely leave my breast for the first three months of her scrawny little life, clinging to my nipples with a desperation that was easy to mistake for a strong need to snuggle. (and perhaps it was that, and only that. i would like to believe so.) boo has been not unlike his sister in this regard — a real snugglepuss. so what that he’s long and skinny? he’s cheerful and bright-eyed and sleeps well, and fills the requisite number of diapers in the requisite ways. so what’s to worry?

a near-failure to gain any weight, that’s what. he nurses away, and i leak, and still: he has regained his lost birth weight (no mean feat itself, given that we were both pumped full of fluids for surgery) but he has yet to gain even a full pound past that. and he’s two months old.

this isn’t a full surprise. on halloween he and i visited his peed: all four of us had had head-colds, and the little mister had to choose, while on my breast, between suckling and breathing. smart boy that he is, he chose breathing. and since i still heard swallows, i wasn’t too worried — milk was obviously dripping down his throat and he was gulping it down. but after two days of near-dry diapers i knew it was time to have him checked. turns out it was a good thing: he was barely above his birth weight. and so i was told to supplement.

i came home and cried.

feeding bitsy for the first five months of her life was almost as difficult as getting her here in the first place. she cried off my breast, meaning she cried almost non-stop once i went back to work. between her two- and four-month check-ups her growth curve charted a flat line, leading the docs to run tests for life-threatening diseases, and mac and me to near-record levels of fear and self-recrimination. as it turned out, she just needed to eat more. as a nursing mother i felt like a complete and utter failure, and hated myself for having to admit that she needed more than i could give her. but she did, and we gave it to her. she started getting some formula while i was away, and then she started solids at five months, and soon she was as roly-poly and cheerful as could be. and i suppressed my frustration and anger and hurt and counted among my blessings the fact that she was even alive.

with a history like that, i was thrilled during my pregnancy with boo when my breasts ballooned, and then afterward when the milk came in fast and furious, leaving buttermilk-y spots on our sheets at night and the legs of boo’s outfits from being cradled against me. sure, he was long and lean, but his head was getting bigger and he was growing out of clothes and the diaper-count was right where it should be. there were times he would pull off my breast and the milk would flow over his face and down his cheek. obviously everything was okay. right? when it wasn’t i just about fell apart.

panicked and near tears, i spent the rest of the day after our doctor visit feeding boo for 10 minutes per side, pumping when we finished, and then supplementing, up to one oz. per doctor’s instructions, either milk or formula, after every nursing. one full round of this drove me into a fit of despair; after a full afternoon i was nearly suicidal. i figured i had to fix the problem (which somehow would not include the clock-watching supplementing program prescribed by the peed) or make the problem go away by stopping nursing him.

i reviewed all the materials i had devoured two years ago during my bout with bitsy: kellymom.com, breastfeedingonline.com, jack newman’s handouts, videos from LLL…i watched and read and memorized and practiced. boo and i worked on his latch. i quit nursing and drowsing and snuggling through the night, opting instead to wake up to nurse him for a full feeding so i could listen to his swallows and check for that cute little lip flange. and i decided to supplement. not just boo, but me.

i’ve started with fenugreek, because it is cheap and readily available. i still don’t smell like maple syrup so i don’t think i’m taking enough, but combined with all the extra pumping and latch-work &c. my suppply has definitely increased. this was verified for me when i took boo back to the doctor 10 days after halloween to find that he had gained a beautiful 8 oz. (never mind that that is exactly the amount of weight he gained over the full previous month. no, never mind that at all.) i can tell things are working because i’m bigger and fuller, and he can eat his fill and i can still pump. when he sleeps for 7 hours at night i wake up sore and engorged. and even though i didn’t think this was possible, his mood is even better: he is awake and alert and cheerful more, and for longer periods of time. he sleeps better during the day. he cries and fusses less. so things are working.

and yet i worry that we’re still at risk — that my sad little breasts will return to their milquetoasty ways and the boy will go hungry again. especialy since we need to stay on this track — gaining about an ounce a day — for a good while.  so i’ve ordered some domperidone. i asked my ob about it, but he’d never heard it, and told me that the best, most tried-and-true way to increase my supply is to stay hydrated and nurse more. so of course i’m doing that. but i’m also going to give this my all before calling it quits, and i don’t think some water and a few extra sessions with pumpy mcpumpster will do the trick. and yet…the domperidone worries me. i’m nervous about the source, especially after the chinese heparin scare.  will it work? will i even be getting the right drug? (how i wish about now that i knew some hot csi-type who could crush a pill and test its chemical makeup!) and once i go back to work and trade in my li’l boo for my friend the pump, will i be able to make this work at all?

we’ll see. the pills are due in  10-21 days. in the meantime i’ll be working up my nut to take them.

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