That is how much Natalie has gained in the past three weeks. Four ounces.
That is also how much I pumped today in my first six (6) sessions with the industrial-strength breast pump that the lactation consultant had no difficulty convincing me to rent.
Mothers: trust your intuition. If you think you’re starving your child, you just might be.
I kid, I kid. Of course you’re not starving your child. But I was. Or maybe she was starving herself. At any rate, all those hours she spent suckling recreationally did no good for either of us.
I am now on a prescribed “campaign” of heavy-duty pumping with my heavy-duty pump, at least as many times per day as Natalie actually feeds. This is supposed to trigger some sort of hormonal mechanism that perceives an empty tank and says AHA MUST REFILL. Natalie’s own eating habits, such as they were, apparently have failed to trigger this mechanism over the past seven and a half weeks. All of the advice I’d googled or been given — nurse her for ten minutes a side every two hours! fifteen minutes a side every three hours! twenty minutes a side whenever the moon is in Aquarius! — was, as it turns out, thoroughly useless. I have now been instructed to watch Natalie, not the clock, and observe not only sucking but actual swallows.
(Tis a fine line between breastfeeding and a lousy porno.)
I’ve named the rent-a-pump “The Big Gun.” (& calls it the BFG9000). It is a strong silent machine compared to the pump I already owned. That little guy, a compact and cute porta-pump intended for working moms, is apparently insufficient to build up milk supply for someone trying to score a full-time job lactating. The Big Gun has no time for such subtlety. It briskly attends to its task, murmuring under its breath in something that sounds a lot like exasperation.
It is unkind to my udders, although to be fair, so was Natalie in the first few days of her nursing career. Alas, neither she nor the Big Gun has yet succeeded in getting through to my recalcitrant mammaries, to my chagrin. For now I’m trying my own patience, gritting my teeth through the discomfort and hoping that the hormones are paying attention.
Not that they have before. Where do I get off, expecting my pituitary to man up and start me lactating as though it were the natural thing to do? Perhaps, my endocrine system sneers at me, you’ve forgotten what it took to get you pregnant. (Hint: drugs.)
The problem is, the recommended drugs to boost lactation are actually indicated for completely independent illnesses. The prolactin boost is a side effect — only one of a number of side effects, actually, and the rest are things you wouldn’t want. There’s no Clomid or Prometrium for breastfeeding issues, no pill you can pop whose express purpose is to get you lactating in quantity posthaste. So you’re left with faith-based remedies: herbal tincture capsules, cookies full of flaxseed and brewer’s yeast, hours spent tethered to the world’s worst kinky sex toy, all in the hopes that eventually you’ll make enough milk to prevent your baby from wasting away entirely.
I’ve rented the Big Gun for a month. If it should fail, then we progress to formula supplements. But first we try, try again.