Giving up – or not

Alya is almost 2 months old, and my milk supply has still not picked up. We’ve been supplementing since around 3 weeks, and the amount we give her has increased steadily. Though I know the risks of supplementing for decreasing milk supply, her health dictated supplementation after her weight started to decline and I continued to nurse frequently and pump in between to maintain milk flow.
We have tried virtually everything: physical methods like nursing and pumping more frequently and using a double electric pump; biochemical methods – skin to skin contact; pharmacological, with domperidone; dietary changes with increased protein (eggs, shakes, salmon), more food, and galactogogues; herbs like fenugreek, blessed thistle and nursing tea; acupuncture and chinese herbs; and as of yesterday, natural progesterone as prescribed by the naturopath. I feel pretty good about saying that we’ve explored all reasonable options, all the usual avenues of action, and yet frustratingly, none seem to have really affected my supply. Yet.

One question I have is whether to even bother with the word “yet”. After trying everything, the only action left is continuing with what we’re doing. Maybe the acupuncture will kick in more (it might!). Maybe the progesterone really will support my thyroid and kick-start milk flow (it’s possible!). But I flip between trying to accept where things are: my body produces only a small portion of her nutritional needs and we need to supplement with both donated milk and formula; and fighting against it, because of its health implications and the way it dictates how I interact with my daughter and enjoy her first year of life.

These pragmatic considerations are possibly the most frustrating, hardest to let go of, and probably the most ego-driven. I knew motherhood would be challenging, but I imagined I would be ready by now (by a month ago!) to welcome more visitors and go places with my daughter. Instead, the frequency and length of nursing and the challenges I’ve had with figuring out how to prepare and deliver formula mean that we haven’t opened up our home for guests; I make few plans; and do not feel able to be independent. I can’t even contemplate what a road trip with her would be like, with the demands of sterilization, warming, cleaning, etc. that go along with supplementing. These realities are probably the hardest to give up because they are a lot of the joy I had anticipated. They’re still workable, I suppose, once I give in to the reality (supplementing) and figure out techniques to make it work. And give up on skin to skin contact as a way of increasing milk supply, so start wearing clothes around the house during the day and welcoming guests. It’s just not at all what I wanted or expected.

And of course, things could be much worse. She could be ill. Or ugly. Or fussy all the time. Instead, she is very healthy and packing on weight, incredibly unbelievably beautiful, and placid, happy, content and fun to be with.

I never expected this particular challenge. But there you go. I need to accept it or fight it or accept and work with it. Right now, I’m considering my options.

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