I've been mentally writing several different posts on our breastfeeding situation here as it has changed, but I think it has finally come down to this: without really intending to, I've wound up back with exclusive pumping, and I don't have a lot of confidence that that's going to change.
Initially, I had to pump because my supply had gone way down after a rocky start to breastfeeding and then a two-day separation when I had to go back to the hospital. So I would breastfeed him, then finish the feeding with a bottle and pump as much as possible. And it worked - he's almost completely on breastmilk for the past three weeks. But even after my supply was where it should be, he was still breastfeeding for over an hour, then requiring at least two ounces from a bottle. When you find yourself spending that much time breastfeeding and still having to bottle feed and pump as well, it starts to get really easy to just skip the breastfeeding and pump, especially when it means you can hand the baby off to someone else for a while.
Initially, I blamed myself, that maybe I had brought this on myself because I just wasn't dedicated enough. Then as I did more research, I discovered that it's just not normal for a baby to feed for over an hour and only take in an ounce or less. To take over an hour to drink a bottle, even with a slow-flow nipple, is even less normal. What it was adding up to is that Alec has a weak suck.
I added up weak suck to baby who started life at the 75th percentile and has dropped to the 20th by one month, who hovers at the lower bound of acceptable weight gain and eats the lowest amount of the average range of milk intake for his age. Then I switched him to a fast flow nipple and discovered that suddenly, the boy could eat, to the tune of increasing it by 25 percent. He also stopped constantly pulling away from the bottle and crying, a behavior that had me panicking over reflux but now is clearly because he was hungry but upset at how hard he had to work to get milk.
From the research I've done, dealing with a weak latch involves a lot of work and stress, preferably in close consultation with a lactation consultant. Well, our insurance doesn't cover a lactation consultant and we can't afford the cost of even one session, let alone an ongoing relationship.
I've decided I'm not ready to give up yet. I bought a cheap supplemental nursing system off of Ebay today, which will hopefully get Alec used to getting milk at the breast while still getting enough food. And if it doesn't work, I'm surprisingly not as bothered by that as I would have thought. I've pumped for a year before, so I know I can do it again. Alec is also not showing any sign of K's milk allergy, so if we have to switch to formula, we won't have the prospect of $30 cans of formula to pay for. I think it upset me a lot more with K because we had a working breastfeeding relationship that just completely fell apart. I really had hopes that things would be easier with Alec and even cherished hopes of extended breastfeeding into toddlerhood, but I'm finding it easier to let go of expectations of how things should be with him.
Pumping isn't fun, but the baby is getting fed, which is what counts. And if anyone wants to start waxing rhapsodic about how you can only bond properly at the breast or quoting me that stupid hierarchy of baby feeding where pumping comes in third after feeding from the mother and then using a wet nurse (as if that were remotely practical in our society), they're cordially invited to bite me.