Popping on and off, supply dwindling, so frustrated - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 12:08 PM - Thread Starter
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A summary of my issues until now:

DS born one week early, wound up in NICU due to breathing issues, no pain meds on my part, just some pitocin during pushing stage and penicillin for GBS. Breastfeeding never got off to a good start, had tremendous difficulty latching, did pump while LO was in NICU, NICU introduced bottles and formula, my supply was pathetic (less than a quarter ounce per pumping.) I used nipple shields because of the latch issues plus pain issues that I didn't learn until much later was due to a nasty thrush infection, which also compromised our bf relationship and probably hindered my supply issues. Not to mention I'm normally high strung, so the added stress of all this I'm sure did not help (plus the constant barrage of family members not giving a whole hell of a lot of privacy during this time.) And on top of it, I foolishly chose to keep my business open (computer repair) during this time and so had that added stress on top of all this (big mistake, I know, I temporarily shut down as of December because I snapped.) I could never catch up to his eating voracity and so was never able to wean off formula.

He's now almost 4 months. As of a few weeks ago, he started drooling and chewing so I'm guessing he's in the beginning of teething stage. I also got an intestinal bug, was taking B vitamins (for vasospasms) for a week that I later learned had parsley powder, and the foul tasting tea from the chinese herbal medicine prescriber had run out and the replacement was delayed for a week. Oh yeah, and I had a hint of my period returning (barely any discharge, but had the distinctive smell.) Sometime during all this, DS started popping on and off the breast after suckling for only a minute or two. I know my supply is low, and I know the flow is low (though if I squeeze the nipples, I can get a spray out of one or two ducts, which I never got in the early weeks.) In fact, after I got a scale, I found that he's mostly getting about a half ounce or less per feeding, and if I'm lucky, he maybe gets an ounce and a half after sleeping for 5 hours.

In any case, I'm not sure what the popping on and off thing is about, but my supply keeps dwindling by the day it seems (which is really bad considering how low it is!) The thrush returned (though not as bad as before) so I'm treating myself for that. So is it the thrush? Teething? Just that stage? Too little milk? Too slow flow? Too much spray from the pathetic amount that's actually in there?

What I do know is that it's really agitating the very small breastfeeding relationship we do have. All the popping on and off is making me sore (and probably reintroduced the thrush which I'm prone to anyway.) He's getting agitated and we both wind up frustrated, especially as the day wears on or if he's trying to nurse to sleep and runs out and then gets mad. Don't get me started on overnight. I was happy when I knew I could just bf him through the night and start formula in the morning, no added work. Well that's now getting complicated because of all this.

--start rant--

I can't even say that I'm missing out on some bonding experience. Breastfeeding has all been about his nutrition needs and comfort needs, and I guess some added hormonal features for myself, but I think we bond better when playing or sleeping, or even changing his diaper. Breastfeeding did nothing but hurt for the first 3 months, and then for a for almost a month it didn't hurt, and now the thrush is back. Now my husband has strep and will probably give it to me, which I used to treat with sage tea but UH OH! Can't do that now, which means I'll probably have to do antibiotics and well, we can just go right back to that stinking thrush issue.

Breastfeeding has been nothing but uncomfortable from the start. Not to mention all the stuff trying to build my supply and all the money I've spent on lactation consulting, supplies (like the Lact-Aid, which I stopped using because the formula running across my nipple was causing irritation, either vasospasms due to the temperature change, or I don't know, but I couldn't wait to get him off and would often finish with a bottle because it was so irritating,) acupuncture, and the various foul tasting herbs and supplements I've been using. Acupuncture was no picnic either, and even though it got me up to an ounce in the middle of the day, the supply started dying off anyway. My lactation consultant said that even if I were to try something like reglan, it would at best double my supply, and what the hell good is that then? I can't even afford the domperidone if I wanted to because I had to take a leave from the business and now we're short on money.

I do it for him, so he can have at least a little something. And I don't want to give it up because I know he enjoys it and it's beneficial for both of us, but Oh My God am I so frustrated by it all. I can't sit back and enjoy even the little bit we have together now since the whole popping on and off started and the thrush restarted. It's like I have some sort of anti-breastfeeding fairy zapping me in the butt every ten seconds just to make sure I just crack and give up. And you know part of the reason I haven't totally given up (besides knowing I'm doing it for him) is I don't want to face the smugness of those around me who I think wanted me to fail from the start and the others that never did it and just want me to stop bothering already so I can leave my baby with them for hours and go out and do something (my husband and I have been together for 17 years and married for 12 before this little guy was born, really, 4 months away from things we've done a hundred times already is not high on my list.) That and I'm sick of those that never had a problem telling me how it's supposed to be done, and if i attempt to explain my history with it, they just point out everything that was done wrong. Doesn't really help me now, does it? Yes, I got a lot of bad advice and before I got some good, it may have already been too late.

All I wanted to do was exclusively breastfeed him. I refused pain meds during 30 hours of back labor so I wouldn't compromise anything that could affect breastfeeding, and the very thing I tried to avoid is the exact thing that happened. It's so aggravating, and it isn't fair, and I feel like I've been pounding my fists against a brick wall trying to break it down. Yeah, I know life isn't fair. Believe me, if I hadn't learned that by the time I was 4 I haven't learned anything. But it just really sucks to fight so hard for something and to watch it daily pouring down the tubes.

--end rant--

Anyway, I don't need any boosting supply suggestions or that I should stop bottles (not going to happen at this rate, I'm not going to starve him.) I just want to know, based on what's been going on lately in regards to him popping off, what could be the most likely reason for him doing so. Or is it really just all of it and I'm doomed to just fight through it like I have been doing before?
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#2 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 04:06 PM
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No advice but couldn't read without responding.
You are doing a great job in spite of your obstacles, I am sorry it has been so hard.
Hope someone with more experience will chime in.


only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly -- rfk
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#3 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 05:06 PM
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Your story sounds alot like mine! I'm at the end of my rope as well, and am thinking about switching to formula which I really DONT WANT, but we are back to where we started (had about a 2 week break where he ate well, but now at 3 months I'm having to supplement again (and the cup/spoon, etc isn't working he only will take the bottle! Or I could spend all day trying to spoon feed him 2 oz... and fighting w/him, which just isn't practical). I know what you mean about the bonding too! (and we DO bond more during diaper changes- that's when he'll smile and talk to me).I think my son is teething as well as our other issues (he screams/ fusses all day long I can't take it anymore I have to constantly carry him, right now I'm holding him typing with one finger 'cause that's the only way he'll stay calm) and from what people have told me about teething is that they may pop on/off the breast alot because it hurts them trying to suck (and a bottle doesn't as much). I wish I had a real solution and could help you, all I can do is offer my support as I'm in the same boat.And I need to stay with the bottles as well, or he won't get food (and he's beginning to lose weight now!) I'm taking him to the Dr thurs, 'cause this is ridiculous.Take care and I hope it all works out for you.
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#4 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 05:17 PM
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Contact LLL and get some hands on help. Get the thrush under control, boost up your supply, and take care of the teething. Give him cold washclothes to suck one before nursing, hylands teething tablets, tylenol if you have to. The popping on and off sounds like teething pain to me and also probably the thrush. And you already know this, but the popping on and off could be nipple preference too. He is so accustomed to the bottles that he doesn't like to "work" for his food.

Three boys.  jumpers.gif
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#5 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 10:31 PM
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I don't have any advice for you as far as the popping off problem, but can relate to SO much of your story: the stress, the low supply, the intrusive family members, the attempts to be superwoman, etc. I endured the heartbreak of low supply too, and just wanted to say I understand your frustration and your situation. I wanted to share a link with you to an interview I read with Dana Raphael, a medical anthropogist who 'failed to breastfeed' her first child. She discusses the dire need for support in the early days of breastfeeding and states that breastfeeding is the only biological process that relies on culture (in the form of support from a doula-like figure) in order for it to physically work out.


In my case, I KNOW I didn't have the support in the start and I strongly believe that my own anxiety, coupled with my daughter's sleepy nursing and the belief that I needed to do everything and make everyone else happy, led to a disastrous start to nursing that I was never able to fix.

I hope things work out for you, but also know that many of us out here are experiencing it too, for many different reasons.
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#6 of 9 Old 01-21-2009, 11:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by stgertrude View Post

In my case, I KNOW I didn't have the support in the start and I strongly believe that my own anxiety, coupled with my daughter's sleepy nursing and the belief that I needed to do everything and make everyone else happy, led to a disastrous start to nursing that I was never able to fix.
yeah, this sounds like my situation exactly. I had been learning to be more assertive, but in that chaos, I went back to familiar behaviors, and this was the result. Ugh, least I know I'm not alone in this and perhaps have a better chance next time around. I'm certainly better equipped!

After some observation, I'm leaning toward the low supply as the problem, because it seems to happen most often in the evening or after he's been feeding a few minutes. Don't have the problem too often at night or when he's nursing to sleep. He even found it funny one day: pop off, look at me, smile, take a big ole chomping latch back on, repeat. I didn't find it quite so funny, but it did make me smile...until it got sore. Then we needed to stop.
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#7 of 9 Old 01-22-2009, 05:58 AM
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It sounds like you're going through a lot right now. I didn't face everything you're facing but ds did do the constant popping on and off at about 4 months. Here's the article that saved my sanity :


Ds also lost weight, my breasts felt empty and my ped told me it was all because my supply was low and to start supplementing in the evenings. This didn't fit with anything I had read about how to deal with low supply so I did my own research and found the above article. I was SO RELIEVED to find a reason for the constant popping on and off. Granted, it was still really annoying, but knowing it was completely normal did help me to get through it.

(FWIW, there's also another article about something I worried about at that age - how once supply is established, you don't have the same feeling of fullness and letdown that happens during the first three months. I kellymom!)

I went on a personal mission to prove to my ped (and everyone else who said 4 months is too long to BF) wrong. I ended up pumping during and after every feed and supplementing with that milk to be able to show my ped that I did indeed make enough milk for ds, that what he was doing was normal and that I did not need to supplement. I did end up giving a few bottles of formula in the evening as it took me about a week or so to be able to pump enough for a full feed regularly (my body did not like the pump at first!) and dh was adamant that we follow the ped's advice. (Dh was also convinced that ds would sleep through the night if he had formula at night. Ah, the bittersweet victory I felt when ds kept waking every few hours to nurse )

Anyway, I just wanted to give some support and encouragement. Hope the thrush gets better and things start looking up soon!
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#8 of 9 Old 01-22-2009, 06:53 PM
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4-month-old popping on and off could very well just be developmental, becoming more aware of surroundings, being distractable. My LO's did this at that age and it was nearly impossible to get them fed, they just wouldn't pay attention to what they were doing!

You could try breast compressions to keep him interested:

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#9 of 9 Old 01-24-2009, 12:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Oh yeah, about trying to give formula to have the little guy sleep through the night. In a bid of desperation I did that once. He went to bed with a full belly and STILL woke at the same exact times for breastfeeding. Yeah, no good here either LOL!

I tried doing the breast compression thing, but that seems to pop him off even quicker, like I compress and he immediately pops off. Ugh...

I'm figuring it's not an either or thing (either teething OR low supply) but a bunch of ands, low supply, teething, new surroundings, thrush, etc. I can nurse him down to sleep most times, and his middle of the night feeding he doesn't pop off.

At this point, I'm just going to have to stop stressing over it all. I've never been able to EB him, I've barely provided anything. That he gets an ounce and a half only after a long stretch of me sleeping is about as good as it gets. It seems all the interference in the beginning just basically blew it this time around. I won't stop nursing him even though it's more like appetizers and desserts, but me stressing isn't helping the situation or our relationship. I wish we had been more proactive in securing our privacy in the beginning, but both DH and I come from a people pleasing background, and even though I've been fighting to get past that, in the mental state I was in during the first few weeks, I couldn't think rationally.

I remember going to the final LC I had been seeing and at the last appointment her asking me, "Do you have PCOS?" "No" "IGT?" "No." "Was he a preemie?" "No." "Tongue tie?" "No." "So you just had a bad start?" "Yep."

Oh, and as a final insult during all this stressing, one of my family members says yesterday "If you weren't breastfeeding, we could help you out more by giving him bottles." Well thank you very much for that added vote of confidence in the right direction....

Yeah, I have NO idea how I could have had a rough start
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