Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Do they ever talk about anything else?

Yes, this is yet another post about sharing nursing of Ira. I swear we think about more than nursing around here, with all two brain cells that we possess between us in our current sleep deprived state, but since we haven't found anyone who has documented this particular process (two-mom family, one mom birthing, other mom re-lactates, both moms nurse one baby), we're trying to put our limited blogging energies towards this topic.

Here's the update: Ira will be 5 weeks old tomorrow, and Gail has been doing one feeding a day for a little over a week. Initially things did not go particularly smoothly because Ira was pretty miffed that her supply is not overflowing. We added a supplemental nurser (with a little of Gail's own expressed milk). That made for a few smooth feedings, and got her good stimulation to promote her supply. Two nights ago, we shifted to Gail taking the early morning nighttime feeding (between 4 and 5am) and found out that if she skips her 1am pumping, she actually has enough for a feeding on her own, is still only getting up one time, and I get a longer stretch of morning sleep. To make up for missing that feeding, I'm pumping directly after Ira's 1-2 am feeding, and directly after the 7-8 am feeding, which more than makes up for it. I'd probably be fine just pumping after the 1am, but I'm still kind of paranoid about losing supply.

What is challenging so far:
  1. Getting started nursing is challenging for many (I'd venture most) new mom & baby pairs. In this case, we're going through that difficulty twice, and the contrast between our bodies adds complication. Ira has to learn to deal with my fast let-down and medium-large supply, as well as Gail's slower let-down and less generous supply. That's a lot of extra complexity.
  2. Gail's feeding with the supplemental nurser are definitely much more cumbersome than bottle feedings would be, so for daytime feedings when Ira seems to need the SNS for now, there is absolutely no "convenience" payoff to Gail for nursing.
  3. There are a lot of logistics to work out in terms of how to time who feeds and pumps when. It's hard to think through everything, and for now, while Gail is trying to increase her supply, and I'm trying not to lose mine, there is a LOT of pumping going on in our house. Previously this was all falling to Gail and now I get to share the joy (actually, I think pumping is fun in a weird way, except for washing pump parts. Our hope is that ultimately we can cut back on this, once we see how much Ira needs from each of us.
  4. Related to point three, the complicated logistics can make it hard to feel like we've really hit a rhythm. Ira and I were just barely getting into the swing of things before we threw this in, which can make it hard to know when he's full, when he's hungry, and how long it will be until he's hungry again, but we probably would have been adding bottles in at this point anyway, which can cause the same problems.
  5. Related to points 3 & 4, changing up the rhythm and adding pumping feeds my worry about supply, especially with Ira doing a typical 4-6 week baby uptick in fussiness. It's pretty clear both from his weight gain and from what I get while pumping that there are no problems on this front, but that doesn't keep me from worrying some.
Indications there may be light at the end of the tunnel:
  1. The challenging emotions that I was having about Gail nursing were blessedly brief. Now that we're started, I only feel happy when they have a good feeding, and glad to help troubleshoot.
  2. Building in even just one feeding a day for Gail has automatically helped my interactions with Leigh. In the last week I've made breakfast with her (pleasantly) twice, just like old times, while Gail was busy feeding Ira.
  3. Once we figured out that Gail has enough milk to feed Ira without the SNS in the early morning, we both felt fabulous the next day. Gail felt great because she'd finally had a really satisfying feeding. I felt great because I got a slightly longer chunk of sleep. That was the first glimmer of a real payoff for all of this work (though the point would be very well made that the sleep payoff could have come just as easily with a bottle).
At this point it really isn't at all clear that this will give a payoff commensurate with the amount of effort we (and particularly Gail) have put in. On a daily basis, Gail is still pumping a ton, and enduring sometimes very fussy feedings (though at this point, so am I a fair portion of the time). If things don't smooth out once we're back at work, and she's getting long stretches (three solo days a week), and it's still this much work, we may let it go. But for now, we're still on the bandwagon and it looks like there is at least a little hope we may get some of the benefits for our family that we were hoping for (faster bonding for Gail and Ira, more uncomplicated one-on-one time for me and Leigh, better sharing of nighttime parenting...and most importantly, a damned impressive party trick. You have to admit it is pretty cool to both be out and about and both be able to nurse, which we did at a parent group last week).

One final note, it would be very hard to be in Gail's shoes if you had never nursed before. Even highly successful induction likely doesn't result in full supply, and several of these early feedings have been extremely frustrating. If it were also a first experience nursing, all while your partner has copious milk, and while trying to get up an running as a parent for the first time, I could imagine it not going well at all, and possibly doing more harm than good. Our experience has made me not regret at all that I did not induce lactation for Leigh. Given all of the other stuff I was working out about being a non-bio-mom, it would have been really hard, especially given my personality, and likely for not much payoff in terms of bonding, since we bonded so well anyway. I feel like our original lesson still stands: Nursing is great for bonding, but primarily because it guarantees time with your baby. Ultimately, time is what is important.


Anonymous said...

Not only are you doing a lot of work to make this happen, you're doing a LOT of work to document your process. Thanks for doing so!

Believe it or not, I've mentioned your process to M, and she's weighing the possiblities. She had such a positive breastfeeding experience the first time that she can see the benefits of inducing lactation this time. Never one for sunshine and roses, though, she will no doubt appreciate the realism with which you tell the tale.

Good job, all of you, and know that you've got a cheering section in the Great NW!

Anonymous said...

You guys are amazing - good luck with everything!

Dirk Awesome said...

Skye has already asked me, "Why aren't you more like Gail?" She is hoping that I share with the nursing duties, but, alas, I lack the plumbing.

Gail said...

Well I have heard of men being able to induce lactation, but something tells me you might balk at going on the pill, Dirk!

Anonymous said...

I feel lucky that you are both so willing to share your experiences with inducing lactation and sharing nursing. I'm learning so much! I'm glad that it sounds like things are getting easier and you might be seeing the light at the end of that tunnel.

Jean said...

I just spent about 20 minutes staring at the spec sheet of that supplemental nurser trying to figure out how it worked. That's quite a contraption!

Men can induce lactation? Seriously?