Breastfeeding, Health and wellness

The wake up call, part 2: journey to health and wellness

As soon as my son Gabriel was born, I attempted to latch him and immediately noticed a severe tongue and lip tie. Trying to get him to nurse was failing again, and the latch was so bad that the pain radiated throughout my whole body. I had multiple lactation consultant visits, tried a nipple shield, used pain-relieving creams and hydrogels… and yet here we were again. Gabe’s blood sugar dropped, weight began to drop, jaundice was getting bad and he had to go under the bilirubin lights for a day and get bloodwork done every few hours. I actually begged for formula just so he could get better and we could get home, but he would not take a bottle – any bottle. I began pumping immediately every 2 hours with my new Spectra S1 I bought for this time around. I had a huge assortment of flange sizes and styles this time. I hand expressed colostrum and fed it to him. Within 48 hours, my milk came “in.” My first pump with transitional milk was a whopping half an ounce. This time, instead of pumping 2 ounces a day, I slowly worked up to 2 ounces or a little more, every 2ish to 3 hours. I thought that maybe this time, I would have a sufficient supply. He finally drank my milk and supplemented formula from a bottle upon discharge from the hospital, but very poorly. Milk leaked everywhere and he gagged often. I knew this would not work and I could not upkeep exclusive pumping for long.

While still in the hospital, Gabe slept under the billi lights and my husband slept on a chair, I was up pumping and logged onto my husband’s computer. I applied for a Care Credit card and made an appointment for his mouth at a pediatric dentist immediately.

I took Gabe to get his tongue tie lasered when he was 6 days old. I went to the famed “preferred provider” everyone raved about at the time, Dr. George Lin at Pediatric Dental Associates in Buffalo Grove. It cost me $865 that I am still paying off a year later. But he was the best medical provider I have ever experienced for a child. It’s no wonder this guy is basically a celebrity in treating oral ties. Gabe was able to drink from a bottle and nurse immediately and suffered no pain or discomfort after. I bought arnica for pain relief and he barely needed it. I did the stretches under his tongue daily. It did not reattach.

By 4 or 5 weeks old, Gabe’s weight gain stalled. He nursed on demand and emptied me at lightning speed. He would not settle or sleep. As I took him to the only pediatric osteopath in Chicago to accept medicaid for him to get bodywork, I came to find that once again, my baby was not gaining weight. All the while, I was aggressively taking other supplements for milk supply. Goat’s rue to increase breast tissue, alfalfa, nettle, black seed oil, torbangun, inositol, and so many others. I skipped fenugreek since I suspected a slow thyroid. I took sunflower lecithin when I pumped at work and used heated therapearls on my flanges. I had already gained back some of the weight I lost the first 2 weeks postpartum. I started supplementing with pumped milk and formula. I initially thought that his weak, dysfunctional suck caused my supply to tank and that he was exerting too much energy to nurse and wasn’t gaining. I discovered it was both. Poor suck, torticollis and spine and neck tension he had, AND a poor milk supply. Again. When Gabe was 2.5 months old, he stopped nursing for good during the day (screamed and fought every time I tried to latch him) and only nursed at night. But he woke up every 1.5 to 2 hours, and I was dead. I upped my milk supply supplements too since now, I was doing the thing I dreaded – exclusive pumping every 2 to 3 hours.

At work, I could barely pump 6 ounces to bring home. I pumped at work 3 times. I became very discouraged. In a moment of desperation, I began to attempt to purchase domperidone. Someone kind, in my low milk supply facebook group sent a bottle to me for free. It was a generic, imported-from-Thailand drug. Domperidone is a non-FDA-approved drug used for gastrointestinal issues in other countries. As a side effect, it suppresses dopamine and increases prolactin, which for many women, drastically increases milk supply. It is used for low milk supply prescribed by doctors in other countries. It is not illegal to use or buy, just not FDA approved. Side effects include headaches, insomnia, heart problems, and you guessed it – weight gain. I started experiencing all of those side effects. I was able to increase my milk supply by .5 to 1 oz per pump. Some pumps I could produce 3 to 3.5 oz. I was making a bit more than half of Gabe’s needs, and some days only needed to supplement 1 or 2 bottles of formula a day. The drawback was that I was living attached to a pump. I worked 2 jobs and started a side business making lapel pins so this wasn’t working. I was hoping I would make such a large supply of milk that Gabe would nurse during the day again, but this did not happen.

I went to my midwife for bloodwork. She was shocked I got ahold of the domperidone. Bloodwork returned. Low vitamin D and 5.3% A1C, which is considered insulin resistance for a lactating woman. When I called about these results, the midwife on the line was shocked I knew all of this. I knew no doctor would put me on metformin for such a low range A1C, so yes, you guessed it – I purchased 100 tablets of prescription metformin from someone in a domperidone support group on facebook. I saw no weight loss or supply increase. I also tried progesterone cream thinking I was estrogen dominant. During this time I made a feeble attempt at returning to keto but the keto flu was too much to bear.

I finally came to see that if I wanted to lose weight and give my body a fighting chance at inner healing as well as maybe producing a full milk supply in the future, I would NEED to go fully keto for the long term. I would need to reduce processed foods, sugars, grains, and flours. But the sugar demons had me in their grip. I turned to comfort foods every day to drown my stresses of 2 jobs, exclusive pumping, and marriage issues. The greatest way to heal insulin resistance is a low carb, whole foods diet. I began to see that my issue was not JUST that I lacked glandular tissue since clearly, this time around, using the right flange size and switching between several VERY good breast pumps I was able to produce over 100x more with Gabe than with Zoe. I was seeing that I had a slow refill rate due to genetics and poor diet, and being nearly obese my whole life which strongly contributed to insulin resistance and the fact that my glandular tissue did not grow enough during puberty. My poor diet and exposure to toxins growing up had a role to play in my underdeveloped breasts as well and clearly had a role to play in my struggle with weight as well as a crappy immune system. I just wasn’t able to fully commit to eating right because I was straight up addicted to sugar. I tried some VERY powerful probiotics to rectify my gut, and it had me vomiting with diarrhea for several days and I actually passed some parasites. I knew something had to give and I kept making failed attempts at changing my diet.

Finally, at the end of March, my grandmother passed away. I was the last living person who was left to deal with her apartment and planning her funeral. With all that stress, I stopped my supplements and domperidone cold turkey after a word from God that I was depending too much on those things and making them an idol. I stopped pumping and I stopped nursing at night. I stopped lactating within a few days.

I thought that the worst of things was over at that point. I was free from the pump and pill popping. I figured it was all uphill from there and my health would improve now that I had more time to myself. Until… a fateful day in mid April.

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