I was going to write about introducing solids next in the Feeding Fitz series, but something happened last week that scared the hell out of me, traumatized me, really. At bookclub on Wednesday night, I got a little carried away with the wine (we were having a great discussion on masculinity and our most recent book club selections, Martin John by Anakana Schofield and Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis). At any rate, because of my lower carb diet, the wine hit me harder than usual and the next day, I woke up with a killer headache and a baby who, as he nursed became increasingly irritated. I couldn’t figure out why Fitz was so cranky, so frustrated and moody, until I noticed that I wasn’t feeling my milk letdown while he nursed. Alarmed at this absent sensation, and becoming increasingly scared, I also realized that my breasts lacked their typical fullness, so I interrupted his feeding to express some milk. Nothing came out. Not a drop.
Under normal circumstances, I can hear Fitz guzzling my milk, I can see it collecting in the corners of his pursed lips as he suckles, and I can feel that tiny, little fist inside my breast, clenching those milk ducts to send the milk to the nipple. But that morning, all of those signs of healthy nursing had ceased. I didn’t know what to do. I questioned everything. Was this because I was eating low carb? Was it because I drank more wine than usual? Was my milk permanently gone? Was I a bad mom?
I kept trying to nurse Fitz and he just kept getting more upset. I tried to put him down for a nap and he fought it like he’d never fought it before. Because he was hungry. So hungry. At this point, I felt defeated, I felt guilt-ridden, I felt ashamed. I had been an irresponsible mother. I put myself before my child, and now we’d have to give him formula. I am on maternity leave and Craig is at NAIT to complete his apprenticeship, we don’t have extra money for formula! I cried. I panicked. I frantically texted Craig, irrational with fear, so afraid that my milk was gone for good. Craig’s level, sensible response was that I was probably just dehydrated from the wine, but I was immersed in regret and worry and self-loathing. I thawed some frozen breastmilk and gave Fitz a bottle. He was ravenous and gulped down 5.5oz in no time, then finally napped.
While Fitz slept, I was anxious, anguished, and agitated. I was incapable of sensical thought or reasoning, and so my mind whirled and whirled down the rabbit hole of regret, hating myself for going back to keto (low carb, high fat), certain that my diet was responsible for this catastrophic event. I had read on reddit that one woman’s milk dried up and never returned because she ate keto while breastfeeding, so that was what I fixated on, and I hated myself for it. My best friend, Layne, warned me about mommy guilt and worry: it’s insidious, it permeates your very core sometimes and robs you of any objectivity.
In this shroud of anxiety, Fitz and I went to visit Amie and Ezra who were in from Victoria. I was a mess. I was so distracted by my anxiety, that I couldn’t even carry on a simple conversation! Loving, understanding, and reassuring, Amie knew I needed to do something, so she sent me off in search of food to increase lactation. My solution: carbs, all the carbs. In my misery and self-loathing, I hit up the Wendy’s and got a burger, fries, and a frosty. Then I ate it all as I cried. I also drank a gallon of water. And my milk came back. I tried feeding Fitz again before we left to pick up my mom and there was milk, a letdown reflex, and satisfied burps from Fitz. My milk had returned.
In my mind, my milk had dried up for good, but in reality, my milk had only dried up for a few hours. After rehydrating and eating a couple of meals, it bounced back and was as plentiful as ever. Meaning that Craig was right all along, I was just dehydrated. My diet had been changed for over three weeks when this happened, so it was clearly just the wine. But this whole ordeal (and an ordeal it was, it really shook me), made me realize just how important breastfeeding really is to me.
I’m an open person. I am honest and unabashed and raw at the best of times, but even I can lack total self-awareness. This scare brought breastfeeding front and centre; it forced me to look at this emotional, primal connection I share with my son and acknowledge its value to me, a value outside the monetary, which was what initiated breastfeeding for me. Until that day, I had been wholly unmindful of what the interaction means to me. Unbeknownst to me, I had become fervently attached to breastfeeding. Feeding my son in this manner, I had created an invisible, but tangible bond to him – a bond that I just am not ready to sever. And I don’t know when I will be ready. Like many babies, Fitz might just wean himself, or I might go through another supply scare that will force me to wean. In the meantime, my newfound awareness has brought a rosy glow to breastfeeding, and I will cherish it as long as it lasts.
Read Feeding Fitz, Part 1: Breastfeeding here.