About a week and a half ago, we took Charlotte in for her 4 month checkup. Which basically means the doctor will give her a decent look-over and send her for shots. Yaaaaay. It's always a pretty rough day, but this day was more rough than usual.
As it happens, Charlotte only gained a pound and a few ounces between her 2 and 4 month checkup, weighing 10lbs 4oz. I found this a little interesting, but I didn't think much of it. The doctor comes in and immediately puts on her concerned face. She checks Charlotte's heart rate and such and then hands her back to me. We talk about the Zantac and reflux, which is going pretty well.
Then we get to the weight issue. She starts by telling me that Charlotte should be gaining more. That there's going to be a lot of brain development going on in the next few months (duh), so she needs to gain. I understand this, but I also realize that Charlotte was born weighing 5.5lbs. She's a little girl. The doctor asks me if I'm feeling the letdown reflex when I feed her, and I do. And then she says the one thing a breastfeeding mother never wants to hear:
"If things don't change, you're going to have to supplement with formula."
I was instantly sad and very, very irritated. I was sad because, as I've stated here before, I love breastfeeding. Not just because it's free and the best food for a baby, but because of the bond I share with Charlotte. I was irritated because instead of saying something like, "I think you should talk to a Lactation Consultant" or "Try ___ to help with supply," she immediately went to formula. She didn't even ask if I had breastmilk stored up to supplement with - which I do. Since the growth curve is based on formula fed babies' growth, not breastfed babies' (don't even get me started on that), of course they go to it.
It just really irritates me that the medical community always says "breast is best," but when something like this happens it's, "oh, you must give formula!" Never mind that supplementing with formula can decrease a mother's milk supply. Never mind that a Lactation Consultant can help with weight gain/feeding issues. Let's just formula feed! I had to tell her three times that I didn't want to take any formula samples with me. Three. Times.
After we left, I felt very discouraged and upset. Fortunately, I have some BFing connections and found that fenugreek can help with supply. So I went to Walgreens, paid a ridiculous amount for 100 capsules, and started taking it. I also ended up calling a LC to talk about supply/feeding issues. In the meantime, I did end up giving Charlotte a few bottles of stored breastmilk as a supplement. This resulted in a brief preference for bottle over momma. Bottles have a flow, mommas only have a flow when the letdown happens. After giving her a few bottles for 2 days it took me the rest of the week to get her back to nursing normally. A week! I was so incredibly frustrated. Finally I realized that stressing and supplementing wasn't helping either one of us, so I stopped it. I kept taking the fenugreek, but everything else went back to normal.
This past Friday, we went back in to the clinic for a weight check. She gained 4oz in a week. I was worried the doctor would think this wasn't enough. I was prepared for some serious breastfeeding judgment to occur and was determined to stand my ground. And wouldn't you know as soon as the doctor came in she said everything was fine! I was at once relieved and irritated. I spent the whole week freaked out, thinking this doctor was going to rip me a new one (so to speak) because my breastfed baby wasn't gaining appropriately. She asked me if I supplemented any and I was over-the-moon thrilled to tell her that I didn't.
Honestly, I understand that there is reason to worry if a baby isn't gaining weight appropriately. I do. But it really bothers me (obviously) that they go straight to "supplement with formula." Whatever happened to giving a breastfeeding mother support and knowledge instead of cramming formula down her throat? Whatever happened to being supportive of a parent's wishes? I'm all for healthy babies, but it's downright ridiculous for them to offer no breastfeeding support.
If I hadn't had the knowledge and support from online friends/groups, I'm not sure what I would have done. I probably would have taken the formula and ended up weaning her or something because of this doctor's opinion/recommendation. And I would've been in tears for weeks because I wasn't ready for it. I'm still not. I don't know when I'll be ready for her to stop breastfeeding. Every time I gave her a bottle last week, it was all I could do not to burst into tears. I actually did cry a few times. (Of course, I also stopped taking the mini-pill so it could have been the wacky hormones too. I won't discount that.)
I'm thankful that I read forums and blogs about breastfeeding and have a little bit of knowledge on how to increase supply. I'm thankful that I have real-life and blog friends who have breastfed or are currently breastfeeding (shout out to my "bosom buddy," Bonnie! ;-)).
This is just one of several reasons I'm not so doctor friendly. I hate the medicine-pushing, fear-mongering, down-talking that doctors often do. Not all of them do, but it's far too commonplace in my experience. When I was diagnosed with GD: "You're going to have a large baby." When I was diagnosed with hypertension during pregnancy: "Your baby will have trouble getting nourishment. You could become preeclamptic." You must do this. This will happen. You need to take this medication. Your baby isn't growing properly. On and on and on. And you know what? I didn't have a huge baby, even though I was a diabetic during pregnancy. She kept growing fine, despite the hypertension and I never became preeclamptic. My daughter is healthy, strong and growing. I may be a new mom, but I'm not a complete idiot. I deserve some respect and support from any doctor I or my daughter go to.
Is that really so much to ask?