This story is super hard to write about, and I still carry a lot of shame and guilt over this. To this day the only other person who knows this story is my husband. But I feel like I need to tell it here.
Breastfeeding was going perfectly well right from the start, until sometime in the 4th to 5th month. Despite one wonky weigh-in during his 2 month appointment (which I blame on inconsistency with person weighing and how, sometimes they would say no clothes, sometimes clothes, always a diaper...) baby boy was doing well. He was always a very content baby from the start...Happy to be put down and look around, never complaining. I had seen him roll over both ways a couple times but he didn't seem interested in going anywhere. But during that 4th-5th month he was cutting his feeds short. He wasn't crying like he was still hungry, he only actually cried when I tried to keep putting him back on the breast. When I was at work I wasn't pumping as much as I had been, but I didn't think anything of it really. One day during his 5th month I just started to think he was kind of skinny-looking. All of my breastfed babies were long and lean, but he just looked...tiny. I felt like he had barely nursed that day, so I grabbed one of the sample cans of formula and a bottle...and when he saw the bottle he went nuts, crying and fussing. And he ate a ton. And I melted down. My baby was hungry and I was starving him. I am making light of it here, but trust me when I say it was bad. I was a hysterical, depressed mess for 3 straight days. I had enormous guilt and shame that I didn't notice sooner. What kind of mother was I?? I don't deserve to have these five children. I thought for sure people would judge me if they knew...she has too many kids, she can't handle it, her baby was barely eating and it took weeks for her to notice.
What happened? My best guess is that the bottle my husband was using was from my (at the time) 2 year old, and wasn't functioning properly. The baby was getting suuuuper fast feeds from the bottle, and went on a nursing strike, refusing to nurse after the initial let down of milk. He became lazy and didn't want to work for the milk. I noticed the first time I used that nipple that day that something was wrong, but I never gave him a bottle before that. I never even saw him drink from a bottle, so I couldn't catch it, and my husband obviously didn't. He just thought he was a fast drinker. All this is hindsight, of course. I also realized he had slowed down in his pooping and was pretty gassed, but those were all things that can be normal in a breastfed baby. It took me a little bit to put it all together.
After talking with Lactation nurses and googling everything, I decided I would order Domperidone and use that. Of course it's not approved in the US, but it's not unsafe as our friends in Canada have widely proved so I wasn't worried. And I was desperate. I wanted to feed my baby. I didn't want him to have bottles of formula. I wasn't ready for it to end like this. So while I waited on the Domperidone to arrive from Vanuatu, I basically didn't leave the house for 2 weeks. I nursed the baby, I supplemented with a bottle right after, and I pumped right after all of that, around the clock, usually every 2 hours. I was manic about it. I have no idea how I even found the time, looking back. But I did it. As far as plumping my baby up, I had 2 weeks until his 6 month check-up. I was on a mission to make sure he wasn't underweight. So we made his supplemental bottles calorie heavy with extra formula. I also beefed up any pumped breastmilk he got with formula. I also wasn't picky...we used all the different free cans I had gotten in the mail. He never had any issues with any of it. He visibly plumped up quickly, and had actually shot way up on the growth curve by that 6-month check-up just 2 short weeks later.
The domperidone came within that 2 weeks, and I immediately took a dose. It took me a few days to figure out how much to take and how often, but there is a ton of info online that helped me with this. Within a couple days my breast were becoming engorged again, my pumping output was much better so I knew I had milk. Now I just had to figure out how to convince my baby I had enough milk for him. The goal was being consistent about nursing and pumping, and I was quickly building up a huge freezer stash of milk. It only took about a month before his supplements were all breastmilk bottles. Slowly each day he would nurse longer and take less from the bottle until one day I was just able to nurse him again for a full feed and not need a bottle. I think he was around 7 months when that finally happened. I never would have been able to get my supply back if it weren't for the Domperidone.
About the Domperidone: I am not going to put my dosage on here because I am no doctor and didn't have any doctor in my life tell me how to take it. I was on and stayed on a higher-end dose because I didn't want my baby to go in another strike if he suddenly had to work for milk. It took a lot of work to earn his trust back, I certainly didn't want to jeopardize that. Domperidone works to increase breastmilk by raising your prolactin levels, which is why it can make non-post-pardum people lactate. Raised prolactin levels is actually a side-effect of the drug and not it's intended use. It is actually an anti-nausea medication that works by speeding up your GI system. The first time, and occasionally when I would take it, I would be running to the bathroom. I only had to use some Imodium once or twice. I most often noticed this on the first dose of the day. Another side-effect I experienced was weight gain. I'm not sure how it makes you gain weight when it rapidly empties your stomach (unless it makes you eat more?) but I gained quite a bit, all other things being equal. This happened despite a weight-loss program I had gone on right when starting this medication. I easily gained 30lbs, although it could have been 40. I don't own a scale, but know that I dropped quite a bit in the couple months after weaning down from the highest dose I was on, and I was still almost 20lbs over where I was when I first started taking it. From what I have read weight gain is more likely, and increases, the higher the dose. I also stopped getting my period, and my sex-drive took a nose-dive. Sex was uncomfortable because of the dryness. This doesn't last because every step down I took from the medication, the better things got, and all my "signs of fertility" and beginning to return. I actually think I just ovulated about 10 days ago, after dropping down to the last pill and then stopping completely within a week.
My baby is fine, thriving, and happy. Despite feeling absolutely horrible when all this started, I can now look back at pictures of him during that time and not melt down. He doesn't look like the starved baby I then thought he was at the time. He is still happy and smiling. But I will always hold mommy guilt that I didn't notice sooner that my milk tanked (or was tanking.)
But for anyone struggling, it is possible to get your baby back to breast. It is possible to fix your milk supply if you want to. Domperidone works and, for me, is safe.