I know, I know. I am breaking the golden rule of blogging and putting an “off topic post” on here. But I have been mulling over in my head some thoughts on my struggles with breastfeeding and figured I would post this in case it could in any way help someone else. I hope this might help people who may feel out of place because of low supply issues.
I struggled with low milk supply with both of my children and the entire experience initially left me feeling like less of a woman. That is what we were built to do, right? And I hear people talk about the benefits of breastmilk and avoiding feeding their kids that “icky formula” and I instantly felt a surge of guilt.
Let me start with baby #1.
She was in the NICU for a short while and in that time I got bruised up due to poor education on breastfeeding and a lack of support from my recovery nurses. I couldn’t breastfeed, so I pumped. I blamed that on my low supply. Although maple syrup emanated from my body for months (thanks to fenugreek), I never pumped more than 4 ounces a day. Well after drinking one quart of mothers milk a day, pumping 12+ times a day, power pumping, supplemental nursing systems, shields, shells, breast compressions, pumping in between feedings (and even waking up every 2-3 hours while dear daughter is awesome and sleeping 8+ hours a night!), pumping after feedings, reglan, increased protein consumption, fenugreek, homemade hands-free pumping bras (a lacy orange one, might I add!), exclusively pumping, sage avoidance, parsley avoidance, dairy avoidance, feeding tracking, chocolate avoidance, spicy food avoidance, ice cream avoidance, boppys, lactation consultant after lactation consultant, asymmetrical latching, lanisoh, bedside pumping, reclined feeding, nursing vacation, switch nursing, formula avoidance (that didn't last long!), extra sleep, increased calorie intake, La Leche calls, cleft palate bottles, Dr. Brown bottles, zero flow bottles, vent air bottles, blessed thistle, attachment parenting, and oatmeal, it was safe to say my battle with breastfeeding was over.
It was solidified by the fact that little one grabbed the SNS system while I was feeding her and managed to throw it on my brand new laptop and ruin it.
I gave up at 3 months and spent the next 12 months kicking myself for this decision. I felt like a terrible mother. When I went to feed her in public nursing rooms, I felt alienated and out of place, even though I needed a calm place to feed my baby her bottle.
Then Baby #2 came
I wanted to think it would all be different, but I knew in my heart it wouldn’t. I told doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants about my history of low milk supply and they immediately “hushed” me, as if dredging up the past was taboo. I wanted to use this fresh start as a chance to troubleshoot, but no one would listen. I endured terrible pain for 6 weeks. All the sources out there say if you have pain, you are doing something wrong. But guess what? I wasn’t. I went to multiple LCs who all confirmed a good latch. I went to an ear, nose, and throat specialist to confirm baby wasn’t tongue tied. Finally some good friends told me to endure the toe-curling latching pain for a few weeks and it would go away. And it did. But sadly the supply didn't come in fully. I was told that there is no such thing as running out of milk, you ALWAYS make milk, and yet I saw the opposite. So I felt wrong. I was certainly making more than with my first, but little man was dropping in weight to drastically low levels and nothing I did helped. Finally the LC concluded that I may have hypoplastic breasts because there is a large space between my breasts, which meant less breast tissue and therefore a low milk supply. I had to supplement with at least 12 ounces a day. You would have thought that I would have been upset, but I left the office feeling relieved.
I did everything I could do.
And that leads me to my current reflection on supplementing my child. I want to feel guilty. I want to feel awful. But I don’t at all. Instead, I feel like I have an even greater sense of pride because I know I did everything I could to breastfeed my baby, which I felt was important. It is put very well in “Making More Milk”: “It is about the commitment you made to give your baby the best start in life and the tremendous effort you put into pursuing that goal.”
I feel a sense of pride that I am committed to feed my baby in the way that works best for him, no matter what. I currently use a LactAid SNS system and I love it (no ruined laptop yet this time around).
I think there are a lot of opportunities for guilt out there. People constantly told me that I was doing something “wrong” to have a low milk supply (I swear if one more person says I need to drink more water I will go nuts!).
Bottom line: in my opinion, it is always helpful to do what you can, but what makes you a good mom is not whether or not you breastfeed. Doing everything you can to do what is best for your baby is what makes you a good mom.
I think this is my pumping mantra:
"We aren’t measured by the ounces in bottles but rather by the grit and determination behind those ounces” - "Making More Milk" by Diana West