I am working on a guest post for Donielle full of resources for boosting milk supply and what to feed baby when you must supplement. Before I share these resources, though, I wanted to share my story in the hopes that it might help and encourage other mamas. Because this is so personal and raw, I had to put it in this space.
Here is my story:
I have been a breastfeeding advocate since I found out I was pregnant with our first son. When I began to research all of the benefits of breastfeeding I knew I wanted to breastfeed as long as possible – 2 years or more.
So why would someone like me feed their baby a bottle of formula and then let him wean at 7 months of age?
I have a low milk supply. Since the birth of my first son I have yet to fulfill either of my two sons’ need for nourishment.
For seven weeks I nursed my firstborn on demand for 60 minutes or more at a time, with 30-60 minutes between every feed. Day and night.
At seven weeks old our midwife weighed him – 7 lbs. 11 oz. He had lost 9 ounces since birth. I burst into tears.
For weeks I watched him get skinnier and skinnier. I couldn’t understand it. I was nursing constantly, just as I was told. I was told he had a great latch, that he was nursing like a champ. Maybe it was his tongue tie, maybe his pallate, maybe his suck. All of these were fixed or found to be fine, and yet there was still no improvement.
I read that everyone worries about their supply, but only in “extremely rare” cases does a mother truly have a low milk supply.
I am that extremely rare case. Are you? I hope not.
I pray that no mother will ever know that look of desperate hunger in their baby’s eyes. I pray that your baby will find you a place of nourishment and comfort, not frustration and pain. I pray that you never ache for more milk… never cry every time you nurse that sweet babe… never hear the inconsolabe cry of hunger that you just can’t soothe.
Doctors. Midwives. Lactation consultants. Osteopaths. Round the clock nursing. Co-sleeping. Marathon pumping. MotherLove supplements. Mama’s milk tea. Homeopathics. Lots of water. Goat’s Rue. Shatavari. Oatmeal. Beer. Quinoa. Iron supplements. Raw milk. Seaweed. More good fats. More protein.
Besides prescription medication, I have tried every piece of advice we’ve been given. Twice.
That I can not feed my babies is one of the great heart breaks of my life. Whenever I talk (or write) about this I choke back tears. Sometimes I can’t choke them back. They flow because my milk won’t.
I have come to a place of acceptance. After two babies and two very similar experiences I have not given up, but accepted that for now I can only make so much milk. If we are blessed with another baby I will try again. I will give it everything I have and throw every resource I am given at this challenge. Again.
We have had the most supportive doctors, lactation consultants and midwives. But they have only heard of women with my struggles. They have never actually come across it themselves.
Understandably, they have a hard time believing you at first. You are telling them that the solutions that have worked for countless women aren’t working for you. They can’t accept that you are, in fact, doing everything they tell you to do.
When the tears flow and your desperation equals that of your baby’s… only then can they believe you.
Eventually your baby knows that it is easier to get nourishment from a bottle than from you. He starts to get frustrated, crying every time you pull him to you. You cry too. You plead… “please, not yet. don’t give up yet.” But he will. He doesn’t realize that there is no replacement. Nothing is as nutritious as mama’s milk. He will choose the easier option.
That is where we are now. I nurse when he is willing and pump every chance I get. He is now six months old and I am praying for more time. I would like to at least get through the winter and cold season. I am hopeful that we will make it to one year.
Pumping many times a day leaves you in a constant state of discomfort. It can eat up hours per day, leaving your home in a state of chaos. I have mastered the art of relaxing through pumping while reading to my toddler.
At times I want to give up. It is then that my husband encourages me. I see a bottle full of my milk and know it is worth it.
After exploring many different reasons for a low milk supply, I am currently researching hormone imbalance. I have already been diagnosed with minor hypothyroidism, but medication hasn’t boosted my milk supply. Now we are looking into my progesterone levels, specifically while I am pregnant, which I am not.
With as little sleep as I get, I still lie awake some nights wondering if I have done enough.
If there is something I can do to change this situation, I must.
So we will wait until, Lord willing, I am pregnant again to test those levels. We will continue our search for the why behind it all.
Ultimately, though, I know it is in God’s hands, not my own.
If anyone is interested in sharing their nursing stories – victories or defeats – and especially any resources that helped you, please contact me. Because this topic is so close to my heart, I would love for this space to be a place of encouragement and resources so that every baby can get every drop of mama’s milk possible.