I wanted to write a post about my breastfeeding journey. I know it’s not a topic that everyone will be interested in, and I totally get that. If it’s not for you, feel free to skip this post. 🙂 But I do know some people will be able to relate and honestly I want to share what has been going on in my life lately.
Breastfeeding wasn’t an easy journey for Logan and I. Admittedly I went into it thinking it was something easy. Just put baby on boob and that’s it. No one told me how hard it would be. The birthing class covered breastfeeding for maybe 20 minutes in one class and didn’t really discuss the hardships or struggles that could happen.
The nurses at the hospital were great but not when it came to breastfeeding and when we left the hospital and met with a Lactation Consultant the first one I met was AWFUL. Truly awful and I left the appointment in tears. It wasn’t until Logan got his tongue-tie fixed a few weeks later and I started working with a different Lactation Consultant that we got things figured out and FINALLY breastfeeding became easy.
But that first month? It was so so hard. Physically, emotionally. It was stressful. It was disappointing. It was heartbreaking (when it wasn’t working). I wish THIS part was discussed more for new moms because seriously, I felt completely unprepared.
I felt very alone, too. A few people in my life shared their struggles. One said she finally had to quit breastfeeding because it was making her obsessed and a little crazy. She said it was just healthier all around to switch to formula.
In that first week of Logan’s life we had to supplement with formula (with a syringe) and it broke my heart. I felt so defeated, deflated, crushed, angry, sad, depressed. I didn’t understand why it was so hard. All I wanted was to be able to breastfeed. Then I kind of made peace with it and realized it was more important for my baby to be FED, it didn’t matter how.
Fast forward to recently. After months of successfully (finally) breastfeeding, we’ve reached another roadblock.
I’ve been slowly noticing a decrease in my milk supply. It wasn’t too alarming until recently when I both noticed my numbers dipping AND the frozen stash I’d had dwindled down to maybe 2-3 days worth of milk. I panicked.
I called the Lactation Consultant that was really helpful, Kim, and told her what was going on. She speculated that it could be a few things:
- Going back to work and pumping = making less milk.
- From the end of May-end of July Logan was sleeping through the night (and it was GLORIOUS! We’ve never felt so good and rested!!) but that probably effected my supply without me knowing it.
- Eating less calories/not drinking enough fluids, etc.
That all made sense. I was going longer stretches without pumping or feeding. When I was home I’d feed Logan on demand. When I was at work 2 days a week I pumped 3 times. But I wasn’t making enough to really freeze–just enough for the next day.
About a month ago we increased the bottles of breastmilk from 3.5 to 4 ounces each (hoping it would help him go longer between feedings and hopefully sleep through the night since the 4 month sleep regression–not so much). So we’ve been going through the frozen stash quicker. That’s when I noticed that the frozen stash was getting used so quickly.
Kim had a suggestion for me. She said I could try pumping after every feeding–even if I wasn’t getting any or much milk in that session–for the next few weeks to see if that helped increase my supply. So for the last week I’ve been back to pumping like 4-6 times a day (I was pumping 1-2 times a day before, except at work).
It’s been exhausting. And frustrating. To pump that much and not see much after a session sucks but I’m doing it to see if it works. I’ve been feeling run-down and like I was getting sick this past week but now I’m wondering if it was just exhaustion due to increasing pumping and maybe not eating and drinking enough to compensate?
Over the weekend I also started drinking some beer, to see if that helps. It may be an urban myth that beer can boost supply but I was willing to give it a try.
I’m going to make the Lactation Cookies again and see if that helps.
There are other supplements you can try. I’ve taken fenugreek a few times since Logan was born and it definitely works to boost supply but every time I’d take it (for about 2 weeks) Logan would be really gassy and fussy and spit up a lot. It just doesn’t agree with him so I’d stop taking it.
Kim, the Lactation Consultant that has helped me, also said that it was ok to supplement. She said formula was not the end of the world and if that’s what needed to happen it was ok, I was still doing a good job as a mom and Logan would be ok. It was nice to hear that from her and I think hearing that kind of helped me make more peace with the idea that we probably need to supplement.
Logan starts daycare soon. I mentioned that I was having a really hard time with that and not having enough milk to send to daycare is also causing me distress. I know it shouldn’t, because supplementing will be ok–he’ll still grow and be healthy and happy…
We’ve started supplementing with some formula this week. Once a day or so we give him a bottle of formula. I found that if we do the formula early in the morning then I can pump and get a decent amount (the early morning pumping sessions are always a lot more than any other time of day) and I’ve been able to freeze a little bit. It’s still not a great number but I’m sort of making some progress.
Still having a hard time. I don’t want to end nursing just yet. He’s almost 6 months old and we plan on starting solids soon, in addition to the breastmilk. But there is something just so wonderful about the quiet time we have together.
I know things will be ok and Logan will be fine. He’s growing and gaining weight (he’s still a little on the average side for weight, though) and even though he didn’t seem to like formula the first few times (he made horrible faces!) he’s ok now and drinks it without making faces.
Anyways. I wanted to share this because it’s something that is going on in my life right now, I’m definitely struggling with it all and I could use advice from anyone that had this happen to them! If you went through this and have tips, I’d appreciate them!
First I want to say that every nursing experience is different. Even if everything looks the same, it can be different. My easiest kid was my first. My hardest breastfeeding experience was my third. I knew a ton by the third kid. My birth experiences were similar. But I still had a very, very hard start with her.
My kids are older now (26, 22, 18) so I am referencing my breastfeeding experience from a while back. My grandmother nursed her kids, all born in the 1940’s, and I know her perspective too.
At those times (my time and my grandmother’s) the philosophy was sucking by the baby at the breast was what stimulated milk supply. And any sucking by the baby not at the breast (pacifier/bottle) decreased milk supply.
My grandmother also nursed one side per feeding. She did not switch sides. I used that technique with my third baby and it helped everything. Very interesting.
Yes, I realize many mothers go back to work and at that time need to pump, and baby needs a bottle. But the philosophy (my time) was to nurse the baby (only) at the breast up until that point. And then exactly as you said, pump after breastfeeding session to put supply of breast milk in the freezer in the very last days leading up to work start date.
I realize your tongue tie put a kink in everything. I am not talking about special circumstances, I am talking in general.
I wonder, as I read about moms currently breastfeeding, again under normal circumstances, and all seeming to have supply issues, if the early onset of pumping (and babies taking bottles long before moms are going back to work) is what is causing the current supply issues. Because I have read stories just like yours, a lot.
Everyone seems to get a pump and use a pump very early these days. And no one seems to be breastfeeding very easily. Supply is a huge issue. Your story is a common story. It is the modern trend in breastfeeding, from what I see.
Nurses at hospitals are (notoriously) not trained to correctly help with breastfeeding. And they also do not get feedback on what they are teaching. The moms and babies go home. They never hear how things turned out. So they continue to give bad advice and do not know they are giving bad advice. They do not understand the ramifications of what they are doing. Every time I hear this type of story I advise – let the hospital KNOW. And if your bad lactation consultant is affiliated thru a hospital, let them know too.
Another huge issues is sleepy babies at birth from anesthesia. Too much, too early. I see modern labor decisions impacting breast feeding a lot. A good example is double epidurals. One given very early. A second one used. I have seen babies so drugged at birth that an ice cube placed on their belly or feet causes no reaction at all. The labor and delivery nurses never explain all this. They push the epidural, second epidural even, without explaining the impact this will have on the baby and on breastfeeding. A non drugged baby, under normal circumstances, is very very alert at birth and goes very quickly for the breast.
I don’t feel like new mothers are given any of this information, unless they happen to have a mom or an aunt or a grandmother who has a very knowledgeable background. The information new moms seem to be getting from their doctors and the nurses is setting them up for breast feeding troubles/failure, in my opinion.
I am so sorry you had such a difficult time. No matter how long or short a breastfeeding experience is, it is a success. I think you just have to dust yourself off and learn to turn your attention to the positive/what you had/what you have. If your supply dwindles at this point, I think you just appreciate the time you had and move forward without making yourself crazy over it.
Do not feel like you are at fault. Because I do not think it was you, at all.
And I would encourage you to give feedback to the hospital. Detailed feedback about how your classes and the nurses and the one lactation consultant did not give you what you needed. And be generous in sharing information with other women. Because that is how most of us really learn.
Thank you for sharing your experiences (and your families). It’s very interesting that your grandma did one breast only at each feeding.
I was given a hospital grade pump a few days after Logan was born because we were having so many issues and he lost too much weight. Once my milk came in I pump and gave him the breast milk in bottles. Even though I wanted to breastfeed, it was nice that I was getting enough milk to feed him (we only had to supplement for a week) and Michael could feed him, too, and thankfully we never had any issues with nipple confusion and once his tongue-tie was fixed breastfeeding was fine.
I pumped a lot that first month and I think as a result I had an oversupply. So I froze a bunch in the beginning because we couldn’t use it all. Perhaps gauging my supply against that first month isn’t really accurate because of the oversupply due to pumping. But anyways, once we could breastfeed I only pumped 1-2x a day max. The rest was nursing. It was kind of nice, too, because pumping SUCKS. 🙁
I really like how you said this: “No matter how long or short a breastfeeding experience is, it is a success.” That is a very good reminder and good to hear!!
The one sided nursing was so babies got more hind milk.
At some point medical science decided switching sides was a thing and that got started. And if one switches sides too early, the baby only gets foremilk, not hind milk. So when moms used to watch the clock and switch, babies were not gaining weight.
I had extreme pain when my third child latched on. Extreme. No visible reason. My grandmother had been dead for eight years at that point, but I remembered one sided nursing worked in her day. And for me that meant pain only one time. So I tried it. And then I stuck with it. The pain thing lasted about a week. That kid I nursed one sided for her whole baby/toddler-dom.
Women in our extended family had a baby in June and they are promoting one sided nursing here now. These things go in cycles.
Very interesting about your now supply issues. From what you wrote (your comment) it does seem like it could be intake related. If you increase your fluid/water and real food calories, it will be interesting to see what happens.
That’s very interesting! When I nurse Logan I do both sides. But there are definitely times where it’s just one side because he nurses extra long on one side and then falls asleep so I’d let him take a nap and then do the other side later.
This is so close to what I went through with Norah! There is nothing like the feeling you are somehow failing because you can’t produce, on top of the fact that your already an emotional mess from everything that just went down (like your whole world changing) I NEVER ended up producing much and I hated pumping (how many tears do we shed over a stupid machine??) At some point it just dawned on me that it was soooo much more important for me to be a happy healthy momma for my baby than for me to breastfeed. The babies will do great regardless it was really all just a mental battle for me to let go of what I thought was going to happen and accept the reality of my situation. I think it’s like many things in life, we can get so caught up in our expectations for ourselves or the situation that we de-prioritize the really important things (happy healthy baby, not being an emotional mess for the other members of our family) At least that was my experience. As I’m preparing for #3 it’s sooo much easier as I’m going into it with no set expectations and just realizing what will happen will happen and it’s all going to be great. 🙂 Love you guys! If you need anything you know where I live 🙂 🙂
Thanks for the comment and support! I had no idea you struggled with Norah. What you say makes sense–that it’s more important to have a healthy baby (and be a sane mom) than to necessarily breastfeed. It’s so hard not to be too hard on ourselves, though. Especially with all the “Breast is best” propaganda.
I decided that I’d give it two weeks trying to increase my supply with the tips the LC gave me (and I made lactation cookies yesterday so I’m trying that too) and if I don’t see a significant difference in supply I’m going to just let it go. I don’t want to become obsessed with it. And it will be okay if we have to do a combo of breastmilk and formula. It’s not an issue for Logan, it’s MY issue, clearly!