Breastfeeding seems like it should be natural and easy. After all, it has been happening for ages and in times with far less support than what we have today. In our breastfeeding class we took, they even told us the baby will climb up the mom after birth and find the breast on his own. Easy peasy, right?
Sure. If everything is working in your favor. In my case though, it hasn’t been easy. I’m a month into this whole mom thing and my milk still hasn’t “come in.” In the hospital it was fine. We saw lactation consultants and L was doing fine with his weight. He was getting colostrum from me just like he was supposed to in those first days. I still had issues with soreness and cracking (I texted a friend the day we got home and asked why she had failed to tell me that it would feel like my baby was a velociraptor attacking my breasts at every chance he got).
We met with the lactation consultant from our doctor’s office the day after we came home from the hospital. She checked in to see how he was latching, how nursing felt, if he was gaining weight back yet. His weight was still going down but they weren’t concerned since it was less than 10% of his body weight but she told us we definitely wanted to see that number go up in the next couple days as he should be back at birth weight by his 2 week mark.
Two days later, she made a house call so we didn’t have to drag him back out (we may or may not have looked like zombies at that first appointment!). She did pre and post weights after L nursed and we saw that had now lost 9.7% of his bodyweight since birth and he wasn’t getting hardly any volume from me. Like less than 1/3 of an ounce after 40 minutes of nursing. It was depressing. And I had all the mom guilt. This poor little guy was so ravenous because I didn’t have enough milk for him and I was exhausted from feeding every hour and thinking I just had the hungriest baby ever.
At this point, they started trying to figure out why my milk hadn’t come in and adding things into my diet to try to increase production. Was it my post-delivery hemorrhage? Was my blood count/hemoglobin still low? Should I start pumping?
Either way, we had to start adding some volume into his diet – and that meant formula. I’ve always been in the “fed is best” camp but I 100% thought I’d breastfeed my baby and never even considered formula.
I still nursed and started pumping in between. Our feedings became twice as long as a normal breastfeeding mom’s sessions. I ate oatmeal and lactation cookies and drank lactation tea. We loaded up on fresh fruits and vegetables. I even bought purple Gatorade (supposedly it helps). I increased my fluid intake and even had a few beers. I joked with a college friend about the irony of how we’re now responsibly drinking beer to increase our breast milk supply and not to get drunk. College us could have never foreseen that happening!
Once his stomach expanded again and the volume needed to increase, we introduced the ‘SNS’ or Supplemental Nursing System. This was even less fun than the syringe, if that’s possible. The process of getting taped up was long and making sure the tube was in his mouth was challenging at times.
(Not a nudey-pic below but a real life pic from the struggle bus we were on!)
We did this at every feeding for about 10 days. L started gaining weight which was music to our ears at each appointment. Oh, and speaking of doctors appointments, we went every other day for the first two weeks of his life and then every 3rd day.
I rented a hospital grade pump, started supplements (Fenugreek and Go-lacta) and we continued with tests and lab work to figure out if the issue was my body. Meanwhile, it was determined that L had a tongue tie (posterior) and we needed to see an ENT for that. They thought that maybe his tongue hadn’t been strong enough to stimulate the breast in those early days and tell my body that the baby was here and needed milk. I’ll share more on the tongue tie at a later time but for now, it wasn’t him… it’s my body.
The latest tests showed that this all has nothing to do with the blood I lost after delivery (even though my counts are still down) but that my body isn’t producing enough prolactin. I had about 1/3 the amount of a normal nursing mother. My milk still hasn’t come in, so we’ve started another medicine for that and are hoping in 14 days to see an increase in production. In the meantime, we’ll continue nursing and the following up with a bottle of formula (and any BM that I’ve pumped).
I share all of this not to invite you to join a pity party for me (or us) but because I don’t think people are open enough about the struggles that they have with so many childbirth and postpartum related things (fertility, pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, etc.). I’ve had several friends reach out and offer their ears and also share their experiences (both had trouble breastfeeding, one due to supply, one due to supply + multiple tongue ties), and another friend share her own experience of someone telling her that doing what’s best for the baby and making sure the baby is fed is all that matters (agree, 100%).
Parenting is hard enough when you’re working on limited sleep and trying to recover from childbirth, we don’t need to think that we’re the only ones having issues. I understand that the issues are very personal – it took me WEEKS to tell anyone what we were going through but as soon as I did, I felt a huge relief! People gave me support, encouragement, and told me that they, too, had struggled. Let’s talk about it! Let’s get through it together!
I have to give huge props to our Lactation Consultant, Siobhan. She’s been fantastic in helping us find all the right ways to continue nursing but also making sure Liam gets the volume that he needs.
Today, our babe is one month old and is gaining weight like a champ! He loves to nurse and definitely prefers it to a bottle but just like his mama, he’ll take food any way he can get it!