Before I had my darling little girl, I went to three meetings on breastfeeding and read two books. I knew that breastfeeding was for me, and I couldn’t WAIT for the little girl to come home and begin nursing. I felt prepared.
In the Hospital
Even though the first 24 hours after my water broke took place at a maternity center (I wanted to have a water birth), I ended up having a cesarean. I’m a very natural, holistic kind of person, and I still can’t believe I ended up in a hospital. I never dilated, and they aren’t sure why. They gave me enough Pitocin for four pregnant women—and still nothing. So, both my baby and I ended up in the hospital for 10 days to fight off infections. She was in intensive care, and I was down the hall.
I breastfed within an hour of being glued (literally) back together, and she latched on pretty easily. I fought long and hard with the nurses not to give her a bottle—and, for the most part, won. I wheeled myself down to the intensive care unit every time she woke up, and I nursed and nursed and nursed. They kept checking her blood sugar levels to see if she was getting enough to eat, and her blood sugar levels were so low that they threatened to put a tube into her stomach because I was so against giving her a bottle. STILL, I prevailed, and they gave her a little sugar water through her IV, which gave me more time for my milk supply to come in.
My baby would latch on and nurse, literally, for three hours straight before falling asleep, and her blood sugar levels still wouldn’t go up. Everyone in the intensive care unit had a different opinion. They didn’t support having moms breastfeed because it went against the ICU schedule. But I continued to battle. They said that I was the second mom in the history of the intensive care unit to strictly breastfeed.
After the fourth day, I started suspecting that something was wrong. Even though I breastfed all the time, and I pumped after breastfeeding, my breasts never grew. I’m pretty small (B cup), AND I never felt the “let down” experience. But I was new to breastfeeding, and the support group I belonged to continued to say, “You’re doing it! It’ll get better!!!”
In the hospital, I did finally relent and let them give her a total of three bottles of Pedialyte and three bottles of breast milk. They had convinced me that I needed a breastfeeding break so my milk supply could build up.
A week after I had the baby at home, I finally started seeking help. My husband had threatened to take the baby to the hospital because he was convinced she was starving and I wouldn’t let him give her a bottle. I kept thinking in my head, “This is normal. I’ll just have to wait it out a little bit longer.” My well-meaning professional lactation consultant’s words ran through my head as I remembered how she explained supply and demand and assured me that I would make enough milk if I stuck to it. And I was going to stick to it!!!
So, I went to my midwife, who set me up with a lactation aid and a few bottles of another woman’s milk (which started making me feel like I wasn’t enough of a woman to produce enough for my baby). My baby latched on and drank my milk and sucked the tube of this other woman’s milk. I watched her tummy grow and get full, and then I watched her fall into a deep, contented sleep. At first.
I didn’t like the lactation aid, so we went to a professional lactation consultant. She started me on a weekend of supplementing with formula, because by this time, my baby weighed the least she had ever weighed. She had been born full term at 5 pounds 10 oz, and when the lactation consultant weighed her, she was 5 pounds 2 oz. It was the end of the third week.
The consultant taught me how to do this switch-nursing thing, where I nurse her, then give her some formula from the bottle, then nurse again. It didn’t work, and my baby grew to love the bottle because she could get a full belly and easy access to food.
By the end of the sixth week, my baby hardly nursed, and I was in a panic!!! I felt so rejected, because every time I put her to the breast, she screamed. So, after a bunch of research, I found a medication, Domperidone, which had few side effects, and I waited patiently for it to come in. All the while, I continued to offer her the breast. Sometimes she would take it, and other times she refused. When she refused, I pumped with a hospital-grade rented pump, determined not to give up.
By the time I started taking the Domperidone, she was hardly nursing at all. That’s when a lactation consultant suggested that after she went to sleep at night, I should put her to the breast every hour. From midnight to 8:00 am, I nursed every hour (like I wasn’t suffering greatly from the lack of sleep already!). I did this for two days, and she started to nurse again during the day! I had to do this three times for the next six months.
With the products I sell on this website, and the few tips I’ve given, my baby learned to love to nurse! We cuddled tummy to tummy, and I nursed her to sleep and when she woke up and all through the day. It was so awesome and definitely worth the fight.
She eventually started to eat real food, and I offered her a bottle once during the night and twice during the day (about 12 oz.). Even with all the work, I still didn’t produce enough. However, I was happy with the situation. Daddy got to feed her, and so did Grandma and close friends.
I found that if I skipped the middle-of-the-night feedings, she nursed a lot less during the day. Those one or two feedings are super important, so even though I was too tired, I nursed anyway. I always nursed during the night, and by about 6:00 am, after I finished nursing, she needed a little more, so then I gave it to her in a bottle.
I still offered her the bottle only grudgingly. Usually I made my husband or someone else feed her. I just couldn’t stand giving her a protein shake (I had a hard time saying the “F” word: formula), and I had to keep myself from saying, “Here, drink this nasty stuff.” I undoubtedly had issues that I’m still working through!
Some people may be wondering why I didn’t continue using the lactation aid. I found that the baby was smart enough to just suck on the straw without sucking on me. And, to be honest, I hated it. It was the one thing I wasn’t willing to do. It just felt too foreign to me. The tape and plastic next to my skin felt terrible. It wasn’t what I wanted. But for some mothers, it works wonderfully.
If you have truly been diagnosed with low milk supply and believe that you’ve done everything right, you’re probably asking yourself the same question I asked myself over and over: “WHY??? Why do I have low milk supply?” In my case, I’ve had several endocrine problems, including polycystic ovarian syndrome. I’ve read that 33% of women with PCOS don’t create close to enough milk. I’m assuming that’s the cause—however, at this point, it’s not provable.
Looking Back and Forward
Now that my daughter is almost six, I have a much different perspective. To be honest, I just read my story for the first time in almost three years. I can’t believe what I went through and what I put my daughter through. I ask myself, “Was it worth it?” I’m not sure how to answer that. If you believe everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to start spreading the word on insufficient milk syndrome so that fewer women and babies have to suffer, then I’m glad—there’s a reason for what we went through.