Hi, ladies. I’m so happy that Julie is allowing me to talk to you today! I wanted to share with you some of the struggles and successes I’ve had in breastfeeding with my now 12-week old baby. In my challenges I’ve found a lot of misleading information, however, I’ve also found that the best information often comes from the mothers that have most recently gone through it because their memories are still fresh. I hope this post helps you muddle your way through all the noise out there!
Of all the things I thought I had to prepare for when I was pregnant, breastfeeding was just not on my list. I was adamant that I wanted to breastfeed for the entire 1st year yet I still didn’t feel the need to prepare. I figured, “This is the one time my boobs will be of use. When the time comes, the milk will be there, and me and the baby will just know what to do. Just as God intended.”
Day 1 – Colostrum
On the first night after my baby was born, a labor nurse and a lactation nurse both said that the baby didn’t need much food for a few days and that when he did get hungry my breasts would have colostrum in them which would be enough for now. When I squeezed my breast, I could see colostrum come out yet the baby still showed no interest in latching. The 2nd day he latched a little bit and took the colostrum but no additional milk was coming yet. I also squeezed my breast and got the colostrum into a spoon and slipped it into the baby’s mouth that way.
Day 3 – A Bad Start at the Hospital
My hospital experience was a dream, and the staff was super helpful with regards to everything except breastfeeding. On the last day that I was in the hospital, and a different Lactation nurse came to see me. She asked me what the last nurse had shown me.
“Did she show you how to massage your breasts to encourage let down?” No.
“Did she show you how to use the pump?” No.
“Did she show you how to use a nipple shield?” No. No. No!
The nurse got on the phone, and I heard her whisper, “Hey, yeah, I’m going to be late, I have four women to see, and the last nurse on duty didn’t do anything with these women.”
I went home feeling very scared that I hadn’t done what I was supposed to do in those first few days. My husband was instructed to rent a pump, and I was instructed to use the pump as much as possible to encourage the milk to come while I was trying to get the baby to latch. My insurance company gave us a free pump, but we couldn’t put in the order until after we had the baby. This would not have been an issue if my milk came in right away, but since it didn’t, and I needed to pump as early as possible to increase milk supply, we had to rent a pump.
Day 4 – Supplementing with Formula
On day 4, the baby started crying incessantly. My father called, heard the baby crying and demanded that we give the baby formula. The baby had lost weight in the hospital, but we were told the weight loss was absolutely normal for newborns. Since my baby was already on the small side, the loss made him look super tiny. I felt like such a failure giving formula to my baby. This was not my plan. As the formula intake increased, I watched my baby get more and more disinterested in latching. He was smart. He tried to nurse, and then he quickly realized that nothing was coming out, so he said, “why bother.”
Day 10 – An appointment with the Lactation Consultant
My doula came by the house a week later, and she recommended I call the Lactation Consultant immediately. My mother and I deliberated over it and decided to give it three more days since the cost was $250 and my mother was still insistent that my milk would come in. On Day 10, we called her.
The first thing I learned from the consultant was that there was no reason to worry about the cost because most insurance companies pay for this service indefinitely until the problem is resolved! My Lactation Consultant even filled out all the paperwork for me, so all I had to do was send it in to be reimbursed.
MY Tip: the year you are pregnant, Sign up for a flexible spending account with the maximum allowed. You can use this money for unexpected expenses like breast pump rental and lactation consultant home visits.
The Lactation Consultant worked with me on my setup. She showed me how to sit in the chair as relaxed as possible, having the baby come to me rather than pulling my breast toward the baby. She showed me how to best position my breastfeeding pillow (best thing ever!! –My Brest Friend Original Nursing Pillow) and extra pillows for maximum support. She was able to get the baby to latch, weighing him before and after he nursed to measure intake. At this point I had some milk coming out but not enough. The baby was still only getting 1 ounce from my breast which meant he needed to supplement with formula.
The Lactation Consultant was very concerned by how long I had waited to call her and consequently how long the baby had been on formula. She also showed me that I was using the breast pump all wrong and it was not encouraging my flow. Arggh!! She put me on a rigorous pumping schedule (8 to 10 times a day, 15 mins. per session) and told me to put my baby to my breast for every feeding before giving him a bottle. I bought preemie nipples and Dr. Brown’s bottles which come with an extra filter inside designed to make the baby work harder for the milk simulating breastfeeding. She also showed me how to squeeze formula into the baby’s mouth while he’s on the breast in order to trick him into thinking he’s getting something out of the breast. It was a production! Finally, the Lactation Consultant told me to take a supplement called Fenugreek to help increase supply. She left me with an intense instruction sheet that she fondly referred to as my breastfeeding boot camp.
My Rigorous Nursing Routine
Day 11-20 Pumping Overnight
I worked with the schedule the best I could for the next ten days or so. My milk was finally coming down, but it was a very low supply. My downfall was nights. Initially, the baby would sleep 5-6 hours a night. This would’ve been amazing if it weren’t for the fact that nighttime is the best time to increase your milk supply. Unfortunately, I would be too tired to get up and pump, and if you go more than 4 hours without either feeding or pumping it signals your breasts to stop producing milk. I was really setting myself back by not pumping overnight.
About two days after the Lactation Consultant’s first visit, the baby went back to not latching. After ten days, the baby was still rejecting the breast, and my pumping efforts were producing minimal results. To make matters worse, we now had this extra never ending task of sterilizing and preparing bottles. Every time I had to send my husband out for more formula I felt defeated all over again.
I felt like I was failing as a mother that I couldn’t do this primal, basic thing that God intended me to do.
I had a follow-up meeting with my Lactation Consultant, and she reiterated the need for the night-time pumping and hydration. Every subsequent visit after the initial visit is only $150 as opposed to the initial $250 fee. She also showed me how to use the nipple shield to help my nipples stay erect and help the baby to latch. The Lactation nurse also added another supplement – Go Lacta. While she was hopeful that we could turn things around in week 4, I was stressed, and I had read that if it didn’t happen by week 6-8, it probably wasn’t going to happen.
Day 28 – A Turning Point
The turning point for me came when I had the babies 4-week checkup. The pediatrician advised that I shouldn’t let the Lactation Consultant’s advice get in the way of sleeping or spending time with the baby. She said these lactation consultants could be pushy and single-minded. When I asked if she had any advice to help with breastfeeding she said it was okay to use formula and that it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t breastfeed. I was infuriated! I wasn’t looking for support to get out of breastfeeding! I left her office more determined than ever to make it work.
That night I had a 12-hour “marathon” from midnight to noon the next day of breastfeeding and refusing to give my baby a bottle. I knew that I just had to get him to understand that the only place he could get food was from my breast. If he was hungry enough, then he would eventually take it. After 12 excruciating hours of screaming nonstop, he finally did it. I still gave him formula because I knew I wasn’t producing enough milk but I pushed much harder for him to take the breast first. The next four days, I focused intensely on nursing not allowing my husband or mother-in-law to give him a bottle. Each day we went bottle-less for more hours until finally on day four we went an entire day without formula. Victory! I felt like we were moving in the right direction but I still didn’t feel 100% confident about my milk supply, and it seemed like the baby was getting hungry super fast between feeds and taking a really long time to nurse.
A lot of expecting mothers who are contemplating breastfeeding ask, “what does breastfeeding feel like?” Well, I am here to tell you that if your baby is not latching properly, it can feel like hell.
Although he was now willing to latch, my baby was not latching properly, and it caused me excruciating pain. Even though I was in tears over the pain of him latching, I was scared that if I took him off and forced him to latch properly then he would get mixed messages and think that I didn’t want him to nurse. My Lactation Consultant had me call my OB and get a prescription for Canadian nipple cream which did help a little bit. My mother also told me that over time my nipples would get really tough and I wouldn’t be so sensitive. So I just took the pain and wondered if this whole breastfeeding thing was really for me. Even though I had gotten this far and worked so hard, a small part of me was still considering giving up breastfeeding.
Day 42 – Six-week check-up – “Give it a Rest!”
My insecurities were exacerbated when I went for my six-week check-up. When I told my doctor that the baby was feeding once every 2 hours, she was indignant that it was way too often. She told me this was a sign that he was not getting enough milk and at this point in the game it probably meant I was never going to produce enough. She said I needed to “give it a rest!” She then proceeded to tell me a ridiculous story about a woman in the news, who had starved her baby to death because she refused to give him formula. I calmly explained to her that between doctor’s visits and the Lactation Consultant, my baby was getting weighed every week, sometimes twice a week, so there was no danger of him starving. I left her office feeling irritated, unsupported, and self- doubting. Was I was doing the right thing? I went home and gave the baby a few bottles of formula just in case, and then I called my support group.
All Babies are Not the Same
My mother, my good friend, and my Doula all confirmed that the frequency of my baby’s feeds was indeed normal and such a schedule will sound insane to anyone who hadn’t breastfed before which my OB had not. What’s more, my Doula explained to me:
How often the baby eats during the day depends on what kind of break the baby is taking at night. The only constant is the total amount babies eat. The frequency with which they feed depends on the particular baby.
In the beginning, my baby was sleeping 4-6 hours at night which meant he would have to make up for that by eating more frequently. When my OB said he needed 3-4 ounces every 3-4 hours and my baby was eating 1.5-2 ounces every 2 hours, we were saying the same thing! This was such vital information to me! All babies are not the same!!!!
Tip: We have to take advice, with a huge grain of salt even when the advice comes from doctors.
A Final Adjustment – Goat’s Rue & Lactation Cookies
My final adjustment came after I had diligently pumped overnight and still had not seen huge increases in my supply. Through an internet search, I found an article about a woman who had recently had a baby and was having trouble with a really low milk supply. She introduced me to Goat’s Rue and lactation cookies. I didn’t feel like baking, so I put all of the same ingredients into a smoothie as a substitute for my usual protein powder supplement. The magic ingredients were oatmeal, flaxseed oil, and brewer’s yeast. For extra measure, I also started having oatmeal with flaxseed powder for breakfast. By this point, I also felt like the baby knew that his food was only coming from the breast, so I felt comfortable with making him latch properly plus as my mother has predicted my nipples did get tougher and it didn’t hurt nearly as much.
I can’t say whether it was the Goat’s Rue or the food that did the trick because I started taking them at the same time. The article also mentioned that there could be negative impacts of Fenugreek, so I stopped consuming that just in case. Four days later I had my Lactation Consultant come to my house for the 3rd time for another pre and post-feed weigh. This time my little baby latched like a champion as he gulped incessantly throughout the feed. She weighed him after one breast, and he had consumed 2.5 ounces!!!! After the second breast, he had consumed an additional ounce! We hugged and laughed, and finally, she gave me her final write-up which looked like this:
Success & Rest for Mama!
After a long, frustrating journey, my baby was latching; my milk was there, we had arrived! Because the milk supply was more ample, the baby now took less time to feed. In the beginning, it took him 20-30 minutes per breast, but now it takes him only 10 minutes for each side. Reducing his feeding time meant more resting time between feeds for mama.
My Lactation Consultant told me to continue to watch his weight. I bought a scale (Health o meter Grow with Me) and calibrated it to her scale to ensure it was accurate. She also said that after a few more weeks if his weight was still good we could talk about cutting back on supplements until we had eliminated them altogether.
Conclusions & Advice:
From my mother:
“The pediatrician is there to look out for the baby’s health. The OB is there to look out for your health. And sometimes those two sets of advice conflict so you have to decide what’s best for both of you.”
From my good friend:
“Mother’s who have already been through whatever stage you’re currently going through still carry old feelings about what happened when they were in the thick of it and very often when they give advice they are projecting onto you and it may not be helpful to you at all.”
“People will always discourage you from the hard stuff, especially the stuff they could not do themselves. Often times perseverance is needed to get what you want. So often I have found that to get what you want in life it requires you to be willing to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced for a short amount of time. In the long run it pays off.”
It took me eight weeks to self-correct and really establish the breastfeeding. To a lot of people, this seemed like an unreasonable amount of time. But since I planned to breastfeed for a year, eight weeks was well worth the one-year payoff. Breastfeeding was my first challenge as a mother, but of course, I know it won’t be my last.
“Sometimes, no one knows better than you what is best for you and your child, not even the doctors.”
This experience solidified for me the importance of patience, perseverance, and most importantly self-conviction. Once you have decided what is best for you and your child, hold steady to the decision and don’t let anyone try to sway you a different way. Go out and find the people and resources to support what you’ve already decided is the best path.
I wrote this article to support any new mom out there who is feeling alone in this breastfeeding battle and thinking of giving up. Hang in there. It is so worth it. A little patience and a good dose of perseverance and you’ll get there. You got this.
Here is a list of all the supplements and equipment I mentioned in this article that helped me monitor the baby’s weight and increase my milk supply:
1. Milk Drunk – Protein Powder for Breastfeeding Mamas – Initially I used individual servings of oatmeal, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast but then I found this protein powder with the exact same amounts of each in one scoop. It also has fenugreek and it’s vegan! Try the vanilla flavor in this smoothie recipe.
3. Spectra Baby USA S2 Hospital Grade Double/single Breast Pump by Spectra Baby USA – this pump was super gentle on my nipples compared to the hospital grade pump and gave the same results plus it was smaller and had the added bonus of a nightlight which is super helpful when you’re pumping in the middle of the night and you don’t want to turn on the lights. Before you buy this though, I would check first to make sure your insurance doesn’t provide a breast pump because most do.
4. Go-Lacta Vegan Milk Production Supplement – very expensive but it helped a lot.
5. My Brest Friend Original Nursing Pillow – This pillow is a Godsend. I’m totally dependent on it, and my baby knows when he sees me put it on that it’s time to eat. He stops crying as soon as he sees me strap that on. You must have this.
6. Health o meter Grow with Me – This scale was very accurate with the lactation consultant’s scale for weighing the baby. It didn’t work very well for measuring before and after feeds so I wouldn’t recommend it for that but if you just want to keep track of your baby’s overall weight weekly, I’d recommend this scale.
I hope this article was helpful to any new mamas out there that are struggling with breastfeeding. Please keep working at it, you’re doing a great job, and ultimately you will be so happy you stuck with it and so will your baby. All you moms out there rock! I love all of you for all the sacrifice you make every day for your families. We all need to support each other in this crazy journey of motherhood.
I’d like to give a shoutout to an article that really helped me with my supply issues: http://www.mommyguidance.com/?s=breastfeeding+advice
I also want to steer you toward what many in my support group consider to be the one and only reliable online source for breastfeeding information: www.kellymom.com
And finally, I would also like to encourage you to seek support through Facebook groups for breastfeeding mamas. I recently read an article that listed a good number of Facebook groups for breastfeeding support. You can read the full article here. Here’s the list of Facebook groups:
General Breastfeeding Support:
This post was written by Ryan Worlds, a blogger that focuses on helping you overcome your emotional eating. You can find her at www.foodlovemefoodhateme.com