In honor of Breastfeeding Week, I decided to share my story in hopes that other mommas will feel encouraged and find community! You are not alone, and if you feel alone please reach out!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I am not giving medical advice, only sharing my breastfeeding experience.
I am so amazed at God's design for women and her children. He created breastfeeding for an emotional connection with baby, while providing nutrition and antibodies for this delicate new life! I hope that more and more resources can become available for women to breastfeed successfully. For those that cannot, I hope that other mommas can support them in knowledge and resources.
From the beginning I struggled to produce, I knew the importance of breastfeeding and tried to preserve our experience as much as possible. Besides the nutritional benefit, the emotional bonding was just as important for me. Here is my breastfeeding story...not at all how I thought it would be, but I hope my story encourages someone!
I had my son a 37 weeks, naturally and at home (well not my home, I'll save that story for another time). It was an uncomplicated and very quick birth. I placed my little guy up to my chest right away, but struggled with getting him to latch right away. I think within the hour he latched but as most first time moms can tell you, you don’t know if they are latching right until they do. The colostrum was there, but as I waited for my supply, it never fully "kicked in". Then I starting getting milk but... I never felt the “release” like everyone was describing. I would pump and get a few drops. I tried a Haakaa pump and got nothing. There was a lot of crying (mostly me) and I felt like I was inadequate and failing. I just wanted to find a solution.
I ordered a baby scale to monitor my baby's weight down to the ounce. My midwife and I noticed a decline in baby's weight, more than the 10% to be expected. I tried fenugreek, oats, goats rue, lots of water and continued to eat whole foods (which are all great things) and my midwife helped schedule an appointment with a breast feeding medicine doctor. Unfortunately he was jaundice and becoming more lethargic. The breastfeeding doctor was great and helped me get the best latch ( which was difficult for me being smaller chested). She did a blood work up on me to check my hormone levels (which came back in normal range). She also prescribed a Bili-blanket to take home and put him on to to help his bilirubin go down. I had been so generously gifted with donor breastmilk from various amazing mommas ( I will forever be grateful). The doctor gave me an SNS tube to supplement my low supply with donor breastmilk. The SNS tube is a small tube that goes from the bottle with breastmilk in it and the straw-like end goes next to the nipple. When my baby latched he would get the extra breastmilk (and it was like it was coming from me!). He was able to get my antibodies and nutrition and also have enough with the supplement and have the bonding experience. The SNS tube took some practice and an extra hand sometimes but was well worth it. I had no idea something like that even existed! My little guy began to gain weight and his jaundice disappeared. There were a couple times that I had to supplement with a quality formula to get through a day of no donor milk. I was able to do the SNS tube with donor milk for 1.5 years and breastfed on my own until he was a little over 2 years old. After my son began eating solids, the quantity was not needed and I was able to nurse him without supplementing. What little supply I had continued due to him still latching, which was amazing!
Looking back I believe my low supply may have been stress induced and I think high stress may have been why my body went into labor at 37 weeks. Because he came early, my body's hormones were not fully prepared to do their job. I may never know the real cause. I know a lot of people LOVE breastfeeding but to me it was such a stressful time. I was always searching for donor milk and wondering why my body wasn't working how it was designed. Me, my mom and my cousin would drive all over meeting breastmilk donors for milk. Don't get me wrong, I loved providing for my son and bonding and I knew I was doing what was best, but I had a sense of relieve when it was over. I'm so grateful for the support group that I had around me, if not for them I might have a different story.
Some things to try if you're struggling. Some didn't work for me, but I think others helped.
Find support (this could be your midwife, lactation consultant or breastfeeding medicine doctor or a seasoned breastfeeding momma).
Pump in between feeding sessions (in most cases, the more you pump the more you will produce...supply and demand). There are also different kinds of pumps, so test some out!
Drink Water (always have water beside you when feeding, you need liquids to produce milk).
Eat nutrient dense foods (so that your body is working properly and your baby gets the nutritional benefit) Foods high in iron are great. Here are a few staples: Avocados, bananas, pumpkin seeds, Kale and spinach, berries, ginger, garlic, turmeric, carrots, eggs, Greek yogurt.
Supplements: Moringa, Fenugreek - for some people it reduces supply so monitor your supply), GoatsRue, Earthley's Mama's Magic Milk Boost,
Essential oils (I wish I would have had these resources back then but I have heard many stories of them helping)
Donor milk (if you still have a low supply there are groups on social media for donating breastmilk, also consider donating if you are a great producer!) **Make sure you never pay for breastmilk and report anyone to social media administrators who ask for money***