Sweeten Her Maternity Leave, Make a Meal. She May Make Her Breastfeeding Goals

Maternity leave, what a challenge this time can be for so many families.  For single mothers providing for a family, maternity leave can seem like a high-class privilege instead of a necessity. I am self-employed, I run my business on cash and have no debt.  Our family finances are tight and I pretty much pay my business expenses and put the rest towards saving for taxes, then I take the rest home.

You may already know about my breastfeeding goals, because of that I chose another 12 week maternity leave.  My husband’s business does not cover all of our expenses, so things are very lean while I’m off work.  We used quite a bit of our savings for month-to-month expenses during my three month maternity leave.

meal train logo

My first doula, and dear friend set up meal trains for me.

We would not have survived the month of September were it not for our community supporting us with a meal train. Every person made a meal that served us for more than 2 meals, and they were all gluten-free and dairy-free!  For one-third of my maternity leave I didn’t have to shop, plan or prep meals, just heat and eat.  What a blessing!

Breastfeeding Baby

Breastfeeding rates for all babies in the USA drop from 79% at Birth to 27% at 12 months. These rates are approximately 16% lower for black babies

Breastfeeding rates steadily decline in the USA from birth to 12 months.

I was just thinking about how how drastically breastfeeding rates change from 79% at birth to 49% at 6 months to 27% at 12 months.  Many women return to work before the 4th trimester is over.  Did you know that the 4th trimester is not only important for baby, but also for mom?  Babies are designed to suckle not only for milk, but for comfort and that suckling sends a message to your body as it transitions from the hormonal regulation of milk supply to the “use it or lose it” regulation of supply and demand.  Short maternity leaves are a factor for many women having milk supply concerns.

Returning to work at 8 weeks postpartum with my first was one of the many obstacles that lead to my daughter weaning at a heart-breaking 9 months.  Even though I was able to pump at work, it was loaded with stress.  I could skip a client to pump or lose money and pump.  That combined with the fact that sometimes I made mistakes in my schedule led to less stimulation that I would have had with a real-live baby.

Do we need government intervention?

I’ve been interested in a petition I’ve seen advertised on Facebook to support families with longer paternal and maternal leaves.  I do believe the US stands alone in many family-unfriendly practices.  The government offers n0 leave, and only provides for an unpaid 12 week time off through FMLA, for qualifying workers.  Although this is a federal protection, many HR departments bully families into taking less time off.  Here are 10 things you should know about maternity leave in the US.

I don’t know how to fix our broken nation, so maybe we should just start with our hearts.  Maybe we should be the change we wish to see.  Indulge me in some imaginative questions:

What if, through the generosity of our hearts, it was the cultural norm to provide meals for families with a new baby for the first 3 months?  No rules or regulations, it was just “the thing we do” because it seems right?

Imagine your food budget.  What if it was completely covered my friends, family, neighbors and your place of worship?  How much money would that save you?  Would that be $600, $800, $1000, $1500, $2000 in savings?  Our diet is gluten-free when affordable and dairy-free (except at holidays, mmm whipped cream and gluten free biscuits!).  We rely on veggies and shop at a local co-op with some of the best organic prices in town.  For us it would be about $2000 in savings.

What might that look like?

Maybe mom can afford an extra month of maternity leave.

Perhaps she would feel more successful. Thanks to you, she saves about 1-2 hours a day NOT prepping meals.  She might not have to rely on take out, or less nutritive pre-packaged items.  She might have the wonderful feeling of feeding her family, with very little effort.  No meal planning, no grocery shopping, no chopping, rinsing or cooking.

Tired Mom Shopping

Save your friends from this hassle, make a meal!

She might not be as tired.

It’s possible that she would be less likely to have her bleeding increase from “doing too much.”

She might have time for more naps.

Showering can fit in to her “breastfeeding marathon” schedule better.

Perhaps she feels freer to play with her older kids, or help them with homework.

Maybe She could enjoy breastfeeding more, because she isn’t thinking about “all the things” she should be doing.

What does it cost to make a big casserole for a family, $25?  The blessing of that meal can’t be quantified, because it does so much more than replace the cost of grocery savings.

What if it was just the norm to make sure every new mom had all her meals covered for 3 months?

This post is not an emotional manipulation, but really a charge for change.  Our hearts should be ready to serve our neighbors, and what a simple way to make a difference.

A difference that could: curb triggers for postpartum depression, help support breastfeeding goals, fill bellies of older siblings feeling a little displaced with a new baby, make moms feel more successful, help meet a financial need.

What a small sacrifice, from a handful of people, to make such an impact.

 

SaveSave

6 Things To Do When Breastfed Baby Isn’t Gaining Well.

6 Things To Do when your breastfed baby is not gaining well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Things To Do When Your Breastfed Baby Isn’t Gaining Well

Save your milk supply and your sanity, even if your breastfed baby isn’t gaining well. I put out a scope a few weeks ago on this topic.  I weighed my daughter and discovered she had only gain 6 ounces (give or take when you consider slight scale differences) in 6 weeks.  I was broken-hearted to discover she wasn’t getting enough. I felt crushed; I thought I was close to getting an EBF relationship, but she was still not getting enough nutrition.

My husband told me to scope about it, what a genius that man is.  It not only got me out of my funk, but maybe it will help another mom.

Without further ado, here are six things you should do, if this happens to you.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself, “I am a good and loving mother.”

When you find out you aren’t meeting your baby’s needs, it can be very easy to blame yourself.  I’ve been doing this for years, it has never helped me get more milk in the bellies of my children.  It has contributed to my postpartum depression.  It also takes the focus off of what I can do for my baby.  It’s easy to make it about yourself, after all you are everything to your baby.  This can leave you feeling that your “everything” is “not enough.”  It is stressful enough to cope, please don’t add shame or guilt to your troubles.  You are a loving mother, and you will do whatever you need to do for your baby.

Only use a trusted resource, to find out what you can do to problem-solve.

KellyMom is a great resource.  La Leche League International is another.  If you are struggling with low milk supply Low Milk Supply is another.  My favorite book for dealing with this problem is The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Lisa Marasco and Diana West

Take a quick review of the facts.

It is so easy to jump to the wrong conclusions, so start with the facts. The fact check is important because it would be so easy to jump to “I’m starving her, I’m a failed breastfeeder!”   So in my case the facts were: Urine output is great, bowel movements are perfect, she seems happy, healthy and alert, she gained 6 ounces in 6 weeks. The reality was she showed ONE sign of not getting adequate nutrition: the weight gain being too low. I was diligent and following her cues, but for some reason she didn’t gain.  Facts don’t judge, they just communicate information we can use to make appropriate changes.

Ask yourself, “Is there a problem?”

In my case, yes. She had been gaining an OUNCE a day a once she re-gained birth weight. This tapering off in weight gain indicated a problem,  It was a subtle one, but a problem.  Your issue may be tongue tie, lip tie, improper latch, a breastfeeding management detail that isn’t working, or lower supply.

Make a THOUGHTFUL win-win plan.

Your plan does not have to be long term, it may only need to be short term.  It should include and objective measurement (diapers, weight check, etc) to determine if your intervention worked.  My plan, for one week, I DOUBLED her supplement (5oz per day to 10oz per day) and I set a 3 am alarm to feed her in the middle of the night.  I’m happy to report, in one week she gained 8 ounces, and I’m considering tweaking my win-win solution to keep her gaining while protecting my supply.

Consult with a breastfeeding-friendly professional.

This may be a peer counselor, a LLL leader or an IBCLC.  Not all professionals are breastfeeding friendly.  When I was struggling the first time, I talked to someone who was a guru, but she wasn’t skilled enough to help me with  my problem.  Your emotions should not be written off, feel free to ditch unfriendly “helpers” and seek out the right person.  This time I spoke with a peer counselor who gave me the idea to “change it up for just a week.”  This was SUCH good advice because it wasn’t “well, I guess you have to supplement more FOREVER.”  The next day I called a great IBCLC who asked me all the right questions, it was a 30 minute conversation (not a quiz or a lecture) and in my case, she advised continuing the supplement and a few things to increase the fat content of my breast milk.

Three Things NOT to do:

  1. Do not use doctor Google. There are TOO many opinions and voices out there.  The internet in general will not be able to help you with your specific issues that require specific answers.
  2. Do not put yourself down, not only is it likely inaccurate, it isn’t helpful.
  3. Do not give up, breastfeeding is not an all-or-nothing adventure.  I combination fed my daughter for 9 MONTHS only making approximately 8 ounces a day.  I combination fed my son with the SNS for 9 months (no bottles) and at 26 months he still occasionally nurses for comfort.  I’m BESTfeeding my baby.  Sometimes that is the SNS, sometimes that is bottles, so far I’ve been blessed with donor milk, and I am not going to beat myself up if I ever need to use formula.

Feed your baby, protect your supply if you can, love your baby and love yourself.

Peace dear friend.

Breastfeeding: Third Time’s A Charm?

Oh, wouldn’t that be lovely?  I am not exclusively breastfeeding, but I am BESTfeeding.  Today, I’m going to share how things are different the third time around, and how they are the same.

It’s Different

First, we never got up to a 10% weight loss.  I think with Z, her initial weight loss was about 12% before she started gaining.  I chose to supplement J before she was even 24 hours old.  Now, this is different from conventional breastfeeding advice, but my problems are unconventional.  I started with the colostrum I expressed during pregnancy, and at 26 hours I began supplementing with 5mls of donated breastmilk.  Over the next few days she lost a little more weight, and by time she saw the doctor for the second time, at 5 days old she was already gaining.

Secondly, I was not as much of an emotional wreck, because we had a scale.  There was no guess-work, because I weight her every 12 hours, I knew exactly what we were working with.  There was no room for false hope “she seems happy, her diapers seem good” and there was no room for despair.

We had almost immediate treatment and diagnosis of traditional breastfeeding problems. I took J to see the chiropractor the morning after she was born.  She evaluated her mouth: posterior tongue tie, upper lip tie, and slightly askew palate.  I had J in to the doctor that afternoon to have a posterior tongue tie and upper lip tie clip (laser is out of our budget).

My milk came in faster this time, I want to say shortly after 72 hours, it was not that fast with my other two babies.

It’s harder now too, because I am tandem nursing.  It’s so sad to have to say “no” to C when he wants “bosom” and I need to save the milk for J.  There is another layer of jealousy for him, sadness for me and stress.  I had to mourn the change in our nursing relationship, and I did not expect that.  I knew it would be hard and confusing.  We had a night where we both cried and cried in his crib.

Finally, I chose a different path with supplementation and diet.  I was taking Alfalfa, Moringa, Goat’s Rue during pregnancy, and continued.  I discontinued prenatal vitamins and switched to regular because the amount of B6 in my prenatal may be too high for lactation.  I held off on my placenta pills until 3 weeks postpartum, to facilitate a better drop off of progesterone and hopefully establishing a better supply.  I continue to take liquid iron and fish oil.  After I had a prolactin test (which revealed nothing, because my results make no sense), I began taking domperidone at 90mg/day. I increased to 120mg while I waited for my shipment to arrive, it never did so I weaned off of it.  I hope to start again soon.

In regards to nutrition, I have limited dairy, soy, gluten, grains and sugar.  As I know all of these can trigger hormonal dysfunction for PCOS patients, this is wise.  Additionally, I have personal experience with noticing the ill effects of each of these groups on my body.

It’s The Same

My milk is not enough.  No amount of preparation, medical understanding or emotional preparedness can remove the sting.  It just can’t.  I mentioned that my milk came in earlier, and boy was that day a horrible disaster.  My hormones were absolutely off the charts, and the second night and third night after J was born, I was sure my husband would leave me because of my irrational behavior.  We had an argument over how I would supplement Jemma (bottle or SNS) only he thought I was considering NOT supplementing her.  It was raw and ugly.  I’m so thankful he stuck around, because it did get better after my milk came in.

I have to look for donor milk.  This is time consuming and there is nothing sadder than missing a post and seeing milk go to someone else.  Of course, I am glad another baby is getting it, but my baby isn’t.  It’s emotionally exhausting to search for milk, to explain your heartbreaking situation over and over again, and having to have many of those donors ask “are you drinking enough water?  did you try fenugreek?”  This women have EVERY RIGHT to ask questions about sharing their liquid gold, but it stings at the same time.

I have to make hard choices all the time, they might not seem hard to you, but they are for me.  Do I use the SNS or the bottle?  Do we go to the park?  I have to ask myself if I am emotionally equipped enough to nurse in public, with a 3 year old and a 2 year old and manage the SNS without my My Breastfriend.   Do I spend more time with my older kids and just use bottles? Maybe I should invest the time to cultivate a good breastfeeding relationship with J.

I have to make financial decisions.  Do I buy the domperidone (so expensive) and search for donor milk?  I know it’s cheaper just to buy formula.  Do I attempt to keep going with the at-breast feeds, or just switch to bottles? This is hard, and it’s just as hard the third time around.

Finally, it is the same because I have to choose between my breastfeeding relationship and my daughter’s needs and my financial success in my business.  With Z, I returned to work for 6 hour shifts.  With C, I took only 8 appointments a week and I returned home after each feeding to nurse him.  Both have their downsides.  It’s mentally easier for me to be at work and just be present.  It’s emotionally healthier for me to stay very connected to my babies, but my work suffers.  I can make more money in one six hour shift than I can in two 3 hour shifts.  I think I’ve made my decision, but it’s not easy.  Sacrificing my business even for a year, has consequences. With the birth of each child have have lost at least 1 client, so far permanently.

The Most Important Thing

I think I am very close to making enough milk, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get there.  However, this is the most emotionally healthy I have ever been in the early days of breastfeeding.  I can only hope it gets even better as she grows.  All of the preparation I did during pregnancy and early postpartum is paying off, not in ounces but in my happiness and well-being.

You have to be your own advocate ladies.  I had overwhelming support from my husband, doulas, mom, midwives, doctors and my Facebook group.  At the end of the day, each decision was mine.  I had to seek out what I needed.  Advocate for yourself.

Thoughtful, Tactful Words Please

Social media provides a strange platform whereby many of us feel comfortable “commenting” in ways that are rarely acceptable in the “real world.”  You see this don’t you?  Or am I the only one?  People who are more concerned about being heard, being right than they are about the feelings of others.  Our words hold weight for others more often than we think.

I have low milk supply, and my first two children hung around the 3rd-15th percentile for weight.   I heard two comments frequently, “Your baby is so skinny.” and “Are you feeding her?”   These statements were never said with any unkindness, but they stung me.  They hit me in my weak spot.

My very good friend has a fabulous milk supply and her girls have always hovered in the 90th percentiles for weight.  One day, they had a service person over and he said to her baby, “Hi fatso.”  Do you think it was easy for that mom not to feel defensive?

A woman once told me she switched to formula. She mentioned something about breastfeeding being too hard.  I said something like “It is really hard without good support”.  She immediately said, “Oh, I had lots of support”  I don’t remember everything else she said, because I realized I had done what I hated so much. I replied with a blanket statement. I felt terrible.

I’m challenging myself to have thoughtful and tactful words. I have the right to say anything I want.  My desire to respect others, to be compassionate and loving is more important that my first amendment rights. It’s not easy. I’m encouraging you to carefully consider the words you use with others.

Breastfeeding is my most sensitive example, but this can apply to anything in life.  Someone shared this and I thought it was a great example.

Only 1-2% of the world’s population have red hair.

Therefore, redheads are a myth. There is very little chance you will ever meet a redhead. If you ever meet someone who claims to be a redhead, she probably just isn’t educated enough to realize she has a different hair color. I thought I might be a redhead but then I just drank more water and my hair turned brown.

Let me break this down for you.  Low milk supply is “rare,” Drinking adequate water is critical to producing enough milk.  Women need support. We need resources to overcome challenges. All of these statements are true.  However, that 1-2% is real too.  Their physiological inability of that 1-2% to breastfeed isn’t attributed to poor breastfeeding management, lack of education, confidence and support. If we care about others, we should seek to understand their experiences.  Spouting information without understanding tends to hurt more than help.  I think when we harp on “breastfeeding management.” we do it for two reasons 1) It IS a common cause of breastfeeding trouble.  2) It’s easily documentable, controllable advice.

If breastfeeding fails, it can fail for a host of reasons: breast anatomy, baby’s anatomy, hormonal issues, and breastfeeding management.  Well, if you can’t breastfeed because you have nerve damage from a chest surgery, I can’t really help you.  If you say, “I have low milk supply.” and I respond with, “are you drinking enough water?  Have you tried lactation cookies?  are  you rooming in with baby?” You are not likely to open up to me.  I think you’ll change the subject.  It’s painful and I have inadvertenlty implied that you did something wrong.

So, I suggest you ask open-ended questions.

Instead of, “Have you tried ________” try asking “What have you already tried?”

I suggest this because it not only communicates genuine concern and interest, it offers her the opportunity to share her story.  Instead of just making conversation, you have invited someone to share their pain, triumphs.  Isn’t this what we need as postpartum moms, connection?

I was really inspired by the words of Glennon of Momastery in a webinar I watched last week.  She said that we tend to talk about the stuff that is on the surface.  Our surface stuff is all different, but when we go deeper we are all the same: fears, insecurity, desire.

My best friend has a fabulous milk supply, three girls, cute pets and a husband with a great job, our circumstances are not alike on the surface.  But go a little deeper and you find we are both affected by comments about our daughters appearance.  Go deeper and we share our frustrations, our fears, our dreams, this is what builds our friendship.

Chose your words wisely, to lift up and encourage.

Ask open ended questions to connect.

Our words matter.

Thanks for sticking around for the past 15 days. DaySpring is generously doing a giveaway for readers of #write31days bloggers.  Please, enter here to win a $500 shopping spree.

Insufficient Glandular Tissue

Alfalfa_ 3, 2X a dayI discovered that chronic low milk supply is a real thing, and not always a product of poor breastfeeding management.  I had anatomical factors working against me.  I have never been diagnosed by a LC or MD, but I know that I have Insufficient Glanduar Tissue.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I discovered through Diary of a Lactation Failure that I was not the only mom experiencing the heartbreak of not making enough milk.  The Facebook community of moms in similar situations has been so helpful as I have processed my grief, experienced loss, learn tips and trick and ultimately learned the keys for taking charge of my health.  Understanding the causes of my low milk supply has been empowering, and has positively impacted my breastfeeding relationship with my son and youngest daughter.  Understanding the limitations of my breasts has allowed me to forgive myself and move forward.

My Breast History

I started wearing a training bra in third grade.  Now, many girls are already hoping to need a bra soon and curious about what puberty will bring.  I come from a family of women with bigger breasts, so I always figured that when I started developing early this was a “good” sign that I’d look like the women in my family.  As it turns out, I didn’t have any more breast development in puberty and only minimal changes during my first pregnancy.  SAME CUP SIZE SINCE 3rd GRADE.  Honestly, it was pretty disappointing.

Menstrual Cycles

I started menstruating a few years later, I think around age 12.  Things were pretty normal until about 2-1/2 years later, I became irregular. I would go months without a cycle then had one long phase of spotting or bleeding that lasted an entire month.  My mom took me to a gynecologist, I ended up having an ultrasound reveal multiple ovarian cysts.  They did some blood work and diagnosed me with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  I was told this diagnosis meant I wouldn’t have regular cycles, and the birth control pill would create regularity.  The biggest downside of PCOS was a decreased chance of normal fertility.  “We will cross that bridge when we get to it” the doctor told me.

The Magic Pill

Oh, birth control pills.  I was regular for the remainder of high school, but when I had to start paying the co-pay out of my pocket in college (instead of mom’s) I stopped taking them.  In February of my freshman year, I thought I had appendicitis and went to the ER expecting to need surgery.  No, they ordered a transvaginal ultrasound which was SO PAINFUL, must have been lousy techs.  I’ve had several during pregnancy that caused no discomfort.  Again, multiple cysts.  They gave me a few packs of pills and Tylenol3 and told me to rest for a few days.

I stayed on those pills for until I was dropped from insurance, the curse of being a full time student at age 23.  It was a few years before I had a job that provided insurance, so I was off the pill from age 23-25.  When I got insurance again, I started taking them.  Of course it was new brand and I didn’t really read the pages of warnings, information and instructions.  I began having mysterious headaches that they couldn’t diagnose.  I had an MRI, no information.  I wasn’t able to drive because if the headache hit I would lose my vision.  They were so strange.  My mom read my pill warnings which clearly stated that headaches could be a side effect.  I stopped taking the pills and within a week my headaches were gone.

Holistic Efforts

By this point, I had done enough PCOS research to know that a low-carb diet and weight lifting exercise could keep the symptoms of PCOS in check just as effectively as the pill, without compromising fertility.  I wasn’t ready to have a baby, and I wanted to control my symptoms as naturally as possible.  I began having acupuncture about one time a week and in that first year of acupuncture treatments I had 8 cycles in a year.  Normally, that would have been 3 or 4 times a year.

So, why do I share all these gory details? I share it because although PCOS is not a predictor of lactation failure, there are strong correlations for many women.

Insufficient Glandular Tissue can be caused by or correlated to a many factors, including these three:

  1. PCOS/ irregular menstruation. My hormones were not functioning effectively enough to stimulate regular ovulation.  Therefore it makes sense that they didn’t function effectively enough to produce normal amounts of glandular tissue with each cycle.
  2. Poor Diet, leads to insulin resistance.  Insulin Resistance affects reproductive hormones.  I wish I had the time to post more detailed information about this.  Essentially, most of my life I ate non-nutritive carbohydrate dense meals.  Spaghetti with factory made marinara, cereal, cereal and more cereal, macaroni and cheese.  I rarely ate foods with protein, and consumed multiple daily servings of low-fat dairy products.
  3. Environmental Factors, BPA exposure has been linked to mammary issues in rodents, including mammary hypoplasia.  We know BPA is used to line canned foods, and plastic bottles.  Recently there has been backlash and fewer companies use BPA in their products, BPA is linked to a host of endocrine trouble.  I would say I had significant exposure to BPA as I mainly ate Spaghettio-s and ChefBoy-Ar-Dee Ravioli as a kid.

Now, what came first the chicken? or the egg?  Did I have Insulin Resistance before puberty causing PCOS?  Did they just go hand in hand?  I don’t know. Clearly, they all fit together in my health history.

Because of that I can understand that my body has milk-making limitations. This helps me accept those limitations, it helps me plan for the future.  It helps me make better choices for my children.  It makes me passionate about sharing the truth that “lactation failure” does not equal “mama failure.”

Live and Learn

How I planned my postpartum time expecting to be a low milk supply mom:

During Pregnancy

  • I began using progesterone cream twice a day.  To be honest, I didn’t know if low progesterone was a problem I had in pregnancy.  On the off-chance that it would work, I did it.  I later learned that it can be BAD for women with insulin resistance, which I now know I do have.  I didn’t back then. Live and learn.
  • I began taking alfalfa during pregnancy, slowly increasing my dosage up to about 4,500 mg per day
  • At 36 weeks I began taking moringa
  • At 36 weeks I began hand expressing colostrum.  Because I knew that I would likely have to supplement, at least I could offer something of my own.

Birth and Immediate Postpartum

  • I planned for a natural childbirth, which did work out.
  • I planned for immediate skin-to-skin contact
  • I planned to breastfeed within the first 30 minutes of birth

Early Postpartum

  • Limit visitors, since I was insecure about my breast appearance when Z came along, I would mostly disappear into our bedroom when it was time to nurse.  I didn’t know how I would feel about using a SNS in front of others.  BESTfeeding success was crucial to me, so we decided to limit visits to support this.  My husband had to remind me of this, as I invited friends over.
  • Nurse, on cue every 2-2.5 hours
  • Have a postpartum doula.  We only utilized this for a total of four hours, but WOW was she helpful.  Mostly she did laundry, but she was willing to do anything we needed.

Maternity Leave

  • I took 14 weeks, instead of 9.  I learned that although breastfeeding is supply and demand, it first starts out being driven by hormones.  The first 12-13 weeks is crucial to setting yourself up for success, and I didn’t want to add work stress into the mix.

Three Months 

  • Continue nursing frequently, about every 3 hours
  • I chose to re-work my work hours so that I could come home to feed him.  This worked because I am self-employed and live within a few blocks from my office.  Let me tell you though, this was a sacrifice.  I find it much easier to be “all in” at work and power through.  It was very emotionally demanding to switch gears frequently.
  • I also chose to work fewer hours.  It would have been financially better to take on up to 15 clients per week, with 12 being ideal. However, I chose to do 8 per week with two short weekend shifts per month.
  • We continued to keep him in our room until he was 15 months old
  • Continued to only use the SNS until he was 9 months old.

Evaluating Success

My first goal was to EFAB (exclusively feed at the breast) for 6 months, then re-evaluate.

My second goal was to offer as much human milk as possible, and be gentle with myself if I couldn’t get donor milk.  He had his first formula at 5.5 months, and only used 3 canisters of formula total.

My third goal was EFAB for 12 months.  We introduced bottles at 9 months, I can’t remember why.  At 12 months though he was still getting 99% of his breast milk from me and donors at the breast.

My fourth goal was to nurse through winter, and offer donor milk as long as I could.  He received donor milk in bottles up until bout 17 months of age.

At 24 months of age, he still nurses for comfort when he wants to.  This is normally two times per day, plus if he falls or hurts himself.

I am so thankful for the information I dug for, and the information that was freely offered to me through the Facebook community.  I never would have set such attainable goals, and I certainly could not have reached them without that group.

Advice for those trying to have a better breastfeeding relationship the next time around

  1. Carefully evaluate what went awry in your previous experience.  Perhaps it was a latching issue, a supply and demand issue, thyroid trouble, stress, work issues, maybe you were “booby trapped” by bad advice.   You can’t make a plan without understanding the cause of your trouble.
  2. Determine what is important to you.  If you look at my list of goals, my primary concern was the nursing relationship.  It wasn’t “as much breastmilk as possible” or even “make as much milk as I possibly can”
  3. Set your goals: maybe your goal is to offer your baby as much milk as possible.  I did NOT want to pump, so I set up goals that had me nursing as much as possible to stimulate that relationship.
  4. Make a plan to achieve your goals.  Yes, there are some mom/baby dyads that have everything naturally fall into place.  For most of us though, breastfeeding comes with a great deal of work.  We can’t achieve our goals without some sort of plan on how to achieve them.  Set yourself up for success by planning your postpartum period contentiously, plan to have time off of work, figure out how you will feed your baby when you return to work.  Don’t wait for things to happen, hiccups will come along the way, you might as well plan the things you CAN control.
  5. Be flexible, because you can’t control it all.  My secondary goal was to offer as much human milk as possible.  When the time came that I ran out of milk, and couldn’t find a donor, I went to the store and bought the best formula available in my town.  (Step 4 being done during pregnancy was very helpful.  I did not have to research formula while stressed).  When my son couldn’t transfer milk effectively, we had his tongue tie clipped.  When my husband had to feed my son before I got home, I didn’t freak out.  If you can set out to be flexible, you will by default lower your stress levels when the “crisis” happens.

I’ve obviously been through the ringer with this low-supply situation.  However, I think it has made me a better mother.  I mean all the steps I listed above could apply to any number of parenting situations.  Some things are in our control, some things are not.  I encourage you to positively impact and plan for the “controllables” and be at peace with the “uncontrollables”.

 

If I Could Turn Back Time

parenting This post is not intended to bash any parent, or spark a mommy war.  It’s intent is to share my regrets, why I regret some choices.

I would have trusted my instincts

If I could go back to my pregnant self, I would have trusted my instincts that something was abnormal about my breasts.  I had always felt insecure about the shape and size, but I thought pregnancy would bring the “booby fairy” along to perk me up. When she didn’t show up in pregnancy, I thought she’d show up when my milk came in.  She never came.  I now understand why, but that is for a future post.  Hint: avoid BPA exposure and eat proteins and vegetables.

So if I could go back, I would have questioned this instead of accepting the factual statement: breast size does not impact milk production.  Totally true, but I KNEW deep down that something wasn’t right about my anatomy.  I wish I had trusted my instinct and searched for more answers.

I would think more critically about parenting advice

I tend to accept things I hear pretty easily.  I tend to scrutinize things I read.  I attended a class with my husband “On Becoming Babywise.”  Several friends swore by it, and several friends swore about it.  I thought the baby wise method made sense, and that some people took it too far.  I wasn’t going to be one of those people.

To be fair, we tried this method for all of two days.  When it was clear there was a problem with breastfeeding, it went out the window.  By the way, the book does not recommend using this method until at least 8 weeks, but we were encouraged to start immediately.

Anyway, even when we abandoned the method, I still felt guilt for not doing it. I honestly felt bad about feeding on cue, and allowing Z to just suckle.  I am thankful that I couldn’t let her “cry it out.”  I discovered that every time she cried, I could meet her need or comfort her by: feeding her, changing her or holding her.  I am glad we ditched the hard-core routine message of the book and just took care of her as seemed logical.

I remember being a child and being scared of the dark, or being alone in my room.  I remember being unable to articulate what my need was, but I knew I needed to be physically close to my parents.  Now, as a parent in a full-size bed, I understand how that can be frustrating.  This is why I regret not thinking more critically about BW.  I remembered being scared, sad or lonely as a little girl.  Babywise methods didn’t match up with my experience, and I think I should have evaluated it more before accepting it.

I would have eaten more protein

This was reinforced at every prenatal appointment, every pregnancy book, and all the PCOS research supports it.  Basically, I didn’t think it was for me because I hated meat, so there was nothing I could do about it.  

I now understand that excessive carbohydrate consumption and lack of protein are detrimental to my milk supply.

I would have made it myself

Herbs are expensive!  I would have bought a bottle of More Milk Special Blend to get me through. Then I would buy the same herbs in bulk for $53 and a few bottles of vodka. Tinctures are SO easy to make, and way more affordable.

Skip Oatmeal and Lactation Cookies

Insulin Resistance, which you likely are if you have PCO/S, is a significant gator in milk production.  The last thing my body needed was extra carbs.  The last thing my self esteem needed was weight gain.

So, those are my major regrets.  They might seem random, but each of those choices led me to a series of “what ifs” that I wrestle with to this day.

There is never a shortage of opportunity to question yourself as a parent.  Fortunately, there is never a shortage of grace.  Just don’t deny yourself the grace.  We aren’t failures, even if we make a choice we later dislike.

Failure To Thrive (FTT)

Children are diagnosed with “Failure to Thrive” when their weight or rate of weight gain is significantly below that of other children of similar age and gender (John Hopkins Children Center)  Z has this listed on her medical chart, and it makes me sad every time I see it.

I think it should have been listed on my medical chart too, although I gained weight just fine. Today, I am sharing my first breastfeeding experience.  In the next few days, I will share more of the emotions I experiences and lessons I learned.  Today’s post is more of a concise summary of our story.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link. Thank you for supporting my site.

Oh how much pain this chart caused my heart!

Oh how much pain this chart caused my heart!

THE FIRST WEEK

Z was born on a Monday.  On Wednesday, her weight had dropped 6 ounces, meaning she has already lost 10% of her body weight. I was instructed to supplement her with half an ounce of breast milk (donated by a friend) after I nurse her for 10 minutes on each breast.  Then I should pump for 15 minutes, I would only need to do this until we were sure my milk came in.  Anyone who has done this knows how exhausting it can be, and there was no way I could have done it without having my husband home (he had 4 weeks off of work with only 2 days unpaid!).

By Friday, with our next home visit with our midwife, she had lost a few more ounces.  My milk still had not come in, so we started supplementing with one ounce, and she started gaining weight after that.  We had one more home visit with the midwife on Christmas Day and two appointments with her doctor the next week.

THE FIRST MONTH

On December 31 our insurance company dropped our medical group, and I had to find a new doctor.  Her appointment was scheduled for the last week of January, no one was concerned anymore with Z’s weight.

I felt uncomfortable with this, but was assured it was normal.  I knew something was wrong though, because I still had to supplement her.  She was a distracted nurser, always pulling her head back (silent reflux?) but she transferred milk effectively.  At one month postpartum, I was still doing the whole nurse, supplement, pump routine 6-8 times per day.  She had regained her birth weight and was just one pound above by 1 month.

She continued to grow, slowly.  At he end of January our insurance changed because my husband was fired, so we went back to our original doctor.  We had another month before her WCC, but I was uncomfortable with her weight gain.  I insisted that we needed at least a weigh in before that, and they complied.  I lost track of all the weigh ins, but we agreed that I need to give her 2oz per feed and continue to breastfeed, but no longer than 10 minutes per side so that she wouldn’t tire out and lose calories suckling.

THE SECOND AND THIRD MONTHS

My doctor prescribed domperidone, it was $95 for a 30 day supply.  We were already spending $70 or more on formula, something we never anticipated.  I had spent hundreds of dollars on fenugreek, oatmeal, lactation cookie ingredients, lactation herb blends, goats rue and essential oils. Even though I had a significant increase in milk, it wasn’t enough to keep her growing and so we couldn’t continue buying the domperidone.

I continued the nurse-bottle-pump routine during our times together, I was working 6.5 hours shifts at work, so she usually had 2-3 bottles while home with my husband. During those work shifts, I could take 2-3 clients and only had time to pump once. Usually, 15 minutes of pumping would give me almost an ounce of milk.

SEVEN MONTHS

Still confused by how none of the advice, medication or herbs were helping, I had been searching the Internet for answers as to why “doing all the things” wasn’t helping me make enough milk.  This is one thing that burns me up about my experience.  I spent the first 6 months certain that I was messing up somehow, even though I was doing everything right. I just thought if I kept it up, eventually it would come together. I found a blog that changed my life forever, Diary of a Lactation Failure.  (Do not follow link if breastfeeding photos offend you). This blog led me to the single greatest resource I have found for lactation failure, did you know that lactation failure is a real thing?  It is.  Did you know that “all mothers can breastfeed” is not true?  Did you know there are actual medical conditions that can prevent the most determined, most supported, most educated woman from exclusively breastfeeding her child?  I didn’t, until my baby was almost 8 months old.

EIGHT MONTHS

Medela SNS on the left and Starter SNS on the right

Medela SNS on the left and Starter SNS on the right

 

At eight months, I finally had the money to follow my best friend’s advice and buy the Medela SNS from Medela.  Wow, what a trip that thing was!  It allowed me to supplement with formula or breast milk, during a feed.  The thin tub gets taped to your breast and the baby can give you stimulation, while supplementing.  Now, this device made me feel a little better not using bottles, but it is difficult to get the hang of, can be messy if you do it wrong and resulted in lots of tears.  I also was too embarrassed of my lactation failure to use it in public.  I’m glad I bought it when I did, and I think it kept us going a little longer. During this last month of breastfeeding, I finally ditched the whole routine.  She still took bottles when we were separated, but any time we were together I just nursed her and used the SNS. I was still nursing her at least 4 times a day during the work week and 8 times on the weekends.

THE END

At the end of my eighth month postpartum I had a menstrual cycle (historically very irregular) and this one lasted almost 6 weeks.  While we were on a trip up north for a wedding, I woke up to nurse Z and she refused.  I had to pump, my tiny milliliters of milk.  The 9 hour ride home was uncomfortable and sad.  She refused all day, the next day.  I offered to nurse every time I was with her for the next month, she always refused.  I would get only drops when I pumped.  Our nursing relationship ended when she was 9 months and four days old.  By the time I gave up on pumping she was 10 months old.

LACTATION FAILURE IS THE WORST BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME

I hope this month’s posts are a blessing to those who read it.  I can feel how just writing these stories is healing my broken heart.  I would never wish lactation failure on anyone else, but I am thankful for it.  In the future, I will share specifics on why it is the “worst best thing.”  I will simply say that I honestly believe my lactation failure will positively impact my children, my husband and hopefully my daughters future breastfeeding experiences.

 

In the spirit of transparency, this website uses affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase following one of the links I provide, I may receive a commission from that sale. Please know that I recommend only products I believe in and use (or my wish-list items). Being affiliate allows me to produce content for you, free-of-charge, and be a financial blessing to my family. Thank you!