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.

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Oh how much pain this chart caused my heart!

Oh how much pain this chart caused my heart!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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