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”.

 

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