First of all, everything became very painful. I won't go into too graphic details, but just think blisters. I spent hours asking every nurse I could find what I was doing wrong, but everyone seemed to have different answers. In addition, Cal was always hungry, up constantly demanding food (which was painful). The nurses kept assuring me that I had enough milk, that it just needed to come in, and that it was normal for my baby to want to eat so much in the beginning days. They tried to teach me the signs of Cal being satisfied, and ignored my comments that he never seemed satisfied. The pediatricians assured me that Cal's weight loss was not too much and that once my milk came in, he would be a happy baby.
However, the day after we left the hospital and took Cal to the pediatrician, he had lost too much weight -- he had gone from 9 lbs. 9 oz. to 8 lbs. 10 oz. The pediatrician recommended that I give Cal formula, but I so desperately wanted to breastfeed him that I refused. He acknowledged that perhaps my milk hadn't come in yet, and said to feed the baby every two hours and come back in two days to have him weighed again.
That night was horrible. Cal refused to nurse on one side but was screaming with hunger. I knew this wasn't just my milk coming in late from having a C-Section -- something was wrong. I called a lactation consultant the next day, who, after observing Cal attempting to nurse, solved the beginning of the puzzle -- I simply did not have enough milk-producing cells. Cal had lost more weight the second day and obviously needed to be fed a new way. He was refusing to nurse because he was frustrated with the low amount of milk he was getting, but I didn't want to give up breastfeeding him -- I knew it was the best food he could get, and I also loved the bonding time with him. So Elena introduced a bizarre contraption called the supplemental nursing system. Basically, it held formula that went through a tube that attached to my breast, so when Cal sucked he could receive breast milk and formula at the same time, thus motivating him to suck more.
I wanted to write this post because when I was having trouble, I felt incredibly alone. I felt like I was the only woman in the world who was incapable of providing for her baby. I was jealous when people would leave meetings at church to nurse their babies, and I worried that people were judging me when I bought formula in the store and mixed it up in public. I obsessed about my milk production -- I remember crying over the tiny amount of milk that I pumped one day. It took time to overcome the feelings of inadequacy and to not feel jealous of women who were able to nurse without having to think about it. One of the biggest comforts to me was stumbling across a blog post written by a college acquaintance who had experienced similar problems, as well as talking about the situation with people who had experienced similar problems.
I also wanted to list the problems we discovered that we had that led to my low milk supply and what I tried to improve the situation, in the off-chance that it could help someone else. We discovered that not only did I have insufficient glandular tissue, but also several other factors that led to low milk production, including:
- Traumatic birth experience
- Cleft soft palate
Some of the things that we did to improve the situation were:
- Use an SNS
- Pump after feedings (I will say that this was incredibly difficult in the first few weeks. I could not put Cal down long enough to pump. However, it did help later.
- Take a supplement -- the one that was most helpful for me was "More Milk Plus Special Blend," which contains goat's rue, fennel, fenugreek, blessed thistle, and nettle. (I used to make fun of people who took supplements like this, but it really did help).
- I also read a very helpful book, The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West and Lisa Marasco.
I was able to come to a point where I was at peace with myself for the decisions I made. I did the best I could, and while things didn't go the way I had envisioned them going while I was pregnant, they were fine. I'm grateful for the time that I was able to breastfeed, and the perspective that I now have for future children. I did so much research about this while I was trying to figure everything out that I've decided to certify as a lactation consultant in a few years. Despite the difficulties, I learned so much. So to those of you struggling -- don't worry! Do what is best for you and your baby, and don't worry about what other people think.