Radios & Rattles – Lots of Cookies But No Milk

I’ve been sitting on this topic for a while…wondering how it was going to play out so I could give better insight. It’s playing out NOT AS I EXPECTED AT ALL!!!

Breastfeeding.

This is not a formula-breastmilk, natural/’fed is best’ debate. I’m not trying to open that can of worms. The groups I’m a part of for ‘mom support’ have disclaimers saying “no fed is best statements…don’t talk about latching…”. It’s more heated than some of the political debates I’ve seen!

The plan was a the breastfeed/pump/bottles…but no formula. Not that there is anything wrong with formula. I was brought up on formula and I turned out ok…I think (haha).

Let’s go back to the beginning. Charlotte is mere hours old and we try to get her to feed. First there were a few things working against us. I’m a new mom, I’ve never breastfed before. Charlotte is a premature new human, she’s never eaten without an umbilical cord and she was on the phototherapy bed which made her very sleepy. Full term babies are born with a lot of fat stores they can burn up and don’t have to eat right away. (Or so I’m told). A preemie doesn’t have those fat stores and needs nutrients. Charlotte needed it even more due to the jaundice. So respecting my wishes to feed her breastmilk, donor milk was brought in and we fed her with a tiny syringe and feeding tube to “teach her” how to feed. She ate like a champ.

Meanwhile, nurses are trying to get me to pump to give her food of my own creation. Let me just say this. It’s not like the movies. Most of us don’t hook up the pump, crank out gallons of the liquid gold and everything is fine and dandy. It hurt, I didn’t know what I was doing, there were a bunch of settings, each nurse had a different technique or advice and I managed to pump out….a drop. Yup. 1 single drop. I cried. And I all but gave up. I just told myself “Forget it, Just meet with your lactation consultant later this week, maybe you’re broken and she can fix you..sorta.” Unfortunately due to a family emergency on her end…that meeting didn’t happen until a week later. In retrospect, I feel like a crucial week was lost but I’m no longer allowing myself to beat myself up over it.  Because I know so much more now.

First of all let me just remind you, I am not a lactation consultant, doctor, nurse, medical professional. This is just my experience. For new moms, get yourself a lactation consultant, usually covered by insurance, your doctor’s office has advice/consultants or go online.

Now before you go sending me an email saying “you should try….” chances are, I have. Seriously, it’s been that much of a struggle.

What I’ve learned, the hard way, is you have to train you body to produce milk. For most of us, it doesn’t just ‘happen’.  In this journey I’ve done a lot of research, (mostly Pinterest), drank Mother’s Milk tea, taken supplements, hot compresses, woken up a 3am to pump, drank yellow gatorade, coconut milk, lactation smoothies, water, baked DOZENS of lacation cookies, eaten a TON of oatmeal, changed pumping techniques, bought a Haakaa pump, bought different types of flanges for the electric pump..I even have some essential oils on order. It’s been a struggle. Below, in the left vial is the level pumped in an entire day one day (30ml), and the right vial is just 2 pump sessions. It’s amazing the difference a day makes.

 

The one thing I’ve run into over and over again is water, oatmeal, brewers yeast and flax seed. And more water. And more calories. And pump 8-10 times a day for at least 15 minutes.  And the key thing is staying hydrated! I can tell a huge difference when I’m not drinking enough water. Then there’s certain types of foods that boost you’re body’s ability to produce milk. Trust me, I’ve been eating these cookies like I’m Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. (BTW, this smoothie is actually really good…leave out the strawberries and it’s like banana bread with milk boosting power!)

Now for the debate part. I’m always so worried I’m going to get shamed ‘how dare you feed her formula!’ If you’re one of those people who passes judgement on how a Mom feeds her kids. Stop. You don’t know the whole story. She may have had a mastectomy, she may choose not to, she may be like me who’s trying REALLY hard to keep up but can’t produce enough. She eats 4-5 ounces of formula in one sitting. I can produce 1 single ounce of pumped breastmilk a day (so far.)

There’s also different groups, women breastfeed exclusively (for the most part don’t pump, feed their baby on demand), those who pump exclusively (don’t breastfeed), over producers (ladies who crank out so much milk they have freezers in their basement full and can stop pumping after a fews months have enough until the kid is 2) and under suppliers or ‘just enoughers’ (those who supplement with donor milk or formula because they don’t create enough and those who just barely make enough).

So…I’ve managed to go from drops to about a full ounce (If I remember to pump 8 times per day and drink a ton of water) and I’ll take that as a win. The amount of time I’ve sat here writing, I’ve been pumping. Only 15ml this time after an hour. Oh well. I’ll try again tomorrow, bring a large bottle of water to bed, sip it through the night and hope for the best like I do each day. Just because I’m an ‘undersupplier’ doesn’t mean I’m going to give up anytime soon! (And if you’re a struggling breastfeeding mom..don’t give up either!)