STOP! Are you a mom? Are you a woman? If you answered no to one of these two questions or if you are my brother-in-law (wink) please re-consider the title and go no further. Or if words concerning breast feeding gross you out- this might not be the blog post for you since its not your typical food article.
I wasn’t planning to write this so soon or maybe not at all but I’ve been awake for the last hour thinking about it and tossing in my bed. Hmmm… is it maybe because someone needs to hear this? Someone out there feeling alone in their struggle?
I’m apart of a Mommy Group on Facebook and I would say on average about once a week, there’s a desperate, breastfeeding mama asking for milk supply suggestions. Wow. That’s a lot! When I was walking through this I had no idea it was so common. I thought I was alone, strange, the only one but apparently I’m not.
Before I go any further I want to say that I absolutely don’t write this for pity. No not at all. Its actually quite vulnerable to put these things out there. The very only reason I write this is because I know what it feels like to be in this situation, alone, desperate, ashamed, panicking for the sake of your baby and I want you to know that you are NOT alone. In fact, there are many others out there who have been where you’re at. To you I want to say this, If you forget everything else in this post, please just remember this: YOU are the PERFECT mama for your baby. Yes, I said YOU. God gave this baby to you. He knew you had what it takes to mother this child-and in the areas you are lacking? He gives it. He supplies you. He gives you grace on days when you feel too tired to move a muscle. He’s there. In your struggle He’s there.
I know I’ve alluded to this some in the last few months but I never really shared it all maybe because I’m not totally out of it yet and maybe because my baby is still not fat. Nope, she doesn’t even have rolls yet.
When Olivia was born, the first few days I was very hopeful that breastfeeding was going to be easy. I had a little bit of a rough time with Declan (nothing close to what I’ve been through with her) but he had latch issues and right there at the hospital they gave me a nipple shield (which later became my worst enemy) but at least I had plenty of milk, the numbers on the scales kept climbing, and he was growing.
Two days after bringing Olivia home from the hospital, Stan stayed home from work for two days. I immediately told him that the biggest help he could give me would be potty training Declan. I had worked with him for weeks before my due date and he knew fully well how to do it but he was simply stubborn. I had been determined to have him fully potty trained by the time our second baby arrived (who wants two in diapers?) but it just didn’t happen. So, Stan so graciously took me up on it and as I watched from my chair, made it look way too easy. It went better than the books. He potty trained like a pro. After those two days he went back to work and running Declan to the potty 100 times a day became my responsibility. I did have some help throughout these days but it seemed like he needed me. I spent those days, working to get Olivia to latch on to nurse and it seemed like the moment she was finally sucking, the toddler needed to pee. It was a never ending cycle that I would not repeat. I say this to give you the permission to have two in diapers. I was jumping up from my chair all the time, interrupting her eating way too often. It sounds comical now as I write this but I do believe that it might be what started this crazy journey.
From there things went bad. She was a bit fussy- not screaming like Declan did but just hard to quiet. I expected to know what to do when she cried, after all, this wasn’t my first time but what I thought would work, didn’t. She got overstimulated very fast, it took hours to calm her after an evening with a crowd.
One thing I still can’t explain, is why sometimes (often actually!) when I KNEW she was hungry, she simply refused to nurse. She would take one suck and push away with the force of a 6 month old not a 4 week old. She would cry, hungry, but no matter which side I offered, I discovered that force feeding doesn’t work with a boob. If she had made up her little mind that she wasn’t taking it- that was end of story.
I tried different methods of nursing, laying down, different holds, quiet bedrooms, noise machines, humming to her, anything and everything…..and to my great relief she eventually would eat only to have it start all over a few hours later. It felt like feeding time was coming around so often when it’s miserable like that. I took every advice ladies gave me and tried it all too. Sometimes I thought, “ok I finally figured it out!” only to have another bad day. Because of her refusing to nurse and when she did eat, only nursing for short amounts of time, my milk supply dropped. I might add that during this time I was packing to move.
We were house-searching over the time of her birth and when Olivia was only 5 days old, I met Stan at a house to walk through. What on earth made me think I needed to traipse through that house? After looking in every room and closet on the main floor with our realtor we headed for the stairs to check out the second floor. I was carrying the baby following Declan up the steps, puffing by now, when I noticed some odd shaped dirt on the step, kinda looked like poop. On closer inspection, I realized that Declan was pooping himself right then and there, leaving a trail behind him. NO! It was one of those poops that he had been holding for a long time thanks to not wanting to go on the toilet. I gave Olivia to my niece who was with us, whispered something to Stan, and carried Declan at arms length to the car. Thankfully the house was close to home so I ran in, stripped him down and gave him a bath…fighting with a 30 pound toddler because he really didn’t want a bath at suppertime. Meanwhile, I had to scrub our car free of poop. Refilled the bucket with clean water and rags, dressed Declan (this time with a pamper!), and headed back up to the house to scrub that carpet. It was a mess. By the time we ate our baby meal after 7 o’clock I thought I would faint. That was one of the best and timeliest meals we got.
That next week, Stan (alone this time!) walked through another house in Mitchell. He called me and said he’s on his way to put an offer on it, he liked it that much and assured me I would too. After all of our house shopping, I was more than okay with letting him make the decision. We prayed and gave it to God. Not more than 12 hours later our offer was accepted. A few days later my parents and sister came to visit and we walked through the house for the first time. My mom did everything for me those days, waking up early working in the garden. I woke up to the smell of bacon. We started working on our new house that weekend and then they left. We had incredible help from family and friends, painting our new house and moving. Thank you again. I really didn’t have to work much those days but I think all the stress really took my milk supply for a drop so this is when I started offering the bottle. My sister Alta stayed with us for a few weeks which was a tremendous blessing. She listened to countless hours of breastfeeding talks and complaints as I tend to think out-loud. She also tried hard to get Olivia to take a bottle but she wouldn’t take more than a drop.
One night not long after we moved, I hit rock bottom. My milk was gone. I closed the door and in the darkness I cried along with the hungry cries of my baby. I snuggled her close and wept into her blanket. I tried again to make her suck even though there was nothing there because I knew if she tried long enough something would probably come but she just got frustrated. I almost yelled at God in desperation to please give me milk for my baby. If a baby really is hungry, why do they refuse a bottle? She finally fell asleep. Hungry. I just prayed that by the time she woke up again, I’d have milk. That night out of sheer desperation I asked the question on Mommy 101 of how to up my milk supply and also how to get a baby to take a bottle. I got answers and immediately ordered supplements. Milkflow from Amazon is what helped me the most. I ordered so many different things, drank the tea, took the tinctures, it all helped my supply greatly but my baby was still not gaining weight. (https://www.amazon.com/UpSpring-Milkflow-All-Natural-Fenugreek-Capsules/dp/B01DO9JSOW/ref=sr_1_1_s_it?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1487449907&sr=1-1&keywords=upspring+milkflow )
About this time I took her to the pediatrician. I expected her to yell at me and call me a bad mom for how tiny my 4 month old baby was but she was incredibly kind. It was incredibly discouraging to hear that her weight was below the charts. Her numbers weren’t even on a line, she was that low. I may have cried and felt like a failure that day. I was trying everything in my power to make my baby gain weight. I pumped. I ate. I drank gallons of water. I bought new bottles. Only to have random strangers ask how old my baby was and nearly drop over when I said her age. My husband was bothered by it too and we may have given a younger age a time or two to complete strangers. It was getting embarrassing and awkward. I wanted to scream that YES I DO CARE! Yes, I do notice she’s tiny. And yes, I have tried that.
Someone suggested that if I refused to offer my boob and only pumped and gave the bottle, she would eventually take the bottle…even if that meant she was hungry for a full day. So one Monday morning when I was feeling brave, I did just that. I was determined not to give in. But of course, she didn’t drink a drop from the bottle and by 10:30 I was a wreck and couldn’t stand her crying anymore…she nursed like a little piglet. It was oddly comforting that she just wanted me.
Another well-meaning person, said that she just wishes she could take my baby from me for a week and love and care for her. After a sleepless night, those words were like a slap in the face. I WAS taking care of my baby. I was trying everything under the sun. I was trying my very best but it still wasn’t good enough. I really was a failure.
I could give countless accounts of what well-meaning people said. Don’t get me wrong, I had some great support! #1 being an amazing husband who has stood by me in the good days and bad. Great family and wonderful friends and I know that everyone meant it well. I asked for advice and got so many good suggestions. My mom-in-law was extremely understanding because she says Stanley was just like this! 😉 Some things would help for a day or two and I was encouraged. A few people encouraged me to stop worrying about her because after all she was SUPER active, beyond her age in mobility, and healthy…but deep in my heart I refused to stop looking for answers because I knew she was not yet getting enough. My mothering instincts would not let me rest yet. It was very confusing because some days I had plenty of milk and other days I struggled…so depending when you talked to me you got a completely different answer.
I took her to the pediatrician for another weight check only to hear that she had fallen even further behind…. and this time she heard a heart murmur. If you remember the ultrasounds we had when I was pregnant with her, hearing those words brought a lot of those old fears. What if that was why she wasn’t gaining weight? She wanted us to take Olivia to a heart specialists for an EKG.
For a few months already I had been noticing that Olivia didn’t have a very good latch. When she nursed, her upper lip was flat down and not out like it should be so I started researching lip ties. I became convinced that this was her problem. I read that if they have a lip-tie, they can only nurse while you are full of milk, stopping as soon as they have to work for it because they really can’t get your hind-milk out. Because of this, they never empty you, which is not helpful for your milk supply. It started to ALL make sense. They were pretty much describing my situation. So I made an appointment and to make a long story short, the doctor snipped her lip-tie and it has helped drastically. I just wish I would have pursued that option months ago. She’s been nursing so much better and although she’s still incredibly curious and will whip her little head of at the slightest noise or movement, she’s eating. =)
I was almost afraid to weigh her again because I’ve been disappointed so many times that the scales does not move. She sat at 13 lbs. for weeks that stretched into months. Much to my delight, she gained 1 lb. 7 days after her lip-tie was cut. I screamed and called my friend, I texted people, family. I almost cried. Maybe I did actually. This time tears of sheer happiness. When making her gain weight is what you think about 99.99999% of the time, to see the scales move UP is beyond exciting.
Just this past Thursday we took her to the heart specialist. After an EKG and 118 x-ray pictures later, the doctor confirmed that she is FINE! Praise the Lord. I was at peace going in there but hearing those words were still such a relief. (He said that she does have two heart murmurs but they are nothing to worry about.)
One other thing that a friend had told me about is Sunflower Lecithin. I got the NOW brand from amazon and I do believe that those have also made a big difference… I started these a few weeks ago. They help to make your rich, hind-milk slippery so that it can be released easier. If you have clogged milk ducts, they might just help.
Updated to Add: These Lactation Support Liquid Capsules from Gaia Herbs work almost instantly to boost my supply! https://www.amazon.com/Gaia-Herbs-Lactation-Support-Phyto-Capsules/dp/B00F1J8HUA/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1487449662&sr=8-1&keywords=gaia%2Blactation%2Bsupport&th=1
I need to end this, its gotten way longer than I expected, God bless you if you have actually made it to the end. My sweet little girl is up and bouncing on my lap. I’m not saying that I have all the answers but if you’re struggling with breastfeeding, I understand. I care.
If I could step back in time, I would talk with a lactation consultant. I never have but I encourage you to if you are struggling with breastfeeding.
I want you to know that it really does get better. It gets easier.
Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep pursuing answers for your little one. You are the perfect mama for your precious baby.
If you ever have a rough day and need prayer please feel free to private message me on FB or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hugs and all the best wishes to you in this journey of motherhood.