First off let me apologize for my absence, newborn life is very time-consuming and I owe this blog my birth story.
Warning, I’m about to get a little vulnerable with y’all. This week is World Breastfeeding week. This week you will see photos of women in public places nursing, you will see the tree of life superimposed over a photo of babies on the boob and you will see major sales on nursing gear online.
I agree this is something that needs to be normalized and celebrated but for some of us breastfeeding week can be majorly triggering.
When I was first pregnant people loved to ask me if I planned to breastfeed, which sidebar is a super inappropriate question but I digress…. I would always answer the same “of course I am, if I can I will”, not really a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be able to do this.
When Marlowe was first born she wanted to eat. She was rooting around before her umbilical cord was even cut. The first days in the hospital my colostrum was slow to come in, her latch was strong but my breasts just weren’t producing. I saw a lactation specialist in the hospital that casually gave me a pump and half assed explained to me how to use it on the way out the door.
Our first night home was terrible. I wasn’t producing milk and we had no possible idea that was the reason that she cried so much and refused to sleep. Somewhere around 5am we researched on our phones and decided to go ahead and give her a few drops of formula. Feeling like a horrible parent I pressed the bottle to her lips and she gobbled up the few drops we gave her, hoping that I wasn’t somehow poisoning my child.
Society has such a layer of shame around formula, with “breast is best” and many other slogans out there it gets ingrained in our heads that somehow if we are feeling them formula we are not good parents.
The next day we went and saw a lactation consultant. Bleary eyed and concerned we immediately copped to the formula the night before. Our consultant tried to persuade us to be more patient with my milk and assured us that “if she’s on the breast more, I will produce more”. Then she weighed her……..little Marlowe had lost almost a pound since birth over 24 hours ago….my baby was starving.
I was beside myself. Her skin had turned jaundice and we had to get several tests to make sure she was okay which made her scream and left us in tears. We were sent home with a feeding tube device to give her small drops of formula but with strict instructions to keep her on my breast to stimulate milk.
A few days later we came back and she hadn’t gained much weight. We admitted to our consultant that her frequent screams led us to feed her more and more formula in between breast-feeding attempts. Our consultant told us she was diagnosing our 1 week old daughter as a “lazy sucker” and instructed us to cut off formula altogether as an attempt to get her to eat more from me. As we were leaving a woman ran into our room in a search for a warm blanket and we got introduced to her as the lead lactation consultant. She was kind and greeted us warmly before she left and when we scheduled our next appt. two days later I made sure to ask for her instead.
Upon our 3rd visit with this new consultant we poured our heart out. If Marlowe wasn’t eating or sleeping she was screaming. She had barely gained a few ounces and was dipping to the 20th percentile in weight. We were concerned and frustrated. Our consultant listened thoughtfully and at the end of our story said “you guys she’s just hungry” we fed her and weighed her in between to conclude that I just wasn’t making enough milk.
My body alone could not feed my baby…she had gone hungry…
At this point of course I was overcome with emotion. We had been thinking she was the problem when really my body was the problem all along. The guilt I felt that I had let her go hungry sunk into me like a stone. I choked down the lump in my throat and immediately shifted my thinking, I need to get this baby fed and I will do whatever it takes for this to happen. She had us immediately use the formula in solid ounces and feed her constantly while maybe topping her off with my own milk. Within a week (three and a half weeks after birth) she was finally up to her birth weight. This consultant saved us, set us at ease and treated us gently like family.
Now shifting my thinking about all this was hard. I had to retrain my brain that “fed is best” and that it was okay to sustain my baby with formula. In these last months I have tried everything to get my milk supply up with no avail. I’ve choked down thick mixtures of herbs 3 times a day, drank my weight in coconut water, Gatorade and plain ol’ water until I was sick. I ate nutrient rich foods, power pumped until my nipples bled, drank all the different teas and bought all of the expensive lactation cookies, bars..etc… nothing helped. I tried different supplements and even now am taking a special drug I have to get imported into the US because it’s not recognized by the FDA….Its been a journey.
Recently my daughter decided to stop taking formula one week. We completely panicked. I ended up driving nearly 60 miles to pick up donated breast milk to feed her since I didn’t have my own supply to fall back on.
Feeding my child another mothers milk was probably the most humbling moment I’ve ever experienced. Holding a bottle of a strangers milk to feed her while I sit and watch will always cause a little bit of tears in my eyes. I have learned so much on this journey. I have learned to put my ego to the side, plans change whether I like it or not. Sometimes even the best laid plans won’t go my way and that’s okay. I am learning to put my child’s happiness before what I want because in the end, she’s thriving, she’s 11 pounds and almost 50th percentile in her weight. Thats all I could ever ask for. Our lactation consultant even had to tell me to stop coming in because she was fine and we didn’t need her anymore. To this day my breasts are producing more little by little but not enough to sustain Lo fully and I am okay with that. She’s happy and healthy and that’s all that matters.
Mine are the stories you won’t hear much about during world breastfeeding day but mine are the ones that should be out there. Breastfeeding is a journey, and not always the smoothest one,I am happy to at least be on it.