Monday, August 19, 2013

Breastfeeding, Take Two

First 'noms' at BC Women's Hospital, shortly after the birth
I'm sure you've all heard, "Breast is best", "Human milk for Human Babies", & so on. You've probably heard people say that pretty much every woman can breastfeed. I'm in full agreement with these ideas, to the point that you might even call me a 'lactivist', but wish that third one came with a caveat more often. YES, nearly all women can make milk. However, not all can make enough milk to sustain a baby. I know this from personal experience.

If you've been reading the Sprog since Sprout was born or you know me in real life, you can probably skip this paragraph, as you've heard our story. I was one of those women who could make milk, but despite a lot of effort, couldn't make 100% of what my child needed. That effort included pumping six times a day after feedings (round the clock), taking herbs & teas, Domperidone pills, reading tons of breastfeeding books & websites, tracking every detail of feeding, supplementing, weight, etc for months, going to workshops, La Leche League meetings, baby groups, lactation consultants, my midwives & then weekly weigh-ins & doctor's appointments at a specialist breastfeeding clinic, not to mention all the washing & sterlizing that goes along with using a breast pump, bottles & early on, a tube setup.

After all the struggle, these moments were worth it.
I'm still not entirely sure WHY I couldn't make enough milk. There are definitely things that I could have done better in the early haze of new motherhood, but I was well-educated, with a great number of resources at my disposal. Most women make mistakes at the beginning yet then go on to have a full milk supply. None of the experts I consulted were able to give me an answer.

Now that I'm pregnant again, with my due date looming less than a month away, I've been doing more research. This article on Kelly Mom (8) was interesting to me, breaking breastfeeding issues into three categories. Basically: hormonal issues due to thyroid problems or PCOS, etc, breastfeeding management issues (including tongue tie, latch issues as well as too few feedings, etc), then lack/shortage of milk-producing glandular tissue (IGT).

I suspect I may have mild IGT, but I don't know that it wasn't mainly breastfeeding management issues. At our last appointment with the doctor at the Vancouver Breastfeeding Clinic (7), she suggested I come back before my next baby. I just had that appointment this week & after a refresher on getting a newborn to latch well, plus lots of discussion about how everything went after she last saw us, we've set up a loose plan.

After talking to the doctor, I left feeling very positive & hopeful that I can avoid the months-long struggles that I faced last time & maybe, just maybe, make enough milk to breastfeed exclusively. Having a plan helps me--the obsessive lister. I've got a couple of herbal supplements, one that I'm taking already (5) & one I'll start after the birth (6). My doctor at the Vancouver Breastfeeding Clinic has given me a prescription for Domperidone & I'll go see them in the first week after baby's born. I have a copy of a great book (3) on foods that help in milk production (see below for details) & a prescription for Domperidone. I've got my awesome breastfeeding pillow (4) back but still need to pick up the double pump that my cousin is passing along. Nearly ready!

I plan to write more on this after my daughter is born. I want to share the journey in the hopes that other moms--with IGT or hormone imbalance, PCOS, issues due to surgery or the myriad of other things that can affect a mother's milk production--will know it's possible to stick with it & that it doesn't have to be one or the other. I'm not out to shame anyone who stops breastfeeding & uses formula to feed their baby, because I know how bloody hard it is to combo feed & there are many reasons why it might not work (I'll have to leave that for another post). However, if I could inspire another mom or two to see herself as a success, not a failure, if she breastfeeds & supplements, I'll be happy.

Some of the resources mentioned above that I've found useful:

  1. FB support group for IGT/low supply moms (private group, you'll need to request to join) It's full of moms who are struggling, who've been there & a few experts in the field.
  2. The article that inspired me to write this: on Best For Babes
  3. This book: Mother Food all about things you can eat to help your supply
  4. My Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow
  5. EcoIdeas Moringawise Organic Moringa Powder--the best-priced form I could find of a well-known galactagogue in the Phillippines, plus here's a study that found positive results immediately postpartum & another one focussed on moms of pre-term infants.
  6. Motherlove More Milk Plus capsules with fenugreek seed, blessed thistle, nettle, fennel seed.
  7. Vancouver Breastfeeding Clinic
  8. Kellymom is a brilliant site with tons of evidence-based resources.

Mamas out there: what was/is your breastfeeding story? Did you face some bumps in the road like I did? No judgement here--just sharing stories. :)

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  1. Wow great post! I had issues with #1 and did the domperidone/teas/pump after every feed/ worked out but things were never perfect. The biggest lesson I learned which helped with #2 was to just. always. be. breastfeeding. At least for the first weeks. I think near constant suckling + the increased milk ducts you get with each baby = breastfeeding success. With #1, well, it was easy to read and intellectually understand the whole system, but I just wasn't able to apply it, you know? I had unscheduled c-sections with both girls, but that in no way reduced my supply with #2, and hugely impacted things with #1 - everything was just too much, too fast, too new, despite all the preparing and reading I'd done! I am thinking strong positive thoughts that all the prep you're doing + all the knowledge you gained from your first, will make this time much better! And if you have to supplement/take domperidone/whatever, fine, you've gone through it and know that the world didn't end, right? And your son is amazing and healthy:)

    1. Hey, thanks for the encouragement, Eva! I'm feeling cautiously optimistic this time around. Even if I can't exclusively breastfeed, I feel like it'll be less disappointing because I've been there before. & the supplementing, for me, has been temporary in the grand scheme of things--from 2 weeks old to about 10 months old. The next year & a half was just my milk. :)

  2. I've been there also. Thanks for sharing your experience. It is good to know I am not alone in the struggle.

    1. We are definitely not alone! Though it definitely felt a bit like that when I was there in the midst of it. I hope that the support network that is now so easy to access online via blogs, FB groups & message boards on various websites might just help to increase breastfeeding rates & duration. It's definitely one advantage we've got over our moms & even women who were struggling ten years ago.

  3. I had an oversupply so I was lucky that I had enough to feed my son (and to donate to the milk bank at BC Women's Hospital) but I was unlucky because I dealt with some pretty horrific engorgement issues and had to pump on top of breastfeeding my son 100% of his feedings (kid would not take a bottle of expressed milk.) I think there are highs and lows with every breastfeeding relationship - I have yet to encounter a woman who has had an exclusively positive breastfeeding experience. With that being said, I do believe that no two breastfeeding experiences are alike and hopefully you will have less difficulty with this new round of breastfeeding. Also, The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins is my go-to resource and I recommend it to every pregnant lady :)

    1. Thank you for donating to BC Women's! I've known a few super-preemies that benefited greatly from that milk bank. We used a little of their milk too, but there aren't enough donors like you, so we weren't able to get as much as we needed. Not to mention that it costs a lot to source, pasteurize, etc, so it wasn't affordable.

      It's totally true--breastfeeding is never a cake walk. I remember meeting one woman at a baby group who said she'd never had any issues at all. A month or two later, I saw her in the waiting room at the Vancouver Breastfeeding Clinic. Whether it's undersupply, oversupply, fast or slow letdown, mastitis, thrush, latch issues or something else, everybody seems to have something to deal with.

      Thanks for the book recommendation too--I'll look for it at the library & my midwives' office. :)

  4. I didn't know you had encountered problems.. good for you for keeping it up, so many women get discouraged and give up entirely. I was really lucky and had an overabundance of milk, like Hillary above me did (I always wanted to donate to the bank, but it never ended up happening due to transport difficulties). I also ended up with engorgement, as well as constant, unending leaks. I would soak through pads in an hour, and it ended up embarrassing me more often than not. I also had mastitis when Callum was 3 months old, and I've never known pain like that... again, not fun.
    I really like the push right now for mothers to support each other in however they choose or are able to feed their babies. Taylor couldn't breastfeed and ended up using formula, and always felt guilty about it. My angle has always been that the vast majority of mothers love their babies, and want to keep them healthy. Sometimes that means breastmilk, sometimes that means formula, sometimes it means a bit of both. We could all do with a lot less judging each other.

    1. Pretty much everyone has some kind of problem or another--breastfeeding may be natural, but it ain't easy at first. It's great to see campaigns that are supportive rather than combative, definitely. I think something that can get forgotten is that it's NOT just about the baby & what's best for them, but about the mother's sanity & health too. I put a huge amount of time & effort into breastfeeding as much as I could, but I had Oli there to help 24/7. I'm pretty sure most moms don't have that. I will NOT judge any mother who has problems like I did & quits breastfeeding to use formula. You can't be a decent parent if breastfeeding problems are driving you over the edge, right?

  5. Agreed. I don't think that it's healthy for your baby if you're constantly sacrificing your needs and sanity for them. Absolutely, parenting involves sacrifice in many ways, but it's important to remember that we're only human, and we need to take care of ourselves in order to be the best parents we can be.

    1. Just like on the plane... you put the oxygen mask on yourself first... :)

  6. I agree that parenting is never easy, whether it is breastfeeding, or trying to get them to JUST SLEEP. I don't have any useful breastfeeding advice..but I did notice a significant difference in output with the double pump. I could rarely pump more than an ounce with the single one, and the double one was far better. .Something about the simultaneous pumping, and the motor was stronger than my single Medela. Hopefully it will work better for you too.

    1. Here's hoping your pump will be better for me too... well, actually hoping I won't NEED to use it as much as I pumped the last time. 5-6 times a day on top of breastfeeding got to be a SERIOUS chore. :P

      My biggest dream is that I'll have enough milk to feed her plus just a tad extra that I can pump & freeze for... OMG... leaving her with someone else for two or three hours.


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