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Mommy Stories – Sarah’s Story: Low Milk Supply
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it was healthier and free (compared to formula that cost a lot of money that I didn’t have).
When my daughter was born and they told me I needed to feed her, I jumped when it pinched and the discomfort that came with this new experience.
The nurses told me she had a great latch, but it was very painful for me to nurse her. A day later, when the lactation consultant came in and asked if she could look at my breasts, I lifted my shirt and with a sympathetic face, she said, “oh honey! My toes just curled. That looks so painful!”
They had me only nurse on one side while pumping on the one that looked terrible for a day until it looked better and I could nurse on both sides again.
When my milk came in for the first time, I cried. It was just too much.
I felt like I had jumped into the deep end of the pool with motherhood and I was overwhelmed.
Eventually, my daughter and I found a rhythm and it wasn’t painful. Praise God!
At 4 months old, she started fussing during her feedings – screaming at my nipples. I was exclusively nursing and had no idea how much she was getting. At her 4 month appointment when we weighed her and the pediatrician asked me, “are you exclusively nursing Mom?” I sheepishly replied “yes.”
She proceeded to tell me that her weight was not where it should be and recommended I supplement.
We began feeding her formula every other feeding (nurse – formula – nurse – formula, etc.).
I was really bummed, and it took me weeks to emotionally feel okay giving her a bottle of formula.
I wasn’t against “formula”, but I was disappointment in myself. I felt like a terrible mom because I couldn’t provide the bare-necessity for my daughter. Thankfully, my sweet husband was quick to point out to me that it was not my fault and at the end of the day, we just wanted our sweet girl to be healthy.
She was so much happier with a full tummy, and I quickly decided that if formula kept her tummy full and happy, that’s all that mattered.
She also did not recommend that I pump when she was getting formula. After a month, since I was breastfeeding half as often as before I started the formula , my supply was depleted even more.
I was now only able to feed her first thing in the morning. 30 days later, I nursed her for the last time at 6 months old.
Not knowing that with the decreased stimulation I would have an even lower supply, I believed my supply went away because I wasn’t taking care of myself. There were times when I would forget to eat and drink water.
Thinking this was the cause, I knew for my next baby I would take better care of myself to keep my supply up.
When baby #2 came, I felt better prepared and I was more determined to exclusively nurse for a year.
I was working full time this round though, so my plan was to pump at work so she would still get breastmilk.
Like my oldest, my second latched immediately and had no problems nursing – but it was incredibly painful.
For two weeks every latch made me bite my tongue because it hurt so bad. I bled a couple times and needed to pump in order to feed her.
6 weeks after her birth when I returned to work, we noticed that she would drink a full bottle while I was at work but snacked when I nursed her at night. This led us to become an exclusively pumping family.
Despite my efforts to build a freezer stash early on, my second daughter burned through our supply within weeks, and it became evident that my body could not keep up with her hunger.
So, we started supplementing. Again.
Although I was used to this method, I still felt defeated. This was my second time doing this. I had been eating and drinking lots of water. What was my problem?
“Remember, all that matters it that she is full. Because if she is full, she is happy and healthy!”
Still disappointed in myself, I walked by the can of formula and I heard God whisper “accept the blessing.” My mind raced with all kinds of realizations. I wasn’t a bad mom for not being able to fully provide for my daughter. He wasn’t disappointed in me and didn’t want me to beat myself up over this.
“Accept the blessing” also encouraged me to thank Him for creating formula so we had an alternative option. Thank Him that my daughter took it so well.
I was thankful that I could still give her breastmilk and we weren’t completely switching. So many little blessings that I ignored in my pity-party.
I am writing this today with an exclusively formula fed baby. My supply completely dried up when my second daughter was 5 months old despite my attempts to pump more. I feel like God was closing that door and banging on it was only wearing me out.
For the sake of my physical and mental health, I needed to be done. I do not feel defeated but loved. God knows the desire of my heart is to breastfeed my babies, but He also knows how much I can handle. I am thankful for other options like formula that has allowed my girls to stay full and happy.
Full, happy, healthy. That’s what my girls need to be.
My encouragement to mamas who had their hearts set on exclusively nursing but find they are need to consider other forms of nourishment is to “accept the blessing.”
I know what it’s like to feel guilty, disappointed, and frustrated when it looks like other moms are providing the perfect amount for their kiddos, but take heart knowing that you are not a failure because of this.
The fact that you are even exploring all options shows that you want what is best for your baby. You’re an amazing Mama, and don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise!