This post is a part of the Adventures in Breastfeeding Project sharing mother’s unique experiences, successes and struggles with breastfeeding. This post is by Kristin. Here’s what she had to share:
My pregnancy was a Christmas day surprise. We really had no idea what to expect but I was certain of two things, I wanted to have a home birth and I wanted to breastfeed my baby. That summer was hot, unlike any summer before. I spent many evenings with my husband floating in the pool. I will always remember those moments, floating in that pool day dreaming about what she would look like or if “she” was really a girl. We had prepared for her birth by taking a Birthing From Within course; I assumed the rest would come naturally.
Violet was born at home on the 1st of September at 41 weeks 5 days. My labor and her birth were hard. At 6:30 Am., my beautiful girl was born with an Apgar score of 2. While I was being treated for hemorrhaging, she was being suctioned. We were both exhausted, so nobody seemed too concerned that she wasn’t able to latch on right away. My midwives advised me to try a nipple shield since I had flat nipples, and she had a tiny mouth. I sent my deliriously tired husband to Babies R Us for what would become my first of many breastfeeding “tools”.
She would nurse with the shield for an hour or more at a time and when I’d pump after, I’d only get drops. I would rarely hear her swallow, but I just kept hoping it would change when my milk came in. It never did. There was no warmth, no engorgement, no leaking, no signs it was even there. I tried all day long to get her to latch without the shield, hoping that was the key to our success. My midwives came for weight checks and reassured me that my body would work, and she was just trying to get the hang of nursing. At around a week old she stopped peeing all together, so I called my midwife in a panic. She had lost almost 2lbs.; she was starving. I was literally starving my newborn.
From that point on, I obsessively researched how to make it better, how to fix her latch, how to make more milk. I struggled to feed her milk that wasn’t mine, feeling like a failure with every bottle I gave her. I visited an IBCLC for help. Test feeds showed she was transferring an ounce or less, after 45 minutes of effort. I was dismissed by them, and told “It’s okay to stop,” and “It’s too late to do anything about it” I missed my window. “Take a break,” they told me “it’s ok to feed her formula.” It was my fault.
I’m stubborn. I bought the book “Making More Milk” and read it cover to cover trying to pin point why my body was failing me. Maybe it was because I lost so much blood, or maybe something with her mouth? Maybe my prolactin receptors didn’t form properly because she didn’t latch those early hours, or maybe my boobs were just broken. I rented a hospital grade pump and a baby scale, I ordered Domperidone from overseas, visited an herbalist, and acquired an extensive collection of pills and gadgets that didn’t help. At 5 weeks old, Violet latched on without a shield. I started using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to be able to feed her at the breast. It was a beast of a gadget; it caused many meltdowns (mostly me) and countless pools of spilled milk, but it got her to want to nurse. We went on like this until she was about 8 months old, trying everything under the sun along the way.
By then, Violet was fully engrossed in the world of solid food. We cut back on bottles and SNS feedings and just nursed. I finally felt like a breastfeeding mother. All the heartache was worth it. She loved to nurse and we kept going strong even after I went back to work when she was 11 months old. I didn’t have much for her, but it was her comfort. She drank her “mama milk” until I was 4 months pregnant with her brother. September 1, 2011 was the last day Violet nursed, her second birthday.
Everett’s story is much of the same, heartbreak. I really thought deep down it would be different. We had an amazing home birth, a totally different experience than with Violet. He latched! It hurt like hell, but he latched. The first 2 weeks I nursed him through extreme pain, using a medicine dropper to feed him the tiny amounts I pumped. I had a galactocele (a milk filled cyst); in my nipple hat I had developed while nursing Violet that was contributing to the pain and bad latch. At 2 weeks, my milk wasn’t enough anymore, so I had to supplement. This time I reached out to my local community of “crunchy” moms for breast milk donations. I was met with remarkable kindness from strangers who were doing extra work in their day to feed MY baby. The first time I went to a donor mom’s home to pick up milk, she reached out and hugged me. From that point on, Everett only drank breast milk until after his first birthday. In the beginning, I was pumping 8 times a day plus nursing. At my high point I provided half of what he needed, then I got mastitis and it dropped about 50% and never recovered. I spent countless hours setting up SNS bottles, filling tiny capsules full of herbs, seeking out donations, and waiting for my next shipment of supplements. I went to a breast surgeon for my galactocele. Her solution was to drain the cyst in between feeds to relieve the pressure, and hope the “drain hole” would stay open. Draining my cyst with a syringe needle multiple times a day was added to the long list of crazy things I did to breastfeed.
I went back to work when Everett was 4.5 months old. I pumped 2 times during the day and brought home 2-4 ounces. It was a lot of work for what seemed like such small amount, but my milk was Everett’s perfect milk, he deserved it. I gave up pumping when he was 14 months old to enjoy nursing my crazy toddler and stop counting the ounces.
I want to pursue my IBCLC because I love helping others nurse their babies. I get so much joy from knowing my encouragement has helped even one person breastfeed. I don’t know 100% why I can’t do what my body is supposed to do, but I strongly suspect it is IGT (insignificant glandular tissue) since I had few breast changes during pregnancy, and I have some of the physical markers. My husband supported me 100% through all of the tears and heartbreak, but it was really hard for him to watch, and I know he felt helpless. I found a lot of love and support from a Facebook group for moms with IGT and also MOBI during the dark days with my daughter.
I am a nursing mother. I am enough for my babies. I did everything I could. I gave everything I had. I am proud, and I am sad. I’m stronger because of this.