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 my friend Ashley. Here’s what she had to share:
Hello! I’m Ashley and I blog at ashleyeveryday.com. I’m here to talk to you about my adventures in breastfeeding.
I always knew I was going to breastfeed. My mother breastfed me and my sister past 12 months, and I didn’t even need to research alternatives. Nursing was something that was more important to me than anything else, more important than the home birth we’d planned, more important than anything else we’d prepared for while expecting our son. While I knew things could go wrong, and some women had issues nursing, I naively thought that it would be a walk in the park for me, because I wanted it to be.
After a grueling multi day labor, my homebirth turned into a cesarean, Arlo took to the breast right away. He had a lazy latch, and was dubbed a “sleepy eater” by the lactation consultants at the hospital. My long labor, and failed epidural (and following spinal block) made him a sleep boy who wasn’t much interested in eating. My milk came in at 6 days post-partum, within the normal amount of time but on the late end of things.
Arlo was born like his dad, long and very skinny. We struggled with him gaining weight, it took 8 months for him to double his birth stats. After weeks of diaper issues and a curve that was going down we were referred to a gastroenterologist who labeled Arlo FTT or failure to thrive. This diagnosis shocked me to my core. They were talking about hospitalization, feeding tubes and we were sent for a series of invasive tests at Children’s. The plan was to fortify my breastmilk with a special prescription formula to bring the calories/oz up and pack the weight onto my little boy. This is when I first realized there was an issue.It was stressed to us that Arlo needed at least 28oz a day of fortified milk and despite every supplement on the market, every old wives tale, every LC and LLL leader I spoke to, even turning to Domperidone, a medicine prescribed in Canada and the UK to boost production I could barely make 15 ounces a day. I power pumped, I block pumped, I looked at pictures of Arlo and woke up every 2 hours to attach myself to my Medela. My best friend had a baby the same age and graciously donated her extra breastmilk to us for a few weeks, but of course her child came first, and so when there wasn’t any milk to give, Arlo got formula.Because a baby is typically more efficient at milk transfer than a pump, my supply dipped even more. I began to panic. I cried countless tears watching my husband mix formula together, and would hide the canisters in the bottom or back of my cart. I could feel yet another thing I wanted slipping from my grasp, and it wasn’t for a few months that I realized I was going to lose the change to breastfeed my son if something didn’t change, quickly.
Because Arlo was gaining at an appropriate weight, I decided to come at this problem from a different angle. I ditched my pump except for when I was away from Arlo for an extended time, and began nursing on request. We supplemented with formula (and donated milk, when we had access) on an as-needed basis. At 6 months we started solids, and were nursing between 6-8 times per day, from both sides. Arlo nursed for comfort, and nursed to sleep until he weaned at 14 months old. He occasionally got a bottle when out and about but he would almost always prefer the breast. We nursed in public, we nursed for naps and on planes, in museums and on playdates. For all intents and purposes, he was a breastfed baby. He got the benefit of my milk and our nursing relationship was strong, despite not being his sole nutritional source.
I was diagnosed with Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT) in March of 2012 and while it’s reassuring to have a diagnosis, it’s definitely bittersweet. We plan on having more children, and I hope the adage of subsequent kids being easier with breastfeeding is true. I have a goal of making it 6 months exclusively breastfed with Arlo’s future brother or sister.
If becoming a mother has taught me anything, it’s that the best laid plans can go awry. I took a lot of time to educate myself about nursing and to create a support system for when I needed help. I wish more women suffering supply issues were aware that is is possible to have both worlds. It’s possible to breastfeed and maintain that relationship if it’s important to you. Breastfeeding does not have to be all or nothing and as long as you’re truly happy in your decision, it is not wrong. I loved nursing my son, and I miss it terribly. It’s one of the things I look forward to the most when I think about more children.
I hope I’ve inspired readers here to open up their mind about the possibilities of nursing and the alternatives when things get hard.