Tuesday, July 23, 2013

our breastfeeding story (so far)

breastfeeding is hard. it's the hardest, most time-consuming selfless commitment i've ever made. but there IS light at the end of the tunnel. now, 3 months in, i can say it does get easier. here is our story.

james was born on a tuesday, april 16th, at 8:29pm. he was 8 lbs 12 oz and was born ready to eat! i first nursed him when he was about an hour old and i was totally clueless as to what i was doing. my sweet nurses helped me so much through that first night until the LC's took over the next day. while we were in the hospital james had a pretty good latch, nursed every hour, and throughout the night he was pretty much on my boob 24/7 (i am not exaggerating) but apparently that is normal. the LC's kept telling me how well he was doing and how patient i was. his weight was maintained pretty well on my colostrum and we left the hospital thinking my milk would come in any day now. welp, fast forward 3 days later and my milk still hadn't come in. we went to his first appt with his pediatrician and he had lost too much weight. they told us we needed to use the SNS (supplemental nursing system) which is a tiny tube that goes to the nipple with a syringe attached to add breast milk or formula. i fed and pumped, fed and pumped, it was all. i. did. for the first weeks. i look back at those weeks and seriously don't know how i did it and didn't quit. i would nurse james for 30-45 minutes, then use the SNS to give him a little extra and increase my supply by the extra stimulation for 15 minutes, then pump for 20 minutes, then lube up my bleeding nips with lanolin and soothie gel pads. the whole process took well over an hour and not 30 minutes later it was time to do it all over again. it was exhausting. oh, and that SNS? it's HARD. it's hard to get it attached and going ,it's hard to be patient and do something so tedious when your baby is screaming and crying. thank God for my husband and mother. they seriously made this all possible too. i was researching and reading, talking to so many people, seeing the LC every other day, and trying to get my milk supply up.

 i pumped and pumped, i power pumped, i nursed and nursed, i ate oatmeal, i drank gatorade, i took fenugreek, i drank mothers milk tea, i rented a high quality hospital grade pump, i took mothers love tincture, i took alfalfa, i took blessed thistle, i took golacta, i made lactation cookies, i drank a daily beer, i massaged my boobs, i used heat compresses, i drink gallons of water, i did it ALL and still, my milk struggled.

i will say, if i wasn't 100% dedicated and determined to breast feed my baby from the beginning i would of quit. it was SO much work and so stressful and i can't tell you how badly i wanted to mix up a fat bottle of formula and feed my baby until he couldn't eat anymore. i didn't do it though, i never once caved.

i  kept with it. i kept nursing then pumping but still had to supplement an ounce or two a day. i "topped him off" after our feedings most of the time. i felt like such a failure in those first few weeks. WHY won't my body do what it is suppose to do? WHY won't my body make enough milk for my baby? it was the most frustrating and discouraging experience. i never in a blue moon thought low milk supply would be an issue we would have. after all the researching and reading i had done about breastfeeding i had never even heard of low milk supply. i was embarassed. i was embarassed my body wasn't working and i had to use formula to supplement - or poison as i use to call it. i kept telling myself it would get better, and my husband and parents praised me for the milk i did give him and reassured me that he was still getting the benefits of breast milk even though i had to supplement a little.

i would read that just because you don't pump much doesn't mean the baby isn't getting enough. the baby draws milk out much better than the pump. i went back and forth with myself on the issue of if i even had a low milk supply. but there were times i would pump and get drops, thats ALL, drops.

fast forward another week and i learned about two prescription medications to increase breast milk. i started with reglan and noticed an increase right away. the only problem? it made me SO sleepy. i took it for a week and then decided to switch to the other med, domperidone. i did a TON of research on these drugs before i started them and read some pretty scary stuff, especially about the reglan. domperidone was clearly the better drug, without all the nasty side effects. the only problem? you can't get it in the US. the FDA doesn't approve it for increasing milk supply anymore although moms all over the rest of the world are using it. i talked to my OB and she told me how to get it online, so that's what i do.

i started taking it when james was about 4 weeks old. i noticed an increase in my supply but was still worried he wasn't getting enough so i supplemented him 2-4 ounces a day and "topped him off" with an ounce or two after he nursed. another hard thing about breastfeeding - not knowing how much your baby is eating. not knowing if they are crying because they are hungry or because they are sleepy/needy/fill in the blank. i feel like if i had the luxury of giving him a bottle i would at least KNOW he wasn't crying out of hunger, but with breastfeeding you really don't know. if he cried EVER, i assumed it was hunger. i assumed it was my fault and he didn't have enough milk. austin use to remind me that babies do just sometimes cry.

fast forward to his 2 month check up. james weighed 13 lbs 12 oz and was in the 85% of weight. i knew, and my mommy group friends reassured me, that he wasn't gaining all that weight from the 2 or 4 ounces of formula he got during the day. i knew i had to be making a solid amount of milk for that weight gain. so right then and there i stopped. i stopped supplementing him and i only nursed him. for the past month he has been exclusively breast fed without having to supplement.

it has been a long road. and it still isn't easy. i still doubt myself and freak out and think i'm starving my kid. i weigh him every week at my breast feeding support group and am reassured that he is gaining and feeding just fine. james nurses a lot tho, pretty much every 2-2.5 hours during the day. i nurse him about 7-8 times a day and it is super time consuming. my life is planned in two hour increments. it makes getting out of the house challenging but i am getting better at NIP (nursing in public) and just rolling with it. i don't have a schedule, it all changes every day. i like routines, but it is hard to get a breast fed baby that eats on demand on a schedule.

i am sharing this for a few reasons. for any struggling mommy out there yearning to breast fed your child, don't quit! it WILL get better, it WILL get easier. kellymom.com is a great resource. find your local support group at your hospital and go. i never thought i would be into this but i SO am. the group helps with waaaay more than just breastfeeding. i thought it would be someone helping me latch him on and position him but its not like that at all. sleeping, schedules, introducting solids, how breastfeeding changes over the months as your baby's attention span changes, teething, biting, etc. i am a big advocate for support groups! i also hope to read this post in a few years when i go down this road again with my next (hopefully) child. i don't ever want to forget what a challenge it was to get started but that makes it just more sweet.

that's our story. for now. we are still writing...


  1. It truly is WAY harder than people make it seem. It does get SO much easier as he gets older, so keep up with it! You're doing a great job.

  2. Great job Ashley! Sofia has a milk protein allergy so we've been all formula :)


  3. Thanks Jen! It is SO much easier already. I actually got the recipe for lactation cookies off your blog!

  4. Thanks Megan! That is a bummer about Sofia's allergy! She sure is a cutie!

  5. Hi Ashley,
    I found your blog from another blogger and just wanted to post a quick comment. I've been breast feeding my son (who is now 17 months old) exclusively (with the exception of water). It is a very hard and demanding task. No doubt about that. There were days where I had to take it one day at a time because I wasn't sure how to survive. But it does get easier and I thoroughly enjoy it now!
    I just wanted to give you words of encouragement and say you're doing an awesome job! Pretty soon he will be nursing while watching tv/playing games/reading.. You name it ;)

    Megan: Just because your babe has a milk protein allergy, doesn't mean you can't breastfeed. My son had a dairy, egg and soy intolerance and for 6 months I couldn't eat ANYTHING that had those items in it. He eventually grew out of it and is totally fine now!


  6. I actually have a draft saved that I've edited a million times trying to correctly and adequately express my emotions with this chaos that is breast feeding. I knew I wanted to breast feed, but like you, never thought I'd be so into it. We are still struggling, but I am trying. I've had time to kinda come to terms with some of the feelings I've had about it, clear all that, & now I'm recommitted and things are slowly getting better. Our use of formula is decreasing each day! This

  7. Oops, too soon. This was very encouraging and inspiring!