I cried over spilled milk the other day. Really.

Breastfeeding is rough you guys. It feels like an uphill battle to try to get my milk supply up to par. The other night I was warming up the breast milk I had just pumped earlier that evening – a measly 1 oz. I was holding Mabel and opening the bottle to test the temperature of the milk when it slipped and fell to the floor. Half of it spilled out before S could reach down and pick it up. A half ounce was lost. And I just started crying. All the smelly herbs I’m taking, the uncomfortable pumping sessions – the half ounce that was lost represented a lot of work on my end. So I had a good cry over it. Then fed Mabel the half ounce that was left and supplemented with formula.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Mabel has been a pro at latching from the beginning. She was only about 10 min old when she started rooting around on my chest and immediately latched onto my boob. But over the next 4 days, it got harder. 

Mabel would get frustrated after a few minutes of breastfeeding and I’d have to calm her down and try again. My nipples started cracking and bleeding and I had big scabs develop on both nipples. By the time she was 3 days old, each nursing session resulted in both of us crying – her from frustration and hunger, me from pain. At her first Aftercare appt, the lactation nurse told us Mabel had a pretty deep tongue tie. I was so relieved to find out there was a reason for all the pain. Mabel couldn’t push her tongue forward enough to cushion underneath my nipple, so it was getting clamped right on the ridge of her gums where her teeth will grow in. She also was super inefficient at sucking. Which explained why she would nurse for 2 hours nonstop and still be hungry. After looking at the state of my nipples and how much weight Mabel had lost (7% of her birth weight), the nurse scheduled us to have the tie clipped that afternoon. 

As soon as they clipped her tongue tie, we had a nursing session and everything seemed to be ok. I felt immediate relief and less pain.

However, over the next week, Mabel would still get frustrated at the boob about half the time. She cried a lot. I thought maybe she was just a fussy baby. At our next weight check a week after her tongue tie was clipped, we found out she wasn’t gaining as much weight as they hoped. She was gaining an average of 1/2 oz a day, which is on the very low end of normal. The lactation nurse watched us nurse for a session and weighed Mabel right afterwards and we found out she wasn’t getting much milk from me. 

So my insurance sent me the Medela Symphony pump and I’m pumping 4-5 times a day. I’m also taking Brewers yeast tablets, a really gross liquid herb mixture of fenugreek and fennel seed, and I’m eating oatmeal every day. Also trying to make sure I drink plenty of water (I’m bad about not taking in enough liquids). 

So I’m pumping, giving  Mabel what I pumped at her next feeding session and then supplementing with formula if she’s still hungry (which she almost always is.) I try to always end each feeding session with her nursing, so she starts associating my boobs with her full belly. 

I’ve seen a small improvement in my supply. In the mornings I have a lot more milk and I can usually exclusively nurse her for her early morning (6am) feeding and she is able to fill her belly and pass out for her morning nap. My morning pumping sessions usually yield 2-3 ounces (the total from pumping both breasts). By afternoon and evening though, I’m lucky if I get an ounce from pumping. But one good sign? I noticed yesterday that I’m starting to leak! I woke up to Mabel crying and looked down and saw both boobs had started leaking for the first time, leaving two big wet spots on my tank top. That’s promising, right? Also, the big scabs on my nipples finally healed completely a couple days ago, which is a relief. 

I have to admit, Mabel is a much happier baby since we started supplementing with formula. She hardly ever cries now unless we’re taking too long to feed her. She’s sleeping better and growing like a weed. We’re starting to see the beginnings of chubby rolls on her arms and legs. I go back and forth between being mad at my body for not providing enough for my baby and reminding myself that it’s ok if she has to have some formula. The important thing is she’s being fed and she’s thriving. 

To end this really long post, here are some really cute photos.

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16 thoughts on “I cried over spilled milk the other day. Really.

  1. Nursing is hard. It sounds like you are doing so much to make sure your little one is happy and healthy.

    Here are a few things M had found to help in these first 4 weeks We have found that using Angled flanges makes pumping way more comfortable for M. She pumps 5 times a day and it takes 40 mins. She pumps each breast separately for ten minutes, the the next breast for ten minutes and repeats that process techie each session. By doing this she is able to massage out and help express as much if her milk as possible. She has also found that Powerade and electrolyte drinks increase her output as well. Our midwife and lactation consultant recommended Oatstraw, nettles, and lemon balm to help make the milk she is pumping more nutritious. And for the pain and discomfort she gave M calendula, it’s a flower we brew like a tea, and she uses compresses on her breasts. We also using it in the bath with J when he gets a rash. It works wonders.

    I hope maybe something here can help you. I know that the process is as much emotional as it is physical and you are doing so well to stick with it. Hang in there mama.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely adorable.
    Your nursing story sounds like a lot my friends’ experiences. It rarely seems straightforward, and always seems to take some work and adjustments, and often supplementing with formula makes EVERYONE happier. Sounds to me like you are being a super mom with how much effort you are giving and I’m sure this pain and frustration will be a thing of the past very soon! Good luck to both you and Mabel!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’ve had so many friends tell me their breastfeeding sagas these last 3 weeks. It’s comforting to know so many women struggle to find their footing in this area as well. And they all have healthy babies!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nursing is tough stuff. Some days ridiculously hard. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things. For me, after talking with lactation consultants, I decided that doing away with the pump and putting babies to breast more was our answer. Pumping isn’t an accurate indicator of milk supply so don’t think that your supply is low of you’re only getting an ounce. The better evaluation would be to check diapers (poops and pees) and weight gain. My son was a super gainer but my daughter was always in the 3-5-15% category. And she’s perfectly healthy at 14 months. Hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve considered less pumping and more nursing as well. That just makes sense. When I feel my breasts getting hard, I’ve started trying to nurse first, even if I don’t give her enough to fill her up, and then giving her either formula or pumped milk if she needs it. Just to see if that helps stimulate more milk. Thanks for the advice!

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s a biorhythm that happens between baby and milk production that doesn’t happen with pumping. I was shocked when the doula explained the science to me. Anyways, made sense to me. The more we try and top up either with pumped milk or formula it may in fact decrease our production over time. Sometimes it feels like all we do is nurse a baby, and it’s true that’s all we are doing. But feeding your child is all you’re suppose to be doing right now. Don’t feel bad for not doing anything else.
        Keep up the good work! Do whatever works for you though, no judgement ever.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Breastfeeding is SO hard in the early days!
    I’ll echo above, that putting baby to breast is always more efficient than pumping, so if you can nurse and then pump, but never pump when you could nurse first. Also, I RARELY (like, can count on my hands the number of times in 15 months of pumping) got more than 3oz combined from pumping – that’s a very normal pumping output. I would agree that crying/fussing/rooting, even if she’s doing it all.the.time. is not an indication of not getting enough. I feel like in the early days, I basically just sat in a rocking chair with no shirt on, Ansel on the boppy nursing, watching Parenthood on netflix. It’s super typical to spend more hours nursing than doing anything else! Leaking may be a good sign but also, I’ve been nursing for 15 months and have leaked two or three times total and only then when it had been waaaaay too long between nursing sessions. So, don’t use that as an indicator either.
    Ultimately, though, feeding your baby is what is important. Formula saves lives, and it isn’t poison or an indication of failure! Combo feeding is such a great option – you can nurse and use formula and one doesn’t negate the other!
    You’re doing a really good job!! And Mabel is so beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m definitely going the route of spending my days topless and trying to nurse her first before pumping. As much as I would like to just keep her on my boob nonstop, she gets frustrated and cries inconsolably after about 10 min on each boob when the milk seems to stop coming out. But here’s hoping my supply slowly starts to meet her needs more. That’s reassuring to hear my pumping amounts are normal! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  5. Breastfeeding is seriously hard. I can’t even begin to tell you how I struggled. Everyone has given you pretty good advice, so I’m not going to be a broken record. I will just say that after 10 months, Charlotte and I have a great nursing relationship but she is still receiving some formula supplementation. It took us 6 months to get our system down pat, but now that we’re here, it’s wonderful and it works. If breastfeeding is something you really want, just stick with it and you’ll find your balance eventually. Don’t let it make you too crazy though… these first months and weeks are just too special to spend them frustrated and hurting. It’s my biggest regret.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m similar to you. First pump and second pump of the day, o can get 3-4oz, but anything after that is about 1-2oz, and that’s being pretty generous. But I’ve come to realize that that nursing isnt so much for sustaining my baby (he gets plenty of formula now that he’s drinking about 5oz at a time), but more to nurture our relationship.I would say the ration of breastmilk to formula is 40/60, and I’m ok with that. He nurses when we all get home from daycare and work, and then I nurse him on demand all night, still supplementing with a bottle of formula. Breastfeeding is hard, but it you can recognize the difference between the connection and bond it’s forming, and actually providing her with everything she needs, and which is most important for you, it makes it easier to know that you are aren’t making EVERYTHING she needs…and hey, some breastmilk is better than no breast milk! You’re doing the very best you can, and that’s dope!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Yeah, I really enjoy the breastfeeding for the bonding. As long as she’s healthy and thriving, I’m trying to not worry about it too much. Our breast milk to formula ratio is about the same as yours. I can nurse most of the night with maybe 1 formula bottle and I can breastfeed her the early morning feeding session. I also love it when she comfort nurses – right after a bath or when she’s just upset and needs the comfort of the boob.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful baby! I didn’t read the other comments, but just wanted to add this because I am usually a minority for these kinds of conversations. I have a toddler and an infant, both exclusively formula fed, and they are fine…thriving. It’s wonderful if the breastfeeding works. It’s also wonderful if it doesn’t, and you need to use formula exclusively or in part. She will be fine either way, even if people try to make you feel bad for it (or the guilt is exclusively your own). Fed is best. Less stress is best all around. Just want to put that out there because I needed someone to tell me that in the beginning with my first.

    Liked by 1 person

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