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.