This story is generously shared by Andrea and her daughter, Ainsley. Thank you both for your story and your determination to breastfeed!
When I was pregnant, I worried about everything. Everything, that is, except for whether I’d be able to breastfeed. Since many of my friends and my own sister had breastfed their children, it was a given that I would do the same. I pictured myself breastfeeding my daughter Ainsley, sitting on the beach in front of my house with her tucked inside a sling, contentedly drinking while we enjoyed a special bond.
To my relief, Ainsley latched on within minutes of being born, awake, alert and happily feeding. My heart soared, relieved that we were on the path to having the breastfeeding relationship I’d envisioned. The second time she latched, though, it hurt. The nurses said, “It’s supposed to hurt.” I knew this wasn’t true and it quickly became clear something was wrong. Very soon my nipples were bleeding and the pain was intense. My confidence faltered. I developed fear about feeding, dreading whenever the clock — or my baby — suggested it was time to feed. Sometimes I’d even let her sleep an extra hour or two beyond what was suggested, just so I could give my nipples a break.
By the time we were home, it seemed like all we did was feed. I would breastfeed, painfully, and she would cry—not satisfied. Knowing that the early days of breastfeeding were critical ones, I called a recommended lactation consultant, Renee Beebe, for a home visit. Seeing the damage already inflicted on my nipples, she urged me to exclusively pump until my nipples healed. I hoped for smooth sailing from that point forward.
Pumping was difficult—I barely got enough milk. Furthermore, when I began breastfeeding again, I noticed Ainsley’s fussy behavior at the breast was getting worse. Sometimes she’d scream and cry until I removed her; other times, she’d fall asleep the minute she latched on. I called Renee back for help. It soon became clear that the latch problem was exacerbated by another underlying issue — low milk supply.
I had to supplement with formula, as my pumping output couldn’t keep up with her demand. The first few times I made the formula, I cried. I felt like a complete failure as a new mother.
I ate and drank everything I could to help boost the supply. I ate oatmeal every day, and snacked on Milkmakers cookies. I took a variety of herbs in many forms. Everything helped a little, but still, I didn’t have enough milk. I knew I had to try everything in my power to make this work before calling it quits, and I so persevered.
In the following weeks, I saw other specialists, including an occupational therapist trained in newborn feeding issues. No one could find any sucking or anatomical problems. Clearly, supply was the main issue. To preserve the breastfeeding relationship as best as I could, I began supplementing at the breast using a supplemental nursing system. The SNS was awkward the first few times, But soon I became a pro at taping the tube to my breast and latching her on. Over the next few days, Ainsley became more content at the breast, getting the milk flow she needed to feel satisfied.
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At the same time, I started a medication to help boost milk production. Within just a few days, I noticed an increase. One night I pumped 4 oz in one sitting, and I was so proud that I took a picture of the milk I pumped! Slowly but surely, Ainsley took less and less milk from the supplementer. The formula became a thing of the past, and pretty soon, the supplementer as well.
Today, Ainsley is nearly three months old, gaining weight at an excellent pace, and thriving. I am so proud that we made it this far with breastfeeding. Was my supply low because of our struggles in the early days? I may never know. I still worry that I won’t be able to keep up with her as she grows. But for now, I am going to enjoy every moment of our breastfeeding relationship. I am going to sit on a park bench facing the beach, nursing and nourishing my daughter, relishing the moment.