Mamas Who Rock It: Jamie’s Breastfeeding Story
My husband called my first pregnancy a “Mary Poppins pregnancy” because it was practically perfect in every way. I knew fairly early on that I wanted to breastfeed. Nobody in my family had done so in generations so I relied on reading books about it, taking classes, and picking up tidbits of advice from my mother-in-law who had breastfed her three kids. My labor was a whirlwind of surprises: A week early, fast, a knot in the umbilical cord, and finding out we had a daughter. But it was still Mary Poppins worthy.
Then came more surprises. My daughter was tongue-tied. Ok, no big deal; it was revised when she was a couple days old and I thought breastfeeding would get better, a little less painful at any rate. Because my girl’s bilirubin numbers were not high enough for hospitalization but not low enough to be in the clear, we had frequent check-ups for a time. During those visits, it became painfully obvious that my baby was losing weight and not regaining it. We had visits with the lactation consultant at the pediatrician’s office. At first the consultant and I thought that maybe the tongue-tie had reattached; it hadn’t. I was sent for bloodwork and learned that my prolactin levels were on par with a woman in menopause, practically nonexistent.
I was caught off guard. Low supply had barely been mentioned, ever. It seemed so bizarre that I could carry and birth a baby so easily, and then fail to feed them. The lactation consultant developed a game plan with me. I started pumping around the clock, taking a plethora of supplements, and finger feeding my daughter formula. I had never heard of a supplemental nursing system (SNS), I barely knew about donor milk at that point. I was pointed in the direction of a local support group for breastfeeding moms. Talking with the moms in that group felt like I’d found my village. Another mom in there was dealing with the same thing I was; I hung onto her every suggestion. One of the ladies that ran the group would nudge me in the direction of donor milk whenever she heard about some being available. On top of that, I found a Facebook group exclusively for low supply moms. The encouragement, advice and shoulders to cry on from that group were essential to helping me find my way through low supply.
Without those groups, I wouldn’t have made it to my six month goal. Shortly after reaching that goal, my family moved a few hours away. In the chaos of moving, I dropped most of my supplements and pumping sessions. Despite that, and my certainty that my daughter would lose interest between my dwindling supply and her budding relationship with food, she didn’t wean for another four months. I nursed for 10 months with low supply. Seven women, besides me, fed my daughter with their precious milk. I’m so grateful for their generosity.
Now that I’m pregnant again, I’m staring down the possibility of that same breastfeeding struggle. At times, I’m filled with a confidence that if I did it once, I can do it again. I can meet my goals and even exceed them. At other times, what I feel is more akin to panic. How can I possibly put myself through the wringer of nurse-pump-supplement again? How can I give up so much of my time with my toddler and newborn to pump? For now, the plan is to try my best, but not stress over it too much. After all, every drop counts.
Written by Jamie Coxon