A mum's low milk supply story
It all began quite nicely with a dream pregnancy, one in which I never even thought about any other feeding option except exclusively breastfeeding. At 38 weeks my waters broke and 21 hours later my beautiful baby girl, Sophia, made her dramatic entrance into the world and latched for her first breastfeed as if it were second nature to her.
Our first night in hospital Sophia latched and was sucking perfectly, the next day she did the same but I began questioning if she was swallowing or just sucking, I asked three midwives that day and they all said it was fine. The next day I asked the same question to different midwives who, after a quick glance, assured me she was fine. The next day, which happened to be Mother’s Day, I was getting frustrated as I was sure that Sophia was latching and sucking, but not swallowing. Late that afternoon I finally got one of the midwives to watch and listen and as I had said previously, she was not swallowing, therefore getting nothing. I was angry that it took several midwives before one took the time to sit with me and observe what was going on. I then tried to hand express followed by pump express to see if I was producing and as I expected there was no colostrum or milk. I felt so guilty that I had been ‘starving my baby’ leading to hours of tears, stress and beating myself up.
On day four, I started feeding Sophia milk mixture through a tube while she was latched to my breast to see if my milk would come in. As well as taking a combo of herbal remedies I also expressed every three hours in between tube feeding. I started producing about 20mls of milk in thirty minutes and thought things were looking up. Unfortunately, after the midwives found out my milk had not come in I was completely alienated and ignored, even getting up every 1 ½ hours to tube feed or express not one person offered to help me, they even stopped coming into my room.
Finally on day six I was allowed to take my beautiful girl home. At home, with extreme fatigue and cracked nipples I kept doing all that I could to try and produce milk including starting on domperidone, a strong drug to aid milk production. Some days I got 30mls while expressing and this gave me false hope. Every time I sat down to tube feed Sophia the guilt that overcame me was immense, I would sit with tears rolling down my face trying to be strong for her but every book or website I opened only supported breastfeeding. I felt completely alone and isolated. Interestingly the first question many people ask is “how’s the breastfeeding?” so each time I felt I had to explain myself or just stop seeing people in general. In hindsight, I had no reason to justify what I was doing to anyone.
After three weeks, the guilt was getting worse; I was an emotional wreck and Sophia was steadily losing weight. She was only six pound when she was born and I and thought I was depriving her of what she needed. I went and purchased some bottles and that night I gave Sophia her first one while I sobbed. She took to it with ease and slept peacefully afterwards. I started thinking, maybe this isn’t so bad and bottle fed the next day. I stopped setting my alarm and actually got a few hours’ sleep, Sophia seemed much happier and content with a full belly and without the fuss of a tube so I never looked back. My guilt began to subside and the more people I opened up to the more relevant it became that many had the same issue as me, through no fault of my own, I simply could not produce breast milk. Sophia started sleeping through the night from six weeks and through bottle feeding not only had the chance to bond with me, she has bonded with her dad as he can share in the feeding experience.
It was a hard, lonely, unsupported road but what I want mums out there to know is, it’s not worth the stress, if you cannot produce enough or any milk…it’s ok. There are lots of us out there and we are here to support you, do not be ashamed and do not feel guilty. There are many benefits of bottle feeding your baby but most importantly, your baby will still thrive, will still grow and will still bond with you.