A Troubled Nursing Beginning
I remember reading posts during National Breastfeeding Week earlier this summer. At the time, I was 40 weeks pregnant and eager to embark on the breastfeeding experience. I thought I would breastfeed for at least the first year of my child’s life. Initially I did not have any issues breastfeeding. Abram seemed to latch fine and was content after a feeding. It was not until day four that one of the nurses at the hospital suspected he might need more food after he appeared inconsolable. That night we started feeding Abram using a 5 French feeding tube while he was on my breast. My husband would gently push formula through a syringe while Abram was feeding. The nurses assured me this situation was temporary and would resolve itself in a couple days once my milk came in.
We were discharged from the hospital the next morning and brought our new baby home. We continued to supplement feedings using the syringe and feeding tube while at the breast. When Abram wasn’t getting fed, I was drinking Mother’s Milk Tea, popping Fenugreek seed and other herbal supplements to support lactation, using a hospital grade breast pump, and chomping on those tasty lactation cookies. And I tried, and kept trying, frantically texting friends, “How long did it take for your milk to come in” googling “milk production after cesarean.” Hoping to find one answer that would be the catch all to my problems. When we were in the hospital one of the lactation consultants had mentioned that my breasts were wide set which might lead to insufficient milk supply and also said that I may have insufficient glandular tissue. I listened to her theories but thought to myself, “Surely this is not me. I have all the tanks, covers, scarves – I’m ready!”
Diagnosing the Issue
Those first seven days we were home were pretty rough. I kept trying to convince myself that if I just tried hard enough, things would eventually work themselves out. Desperate for more answers, we made an appointment with one of the best lactation consultants in the region. After a five-hour consultation, we had a game plan in place. I would continue to pump to try to increase my milk supply and we would work on Abram’s latch by trying new bottles and taking him to a pediatric chiropractor. However, it was during this appointment that the phrase “insufficient glandular tissue” was uttered again. The lactation consultant, with 35 years of experience, felt my breasts and wanted me to know that trying all the new tools she had given us might not increase my milk supply. Even with that news, I still left the appointment feeling more optimistic than I had in days. On the drive home, I remember telling my husband, “We have a plan. I’m going to do what I can but I cannot control my anatomy.” I had spent the last week cursing my boobs. Utterly furious that they had this one job to do and could not do it. But being angry about the situation was only taking an emotional and mental toll on me.
Hope for the Future and Help from a Friend
The one thing that brought me some relief during this time was that Abram was receiving breastmilk. He was getting very little milk from me, but one of my best friends had her second child seven weeks before Abram and was producing enough milk to spare some for me. I had checked with our pediatrician to make sure feeding him another mom’s milk was acceptable. She had told us that it was entirely fine.
I am writing this post to all new moms who are currently experiencing difficulty breastfeeding. Please know that you are not alone. While you may have the best of intentions to feed your child with your own milk supply, sometimes that simply is not enough, and that is OKAY. Give yourself grace and love during this difficult time. As my mom reminded me, I was a primarily a formula-fed baby. And guess what? I still attended college, obtained a graduate degree and have had a happy and successful life. Try not to fret too much. You’re doing a great job, mama!
Andrea Tharian is a first-time mom to a two month old boy. She lives in South St. Louis City with her husband, Denny. A native St. Louisan, Andrea returned home in 2010 after moving to Cleveland for college and then spending a few years on the East Coast. She is an artist and arts educator, and has worked for various non-profits in the region. Andrea enjoys drawing, traveling, reading, and spending time outside. Guilty pleasures include fancy coffee and ice cream. Check out some of her work here: andreatharian.com