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23 May 2009

Sticking With It: Our Breastfeeding Story

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! Thanks so much for visiting & be sure to check out the other contributors listed at the end of this post. I'll be adding more links as they are posted -- enjoy!


Even before I was pregnant with Gretchen I knew that I would want to breastfeed my child. It seemed very much like an obvious choice to me, and though I'd heard of people having problems with breastfeeding, I crossed my fingers tight & hoped that I would have an easy time of it.

The night my daughter was born I fed her for the first time in a warm bath after being stitched up in my bedroom. I held her in my arms in the tub as my midwife helped me get her to latch. I felt so clumsy and awkward trying to nurse her, but I did manage to help her eat for a little while from one side. After the midwives left that night I kept trying to feed her and each time seemed a little clumsy and I worried that I'd never get the hang of it.

Those first few days were so hard.

Gretchen never seemed satisfied and ate every hour or more. I was sore. I was upset. I couldn't get a perfect latch and I was in so much pain that the anxiety of nursing shrunk my supply significantly. My lactation consultant estimated that I was producing about 50% of what Gretchen needed.

I was drying up.
I was devastated.
And I refused to give up.

Since my daughter was losing weight & showing no sign of gaining, but was still hydrated enough to have the appropriate amount of wet diapers each day, my midwife & doctors suggested supplementing with expressed breast milk or formula. I continued to see my lactation consultant, I rented a fancy electric pump, I started taking domperidone & drinking fenugreek tea to increase my supply. However, I still wasn't able to feed & pump enough to keep her satisfied. Reluctantly and heavy with guilt, I gave my daughter a bottle of formula.

When she finished that first bottle she was so happy.
I was so happy.

I could see the change immediately. She was full! Actually full. I felt so miserable about knowing that for the first few weeks of her life she was never completely satisfied and this was why she was fussy & feeding constantly. It was so thrilling to see her finish her meal and drift off to a happy, sleepy, blissful state.

Unfortunately, I still couldn't quite shake the guilty feeling behind giving her a supplement of formula. I beat myself up about it for weeks. I had been so adamant about breastfeeding my daughter that I felt like a failure for having to supplement, but looking back on it I feel as though I did the right thing. Some experts might say that it's a mistake to give a bottle so early in life, or that giving her formula would have spelled the end of our breastfeeding relationship, but it was right for us.

It is so important to do what is right for you & your baby. Despite what some may say.

Eventually my supply increased & at fifteen weeks postpartum I am proud to say that I am still producing enough milk to keep my little one happy. Breastfeeding finally turned into the beautiful experience that I'd been hoping for. I love having such a close bond with my daughter and I feel so comfortable feeding her -- we've come a long way since that first night in my bathtub.

I hope that my story inspires anyone out there who might be having a hard time with breastfeeding or who might be needing to supplement while they build their supply. We do our very best, as mamas, and really, that is all we can do.



The Story of Hannah's Weaning -- Strocel.com
Weaning a Toddler -- Laura's Blog
Life, Death & Nourishment -- Stepping Off the Spaceship
How Breastfeeding Changed My Life -- Mommy News Blog
The Tale of the Flying Breastmilk -- And All That Sazz
Breastfeeding Failures and Success -- GrudgeMom
Kandy -- Baby Carriers Downunder
Ben’s Story: The Best Breastfeeding Advice from the Least Likely Source -- Massachusetts Friends of Midwives
The "I Told You So" -- Breastfeeding 1-2-3
Breastfeeding is Not Easy But is Definitely Best for Baby -- Chronicles of a Nursing Mom
Breastfeeding Made Me the Mother I Am -- Breastfeeding Mums Blog
They Said the Latch Was Fine -- The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog
Can Early Public Breastfeeding Sightings Shape One’s Future Breastfeeding Practices? -- Breastfeeding Moms Unite
Celebrating... My Chest! -- Zen Mommy
For Women in My Situation -- The Towells
Nursing in Public -- Blacktating
A Found Memory -- Crystal Gold

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Blogger Allie said...

Nursing did not come easy for us either. The first few weeks he would refuse to latch, and fall asleep as soon as he did. We had to strip him naked, tickle him with wet cloths the whole shabang. It was so worth it though. Now 2.5 years later I realize that he was a grazer and I should have been offering him the breast about every hour, for him even just shy of every 2 hours was too far between feedings. His hungry cues were very very subtle and it took a long time to figure out that he went from happy to starving at about 55 minutes. It's a relationship and it takes time to suss out. I have never been happier I kept working through the tears , it bonded us in a way I can't even explain.

May 23, 2009 at 6:02 PM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

Good for you for sticking with it -- it's SO tough in the beginning and SO worth every moment.
Gretchen eats at least every 2 hours all day long -- but I'm used to it now and I know that just how it has to be :)
Thank you for visiting!

May 23, 2009 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger thewindhover said...

Ah Desiree, you inspire me so much.

May 23, 2009 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

wonderful post - and I couldn't agree more. We had a struggle at the beginning as my son rejected a breast. Once we worked through it, it was 20 months of beautiful nursing. I weaned when 3 months pregnant with his sister...

The first few weeks are sooo hard, but I do encourage everyone to ask for help, or get help in anyway you can.

Great job keeping with it!

May 23, 2009 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Reiza said...

Wow! It sounds like you've been through a lot to establish your supply. I'm glad you found what worked for you and that it's easier now.

That's something I wish more people knew--it WILL can better. It's often rough at first for a number of different reasons, but it really does get better. Your story shows that.

May 23, 2009 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger SquiggleMum said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Nursing isn't always black and white, but no one seems to want to talk about the grey areas! Like what do you do if your baby is failing to thrive, despite you desperately wanting to breastfeed? Thanks for writing so honestly.

May 23, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger JJ Keith said...

First off, the ring in that photo is beautiful!

What a wonderful post. Bea and I had a struggle with bfing too. We couldn't get a good latch, I was in loads of pain, and she slept through feedings. She took three and a half weeks to regain her birthweight. For her weeks 3-8 I fed her a combination of formula and pumped milk. I tried herbs and acupuncture to get my supply up, but the only thing that worked was domperidone (which is illegal for this use in the US so I have to order it off the web without a Rx).

The whole thing was a nightmare, but it turned out well in the end. Now she is exclusively breastfed and I pump extra (extra!) to store in the freezer. I just wish i had read more things like this post before bfing because I was so sick about the formula, but it turned out to be a great help while I worked on my supply. I also wish I had been warned about the pain. Oy! It's like putting your boob in a wood chipper.

May 23, 2009 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

thewindhover: Merci! This means a lot to me!

Rebecca: Thank you -- I am SO HAPPY that I stuck with it. I know that when I have my 2nd baby (someday!) I will feel so motivated because I know how great it can be!

Reiza: It absolutely gets better -- I hope many people can take this from my story and stick it out through the rough patches.

Squigglemom: Exactly, so many medical professionals are quick to say give up on the boob -- stick with it I say! Even if you have to supplement you can keep trying!

JJ Keith: Awe, thank you! It was a present to myself a year or so ago. And yeah, I heard about that issue with domperidone in the states. Thankfully it's still a-ok in Canada. Also, about the formula -- isn't it insane how much we beat ourselves up about it? Oi! Good for you for sticking it out though -- very inspiring!

May 23, 2009 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Melodie said...

Great post. It just goes to show how different every woman's body is and that if you can keep with it, breastfeeding can work even if you have to supplement a little. I'm so glad for you that supplementing didn't have the opposite effect of damaging your breastfeeding relationship, as it so often can. I think a woman's confidence and commitment to do it amkes all the difference in the world. Good for you!

May 24, 2009 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

Melodie: My confidence did take a bit of a dive but am SO happy that I didn't let it get me too down! I love my breastfeeding relationship & though it's been hard I wouldn't change it for the world.

May 24, 2009 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This picture is so beautiful!! I love it. :)

And I'm glad you & Gretchen got the hang of things!


May 25, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

I'm did a post for the carnival too, so I saw your link on that email. I'm glad I stopped by. I took fenugreek, which didn't work for me, so when my DD was about 9 months or so, I started taking domperidone, also, and it kept me with a good supply until I weaned. Anyway, way to stick with it! Good work!

Lori @ http://www.thetowells.com

May 25, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Oh, and isn't that domperidone a life saver? I love the stuff.

May 25, 2009 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger Elita said...

I had to stick with it, too. There were many times where I thought about throwing in the towel in the early weeks. I am so glad we persevered and so glad you did, too!

May 25, 2009 at 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I supplemented my first child with formula during her early days. She was in special care and I wasn't able to pump 'enough'. And I felt that feeling of failure.

I also stuck with it, it worked itself out, and I nursed my child for nearly three years. You do your best, you do what you have to do. And you accept that that's all you can do. :)

May 25, 2009 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Nursing pblm. said...

I am struggling with breastfeeding and reading this blog is really helpful. I had a C-section because my son was breech, and he will be three weeks old Thur. may 28th. Here are my problems with breast feeding: I have flat and inverted nipples, and my son would not latch-on. I started using the pump while in the hospital and I still do at home. My milk supply is not much (I can only pump 1-1.5 oz in 20 min. almost 3 weeks after delivery). I still try to pump every 2-3 hours and bottle feed (expressed milk) my son as much as I can while also supplementing with formula.
I am also taking Metoclopram 10 mg, which was prescribed by my OB to help increase the milk supply. I am on day 5 of 11 day supply. I have seen some changes in the way my milk comes in but not in-terms of quantity. It will just come in faster for a couple of drops and then after that, it will just be like the normal pace (SLOW). May be it will get better once I finish the medication.
Nowadays, my son refuses to be around my breast wailing and actually pushing me away with his hands, especially if he is hungry, and when he is not hungry, he doesn’t suck on it he just nuzzles and licks it with his tongue!
Reading the posts, it sounds like it took some of you a few weeks to get your milk supply, and the latch on. Can you please give me some advice, and also share how long it took you to actually breastfeed or pump a good supply? I don’t want to give up, but as you all know, I am so frustrated and running out of options…….

May 26, 2009 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

Hey there,
The two things that really helped my supply was taking the domperidone, which, if you are in the states I think you may have to order it online because from what I hear dr's won't prescribe it for lactation in the US.
The other thing that helped was pumping a LOT. I used to feed Gretchen and then a few minutes later pump for about 10-15 each side. If nothing is coming out, pump for about 20-30 minutes per side or if milk is coming then pump about 5 minutes after the flow stops -- this helps your body know to make more.
My supply wasn't enough until about 2 months and I'm still taking the domperidone everyday.
Oh! And I forgot! Get some fenugreek -- little yellow seed type things and make tea! Really hot water and steep for a few minute -- this helps with milk a LOT and your sweat will smell kind of like maple syrup!
Stick with it! I had to supplement with formula and it helped get us through until one day -- poof! She nursed and was full and it was the best feeling I've ever had!
Also, if you have a big electric pump, like a hospital rental this is the best for getting production going :)
I hope this helps!
Also, feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions: desireefawn at gmail dot com!
Best wishes!

May 26, 2009 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Matea said...

Hi Desiree,
Not sure how exactly I stumbled upson your blog just now, but I have and am glad I did.
I feel almost guilty posting this comment, but I had no trouble whatsoever breastfeeding my daughter. I too knew even when I was pregnant I was going to breastfeed. Being positive and not questioning my body on it's ability to provide I found help. I breastfeed exclusively up to 6 months and stopped all feeding at almost 2 years. She is now 3 1/2 and I'm thrilled I did.
Breast really is best, of course, only if Mum can. Sometimes I feel people are too quick to put babies on formula...

May 27, 2009 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

Matea -- don't feel guilty! It's so good to hear when mama's have no problem since, unfourtunately, so many do -- GOOD FOR YOU! ^_^

May 27, 2009 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Crystal Gold said...

What a great post. I had such a terrible time getting started and for the first year actually. (tongue-tie, nipple shields, delayed milk, surgery, nursing strikes, biting) Seriously!! But even with all of that, it was the BEST thing that I have ever done! I had to give some formula in the first days and the guilt was immense! When the doc told me I would have to start giving bottles of formula I was crushed! Thank god I found a great LC that helped me and just her putting me at ease helped my milk finally come in I think. We all have to do what is best and try not to be too hard on ourselves. But I also love to share stories of triumph because it is so worth the effort!!!

May 27, 2009 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

Good on you, Crystal! It can be tough and you feel so crushed when it's not going well -- I'm so happy it finally worked out for you!!

May 27, 2009 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Dagmar said...

To Nursing Problem, I want to say that pumping is not the same as nursing, and you will never be able to pump as much as your baby would drink when breastfed. One of the differences is the letdown; many moms just don't have the same reaction to a pump than to a baby (makes perfect sense). Have you tried nipple shields to draw out your nipples and feed baby with them? La Leche League would have more info for help. For supply, I love and swear by Mother's Milk tea from the health store.

Hope this helps!

September 21, 2009 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger Johanna said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story Desiree. As other women have posted said here, no one seems to talk about the hard parts of breast feeding, and boy are there ever hard parts.
Just reading through these comments makes me realize that the problems that I had were not just an isolated experience, it's reassuring to know that others conquered their struggles and came out successful.
I had so many problems at first, cracked/bleeding nipples, breast shields, refusal to one side...not to mention anxiety and stress! But with multiple visits to a breast feeding clinic, a supportive partner, pumping, determination and a great breast feeding pillow we made it through!
People said give it 6 weeks to really establish bf and really it did take that long. But so worth it in the end.

October 22, 2009 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Mama Bird said...

I wasn't as concerned about my baby feeding off of my body physically, as I was concerned about him getting my milk. I ended up pumping til he was 5 1/2 months. It was as much as I could make, but i did it, so that's all that counts. We had some complications as well.

heres my post on it:

Your little girl looks so loved-she's a doll!

January 14, 2010 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger Desiree Fawn said...

Good for you for sticking with pumping -- it's a hard thing to do & even 5 months is awesome! :)

January 14, 2010 at 12:47 AM  

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