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Our Breastfeeding Journey :: The Early Days

**I plan on sharing more on this topic … If you’re just wondering what I’m trying to increase my supply, skip to the bulleted list. Otherwise, here’s a bit of our story …

When I got pregnant, I had a few pretty important goals in mind. Two of the most important to me were having a home birth, and that I’d breastfeed our baby until she was at least a year old.

I knew a lot about birth, and I was more than confident that we’d be able to have a successful birth at home as long as the baby & I were healthy throughout the pregnancy. We took a birth class, watched births, and read a ton about natural birth … In the end, we achieved the birth we were hoping for.

Sadly, the breastfeeding piece did not come as easily as we had hoped. We’ve been struggling with supply, latch, pain since the first week, and while it’s been a bit devastating, we have had many joys along the way. I wanted to share our journey with the hopes of helping at least one mama.

As soon as Alba was born, she was ready to latch. I knew I had colostrum, as I had been leaking a little since week 30ish of my pregnancy. For the first several days, all baby needs is colostrum, so we were okay.

By day three, my nipples were raw. They were cracked, scabbed, bleeding, and throbbing. My midwife came over for our 3 day visit, and while she was here, we discovered that my milk was coming in!! While I was in so much pain, I was overjoyed that my milk was coming in … I could do this! Alba had lost 9% of her birth weight by day 3 … with my milk coming in, we were hopeful she’d keep on gaining. We setup a weight check for day 5, just in case.

That night was rock bottom. Who would have thought I’d be ready to throw in the towel on day 3? Alba was hungry every hour … My milk had just started to come in, so she just wasn’t getting full. It was so painful to feed her … the latch was so painful that I had to breathe through it, and my toes would curl. I finally decided to break out the pump (to get just a tiny bit of milk), and feed her with a bottle that was not meant for a newborn (we really didn’t think we’d need to bottle feed her, so we were not prepared). I took an ibuprofen (my very first medication … I didn’t even take anything after her birth). I cried and cried. I just felt like such a failure.

On day 4, we were in touch with a lactation consultant. Our midwives suggested Melissa Cole of Luna Lactation. Our first appointment with her was a home visit. We were so thankful she came to our home to help … I knew right away that she would be a wonderful part of our story. During her visit, she determined that Alba had quite the lip tie. It was super thick and connected her lip to the bottom of her gum line. She advised we get the tie taken care of, which would help alleviate Alba’s painful latch.

On day 5, Heather (our midwife) came to the house for a weight check. When she came in, I immediately broke down into tears. She listened to me express my sadness, and gave me so much encouragement. She told me I was doing everything right … I was doing all I could. She acknowledged that this was a shitty situation, and when she left, I felt so much better about everything.

I kept feeding Alba … I just kept going! It hurt, but it was worth it. I took Ibuprofen for the pain, used prescription nipple ointment, and tried to stay positive.

On day 6, we visited Dr. Ghaheri for Alba’s lip tie procedure. He does the procedure with a laser, so it’s super fast … There was no blood, and aside from having to rub her gum line a few times a day, there wasn’t really any aftercare. He was so wonderful, and we were very thankful we were able to see him. Aside from fixing her strong latch, this procedure will also help to avoid future dental problems (decay and gapped teeth).

On day 9, we went to see Melissa at her office. We weighed Alba and discovered she still wasn’t gaining. This was heartbreaking. I felt like I had been breastfeeding her, in extreme pain, for nothing.

This is when we realized I had a very low supply. It was time for big changes:

  • Melissa suggested we supplement at the breast with formula while I worked on building my supply and healing. We used a regular bottle for the formula. The nipple had a little slit cut in it with a thin tube going from the nipple to Alba’s mouth. Once she was done actively eating at the breast, I’d slide the tube into her mouth (next to my nipple), and she’d continue eating. Baby girl drank a LOT.
  • She also got me started on some supplements for my supply. A fenugreek tincture as well as Go Lacta. I was still taking my placenta pills (but on a clustered day basis to see if they were affecting my supply), and my iron supplement.
  • We talked about starting Domperidone (a prescription drug for boosting milk supply). There was one caveat though: Domperidone is not meant for milk production … it’s meant for reflux & stomach problems. One side effect is milk production, so many women choose to take it for that boost. Because of this, neither Melissa nor our midwives could prescribe it. I had to go online to buy it from an overseas pharmacy. It felt sketchy, but I personally know many women who have taken it and had success. I also heard amazing things from Melissa and some women on the baby forum I’m a member of. I’m currently taking about 80 mg per day, and really hoping it helps.
  • I started ensuring I was drinking a ton of water each day.
  • My friend Angie made me lactation muffins (they were amazing), and Jimmy made me lactation cookies.
  • I ate oatmeal each morning.
  • One day, I drank a glass of my pregnancy tea (alfalfa, oat straw, red raspberry leaf, nettles, and dandelion leaf), and saw a big increase in output. (It’s all relative, I was able to pump 2 ounces instead of just 1.) Since then, it hasn’t really helped … It’s cold outside though, so it’s nice to have a cup of warm tea each day.
  • For the pain, I’ve been alternating through several ointments & creams: APNO (a compound prescription ointment for bacteria, pain, inflammation), Wild Carrot Calendula Nipple Whip, Blue Poppy Chapped Nipple Ointment, and coconut oil.

So now, we are in a bit of a holding pattern. My nipple situation got worse … they were completely raw, swollen, and very pink. 6 days ago, I decided to quit breastfeeding Alba for a week (or until my nipples heal). I’ve been pumping every 2 hours during the day, and every 3-4 hours at night. We are bottle feeding her the pumped milk (with newborn bottles, this time), and supplementing with formula. I’m still only producing about 2/3 of what she needs. I’ve tried to feed her at the breast at least once per day, but I’ve skipped a couple because I am really focused on healing … It’s tough because I absolutely love breastfeeding her. It’s such an amazing bonding experience, and using a bottle just doesn’t do the same thing for me emotionally. I know that in order to breastfeed her past this time, I have to sacrifice that right now. And, in the end, what matters most is that she’s thriving. It just sucks.

Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My pregnancy & birth were so amazingly easy (obviously, the birth wasn’t ‘easy’, but I didn’t have to work very hard … my body did it all), so the last thing I expected were problems with this part of our journey. I had heard of women who couldn’t breastfeed, but I didn’t think I’d fall into that category. This is a big, scary world (knowing your baby needs you for nourishment that you can’t provide). I am so grateful to Jimmy, Heather, Amy Jo, my mom, my mother-in-law, and Melissa for their support in this! My friends have been so encouraging as well. I never realized how many other people have struggled with this same thing.

Once I’ve been on the Domperidone for a bit, I plan on updating this post with the results. I was really hoping for an immediate increase in supply, but as of the 36 hour mark, we’re still at the 2 ounce mark. I have faith that the tides will turn, and we’ll be on a smoother path soon.

I wanted to end with this quote I found on the MOBI website:

Mothers do feel empowered when they learn to nurture their babies in their own, uniquely special ways. As Lactation Consultants say, “The most important thing is to feed the baby.” So, mothers, feed your babies. Love them and nurture them in your own special ways!

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