It seems like everyone has an opinion about how you should feed your baby. Many people believe that "breast is best" and plan to breastfeed. I know I did. Unfortunately, no one told me that breastfeeding can be difficult, painful, and sometimes impossible. So, when I was tired, depressed, and struggling with undersupply, I didn't open up to anyone. When I did, I often received condescending, conflicting, and just plain bad advice. I had no idea there were basic rules for supporting a mom with undersupply, and that failing to follow those rules can actually hurt instead of help.
When I struggled with breastfeeding the first time, I received such poor advice. "Just keep nursing," my friends said, "of course you are making enough breast milk" (I wasn't). The lactation consultant added, "Undersupply is really rare. You don't need to worry about that." (It's not rare, and I did need to worry about it). People on the internet questioned my efforts, asking, "Did you try hard enough? I bet you just need more information about how to breastfeed correctly" (I had tried my hardest, and I could write a book about how breastfeeding should work), and co-workers and family members told me all about their wonderful breastfeeding experiences (which is not helpful at all). I felt like no one actually listened to me, and if they did, they didn't believe me when I explained what I was going through. Honestly, it sucked.
Breastfeeding was completely different the second time around, though. I had an awesome physician and lactation consultant who listened my story, diagnosed me with the medical condition that was causing my undersupply, and really listened to me about my challenges and fears. With her, my friends and family on my side, I created a plan and successfully breastfed my son for eight months, something that I never thought was possible with my low supply. I learned what realbreastfeeding support looks like, not just support for the parents for whom breastfeeding comes easily. You know, breastfeeding support for the rest of us, because those of us struggling deserve support and real advice, not just a brochure saying "breast is best" or people telling us how easy it should be when it's totally not.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 basic rules for supporting a parent with undersupply, from someone who has been there and knows what a difference the right words can make.