Thanks to empowering movements that have brought the act of breastfeeding out in the open and onto the public "stage," there's a slew of information about breastfeeding. It's kind of awesome, especially for new mothers. However, when it comes to dealing with undersupply, it feels like there's less information readily available, unless you're looking to buy teas and cookies. Sadly, the things no one tells you about undersupply are, arguably, the things every new, breastfeeding mom absolutely needs to hear.
I'm one of those weird cases that actually went from oversupply to undersupply very quickly, due to my daughter's poor latch (the first time around). It was frustrating and shocking, to go from one extreme to another. On top of that initial shock and frustration, my daughter was dropping off the growth curve dramatically and for no apparent reason. I tried everything, and eventually settled on taking the maximum dose of Domperidone, a drug that was actually designed for stomach issues, but doubles as a galactagogue. It's a drug that is readily prescribed by doctors in Canada (at least in Toronto, where I'm from) for undersupply.
In the end, I got off relatively "easy," and was able to boost my milk supply successfully. I know lots of moms who ended up supplementing with formula, though, and the guilt and anger that these women experience (because they feel external pressure to live up to certain expectations the establishment has on how to feed your baby) is enormous, to say the very least. If you're struggling with undersupply, know that you are not alone. Remember that you're doing your best, and your baby will still grow into an incredible human being, no matter what the outcome of your breastfeeding experience is. So, with that in mind, here are 10 things no one tells you about undersupply, but I will:
It Can Make You Feel Like You're Failing As A Mom
The one job you have as a new mom, that no one else can do (if you choose and are able to breastfeed), is feeding your baby. When you can't do that adequately, especially if you've really been wanting to exclusively breastfeed, it can send you into a serious depression. Remember that you are not a failure. You grew that baby out of basically nothing so, you know, you're already f*cking awesome.
It's Incredibly Stressful
When you're trying to boost supply by pumping after every nursing session, it can feel like all you're doing is trying to extract milk from yourself. It's time consuming, especially when not a lot is coming out.
You May Feel Like The World Is Ending If You Have To Feed Your Baby Formula, But It Isn't
I'm one of the women who struggled through undersupply until I was making enough again. It was literally impossible for me to consider formula, and looking back, I realize how silly I was being. After all, I was raised on formula, and I'm doing just fine, so why the hang up?
You Need To Remember That The Most Important Thing Is Making Sure Your Baby Is Fed
As I wrote above, it can feel like the end of the world, if you're faced with having to feed your baby formula. The real end of the world, though, would be your baby starving, right? You do what you need to do, in order to help your baby grow and thrive, and if that means supplementing with formula, that is OK.
There Are Plenty Of Ways For You To Try To Increase Your Supply
No, they won't all work, but there are herbal supplements, teas, cookies, pumping, and even medication that can potentially help to boost your supply. If you choose to continue breastfeeding, even with the undersupply issues, speak with a knowledgeable lactation consultant to help you negotiate the rocky terrain of finding what helps boost your supply.
It's Actually Quite Common In Women Who Have Traumatic Births
Although having a c-section doesn't necessarily mean you will have trouble with your breastmilk supply, the trauma you experienced during the birth (which often leads to a c-section), can definitely impact your supply. So go easy on yourself, mom.
If Your Lactation Consultant Is Not Being Supportive, You Can Find Another
I have never had a negative experience with a lactation consultant, during my troubles breastfeeding both kids, so I was always surprised when I heard friends talking about the pressure they felt from their own. All of this is to say that, if you're not getting what you need from your current one, you can always shop around for another.
There Are Milk Banks You Can Potentially Turn To
If you're unable to produce enough milk, and your baby is having trouble with formula, you may be able to find a local milk bank, where moms with extra breastmilk donate what they have for women in need. This is exactly what a friend of mine did, after her son developed psoriasis from every single type of formula she tried, hypoallergenic or not.
Not All Supply-Boosting Techniques Work For Everyone
Many breastfeeding moms are quick to boast about their favorite supply-boosting technique or remedy, but not everything will work for everyone. I found a remedy that increased my supply, but it also caused me to have the most horrific intestinal cramping ever. I thought I had Norovirus. Find what works for you, moms.
You May Resent Moms Who Complain About Oversupply
Having gone through oversupply as well as undersupply, I can tell you that neither is a treat, but once you've experienced undersupply, anything else feels like a cakewalk. Of course, one mother's experience doesn't negate another's, and breastfeeding is hard all the way around. Trust me, the grass isn't always greener on the other side, so it's best to just support one another, regardless.