During my second pregnancy, I had just two goals: I wanted to have an unmedicated delivery, and I wanted to breastfeed my daughter. After meeting my first goal, I felt like Superwoman. I was convinced that I could accomplish everything that I put my mind to. Breastfeeding had to be a breeze after pushing my little tiny human out of me without any drugs, right? Wrong.
When I left the hospital a few days after I gave birth, I thought that I would quickly slip back into our regular family life, and that it would be easy to incorporate breastfeeding into our daily routine. Little did I know that I would have an extremely low milk supply, which would cause me guilt and emotional pain for months to come.
A little bit of backstory: I had a breast reduction when I was seventeen, so I knew that there would be a bit of a struggle ahead of me in terms of breastfeeding . (Often, doctors cut the milk ducts whenever they perform breast reduction surgery unless you ask them specifically not to. When I had my surgery, my doctor did not warn me about this.)
When I got pregnant with my daughter, I went to a lactation consultant to find out if I could breastfeed, since I didn't breastfeed my first child due to low supply. She told me that since milk ducts have the ability to grow back over time, I would have a better chance breastfeeding our now-4-month-old than I did my 8-year-old son. I was convinced that no matter how much milk I had, I could successfully feed my infant daughter.
Then, baby Blake came and so did my very small milk supply. I had already made the decision to supplement with formula because I knew that I would likely need to, but right away, I noticed my supply wasn’t where I wanted it to be and my baby wasn’t very satisfied. I was OK with supplementing, but I wanted it to be just that. I certainly didn't want her getting all of her nutrients from formula.
I started doing anything and everything to help increase my supply. My daily life became a routine of taking fenugreek, an herb that is considered a galactagogue, meaning that it boosts your milk supply. While fenugreek might work for some, for me my supply increased by only about half an ounce a day. It also made both me and my daughter super gassy and uncomfortable.
I nursed our little one on demand, pumping immediately afterwards at the suggestion of my lactation consultant. I also spent a great deal of time chugging water and eating every single lactogenic snack and meal I could prepare. My low milk supply overcame our daily life and boosting it almost became an obsession. Nonetheless, I kept plugging away.
Losing my milk made me feel like a complete failure as a mom. I felt like my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing, and I was absolutely devastated.
Not only did I start to experience burnout, but I also became so immersed in building my milk supply that I started neglecting other things in life, like work and my other family members. I tried to continue pumping and feeding and dosing myself with fenugreek, but nothing worked. My milk supply dropped lower and lower each day, until I eventually dried up when my daughter was only 5 weeks old.
Losing my milk made me feel like a complete failure as a mom. I felt like my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing, and I was absolutely devastated. I wanted my daughter to be getting nutrients from me on a daily basis, but it just wasn’t happening. I was going to have to start getting used to mixing bottles full -time and kiss my dreams of exclusive breastfeeding goodbye.
I started questioning myself constantly. Was I doing everything that I possibly could to increase my supply? Could I have tried harder?
I started questioning myself constantly. Was I doing everything that I possibly could to increase my supply? Could I have tried harder? Was there something that I was or wasn’t doing? Every single day, these questions swirled through my mind. I felt like everywhere I looked, I was somehow reminded that I couldn’t breastfeed.
At the end of the day, there wasn’t anything that I could do about my low supply. I realized I needed to pick myself up and move forward, knowing that I had and always would make the best decisions for my family. Sometimes, things just don’t work out the way we want to and it’s out of our control. No matter how disappointing that is, we have to be kinder to ourselves in the process. I felt like a bad mom not being able to breastfeed, but I take comfort in the fact that I’m a fantastic mom in so many other ways.