Dear moms with low supply,
When I was pregnant with my first and only child, I was excited to breastfeed. From what I had read and heard, breastfeeding was the most beneficial option. I thought, “Of course I want my child to be healthy, immune to illnesses, and highly intelligent.” I was caught up in this picture-perfect image in my mind of me in the hospital bed with my daughter drinking milk from my breast. But I was so naïve that I didn’t even consider that my supply might be low.
That’s why I want to tell my fellow moms with low supply: It’s not your fault. You didn’t anticipate that once your precious child was placed in your arms, you would struggle to provide him or her with one of the most vital necessities for a newborn.
I know you’re worried that your child may not have the proper nutrients to grow, and I know you also worry about the judgement you may face from women who have been successful in breastfeeding, who might not understand what you’re going through. They might disregard your concerns. They might insist you must be doing something wrong. They might tell you to just wait it out, to keep trying, even if everything you do is never quite enough.
But try as you might, you can't make enough milk for your child. Please know this: it’s not your fault.
My vision of nursing my daughter was shattered when my daughter was born six weeks early and had to go straight to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) literally minutes after she was born. I didn’t get the golden hour. I didn't have the opportunity for a nurse to gently place my newborn on my bare chest. She was taken away, and I was left dealing with the emotional stress of my daughter being born too soon.
The reality of trying to breastfeed and produce milk can be a terrifying experience. Although there are doctors and nurses around at the hospital, I felt isolated, and like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.
After I settled into my hospital room, nurses came in and went over breastfeeding and pumping. I was introduced to this foreign device called a breast pump. I first learned that my supply was low when I attempted to use the breast pump. A few drops came out, and that was about it. My breasts didn’t feel like they were a part of my body. My brain was telling them to work, but they just wouldn’t.
My breasts didn’t feel like they were a part of my body. My brain was telling them to work, but they just wouldn’t.
I was desperate. When I visited my daughter in the NICU, the nurses told me they would help me breastfeed. But it was a struggle. I felt confused and overwhelmed. I’m supposed to hold my breast how? Is what’s coming out of my nipple normal?
My daughter remained in the NICU when I was discharged from the hospital. While I was home, I pumped on a schedule. I monitored how much I produced. I was half asleep and pumping. It was an obsession. Just when I felt like I was producing enough milk, it still wasn’t enough. My daughter was thriving in the NICU, and she needed more. At a certain point, when my supply was dangerously low, I knew my breastfeeding journey was about to come to an abrupt end.
To this day, I am still not sure why my supply was low. I had one visit with a lactation consultant while I was in the hospital, and I spoke with several nurses about it. No one had a clear answer. I was told it could be from stress and not being near my daughter enough when she was first born, because when my daughter was in the NICU, she spent time in an incubator and my time to hold her was limited.
All I kept thinking was that it was all my fault, and that I must have done something wrong. I couldn't stop crying. I felt like I was already failing as a mother.
I know that it's so easy to be hard on yourself. "What is wrong with me?," you might ask yourself. "Why can’t I produce enough to feed my child? Why am I so different?" An endless amount of questions consumes your mind. I know through the challenges, there are small miracles. You feel proud when even a few drops come out, but on the flip side, any drop wasted is a catastrophe.
You scour mom group posts and blogs about how to produce more. You’re told to drink this special tea, eat these miracle cookies, or try these massage techniques.
At times, you feel ashamed of yourself. You're envious of other moms and you search for answers from those moms who had success in producing milk. You scour mom group posts and blogs about how to produce more. You’re told to drink this special tea, eat these miracle cookies, or try these massage techniques, which don't always end up working out. I know, because I tried a few of these.
Trust me, I know you’re doing everything you can. Your mind is consumed with producing milk. I also know you cry. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel discouraged. But just remember, you are trying your best. And that’s all you can do. Remember that ultimately, it’s a mother’s decision how to feed and nurture their child. And if you are like me and your supply dries up, remember that other options are OK.
Moms have so much to worry about. This is just one hurdle of many to jump over. You will make it. If I could sit next to you, hold your hand, or be a shoulder to cry on, I would tell you this: you are an incredible woman and mom. You cared enough to try and give your child the best, and you did whatever you could to make that happen.
I ended up having to give my daughter formula, but I quickly realized it wasn’t the end of the world. She is now 5 years old, happy and healthy. And that’s all we as moms can ask for: a happy and healthy child.
In the end, your child still loves you. And in return, you should remember what it feels like to love yourself and let go of any guilt you may have. And always remember: no matter what happens, it isn’t your fault.
A low supply mom