Before I had Juliette, like most first time moms, I was so looking forward to breastfeeding. It is something that fascinated me. My mom had breastfed me until I was 10 months old, and honestly she made it sound easy and natural. Well, it’s definitely neither.
Juliette lost 2 lbs after she was born (thankfully she was born at 9 lbs so she didn’t get too tiny) I had to start supplementing with formula at one week, and the vicious circle continued until I quit breastfeeding when she was 12 weeks old. I tried everything to get out of the supplementing spiral and get breastfeeding to work for us. We shelled out so much money on a pump, SNS, shields, everything to make breastfeeding work. I tried herbs and drank gatorade, ate oatmeal, did everything I heard would increase my supply. At 5 weeks old she refused to latch, and I continued to pump drops and give them too her. Eventually, I got mastitis, and then I got it again. All this led to feelings of depression and I stopped for my own sanity.
While preparing for Jackson, I was determined to follow the rules and guidelines to make sure breastfeeding was a success for us. During his first couple days he was attached to me, like normal, but I could see that I was producing significantly more milk than I was while nursing Juliette. I was encouraged. Around day 5, though, we noticed he started to look slightly jaundiced. The midwives came to our home, weighed him, and found out he had lost a pound. And the circle of supplementing had started again.
I was so confused. Why was this SO easy for so many people, but here I am struggling to do something my body was supposed to naturally do? I met with a Lactation Consultant the next day and learned what was wrong.
Before you have a baby, people tell you that women not producing enough milk is a myth. That there is a small percent that physically cannot produce enough milk because of biological reasons and you are likely not in that percent. Well, after my meeting with the LC I found out I am that small percent.
At some point when my body was going through puberty, I didn’t grow enough mammary glands. It is something called IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) and it’s not common. While I can produce some milk, the LC told me I will likely never have a full supply (she did say it’s not impossible, but my babies would be feeding every hour until they were on some sort of solids).
When she left my house I started immediately bawling. This is why everything has been so difficult, and it will continue to be difficult because I physically can’t make enough milk. Upon researching, most websites refer to it as a deformity and hearing that about myself left me so distraught. I’m sure all women have insecurity about their breasts, but I always felt like something was wrong with me. I was different and plenty of people noticed (i.e. the teasing I received in middle/high school) People always told me that I was just going to be a “late bloomer” but I really never bloomed at all to some extent. I felt like a gargoyle. I remember feeling like I just wanted to cut them off and get rid of them forever. And I immediately felt like I wanted to quit nursing Jackson.
I held on for another week or so and one night I just decided not to nurse him. I knew he wanted it though. Juliette preferred the bottle as soon as we gave one to her, but Jackson preferred breast even after having plenty of supplemented formula. It broke my heart that night because he was looking for me. I would make sure he was full of formula and he would continue to root around looking to nurse, just for comfort. That was the bond I was looking for with Juliette that I never got and now I didn’t even want it. I hated myself so much. A week passed. I felt the engorgement for a couple days but would express enough to feel relieved in the shower and that was gone before I knew it. But I was still making milk.
Formula was so hard on him. He was constipated to the point of screaming. I felt this overwhelming since of guilt because I hated myself too much to nurse him. I knew that just a little bit of breast milk would be all he needed to relieve his digestion, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I suggested donor milk to John because I knew he was uncomfortable with using another mom’s milk to feed our babies, but he agreed without an argument because of the pain Jackson was in. I found a mom shortly after who donated 30 oz and wanted to continue to donate every week. What a blessing! I knew it wasn’t enough to feed him full time but any breast milk was better than none. He was so young and I knew he needed the immunities and antibodies from milk and even if it was only 4-6 oz a day, at least it was something.
This morning I woke up and I was leaking through my shirt. This is especially strange because I hadn’t expressed any milk in just under a week. I had this thought that maybe I could pump. If all I got was a feeding a day at least it was something, and then with the other mom’s milk, maybe we could combine and offer him something great. Again, any breast milk is better than none.
I pumped with Juliette but I had no idea what I was doing and literally only ever got drops. I sat down with all my supplies (thoroughly washed and sanitized because I was a tiny bit grossed out that it was sitting in a box in our garage) and I got an ounce of milk in 5 minutes. Clearly that was 10x’s more than I ever got before and I was immediately encouraged. So I decided to start loading up on my herbs and pumping every two hours. Two hours later I was ready for my next pumping session but Jackson was awake and hungry. So I nursed him. The first time in a week I had felt him nurse and it was different. He felt stronger. I remember his suck being so weak and his mouth being tiny and his latch being shallow, but now he was bigger and stronger and it was like nursing another baby. He was frustrated after a couple sucks, which was to be expected. I mean he was hungry and there wasn’t much there. But we did it.
I’m going to continue with some lactation herbs and pumping a couple times a day, maybe I can give him some more milk. Like I said, even if it’s just one feeding a day. At least it’s something.