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Story of Adeline and Francesco!
In 2009 I got pregnant for the first time and during my pregnancy I became very enthusiastic about the idea of breastfeeding my baby. It was something I was really looking forward to. However my breasts were very small (not even an A-cup!) and I had absolutely no breast change or tenderness during pregnancy. I was worried about not producing enough milk for my baby. I asked some friends, I looked online and all that I could find was that size does not matter, every woman can breastfeed. So I was not worried too much about breastfeeding. I thought I would just have to put the baby at the breast and that would be it!
Then, December 17 2009, my son Francesco was born. I nursed him for the first time 40min after birth (I now wish it had been earlier!). Then, about every 3 hours. But less than 48 hours later, the day prior to my hospital discharge, they told me he had not enough wet diapers and we should supplement him. So they brought us a bottle of formula. I had read everywhere that breastfed babies should not be offered a bottle before a few weeks to avoid nipple confusion and I was hesitating about giving him this bottle. I was crying and feeling so bad that I was not able to feed my own child. But the nurse convinced us and told us it was necessary to supplement as our son was not getting enough colostrum/milk from me and getting jaundiced. She told me it was usual for women to have milk come in a few days late. I should just wait a few more day for my milk to come in..
So we went back home with some formula, thinking it would be for just a few days. I was nursing every time first and then my husband would feed him the formula with a bottle. Eventually, within a couple of days, Francesco completely refused the breast and wanted the bottle immediately. I was so desperate. I wanted so much to breastfeed my child and I wanted to know what I was doing wrong and why my milk had not come in. I could not blame him, he wanted to eat and did not want to lose energy at the breast to not get anything but drops of milk.
I first call my local La Leche League, who gave me some good advice but also referred me to a local IBCLC. The day after, we went to see Karen (the IBCLC). We did a test feed with a scale. Francesco got 0.1 oz of breastmilk from me, almost nothing. It was very hard for me to accept. Karen advised me to pump after each feed for extra breast stimulation and introduced us to a supplemental nursing system, where I could supplement formula at the breast, not from a bottle.
After a lot of effort and persistence, Francesco decided to come back to the breast. I was so happy! But I wanted to produce more milk. So I pumped again and again, I had him nurse often and I took fenugreek and blessed thistle, some herbal supplements. I used the SNS every time. After about 1 month, I rented a scale and I was producing 8 oz. per day. This is the maximum I have ever been able to produce. It was such a great achievement for me!
The SNS is what saved our nursing relationship. When Karen introduced it to me, I thought I could never last long. It seemed so much trouble to put on, to clean etc.. At the end of every week, I was saying “I’ll do it another week and if my supply doesn’t increase, I will just give him bottles”. Eventually, as time passed by, I got used to it and we used it every single day for 10 months!
During the first couple of months of Francesco’s life I kept looking online for information about low milk supply. I asked my doctor. I could not believe I could not produce enough milk: I wanted to find the cause of my problem and most importantly find THE solution that would bring me a full supply. The doctor was not very helpful nor supportive: she told me to drink more water and pump and she even told me that formula is not that bad so it was not a problem if I don’t breastfeed. She did not really believe in low milk supply. I was drinking all the water I could drink, I was pumping 20min after every feed, but nothing worked to have my supply increase more than 8oz. Our families fed us formula when we were babies and they could not understand either why I was so persistent in trying to nurse my son if I was producing so little. In summary, we had very little support from the community and our families!
Finally, when Francesco was about 3 months old, I found out about MOBI. It was only moms like me, some who could not even produce the 8oz I was producing daily. Finally I found a place where there were other women in my situation. It was really nice to be able to share my story/feelings with these moms. I read about women with low supply who nursed their child into toddlerhood. I learned about foods and herbs that help increase milk supply. And many other success stories. I think this is what gave me the motivation to continue nursing my son and keep using the SNS for so long.
When Francesco was about 6 months old we started solid foods. So we reduced formula. At 10 months old, I completely eliminated formula and FINALLY I was like other women, I was JUST nursing! Without any tube, without any formula. It was such a great feeling! Today Francesco is 16 months and he still nurses, about 3-4 times per day despite my extremely low supply. We are actually expecting our 2nd one and supply decreases even more during pregnancy.
This time around, I am getting ready for breastfeeding the new baby. Based on MOBI moms’ advice and books I read, I drink herbal teas during pregnancy (alfalfa, nettle, red raspberry and oat straw), and later I will take shatavari (last trimester) and goat’s rue (last month). I have already noticed some slight breast change and tenderness so I am positive I will be able to produce more milk this time around. I am not hoping for a full supply but I am pretty sure I’ll be making more than 8oz a day!! I also plan to take domperidone after birth; I will have lots of skin to skin contact with the new baby, try to eat as many lactogenic foods as I can, and obviously nurse often!
Thanks to MOBI, I have learned so much and found out about these two great books about low milk supply:
• Motherfood, by Hilary Jacobson
• Making More Milk, by Diana West and Lisa Marasco
The main thing I learned through this is that breastfeeding is much more than feeding. I enjoy so much nursing my son, even though there is so little milk in there, and so does he! Now that he is older, he comes close to me and asks for nursing! I never thought I would be able to reach this stage, but here we are now!
This story is a now 1 year old. Our 2nd son was born in October 2011. I started Domperidone immediately after the delivery and I had lots of colostrum. Pietro, our 2nd son, indeed met all his wet/dirty diapers numbers! I was so happy! But then things turned out like with Francesco. I did not have enough milk so we started supplementing formula at Day 3. In the end, I ended up producing around 12-15oz per day, so almost double compared to Francesco. This was quite an accomplishment for me!! In addition Pietro ate less than Francesco so he was fed about 50-50 breastmilk formula, a much higher percentage than Francesco! I used the SNS until he was 6 months old and then started solid foods. Since then he has never had formula again. Just nursing (probably now it's just drops..!) and various solids foods, all approved by our IBCLC-pediatrician (I am so sad I have moved now and cannot find such a pediatrician where I am now!!). Pietro is now 14 months old and still nursing 3-4 times a day!