The Secrets to How I Conquered My Breastfeeding Struggles and Doubled My Milk Supply
Like a lot of newborn mama’s I’ve found breastfeeding to be a real challenge. My first breastfeeding experience 6 years ago was such a mess with my little girl having a shallow latch, unimaginable nipple pain from Vasospasm (I felt like someone was rubbing crushed glass into my nipples during each feed) and a very low milk supply from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I was heart broken when I eventually gave my daughter formula and felt like a complete failure. I felt like I’d let my little girl down and my body was letting me down, when in fact there wasn’t much letting down happening at all. Eventually I came to resent the “Breast Is Best” slogan because it was a constant reminder of my failure as a woman and a mama! After the hormones subsided and a couple of years had past, I could see how healthy my little girl was and I began to forget about my struggles and breastfeeding became that beautiful thing that I just wasn’t able to do. When I became pregnant with our second daughter, Summer, I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands and I needed a breastfeeding plan. Here’s what I put in place this time to support my new breastfeeding goals and so far, its actually working!
The first thing I did was get the help of an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, who very quickly became my own Florence Nightingale. While breastfeeding consultants are knowledgeable and bring a lot of information to the table IBCLC’s are experts in their field, they have much more training and ongoing education to retain their certification. With my first daughter, I saw 5 different lactation consultants and the conflicting advice was too confusing, so this time I have stuck with just one amazing IBCLC and she has helped me structure a breastfeeding plan to suit my individual needs. Just like last time with Sophia, my milk has taken ten days to come in but knowing my struggles she very quickly got me started on milk making medication and various herbs to boost supply while guiding me through a series of steps to help me feed my daughter from day one.
Skin-to-skin and Supplementing
We started out by having lots of skin-to-skin for hours on end. I waited until Summer showed signs of wanting to breastfeed and was darting her tongue in and out. With the help of my IBCLC we managed to latch her but the pain was toe curlingly painful. One of the biggest myths about breastfeeding is that it’s normal for it to be painful in the beginning. This has only become normal because women have accepted it as normal but pain is a sign that something is not right. My IBCLC found that Summer had a good latch but a very hard suck and after a few minutes sucking I had blood blisters on my nipples, ouch! My IBCLC thought this was because there wasn’t any milk coming out but assured me that once my milk came in she wouldn’t need to suck as hard and it wouldn’t be as painful (which has turned out to be correct). She then helped me hand express small amounts of colostrum, which we syringed into Summer’s mouth. After a few days it was clear this wasn’t going to be enough for my 4 kg baby so she set me up with a Supplemental Nursing System and we line fed Summer small amounts of formula while we waited for my milk to come in. We used a nipple shield and fed the line into the shield, this helped protect my nipples from further damage while still stimulating my milk supply through Summer’s sucking motion.
P-P-P-P-P-Pump – Pump It Up
To help my milk come in my IBCLC had me pumping every 2-3 hours, using a very popular hospital grade pump to stimulate my milk supply but it just wasn’t cutting it, I was only getting tiny amounts of milk and I needed a stronger pump. I went into some popular breastfeeding and “exclusively pumping” forums and asked all the mums which pump they thought was the best and it turns out there’s not much of a
competition. Out of 200 comments on my post, at least 90% of mums agreed the Spectra S1 Double Electric Breast Pump (now affectionately known as my “Booby Buddy”) is by far the best pump available. The S1 has not disappointed, the first time I used it, I doubled my yield and it’s only continued to increase the more I use it. I also really love how gentle it feels, I have used four different types of breast pumps now and the Spectra S1 is the only pump that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to rip my nipples off! It feels more like a gentle vibration and massage, rather than a harsh suck, which has been a relief to these sore old nipples. The other thing I like about it is that it’s cordless, it has a night-light and it’s quieter than most of the other
pumps, it even tracks the time you’ve been pumping for. It also has lots of different settings so you can customize the cycle and vacuum settings to your preference and it even remembers them for next time. I’m proud to say I don’t cry while I pump any more, I actually look forward to it, so that’s a huge plus!
Love In A Bottle
Pumping with the Spectra S1, taking Motillium and breastfeeding herbs has worked so well that I can now latch Summer onto my breast (with the help of a nipple shield) and more often than not, give her a full feed, I feed her as often as she wants, which is sometimes all day! Occasionally I have to top up with expressed breast milk but to avoid flow preference and nipple confusion, I use a bottle-feeding technique
called Paced Feeding. With Paced Feeding I keep Summer sitting almost upright and I gently place the bottle to her lips in the same way I would with my breast. I wait for her to show interest, open her mouth wide and pull the bottle teat into her mouth, I keep the bottle almost upright so there’s no milk in the teat and she starts sucking. Just like with the breast there is no immediate milk, after a little bit of sucking on the empty teat, I incline the bottle just a little so she starts to get some milk. This simulates her experience at the breast and gets her working for her milk and also helps her regulate her own appetite. If I was to just pop the bottle in her mouth and let her guzzle it down she would quickly develop a flow preference towards the fast flow of the bottle over the slower flow of the breast. When she drinks more slowly and deliberately she begins to recognise when she is full and stops drinking by herself. For bottles I prefer using thermal shock resistant borosilicate glass bottles from Life Factory because they are completely BPA/BPS-free and phthalate-free. I use Pigeon Peristaltic silicone teats because they have such a slow flow, again similar to the breast.
Eat Me Drink Me
Finally, as well as taking Motillium (prescribed by my GP), Goats Rue and a herbal formula from my naturopath, I’m also eating organic oat muesli, homemade Boobie Biccies, copious amounts of almonds and drinking oodles of coconut water every day. All of these foods have breast milk boosting properties and help to establish milk supply.
I’m really excited to have gotten this far on my breastfeeding journey, this time I feel like I have all the tools, knowledge and support I need to reach my own breastfeeding goals and regardless of how much milk I can or can’t make and how long I’m able to feed for, I know that the most important thing is that my daughter’s needs will be met one way or another and I have done everything I can to make that happen.
Please Note: not all mums need to go to these lengths to build their milk supply, for most mums just feeding their baby regularly will often be enough, mothers would only try to above in consultation with an IBCLC and their GP if they felt their supply was low.
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