A Mother's Dilemma
Not enough milk?
July 31, 2000 -- Breastfeeding my first son Julian hadn't gone as I had
planned. For months I prepared, just like all the moms I knew. I attended a
breastfeeding workshop, selected a pro-breastfeeding pediatrician, hired an
ardent breastfeeding advocate to be our birth and labor coach, and read up on
the subject in many pregnancy and parenting books.
All to no avail. After Julian was born, I immediately knew something was
wrong: My breasts didn't engorge or leak milk. I couldn't hear Julian swallow.
And he never seemed satisfied after feedings. The problem, I discovered, was
that my milk simply failed to come in. That discovery launched a confusing and
emotional struggle to provide my son with the benefits of nursing while making
sure he got enough to eat.
Between Two Camps
At first, everyone pooh-poohed my concerns. But within days they agreed
there was a problem. Julian was rapidly losing weight, and he wasn't peeing or
pooping. The hospital strongly recommended supplementing with formula, and I
reluctantly allowed them to do so in 1- and 2-ounce increments, remembering all
the dire warnings I'd read about the evils of supplementation. It was a
slippery slope that would lead to more bottles and less nursing, then to less
supply and, ultimately, to what the pro-breastfeeding experts called the worst
of all possible fates -- "premature weaning."
Family members, friends, and professionals around me fell into two camps,
neither terribly supportive. One urged me to give up on breastfeeding
altogether and could not understand my dismay over what was happening. The
other was convinced that I was doing something wrong and heaped upon me huge
amounts of guilt.
My doula, a birth and post-partum coach I hired, ruefully told my
husband and me that we'd "gone a bit overboard" after we confessed to
giving the baby 5 ounces of formula the previous night despite fervent efforts
to nurse. She also suggested that my milk supply had been derailed by how
"career-minded" I'd been before having the baby. Much later, I
discovered that the community of lactation professionals was just beginning to
grudgingly admit that there really are bonafide cases of low milk supply.
Finding My Way
I eventually managed to establish a limited breastfeeding relationship with
Julian. But it was only through a level of dedicated effort that, in
retrospect, I feel was insane. I nursed on demand. I used a breast pump between
feedings and ingested tons of fenugreek pills and tea. I tried several days of
bed rest, conferred with lactation consultants, and pored through my large
library of nursing references. I tried supplementing with an eyedropper to
avoid the dreaded bottle, which resulted in an angry, hungry baby an hour
later, and terribly chafed nipples.