Read Part One of Bri’s journey here.
Not wanting to give up on our breastfeeding journey, I ramped up my efforts to increase my supply even further. I met with a lactation consultant, and joined a few breastfeeding support groups online. I followed every single tip to boost my supply that came my way.
I made sure I drank at least 100 ounces of water a day, including a few bottles of blue Gatorade (since apparently that’s the color that hydrates you the most). I ate oatmeal—so much oatmeal, that eventually the thought of it alone made me almost gag. I bought boxes and boxes of mother’s milk tea, and took a handful of pills each morning—prenatal vitamins, iron pills, fenugreek pills, sunflower lecithin, as well as something my doctor prescribed me that she said had helped a few women increase their supply. I tried pumping after every nursing session, making sure to massage my breasts to encourage more milk flow while my husband followed our nursing session with a bottle of formula to make sure she was nice and full.
Two weeks later, my daughter finally surpassed birth weight. Relieved, I continued our long routine of nursing for 45-60 minutes, topping off with formula, and then pumping for 20 – 30 minutes. It was so time consuming that I felt like I was going to start melting into the couch. As she became more active, I was not able to pump as often, and despite continuing to nurse on demand, my supply started dwindling down again. By the time she was ten months old, she was having 90% formula and 10% breast milk. She no longer wanted to nurse, presumably from how little milk she was getting, so weaning was easy. Almost a little too easy, and thus our breastfeeding journey ended.
A year and a half later, my son was born. Unlike my daughter, he took after me, and made a fashionably late entrance—choosing to be born almost a full 5 days after his due date. Like his sister though, he struggled to get a proper latch, despite all the help we got from the nurses and lactation consultants. I had hope though. I was sure that things would be different this time.
After three weeks of struggling with breastfeeding, and with a baby that seemed to never be satisfied, I painfully admitted to myself that nothing had changed and that my supply issues hadn’t magically gone away as I hoped. I resorted to my old routine: nurse, top off with formula, and then pump. Thankfully, my husband was able to take 4 weeks of paternity leave, so with his help, I was somehow able to continue our triple feeds while trying to also tend to our two-year old daughter whose whole world had just been turned upside down.
When my husband returned to work though, it became a different story. As soon as I would put my son down after feeding him and would start pumping either he would start crying, or my daughter would start crying- because she fell down, or she needed help getting a toy that fell under the couch, or because sometimes she simply needed a hug or kiss (as much as I needed one from her). The first day my husband returned to work, I managed to squeeze in three short pumping sessions. The second day though, while running around like a chicken with its head cut off, one session was all I could manage.
I would get so engorged that my son had an even harder time than usual latching on, and he would just cry until I would give up and give him formula instead. It was a vicious cycle, and slowly but surely my supply started dwindling down to nothing.
I was torn, and riddled with guilt. I couldn’t get him to latch, and I couldn’t pump, so how was I supposed to get my supply up? It didn’t feel fair to not breastfeed him as long as I had his sister, but I thought back to all the times I struggled through my breastfeeding journey before… I remembered all the tears, all the stress, the obsessing over how many ounces I pumped each day, and the disappointment I felt when I thought I wasn’t enough and suddenly the choice seemed easy. I didn’t want to do this. As much as I loved the bond breastfeeding created and being able to provide part of my daughter’s nourishment, I wanted to be present this time. To not have to wonder if my baby is still hungry, and to not miss out on any cuddles, snuggles, or silly moments from either of my children due to being hooked up to a machine. I decided to switch over to 100% formula.
Do I wish that breastfeeding had come naturally for me like it seems to for so many women? Of course! But unfortunately, it didn’t, and you know what? It’s OK. My children are both happy and healthy, and I am no longer stressed out, which means I am happy too. To all women out there struggling with low supply, or for whom formula feeding was the answer for whatever reason: You’re doing a great job! Never forget that you’re an amazing mom. To all the moms out there who are breastfeeding, whether exclusively or who are supplementing—you’re amazing as well. No matter how you feed your child, the important thing is that they are being fed, and most importantly: LOVED.