Because someone, somewhere, needs to hear this right now:
You are enough.
Your baby loves you.
Your body has done amazing things.
You are not alone.
I’ve breastfed 3 babies, or tried to…. and I’ve had totally different experiences with all of them. Your worth is not in how much milk you can produce. You are not flawed if something goes wrong. You can’t blame yourself. You can only adapt and find new ways to overcome every struggle you face in motherhood and in life. You are stronger than the storm and you will be standing at the end of it.
Breastfeeding Desmond was so easy. He took to it quickly in the first few days. My milk came in strong and stayed that way. He would pull off during let down and make a mess all the time, but that was out biggest issue. Until he was a year old, I got pregnant with my second child, and thought airline cheese and fruit were a good idea. They were a terrible idea, I got food poisoning and spent a full 24 hours puking in my sister’s toilet.
How I Overcame Dehydration While Breastfeeding: And Got My Supply Back.
(Taken from an original post on November 1, 2017)
Breaking Rule #1
Any breastfeeding mama will tell you, the number one rule of breastfeeding is to drink plenty of water. But sometimes that’s not always possible. Sometimes you try to drink water but you still get dehydrated. Sometimes you get a stomach bug or food poisoning and you can’t keep water down.
So what do we do then? How do we overcome this dehydration and still nourish our baby?
This is what I was faced with last week. I took my still breastfed 1 year old to visit my sister in San Diego. I bought a fancy cheese and fruit platter from the commercial airline, and I got a mild case of food poisoning.
I spent an entire day running to and from the bathroom, trying to nap in between episodes. But when did I make time to be a good mom? My boy was so good to me, he watched me vomiting over the toilet, and immediately clung to me for hugs when I stopped. He climbed up and snuggled with me on the bed and napped with me more often than he normally would have.
I felt like I was being a good mom through it all because he was being such a good son. But I wasn’t. He ate three puree jars and snacked all day, but I wasn’t making sure that he drank enough milk. I only breastfeed him now when he asks, since his main source of nutrition is in solids. I didn’t realize all day that he never asked to breastfeed, and I didn’t make sure that he drank enough milk from his cup. Bad mom.
The vomiting stopped in the evening, but the damage was done, for both of us.
I woke up to small boobs. The smallest they’ve been since I got pregnant. They were empty. Totally empty. It was heartbreaking. It was more heartbreaking when I realized that my boy didn’t breastfeed the day before, when I realized that he hadn’t had many wet diapers. I’d only brought 6 diapers with me for the trip and in 24 hours, I still had two left… I almost went to the ER right then, but decided to give myself 24 hours to remedy his dehydration myself.
My sister took us to the grocery store to get some supplies. I was going to need more diapers, Gatorade, water.. All that good stuff to fix these issues. I was determined to get my baby hydrated, wetting plenty of diapers and breastfeeding again in the next day. And I totally did.
Here’s how we home remedied our dehydration and loss of milk supply.
Always baby first, any mom will tell you that. If your baby is acting differently, refusing to eat or drink anything, then please seek medical attention immediately. If it’s just lack of wet diapers and diarrhea, you’re probably good to give yourself 24 hours to remedy the situation yourself, like I did.
I know many of us would love to exclusively breastfeed, but in a case like this, it’s going to hurt your baby a whole lot more to be stubborn here. If you’re dehydrated, you need to give your infant formula – unless you have immediate access to donor milk, which would always be ideal and wonderful, but we don’t always have access to donor milk, so formula it is.
My boy is a year old, so we try to give him almond milk, but sometimes he doesn’t like it. When I can’t get him to drink that, I mix a little Pediasure with it to sweeten it up and add some vitamins.
If your baby is anything like mine, he hates water. Pedialyte was a great way to get him hydrated and he loved the fruity flavor. We don’t normally give him juice of any kind, so it was a special treat that he was excited for.
*Only recommended for babies 6 months and older.
Even if you have an older infant or toddler who is eating true solids now, pureed fruit or applesauce are great mealtime options when baby isn’t feeling well – especially if your little is refusing other foods. Focus on fruits with a high water content, like applesauce.
If you’ve been trying to cup train your baby off the bottle, this is a time to put that on hold. I was lucky that my son accepted his sippy cup because we only cut out bottles a week earlier. I was prepared to go buy him a new bottle though, if he hadn’t taken to the cup so well.
Just keep in mind that it’s okay to give a bottle if it’s the only way your little will drink. There’s no harm in waiting another week to start cup training.
*Three wet diapers is a bare minimum for a 1 year old to have in 24 hours. 6 or 8 is ideal. If your baby isn’t showing any signs of improvement or is refusing food or drink or acting abnormal in any way, please seek a medical professional.
Restoring Your Milk Supply
After baby is well-hydrated and accepting other milk alternatives, it’s time to get yourself back in order. Yes, you can work on both at the same time, just make baby the priority, of course.
Water is your new best friend. Drink it. 100 oz in one day. It’s not easy, you’re going to start hating the taste of it after awhile, but it’s absolutely necessary.
What is it about the blue one? I don’t know, but hundreds of women swear by it and nearly every article out there about helping milk supply suggests it. I made it my goal to drink 2 32oz bottles of it. But of course, this and water started to both taste awful. I decided to mix things up and switch out a gatorade for a 28oz bottle of Orange Body Armor. It really helped to break up the monotony.
*My particular method for getting through all this liquid was 2 16oz water bottles, ½ gatorade, 2 water bottles, ½ Body Armor; repeat.
Mother’s Milk Tea
This tea is amazing for helping your supply. Drink three cups of it a day, one with each main meal. Let it steep for 10 minutes to get the most out of every cup.
Protein is so important to your milk supply. If you’re not fueling your body, your body isn’t going to create fuel for baby. Protein bars are an easy way to know you’re getting protein in. Of course, meats, beans and veggies are the best way to get in the best forms of protein, but after a stomach bug or food poisoning, you’re lucky to be holding anything down.
Oatmeal and Ground Flaxseed
This is a great meal to start and end your day with. I like to add butter and brown sugar to mine, especially if I’m not feeling well, it makes it a nice treat.
Offer the Breast as Often as Possible
Your body isn’t going to make any milk if it doesn’t think it needs it. So offer the breast to baby every chance you get. It can be helpful to massage the breast while trying to breastfeed as well.
I wish I’d had my pump with me, because this would have really sped things up. Power pumping over stimulates that breasts into thinking they are way behind in milk production – and in this case, they are! It’s a great way of boosting supply and only takes a few minutes every couple hours. Check here for more info on power pumping, nipple stimulation and the science behind it all.
Then Came Dashiel. My Second Son Came With His Own Set of Breastfeeding Struggles.
(Taken from an original post March 27, 2019)
I wasn’t planning to share this story right now. I’ve even tried to write it before and couldn’t. Tonight I was feeling a weight on my heart, a small word that said “someone, somewhere, needs to hear this right now”.
I effortlessly breastfed my first son until he was 13 months old. He had a great latch, rarely bit, and had perfect weight gain. He self weaned shortly after I became pregnant with my second son and we were both totally ready for it.
That’s a beautiful little true story, but it’s clearly not the one you came here to read.
This is about my second son, Dash. The one who cried all the time, only gained 1 pound in the his first two months, and was at risk of being declared Failure to Thrive.
I loved breastfeeding my first son, it was so easy. He was hungry, I pulled my boob out and fed him. I had a strong let down and over supply. I could pump 6 oz just an hour after feeding him if I ever needed to have a bottle for him. He also took bottles with no issue. I even gave him pre mixed formula a few times because it was even easier (and they were free samples).
Again, that’s not the story you want to hear, but it’s important to know I went into breastfeeding my second son feeling like a rockstar, and came out feeling very different.
I had a few suspicions that Dash wasn’t getting enough, but because Des always had plenty, I didn’t have much reason to believe I’d have any problem making enough milk. It was at our 1 month child well check that we found out just how poorly Dash was gaining weight. I mentioned earlier that he’d only gained 1 pound in his first two months. He was born at 7.5 pounds, and weighed in at 8.5 pounds at 2 months. This put him in the first percentile, normally I don’t concern myself with percentiles, but first percentile is a big deal.
We were lucky that he was meeting all other developmental milestones for his age. He had great head control and had even already rolled from stomach to back, which was awesome. I think this was the only reason he wasn’t declared failure to thrive right then and there. He was doing awesome in every way but his weight.
Being told that I wasn’t producing enough milk for my baby was soul crushing.
Our healthcare provider gave me an extensive list of things to add to my diet, to eat more meals more often, orders to drink tons of water, and to breastfeed-pump-supplement ever TWO HOURS. She even whispered to me, I may have to give him 4 oz of formula after every feeding. (We see a holistic provider, so referring me to formula was a pretty big deal for her).
As a stay at home mom, I had all the time for all the feeding and pumping (of course I wasn’t doing ANY housework at this time) but as a mother of two under two, I barely had enough time to blink. Every moment that wasn’t spent changing and feeding the baby was spent changing and feeding and entertaining the toddler.
Pumping took over my life. I was obsessed with upping my supply. I ate lactation cookies, drank the teas, took pills, drank water, and pumped, and pumped, and pumped..
I would feed Dash until he wouldn’t take it anymore, usually about 15-30 minutes. Then I’d give him formula, then I’d pump for another 30-40 minutes, both sides. He’d wake up, I’d change his diaper and feed him again, then pump, the change him, feed him, pump…. on repeat, every day.
We went in for a series of weight checks between his next well child check.
10 weeks – 10 lbs 1 oz. That’s right, just two weeks of supplementing with formula and he was up almost 2 pounds! This put him back on his growth chart.
11 weeks – 11 lbs 6 oz. Nice work, baby!
12 weeks – 12 lbs 4 oz. At this point, they sent us home happy, with no other weight checks scheduled.
He was gaining great weight, but it wasn’t because of me.
One day I got 5 oz, not at once, but for the whole day. I pumped for hours, for days, and I couldn’t get more than 5 oz.
I’d pump ALL day, and couldn’t come up with even half the milk he needed. Most days I couldn’t even get 2 oz pumped.
Every day I would wake up with a burning determination. Today I was going to pump enough for my baby.
And every night, I’d be crushed.
I lowered my expectations. Today I was going to pump half of what he needed.
Every night, crushed.
Today I was going to pump 1 oz more than yesterday.
Crushed. Again and again, I was crushed. I couldn’t feed my baby. Formula was expensive. Breast is best.
I thought about giving up.
But the antibodies. But his immune system. But, but, but…
This went on for 3 months. This struggling to produce milk, this emotional anguish of not being “enough” for him, this draining burden of pumping. I gave myself 3 months to fix my supply, and it never happened.
But I couldn’t keep wearing myself thin. That’s what it came down to. I was exhausted, and not because I was giving all my energy to my sweet boys, but because I was giving it all to that pump!
I spent more time pumping that I did actually holding my newborn.
It was at our 4 month well child check, when he weighed in at 14 lbs 11 oz (48th percentile!) that I finally went home happy with his weight. He was exactly normal with his weight.
And suddenly I realized that I missed everything else.
I wasn’t just obsessed with trying to make enough milk, I was obsessed with his weight.
I could have spent so much more time enjoying both of my boys. I don’t regret trying to breastfeed him, but I do wish I’d stopped trying a lot sooner.
I finally accepted defeat.
He was 4 months old when I finally put the pump away. I accepted that spending 10+ hours of my time, pumping an average of 1 oz per day wasn’t a good use of my time.
I cried for about a week. I tried so hard for so long and it was HARD to give it up.
There were a lot of lies going on in my head at this point. I was feeling really broken, like I wasn’t woman enough to raise my children. I was feeling like my body had failed my baby. And I was feeling really bummed out that my period came back. (I’d never gotten it back after having my first, since he breastfed up until I was already pregnant with Dash, so this was a really big deal for me).
I had to feed myself the truth, repeatedly, until I finally started to believe it.
I am enough. I am all my child needs. He relies on me 100% to feed and clothe and diaper and love him.
My body has done amazing things. I gave birth to two healthy boys with zero pain numbing medication. I exclusively breastfed my first son, and that was still amazing, even if I couldn’t do it again.
My time is better spent loving on my children. My boys need my full attention, even still, and they weren’t getting that when I was pumping nonstop.
I hated pumping. I hated it! I spent a lot of time doing something I hated for someone I loved.
Today, Dash is healthy and spunky and thriving. He’s 9 months old, weighs 18 lbs and is very close to walking. He holds his own bottles and eats almost anything else we give him. He chewed into an avocado at the grocery store the other day when I wasn’t paying attention.
He plays with his brother and chases the dogs. He also is very determined to eat dog food, but we are pretty good at stopping him.
He loves to play with his brother, and sometimes Desmond is even nice enough to share his snacks with his baby brother.
You’re not alone.
I felt alone when I went through all of this, just a few months ago. If I had to do it again, I would have found a support group that meets locally. (Actually, just two months after I gave up, my healthcare provider’s office started offering a breastfeeding support group, how’s that timing?)
I had a lot of people in my life who supported me, but they weren’t going through what I was going through. They were bystanders with nice words of encouragement, but they weren’t in the trenches with me. They didn’t know how it felt to fail at this.
And I’m brought to tears, not because it’s painful to relive these feelings, but because there’s another woman who is feeling them right now.
If you’re currently struggling with supply, how long you keep trying is completely up to you. But if you’re waiting for permission to quit, because pumping is taking up all your time and actually keeping you from enjoying that sweet child, this is it. You have my permission to do whatever it takes to be the best momma you can for your baby.
Breastfeeding Number 3.
(Written February 9, 2021).
Every breastfeeding journey is different. All 3 of my babies came with a totally different experience. Des was easy, I even had oversupply. Dash was impossible, we had no idea he had a frenulum tie that killed my supply. Drew was still different, somewhere in between.
Because Dash was a struggle, we scheduled weekly weigh checks between Drew’s monthly well checks, and it was a great thing we did. We quickly found he wasn’t gaining quite enough, so we met with our lactation consultant.
She confirmed a tongue tie was the culprit. He wasn’t latching properly and the signal wasn’t getting sent that my body needed to make more milk. This is what happened with Dash, but we caught it much earlier this time and by pumping routinely I was able to save my supply. The lactation consultant gave my helpful positions to encourage a better latch while breastfeeding (like the football hold).
After having pumped every hour for 2 months with Dash, I wasn’t looking forward to the idea of another pumping relationship. We discussed the options of tongue tie revision. He still less than a month old and it would have fixed the issue in a matter of days. We had just decided to go through with the procedure when Drew was a month old, then the world shut down. By the time the office was open up to taking new patients, we had already figured it out on our own. Pumping wasn’t so terrible when I was getting more than an ounce per day. Drew was getting enough, and we chose to keep the tie intact.
We kept pumping and nursing until he hit 11 months. He was so close to being able to safely swap to regular milks that I bought him a can of formula and put the pump away. I knew the end of his breastfeeding days would soon be over, I wanted to end them when he was ready, which meant not worrying about my supply, but letting his attachment fade. As he pushes me away I feel proud of how he’s grown, and thankful that I was able to keep nursing him just over a year now.
Our breastfeeding relationship wasn’t the easiest, or the toughest, but it was still different, it was still special. The one thing I learned with all my troubles and triumphs is that breast IS best (you can’t deny the amazing benefits, you ever put formula on an eye infection?), but there is absolutely nothing wrong with formula, fed is all that matters in the end. That and your sanity, of course. No shame. No stigma. Feed your sweet babies and hold them close.