My Breastfeeding Journey: Low Breast Milk Supply

** My breastfeeding journey is a series that will be written every Tuesday, in hopes of reducing the stigma of breastfeeding, formula feeding and simply feeding. My hope is that being transparent with the struggles of feeding my newborn that us mothers can stop mom shaming, and mom guilt. 

When I was younger and would picture my future family, and I was always breast feeding my babies. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would be exclusively breast feeding when I had my baby girl. It wasn't until she was actually born, I realized how little I knew about breastfeeding. Tony and I didn't really read any baby books, mostly because we believed that for the most part being a parent would come naturally. I do have books like, "what to expect, when expecting" even though I have the basic idea of nursing, its proved that its nothing like getting in there and actually learn how to do it yourself.

Penelope was born a perfect eater, she was placed on my chest right after my midwife delivered her and she latched immediately. The midwife and nurse were ecstatic, they told us they don't see a lot of newborn babies that have no problems with feeding.

Penelope had been born jaundice and had a minor breathing issue that needed to be monitored in the NICU.  She was there for three days and I was discharged, which her NICU nurses had then given her formula as a substitute for my milk because I was sent home and couldn't be there all night to feed her. It was so hard leaving her, and I felt like I had failed and the mom guilt set in.  There we're benefits to giving her formula at the time and the biggest one was that it contained a higher amount of vitamin D which was one of the reasons we managed to decrease the jaundice levels so quick. However, because Penelope was away from me and not breast feeding every one to two hours my milk supply suffered, and I realized that the first night we brought her home. The first night at home with our new baby, was a struggle. We were awake all night, baby was so hungry she couldn't sleep and I couldn't give her enough milk! I wasn't producing nearly enough milk, and I felt horrible. I was so exhausted when morning rolled around, and I gave in. As soon as Tony woke up he went to the store, and bought formula. I felt defeated, and like a failure. I felt like I couldn't provide my child with the essential to live. I filled the tub and cried by myself that morning, little did I know not taking care of myself was really hurting my baby's chance of drinking my breastmilk.

The top reasons your milk may not come in are:
1. Stress 
2. Lack of sleep 
3. Being away from your baby, or not pumping enough. 
4. Not drinking enough water

All of these, and many other factors can directly affect the amount of your milk supply. That night I was already awake for what felt like 5 days, (my labour was 4 days) and I had probably only slept a few hours here and there. I was physically, and mentally exhausted and my body was telling me to stop and to take care of myself. It's like when your on a plane and the stewardess is going through the emergency procedures, "You put the mask on yourself first, and then put a mask on your child" because you are no help to your child if you cant breathe. 

I am so grateful for my parents, especially my mom who watched and formula fed bottles to Penelope while I slept. I had a visit the next day from my midwife, and she said to keep going and baby will know how to increase my supply. Usually the baby cluster feeds for the first week or so, feeding every hour or two. As exhausting as cluster feeding is, it ensures you get your milk supply increasing so that the baby can get enough to grow. The advice I was give was to keep pumping every few hours, to feed her as much as I can and perhaps the most important thing I could do for her was to REST! 


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