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Obstacles to Breastfeeding – My Story

August 30, 2010

Photo Credit: Christy Scherrer

I was recently chatting with an acquaintance and the subject turned to breastfeeding. She has two kids. Both breastfed for around four months. She didn’t want to stop nursing her babies at four months but they weaned early. It’s a story I’ve heard countless times. It was almost my story, twice.

When my eldest child turned three months old he decided he no longer liked nursing, or so I thought. He would pop off and on, over and over. After a couple of days of this I began to worry. That’s when I found and learned about ‘The Distractible Baby’. Nursing him only in his room, with the lights off helped some.

And then my period returned. I became fertile again for the first time in over a year, ovulating when he was about three and a half months old. This, coupled with my distractible baby, sent my milk supply spiraling down. Now I had a full-blown supply problem.

I was beside myself. One evening, after trying unsuccessfully to nurse him, I handed him off to my husband, and went to my room to cry. I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. I was completely distraught. And very surprised at my reaction. I never thought in a million years I would be that attached to breastfeeding my child. I wasn’t about to give it up.

We had quite easily made it through the first three months of breastfeeding. I had never been sore and my baby was getting bigger. Much bigger. I thought we were home-free. My new-mommy-world was rocked.

I flipped through my breastfeeding books, both The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and The Nursing Mother’s Companion. Eventually I got on the internet, and again found myself at kellymom. I read everything I could about low milk supply. And I did everything I could to increase it. I ate oatmeal. I took Calcium/Magnesium supplements. I took Fenugreek until I smelled like a bottle of maple syrup. I rented a hospital-grade breastpump so I could pump right after he nursed and/or between feedings. I asked question after question on the forums over at kellymom.

Praise God, by the time he was five and a half months old the problem had been resolved. I continued to nurse him until he self-weaned at 16 months old and I was 8 weeks pregnant with his little brother. Unfortunately I had the same problem with little brother, although it was worse, and we didn’t get it resolved until he was almost nine months old.

I have to share this with you because I believe that many (most?) women, especially women who haven’t nursed before, don’t think they’ll have supply issues after they get over the initial breastfeeding period. Isn’t that what we all hear? The breastfeeding classes and advice we get center around getting the breastfeeding relationship off to the right start. But time and time again I hear of women who deal with supply issues long after they bring their baby into the world and sooner than they anticipated the breastfeeding relationship would end.

I’m not going to leave you here. We’ll talk more this week about supply problems, what factors contribute to supply problems and what we can do to counteract the issues when they arise.

Did you have a breastfeeding relationship that ended earlier than you wanted because of supply problems?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2010 9:12 AM

    I had issues with both kids. However, I did want to share something I learned with my second child. She had an undiagnosed tongue-tie that we had surgically treated in hopes that it would resolve some of her feeding issues. Unfortunately, she wanted nothing to do with the breast after her surgery. She also continued to have swallowing and feeding problems, particularly with solids, so I had her evaluated by First Steps.

    When we were visited by an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, the speech therapist told me something I had never heard before, not in any of the books I read or even from my lactation consultants (who I saw on a weekly basis). When I told the therapist that Ava had nursed without issue until around 3-4 months, she explained that around that time babies switch from an instinctive suckle that’s present at birth to a more learned behavior-type of suck. This made so much sense to me, particularly in light of her tongue-tie, which didn’t seem to cause problems during her first few months.

    I think the problems most women experience with nursing when the baby is around 3 to 4 months old are a combination of the baby growing older and being more distractible and the transition the baby makes in how they suck. I experienced some of the same issues when my firstborn was around the same age. Like you, I did everything I could to continue nursing my first, and we were able to keep it going until she was 14 months old, but I had started supplementing with formula around 10 months. With my second, I was absolutely devastated when she stopped, and I can totally relate to your emotional breakdown. When Ava started refusing to nurse, I would cry so much. I worried about becoming depressed. It was a very hard time for me.

    • August 31, 2010 8:43 PM

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. The suckle/suck info is really interesting Risha. Did you have a chance to ask the lactation consultant about it after you spoke with the therapist?

      • August 31, 2010 9:20 PM

        No, I don’t think I did. By that time, I was no longer nursing Ava and thus no longer seeing the lactation consultants. It’s definitely something I will keep in mind if there’s a next time. 🙂 I’ve learned so much through experience with each of my kids!

  2. Dana Milan permalink
    August 31, 2010 9:22 AM

    I had supply issues with my last one, which was upsetting since I had no problems with my other 2. I think a big factor was his chin, which is recessed and doesn’t allow him to have a strong latch. He didn’t gain much weight between 2-4 months and fell to the 3rd percentile which puts him into the “failure to thrive” category. No mother wants to read those words! I was not neglecting him, but it caused me to question my motherhood anyway. My doctor, who is pro-breastfeeding, suggested pumping and offering a bottle of breastmilk after 2 different feedings each day. A couple a time I had to resort to formula. A friend asked if I felt guilty and the answer was yes, but it was not a clear cut yes. I did feel guilty about giving him formula, but I also felt guilty about not giving him formula when I knew he wasn’t getting enough food. A mother does not want her child to go hungry. The good news is that even though you give in to formula once, or twice, that doesn’t mean nursing is over and that you have failed! I am giving him some cereal each day, even though he is only 5 months, but I am still nursing and have gotten my supply up. I refuse to feel guilty about this and I WILL continue nursing for at least a year. Sometimes just taking a deep breath and not being too hard on yourself will, in the end, allow you to make the best decisions for you and your baby. We live in an age where we think we have to be perfect in every way. This isn’t healthy and will certainly lead to supply issues and perhaps giving up with nursing when problems occur.

    • August 31, 2010 8:45 PM

      ” I did feel guilty about giving him formula, but I also felt guilty about not giving him formula when I knew he wasn’t getting enough food.” I think MANY breastfeeding moms have had the exact same feelings.

      Stress can DEFINITELY affect supply but it’s so hard not to stress when you know baby is hungry and you can’t supply their needs any longer. It’s a horrible cycle.

      • Dana Milan permalink
        August 31, 2010 9:57 PM

        And, to top it off, the baby was so content after downing a big bottle of formula. Nursing can be a thankless job, especially when the baby is in the stage where he/she is squirmy. I ask myself during many nursing sessions, “Is he really hungry again? Is anything even coming out? Is he mad too much milk is coming out? Is he mad that I have none left?” It’s the beginning of motherhood when we realize how much we sacrifice for our children in the hopes that they become wonderful, caring adults who manage to find a little time to spend with the mother who cared for them.

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