Breastfeeding StoriesLow Supply

Building a Breastfeeding Relationship: Ariana’s Story

by Ariana Powers

My breastfeeding story starts with our road to pregnancy.  It took us a really long time to decide we were ready for children.  We wanted to do a lot before having kids. However, once we decided to try, we got pregnant right away.  We were excited and nervous at the same time.  I knew I loved the baby right away and I would do anything for that child. We started planning for the baby right away. At this point, I thought I would try to breastfeed, but if it didn’t work or it was too hard, I wouldn’t care.  A few weeks later, we had a miscarriage. I was devastated.  I didn’t know I could love so fiercely, especially a child I hadn’t met.

We found out I was pregnant again about eight months after our miscarriage.  This time, there was no excitement.  We just wanted to wait until we were sure we were having a baby.  Unfortunately, we had a miscarriage again.  Again, I was devastated. I wouldn’t hold my baby in my arms and try to nurse him or her.

After a battery of genetic testing, we were told there was no medical reason for our issues and that we could try again whenever we were ready.  And finally, it happened.  We were having a baby! This time, we were confident. We had weekly ultrasounds and every kind of test under the sun. In one of our visits, my midwife asked if the plan was still to breastfeed, and my answer was “absolutely.”  We worked so hard for this baby; I wanted to give him or her the best chance in life. Since I work in the medical field and we had medical issues on our road to baby, to me, that meant breastfeeding.

 

My due date came and went and I didn’t go into labor. I had planned all along to have a baby at the end of July, I planned that I would go into labor spontaneously, that I would not need any medications, and that breastfeeding would work.  After all, I had taken a breastfeeding class.

I finally had to be induced.  After more than 24 hours of Pitocin and labor, I ended up with a C-section.  I was so happy to have a daughter that I just couldn’t wait to hold her.  It didn’t matter that none of my plans had panned out; I had a baby, and we were going to move on with our lives.

While doing skin-to-skin Layla found her way to my breast.  I couldn’t believe it! It felt weird and natural at the same time.  And I finally, something was going to work the way I planned it. I continued to nurse every two hours, and they checked her sugar multiple times; everything seemed to be working fine.

The next day, I noticed that my nipples were bruised and I was having some pain.  The lactation consultant came to see me and said that everything was fine and Layla was latching fine and to continue to do what I was doing.  When I told her about my nipples, she said that it happens and it would get better.  She was in my room for less than ten minutes and then she left.  I asked my nurse for help and she said she would call a different lactation consultant.  That night, the baby barely slept.  She was up every hour, and every hour, I fed her.  I was walking the baby outside the room because we needed a change of scenery when my nurse asked if she could weigh the baby.  She had lost 12 ounces in a day and a half.  When I asked if that was okay, I was told it was because my milk had not come in. Later that day, we were discharged with instructions to see the pediatrician the next day not because of her weight, but because her bilirubin was on the higher side of normal.

We went to the pediatrician and Layla had lost another four ounces.  Now I was very worried.  The pediatrician said that it was likely because my milk had not come in yet but that he would want to see her again two days later.  On our next visit, she had lost more weight. Now the pediatrician wanted me to supplement with formula or breast milk and pump after every feed.  He also gave me Katie’s number and said he would e-mail her.  I called to make an appointment with Katie, but I was unable to reach anyone.  So, out of desperation, I went back to the hospital to get some help there from the lactation consultants.  I did get some helpful information, but we were still struggling.

A friend of mine who was also breastfeeding came to my rescue that week and she also left a message for Katie about me.  She was amazing! She reassured me that I was doing the best that I could and that things would get better.  Later that day I was able to get an appointment with Katie, and I could not wait.

During my appointment, Katie identified an issue with the latch and helped me fix it. She also taught me a ton about breastfeeding and pumping.  The baby had gained a couple of ounces in two days and she transferred one and a half ounces that day.  It seemed like things were getting better, and finally I felt like I was doing things right.  Katie talked about a breastfeeding relationship, but I was still focused on the baby getting breast milk.

The next week, I was having issues again.  The baby kept fussing and pulling back when nursing.  I e-mailed Katie and set up another appointment.  At this appointment, we figured out that my supply had not increased.  I started taking fenugreek; I was still pumping and even started taking Domperidone. Katie talked about supplementing with formula, but I was not ready for that yet. I figured that this time, it was all going to work. After two weeks, Layla had only gained two ounces.  I went to see Katie again, and this time, the baby transferred even less milk than before.  This was my breaking point; she was almost a month old and not even back to her birth weight. I felt like I had been starving her. I had to supplement with formula. Again, things did not work the way I planned. Accepting my low supply was very hard, but Katie assured me we did not have to stop breastfeeding and that our breastfeeding relationship could be successful.  I still did not understand what a “breastfeeding relationship” meant.

I followed Katie’s advice about how to feed the baby and how to supplement her.  She started gaining weight.  She started sleeping more. Katie taught me that it was not about the milk, it was about the relationship. Finally, things seemed to be getting better.  Layla is now four months old and is thriving.  We have nursed everywhere, including on-the-go in Disney World! She loves nursing and it calms her down. She knows when she is okay with eating on-the-go or when she wants to slow down.  She now smiles at me while nursing and would rather nurse than bottle feed.  Her mommy is important and she wouldn’t trade it for anything. By wanting to nurse, she has taught me that she doesn’t care about the milk, but that the time we spend together is priceless.

There is no doubt in my mind that without Katie, I would not have a breastfeeding relationship.  I didn’t know it, but I had a lot to learn about breastfeeding.  I was determined to breastfeed for the wrong reasons, but when it wasn’t working, I did not want to give up. I never thought I would fight this hard for something that, at one point, I didn’t think was that important. Through breastfeeding, I have learned a lot about what kind of mother I wanted to be. Katie was there every step of the way to help me in many ways, including listening to my frustrations and reassuring me.  Thank you, Katie, for teaching me the importance of a nursing relationship and for helping me to maintain it.