from Margaret Kite’s speech at the 2016 Big Latch On
Confession: when my daughter spits up a little after nursing, I am relieved. This is a part of my “boobie baggage.” I am amazed at this little reminder that she did, in fact, take in some milk from me. I’ll explain why:
If there’s one thing my journey into motherhood has taught me, it is that I cannot control everything no matter how many to-do lists I write, reminders I set in my phone, appointments I write on my calendar. For my many years as a student, I religiously completed every homework assignment and followed the syllabus to receive my As. As a teacher, I plan and execute lessons. But for motherhood, there is no syllabus or neat little lesson planning boxes. I learned this from my son right from the start. His breech position at 39 weeks necessitated a C-section. Although I had done all I could to try to avoid this, and logically, I know it wasn’t my fault, I began motherhood feeling a pang of failure deep down.
My son and I had a fairly traumatic first couple weeks of breastfeeding, where he alerted me to the fact that my milk had not come in and he was very, very hungry. We ended up at AI less than 48 hours after I was discharged from the hospital and I had a baby who had lost over a pound and was furious with my breasts. We had no choice but to supplement. We fed our baby formula and he was happy again. He slept and stopped screaming, but I cried and that pang of failure grew stronger and deeper.
I kept “supplementing” with formula and attempting to nurse, but my boy refused to latch, so nursing was almost impossible; he screamed and thrashed and cried, and I cried, too. I cried because despite all my planning and research and preparation, breastfeeding was not working. My friends all said to keeping putting him to the breast as often as possible, and every time I heard that I hurt more because I knew it would lead to more crying for both of us; they didn’t know how bad it was. That wasn’t our solution.
When my son was two weeks old, we saw Katie. She told me my milk hadn’t come in and that we’d do what we could to up my meager milk supply–which was only about a quarter to a half an ounce per breast per pumping session–before we tried to reintroduce nursing. I felt like bricks had been taken off my shoulders. I had a plan, and a partner, and I didn’t have to torture my son or myself.
We tried everything you can think of in the following weeks, and my supply increased a lot from what it was, but I still only produced about five ounces a day. We reintroduced the breast to my son and after some trials and tribulations with latching and transfer issues, by about one month old, he was nursing again and continued to do so, three times a day until he was seven months old. No, it wasn’t exclusive, but it was more than nothing and I think it was incredible. The formula he ate every day is a modern day miracle and I’m lucky we had it. I gave him all the milk I could make myself. We bonded through nursing, and bottles, and taking the journey together.
While pregnant with my daughter this year, I had a prenatal consult with Katie. I understood that it could be totally different with this baby, but we made a plan for what to do if my milk did not come in. I gave birth to my precious girl on June 2nd via VBAC and hoped that this birth experience would change our breastfeeding outcome. I followed our plan and on day three with no sign of my milk coming in, I began supplementing. We went to see Katie when Quinn was four days old. We’ve worked through some issues and unfortunately found that while I am making more milk than I did for my son, I am still under-producing. However, this time is different. This time, my girl never had to become furiously hungry. She didn’t have to tell me my breasts were broken, because I supplemented before she knew. My baby girl and I are nursing many times every day and night. She doesn’t thrash or scream, she snuggles. Yes, she nurses and then gets her bottle of formula; no, it’s not what I had planned, but it turns out, it is the best my body can do. Thanks to Katie’s plan, my girl and I have a loving nursing relationship, which is a large part of what I craved to have with my babies. Nursing is about more than feeding a baby.
There are so many layers to the emotions involved in breastfeeding. I think it is truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and one of the most important. I have learned so many things about my children and myself. I am sharing my story today because I want other mothers to know that low supply is a real thing. It’s not imaginary. I didn’t cause it by being lazy or making mistakes or excuses. Despite all my preparation and planning, low supply is my reality. I’m just like everyone else, doing my best. I can’t follow a syllabus and get an A in motherhood; I can only follow my heart and give all I have to give. I’m not a failure. I’m not lazy. I’m a low-supply nursing mama, and that’s okay. My babies love me anyway.