"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." -Winston Churchill

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jessica's Story

One day, I happened upon a post in a facebook breastfeeding support group. A mom was looking for advice on how to increase her milk supply, stating that she was working closely with lactation consultants, and pumping and nursing frequently. Well, that post lead to this post. And it lead to a friendship between two women with the same struggles, though they were on either sides of the continent. While I am not glad we both have IGT and milk supply issues, I am thankful that we found each other. Congrats, Jessica, on beating the odds, and staying the course.
love, Nyssa (the Lactation Failure)

Sweet little London… This is our story, yours and mine. 
I never thought we would make it this far.

One year ago today I gave birth to the most amazing little person… a feisty little punkin’ with a head of thick black hair and a heart-shaped birthmark.  Her birth didn’t go as we had planned, and in order to regulate her blood sugar the nurses had to feed her formula before I even got to hold her.  I told myself we had to do what was best for her at the time, but this made me even MORE committed to doing the best for her in the long run by breastfeeding.

I nursed as soon as I could, maybe not as soon as I should have looking back.  She latched right away, and stared into my eyes while we nursed.  I was in heaven.  We continued to nurse, in our favorite position the “football hold” every two to three hours for the first two days, supplementing with formula after feeds.  She was almost a ten pound baby, and ten pound babies need to eat!  I had packed my breast pump in the car, and asked the nurses if I should start pumping to bring my milk in faster…  “Oh, no!  Your body will think you had twins!” was their answer.  Looking back, oh how I wish my body had made milk for twins…

On the third day something felt different, and I thought for sure my milk had come in.  The nurses brought an SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) so I could supplement with formula while still feeding her at the breast…  This was difficult, having to get her latched on and then sneaking a tube into her mouth, but worthwhile.  At one point she nursed for four hours straight, what I assumed was this “cluster feeding” I had heard so much about.  The nurses weighed the baby each night, and she continued to lose weight… dropping from 9lbs 13oz at birth to 9lbs by discharge.  I asked over and over to see a lactation consultant, but one never came.  Three days later, at our first of many trips to the hospital’s breastfeeding clinic she was down to 8lbs 10oz. 

Something was wrong.

I went to the breastfeeding clinic two to three times a week those first few weeks.  We did weigh-feed-weigh sessions, tracking how much milk she “transferred” at a time… it was usually ½ to ¾ of an ounce at a time.  I would listen as other new moms did their weighed feeds, and transferred two to three ounces per side.  I cried.  A lot.  The lactation consultants, Jerri and Anna, hugged me and told me that some moms just didn’t make enough milk.  I cried some more.  I tried to concentrate on my baby and not worry about everyone else around me, but there was no way not to notice I was one of the only ones not making much milk…  We talked about fenugreek and the importance of nursing frequently.  They gave me suggestions about undressing the baby, and keeping her arm moving like a “milk pump” to keep her awake.  They pushed the formula supplementation.  I really thought that at some point it was all just going to “click”.  Maybe my milk just hadn’t yet fully come in?  When she started taking less supplement around the second week, I thought for sure our problems were over.  At the next visit I proudly told the lactation consultants that we were doing better!  She was taking less supplementation!  She wasn’t even fussy!  They weighed her, she had lost even more weight, and they said the words that will forever haunt me.  “She’s not fussing because she’s trying to conserve her energy.”

I was starving my baby.

By that point I had come to terms with the need to supplement.  She needed to eat, and despite my best intentions and efforts (taking a breastfeeding class, attending La Leche League meetings while pregnant, going to the breastfeeding clinic, etc.) I wasn’t making enough for her.  I started pumping, and in the beginning I would literally get a few drops at a time.  Most pumping sessions wouldn’t yield enough to cover the bottom of the bottles.  We went to our Pediatrician appointments, and at one of the first ones he gave us 20 cans of formula.  TWENTY CANS OF FORMULA.  I told him how important breastfeeding was to me… and just remembering that giant pyramid of formula cans makes me wonder how many other moms in that office have given in to the temptation of ending breastfeeding because of those cans. 

Around this time I had met up with my amazing doula Christine at Starbucks.  We were talking about my milk-supply issues, and she told me that some moms use donor breast milk.  She suggested I ask some friends if they would give me some of their extra frozen milk.  “Ewwwwwwww!  People really do that?!?  How embarrassing!”  I thought, and might have even said.  I thought Christine was nuts!  It seemed disgusting to me.  But, then again, so did the formula.  I’m really not anti-formula, not in any way.  I know that formula was absolutely necessary for my baby – literally from the start.  I’m thankful that formula exists, especially for babies who truly need it.  But that wasn’t in my plan.  My plan was to breastfeed. 

Unsatisfied, I started Googling.  “How to make more milk”  “Breastfeeding Issues”  “Am I making enough milk?”  “How to increase milk production”  I’m sure I Googled every combination of these words a hundred times over.  I was taking Fenugreek, More Milk Plus, and Goat’s Rue.  I ordered lactation cookies and drank non-alcoholic beer.  I pumped with my rented hospital-grade pump.  I upped my calories, napped, drank more water, did skin-to-skin, and wore my baby.  I.  Did.  Everything. Constantly reading online that “everyone can breastfeed” and “just put the baby on the breast, your body will know what to do” did nothing for my self-esteem or my sanity.

During my Googling I stumbled across the Facebook page for Human Milk for Human Babies.  They are milk-sharing groups set up for moms with too much milk, and babies without enough.  I saw a post from a mom in Bakersfield, my hometown, with milk to donate.  I wasn’t sure if we were “okay” with using donor milk, but something told me we had to explore it more.  I got in touch with her, secured the donation, and my husband and I decided we would accept the milk and then think some more about using it.  Could I really feed a stranger’s milk to my baby?  When we got the milk we had decided to try it.  The first two or three days we “flash pasteurized” the milk, just to make us feel better.  London was thriving, in part from another woman’s breast milk.  I started seeking out additional donations.  Amazingly, we were able to switch to exclusively using donor milk for supplementation by two months post-partum, and I will never be able to repay that amazing gift from a handful of moms. 

But I didn’t give up trying to increase my own production either.

I finally decided to get somewhat of a “second opinion” and started looking for another breastfeeding clinic.  I called Loma Linda, where my husband attends school, and asked for an appointment at their hospital’s breastfeeding clinic.  The lactation consultant I spoke with told me that from what I was describing it sounded like I had IGT – Insufficient Glandular Tissue, or Mammary Hypoplasia.  She couldn’t fit me in before she left on vacation, so she suggested I call a lactation consultant friend of hers at another hospital.  I did, and she got me in right away.  When I arrived, we talked, she examined me, and immediately diagnosed me with IGT.

That’s the day everything changed.

Jenny, the miracle worker, explained that despite doing everything correctly my body physically could not produce enough milk.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and no matter how hard I tried there was a possibility it just wouldn’t work.  She told me to Google Dr. Jack Newman, a breastfeeding advocate Pediatrician from Canada.  She told me about a miracle drug called Domperidone, available for purchase overseas only… an acid reflux medication with a fabulous side-effect of increasing prolactin levels and therefore increasing milk production.  She gave me strict feeding/pumping instructions.  I did everything she said, and when the Domperidone fully kicked in I saw my pumping output increase more and more.

I went from making approximately 5-8oz a day (based on the weighed feedings and my pumping output) to well over 20oz. Some days I was able to exclusively breastfeed, and not require any supplement.  We were able to acquire more and more donated milk, and eventually found one main donor who made 8oz of extra milk each day – exactly what my daughter was taking (most days.)  By the time my little one was swallowing some solids, my milk satisfied her more and more. 

After having somewhat of an official “diagnosis” I was able to connect with an amazing support system of other moms facing these same issues online.  I will be forever grateful for my virtual friend Nyssa, whose blog “Dairy of a Lactation Failure” was my comfort and main source of information.  She was going through the same things I was, and I felt – for the first time – that I wasn’t alone.  She invited me to a Facebook support group, and the camaraderie, information, and support there has been life-changing. 

When the baby turned six months old I decided I need to relax a bit about her milk-intake…  I had been tracking (using an App on my phone) every ounce of my milk and supplement that she was taking.  I was turning to the App to tell me when she was hungry, and relying less and less on my Mommy-instincts.  It was truly making me crazy.  Quitting tracking was VERY hard at first, but super beneficial for my emotional state in the long run, even though occasionally I do track for a day or two to see how much milk I’m making.

Throughout this time, my number one breastfeeding support was my husband.  He would bring the baby to me to eat, make sure I was comfortable, help with the SNS tubing, make bottles of supplement, bring me snacks and water while nursing, and he washed my pump pieces ABOUT 1,000 times this year.  I truly don’t think I would have made it this far without him.

I think a lot about what I’ll do differently next time…  I’ll definitely pump from the very beginning; some women with this condition even begin pumping the last few weeks of the pregnancy.  I will have my prolactin levels measured, and see if anything seems amiss.  I will start taking Domperidone right away after delivery, I’ll have to email Dr. Newman again to find out how soon he recommends.  I will begin to collect donor milk before the baby arrives, and hope to be as successful in finding it as I was this time.  But more than anything, I hope to be at peace a little more next time… knowing that I’m doing all I can do. I want to enjoy those first few weeks more the next time around, not worrying so much about what my body can’t do.

Fast forward to today.  While I type this, I sit here pumping…  The melodic swish-  swish-  swish-  of my Medela Lactina sings as I write.  There are no tears tonight, just a very proud smile, and semi-full bottles.  A year’s worth of work has been TOTALLY worth it.  Every drop of milk my precious little one has received reminds me of our struggle, and our triumph.  A few people have asked me how long I plan to keep breastfeeding, and I really don’t know… as long as she’ll have me, I think.

I never thought we would make it this far.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We made it!

Nursing my ONE year old!
Pardon my silence. I've been busy, and, honestly, I've been trying to figure out something meaningful to say.
The victory of finally making it to a year is bittersweet. I am so happy to have made it this far. And I feel guilty that I didn't make it this far with my older children.
But, aside from that, making it to a year has been liberating. I've stopped pumping all day, every day. I still use the SNS, and I give her organic whole (cow's) milk. That, in itself, relieves so much stress. No more worrying about her not finishing that milk I worked so hard to get. She's still nursing as much as ever.
Nursing a 1 year old is completely different than nursing a younger baby. It's less about the milk, more about the comfort we both get. Who knows when she'll wean. She's welcome to nurse as long as she wants. Heck, maybe we'll even make it to 2 years. Or longer! But it'll be on her terms.

I'm still trying to work on a more meaningful post, but I've had major writer's block.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Motherlove More Milk Special Blend Giveaway! (Take Four)

Ends March 17th at Midnight!

We're in the homestretch of 1 whole year of nursing, and Motherlove wants to help us celebrate! They're giving away 12 bottles of More Milk Special Blend to commemorate 12 months of nursing!

An alcohol free liquid concentrate in vegetarian capsules. This formula blends the herbs in the more milk plus with goat's rue. Specially formulated at the request of lactation consultants, this product can stimulate mammary tissue and increase breast milk for women who did not increase in breast size during pregnancy, have had previous breast surgeries and adoptive mothers.

Not for use during pregnancy. 

Ingredients: goat’s rue herbfenugreek seedblessed thistle herbnettle herbfennel seed, non-GMO soy lecithin, vegetable cellulose, coconut oil
All herbs are certified organic

Does not contain any milk, dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or gluten.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pumpin' Pal Super Shields Review and Giveaway!

I've been using Pumpin' Pal's Super Shields for a few weeks now, so it's time for a review! I was so excited to get them in the mail, and the mail came just as I was getting ready to pump. Perfect!

Medela Soft fit breast shield 
Pumpin' Pal Super Shield

Medela One Piece breast shield and valve with Pumpin' Pals Super Shield installed.

Side by side comparison of the angle of the flanges. Medela on left, Super Shield on Right.

This chart explains why having an angled flange makes all the difference.

I took the standard flange off of my pump and replace it with the Super Shield. I actually had to check the website to see if I was putting the shield on the right way. Nope! I had it backwards. Easily fixed. I put it on the right way and started pumping.

The angle of the flange made it possible for me to sit more comfortably. Normally, I'd have to hunch over or risk milk collecting on the underside of the breast and spilling when I finished pumping.
I really like the way the Super Shields don't have any sharp edges, even though, after 11 months of nursing, my nipples are pretty toughened up, so I didn't really notice a significant difference in comfort in that respect BUT I did have an experience in the early days of breastfeeding, when the sharp edges of the pump actually rubbed the spot between where my nipple ends and areola begins RAW. It was awful! I wish I'd had Super Shields back then, for sure!
With my standard pump flanges, when I finished pumping, I would have to tilt the whole bottle back and try to get the drops of milk that had collected under my breast (within the shield) to go down into the bottle. With the Super Shields, the milk doesn't collect under my breast anymore, and the drops of milk slide easily down into the bottle. No more crying over missed drops of milk.
I also love how you get three different sizes when you order. Having the correct sized shield makes all the difference when it comes to pumping and maximizing your pumping output! How many women are pumping with the wrong sized flange? Well, 80 - 90% of women are wearing the wrong sized bra...
 Kudos to you, Pumpin' Pals!
I recommend that anyone who is planning to pump at all after having a baby order Super Shields BEFORE the baby comes! You don't want to wait until you standard breast shield has rubbed a raw spot on your already sore nipples, or you're so engorged you get mastitis or clogged ducts!
And, as someone with small breasts and IGT and who hasn't dealt with clogged ducts or mastitis, I recommend my IGT mamas get themselves a set, too, because it's so much more comfortable to pump a million times a day if you can sit back and relax!

Enter to win a set! (Part of the Big One! Birthday Giveaway!)

Motherlove More Milk Special Blend Giveaway! (Take Three)

We're in the homestretch of 1 whole year of nursing, and Motherlove wants to help us celebrate! They're giving away 12 bottles of More Milk Special Blend to commemorate 12 months of nursing!

I'll be holding one last (Motherlove) giveaway March 12th, so if you don't win this time, try next week!
This contest ends Thursday the 8th of March.

And don't forget to check out and  enter my BIG birthday giveaway (which started March 1st) for a chance to win a copy of Mother Food, a hands-free pumping bra, a set of Pumpin' Pals Super Shields flanges, a $30 coupon for Bamboobies, and maybe some surprises!

An alcohol free liquid concentrate in vegetarian capsules. This formula blends the herbs in the more milk plus with goat's rue. Specially formulated at the request of lactation consultants, this product can stimulate mammary tissue and increase breast milk for women who did not increase in breast size during pregnancy, have had previous breast surgeries and adoptive mothers.

Not for use during pregnancy. 

Ingredients: goat’s rue herbfenugreek seedblessed thistle herbnettle herbfennel seed, non-GMO soy lecithin, vegetable cellulose, coconut oil
All herbs are certified organic

Does not contain any milk, dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or gluten.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Preoccupied lately...

I've been meaning to write a couple of posts -a guest post for a friend's blog, a review- but I've been preoccupied mentally and physically. Physically, I have been working on getting back into shape now that I have a little more energy, but it usually causes me to fall asleep with the kids, so I don't have my usual night-time blogging time. Mentally, I've been preoccupied with the idea of having another baby. Not that I'm anywhere near ready for one, I cannot pile another 50 lbs on this body, and we'd definitely need a mini-van.

A few of my friends with babies Lola's age are pregnant again, so baby-fever is hitting hard. I loved the thrill of that positive pregnancy test. I loved (almost) every minute of being pregnant. I love babies.

I don't love the heartache that comes with the hope of a full milk supply, and the despair that follows when the milk just isn't there. And then the worry. Is my baby getting enough supplement? Too much? Am I pumping enough? Is my baby gaining? Is my baby peeing enough? Pooping enough? I've been watching a fellow IGT mama go through this with her new baby, and it really got to me. Do I ever want to go through that again? Despite being better prepared, knowing what I can do to make it work, do I want to deal with SNSs, formula, donor milk, galactogogues?

And besides all the milk troubles, do I really want to lose 70 lbs, and gain it all back again? Do I want to risk another 4th degree tear? At the moment, the answer is no.

And now Lola's taking less milk in the SNS. I don't know if I'm making more, or what. She's not a terribly heavy wetter, but I can't remember if she wet more often or more thoroughly before. I hate uncertainty. She seems content, she doesn't appear to be losing weight. I think I'm just traumatized, as a lot of IGT moms are, about intake. I can't SEE what she's taking in, and it freaks me out.

*Deep breaths.*

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Lola is about to turn 1 which means we will soon have been breastfeeding for an entire year! The longest I've ever breastfed any of my babies, and I want to celebrate! And lucky for you, some generous businesses want to celebrate with me!