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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Sweet Spot

One of the most heartbreakingly common questions I see on our Low Milk Supply Support Group is "When does this stop hurting so bad?"
Of course, the answer is different for everyone. Sometimes, the pain of living with low milk supply lasts for years. Some find peace when they wean. Rio was a toddler and I still wept over our failed attempt at nursing. (He's a strapping boy of 9 now, and the pain has faded.)
As for me, I'm there. I'm finally there.
When I was pregnant, I decided I was not going to put myself through all the stress of gulping down handfuls of herbs and medications (that didn't help me anyway), I was just going to let my supply be whatever it was going to be. I had my SNS, I had my freezer full of donor milk, and that was that.
I still had to go through a brief grieving period, but it was much, much shorter than all the others. And we still had to learn to use the SNS together, but it didn't take long. We still dealt with reflux and food sensitivities, but we got that sorted out, too.
A few months ago, I realized that we were doing it. We were making it work. I no longer had the fear that had haunted me through Lola's first year- the fear that we wouldn't meet my goal of breastfeeding for at least a year.
I KNOW we're going to make it to a year, and much, much longer.
 
But tonight, as I nursed my sweet boy, I had the most amazing realization:

I no longer feel broken.
(And that's a huge thing for me.)
 
Yes, half my son's nutritional needs are met by another mother's milk flowing out of a little tube attached to a funny little bottle, but he is so TOTALLY a breastfed baby.
Our nursing relationship is exactly what I've dreamt about since I first imagined nursing my first baby, all those years ago.
I'm finally there, in the sweet spot.

So, I urge you mamas out there, aching with the blow of low milk supply, find your sweet spot. The spot where the only thing that matters is the love that flows between you and your baby. It doesn't have to be the same as my sweet spot. It doesn't even have to involve feeding at the breast or breast milk. This is YOUR sweet spot. 
 
You'll find your healing there.
<3
 

7 comments:

  1. Love this! I did the same with my daughter, who is 2 and a half and still nursing . Doing it again with my 8 week old son. I thought Iwas the only one :-)

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  2. I exclusively pumped for fifteen months because of our "lactation failure". Weaning was the most depressed I'd been in so long and even while I continue to study lactation I still cringe sometimes. But it's my story and I own it!

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  3. Thank you for sharing such a personal and important story! I had to exclusively express too, and suffered with low supply (at one point I was taking 22 pills a day to treat my arthritis and boost my supply). Now I'm writing a book about it to help women who choose to express, and the people who support them.

    If you'd like to be involved and have your story included, please email me at exclusiveexpressing at gmail dot com. And congratulations on making such an amazing effort for your boy :)

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  4. Sadly, this option is not presented to women very often. They think "it's breastfeeding or formula feeding with a bottle". The option of using a lactation assistance device is a great way for women who are grieving the loss of their breastfeeding dream to achieve that dream. Great article! Thank you for sharing with everyone.

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    1. Your first sentence is absolutely true, and has always puzzled me! The Lact-Aid has been around for 50 years and the SNS for almost 30. It makes no difference what the reason for low supply is. I used the Lact-Aid to nurse my adopted babies, and they thrived on my milk and formula. Pretty much everyone else who was breastfeeding when I was, or was involved in lactation in some other way, thought it was wonderful that I was nursing my kids, despite the fact that I need to supplement. There is no reason that moms with some other reason for needing to supplement aren't supported in breastfeeding and supplementing at the breast. It benefits bio moms and babies as much as it does adoptive moms and babies. Bio moms tend to need less supplement, too!

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  5. You are doing an excellent job providing your baby with an abundance of love and delicious mommy milk. Great job mama!

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  6. That's very sweet and I'm SO happy for you, that you are having that wonderful experience I had with my adopted babies. My kids were born between 1983 and 1995. What I did was mainly just start nursing with the Lact-Aid, on demand when they were in my arms (I used the SNS some, too). I didn't get real far with my first two, due to a severe lack of information and support, but what we did do was great for bonding. With my third, I had read The Woman Art of Breastfeeding and a booklet on the topic which had recently been published by La Leche League. We didn't think we would be able to adopt again for several more years, but were surprised with a call about a baby who had nearly died after his birth and was high risk for permanent brain damage. I knew that he was going to need the best that I could give him, to help him make the most of whatever potential he had.

    Like you, I had a goal of nursing for a year and how ever much longer that he wanted to. We started nursing when he came home from the NICU. I started with no milk, but there was milk, soon, and I produced about 35% of the milk he needed. I didn't even know about herbs, then, so his suckling was the only thing that stimulated milk production. Like you, I just supplemented at the breast and didn't focus on milk, too much. I only tried to estimate the amount he was getting periodically, and the rest of the time, I didn't worry about it. I knew he was getting adequate nutrition, and a significant amount of breast milk. With suckling on demand, you can't HELP but produce milk.

    When he was a year old, he was still going strong. He nursed through toddlerhood, and even more. His tantrums were terrible, but if he nursed for two minutes, he would get himself under control. He is grown, now, still with his high school sweetheart, and they have two beautiful children!

    I wish more bio moms who really want to breastfeed, but have supply problems, would do as you are doing. Many seem to think it has to be all or none. If they would just get a supplementer and use it, they could have that relationship they want, as well as the benefits of breast milk and the peace of mind from knowing that their babies are getting adequate nutrition. Even a small amount of breast milk provides the immunological benefits of breast milk. I've seen even four ounces a day do wonders for a sick baby.

    Happy nursing! I still miss it!

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