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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the Low Supply Mom

I'm still waiting to hear from Kate and Lydia about posting this on their blog, RANTS FROM MOMMYLAND, so I'm going to go ahead and post it here. Enjoy.

When I first "got knocked up" at the ripe ol' age of 19, my first thought was "OMGWTFBBQSAUCE!" and my second thought was "Sweet! I'm finally gonna get BOOBS!" But the boobie fairy never arrived. Sure, my ass and thighs got bigger (much, much bigger), but, unfortunately, those don't contain mammary glands. It took me 3 babies to get an "official" diagnosis (though I suspected with baby number 2, and was in denial about it with baby number 3) of IGT, and it took me saying, "I think I have Insufficient Glandular Tissue," to which the IBCLC replied, "Oh, I think you may be right." Which brings us to our first domestic enemy:

1. Ignorant doctors/lactation specialists:  I understand IGT is relatively rare (3-5% is the percentage we hear A LOT, but there are indications that the number is higher and growing), but you're if you're on OB, Pediatrician, and certainly if you're a lactation consultant, you should have at least HEARD of it, you work with moms and babies! 
 Or, at least, acknowledge that I'm not an idiot when I've read pretty much every thing there is to read about IGT, instead of saying, "That's not a real thing." Or, "That doesn't really happen."
I know that most supply problems can be fixed with little tweaks (still, hard work!), and that, in normal circumstances, breastfeeding is a "supply and demand" system. For some reason, this isn't true for IGT moms. We can demand all we want, and still not have a full milk supply. Why? I have no idea. If I think about it too long, my head will explode.  Which is why...

2. Comments from Other (Well-meaning) Moms can really irk me. It doesn't bother me that they are trying to help, I'm just tired of hearing the same thing. "There's this herb that boosts supply. I think it's called frenugook." Yeah, it's "fenugreek," and if you could smell though your computer screen, you'd know I already smell like a Waffle House uniform; maple syrup, sweat and desperation. 
I guess I am still hoping there's a magic pill that can cure my milk supply issues once and for all, and that I just haven't found it yet. But I swear to Bob (my husband), if I hear, "Drink more water! Pump after feedings! Throw the bottles away and just nurse, nurse, nurse," one more time, I will lose. My. Schmidt. 
Actually too MUCH water can further lower supply. And if I didn't supplement, my baby would literally wither away and DIE of STARVATION. Which I would really like to avoid, KTHANX.

3. Hostile Militant Breastfeeding Purists* (Commonly known as "Boob Nazis")  who equate formula to rat poison, think anything but EBF (exclusively breastfeeding) equals failure, and tell moms they shouldn't even have children if they can't fully  breastfeed. Say WHUCK? You're not helping promote breastfeeding, your alienating the women who need help. Anyway, there is SOOO much more to mothering than milk. 
*These are not the same as lactivists who encourage, educate and support breastfeeding mothers of all kinds.

4. Comments from family, friends, strangers. "Why aren't you breastfeeding?" "Why are you bottlefeeding?" "Why even bother, if you can't make enough milk?" Why don't you STFU and MYOB? (I realize these questions apply just as well to all moms out there, but to someone who is struggling to maintain a meager milk supply, or was unable to continue breastfeeding, these comments sound like accusations.) 

5. Guilt/Shame. I used to feel so much shame to be seen bottlefeeding in public, or buying formula that I would make my husband go buy formula without me, avoid going out if I knew my baby would need to eat, or I'd hand the bottle and baby to my husband to feed her and I'd walk away. Because no one is going to ask HIM why he's not breastfeeding.

6.  The Cycle. Do you have any idea how time consuming to nurse a newborn,  top off with a bottle of formula, pump for 15 minutes and then wash the equipment? You have, literally, 2.5 minutes before you have to start the cycle all over again. Just enough time to pee and choke down your oatmeal and all those...

7. Pills. Fenugreek, blessed thistle, marshmallow root, goat's rue, red clover, shatavari, fennel, spirulina, barley, alfalfa, and those are just SOME of the herbs! There's also Reglan (available in the US but is risky for depression-prone moms) and Domperidone (which you either have to pay 1.6 billion dollars for at a compounding pharmacy, or you have to order it from New Zealand and risk Customs confiscating your package.)  Seriously, I have an entire cabinet devoted to my lactogenic supplements. You think formula feeding is expensive? HA!

8.  Feeding devices. There are pros and cons with all. 
Some babies easily switch between breast and bottle with no problem at all. My second baby was one of them. But some babies develop nipple confusion or prefer the faster flow of bottles and start to refuse the breast all together.
Cup feeding eliminates the risk of nipple confusion, but it can be messy. Frankly, I only tried this once. It wasn't for us.
Using an At-breast Supplementer, such as the Medela SNS or Lact-aid can be extremely gratifying, but hard to master. Imagine trying to tape a piece of wet spaghetti to just the right spot on your areola with a wiggly, screaming baby on your lap. Honestly, if my newest baby didn't flat out refuse to use any bottles at all, I probably would have thrown my SNS into the man-made pond behind my house. (Just kidding, that's littering. I would have stomped on it repeatedly, thrown it across the room , boiled it to death and then put it in the recycling.)

9. Modern medicine. Scientists can grow a human ear on the back of a lab rat. They can make even the most tired old man winky stand up and salute. But they can't make my boobs work? C'mon, science! Get with the program!

I could go on, but I might get a little stabby.  It's been said breastfeeding women are more aggressive. If that's true, then low supply moms are TWICE as fierce. What we lack in milk, we make up for in MIGHT!

If you or anyone you know is struggling with low milk supply, whatever the cause, please join our facebook group:  IGT and Low Milk Supply Support Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/316544128361585/)
and check out http://diaryofalactationfailure.blogspot.com/search/label/resources (NSFW, thar's BOOBS in them thar hills.)


  1. oh my gosh! i LOVED It! love reading every minute of it!

  2. Well.... while I realize that some things aren't my business and I shouldn't ask; I mostly do ask because I care. (Yes, I get in trouble a lot.) So sometimes when people keep asking or commenting or offering unsolicitated advice, it's because they really are trying to help. I know you may be frustrated but the blog you are posting is what we need: we need to be educated; and unless we ask, how will we learn. So, low-milk-supply-mama, be patient when you can; try to determine between those who are seriously speaking out of concern rather than ridicule and those who are "boob nazis". I myself have probably said the wrong thing to you a time or two, but believe me when I say it was out of love and not meant to disparage your situation. I have enjoyed following your blog and have learned much, thank you!

  3. I really wasn't referring to advice from friends, more advice from moms on breastfeeding forums. I appreciate having people who care enough to offer support and heart-felt advice. :)

  4. Nyssa, I just wanted to quickly introduce myself as a fellow (but undiagnosed as yet) IGT mom. I have one child, am pregnant with my second, and am trying hard to manage my expectations when it comes to breast feeding. (With my first, I was able to produce ~1 tsp from each breast. This got upped a bit when I got a prescription for domperidone, but only a very little bit.) It is so heartbreaking and yes, maddening when the LC's just will not listen to you or believe you. It was cathartic for me to hear your description of the breast/bottle/pump cycle: so funny and accurate. Anyways, thanks for telling it like it is. It's as though we're unicorns - no one believes we're real!

  5. Very useful info. Hope to see more posts soon!
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