How I Overcame Low Milk Supply and Kicked Formula to the Curb | A Breastfeeding Story

How I Overcame Low Milk Supply and Kicked Formula to the Curb | A Breastfeeding Story

Breastfeeding was the only option I considered when my son, Grayson was born. What I didn’t anticipate was spending the first few months of his life struggling to get him off of formula. Feeding people is something I do best, so not being able to feed my son was heart wrenching to me. With lots of work, I overcame my low milk supply and kicked formula to the curb. I hope sharing this story helps moms out there who are trying to breastfeed.

I was a new mom, and the only thing I knew about breastfeeding was from what I read in numerous baby books, and the horror stories I heard from friends (you know what I’m talking about) . Still, I expected everything to go as planned.

My son’s birth went as smoothly as one could expect. He was delivered at 7 pounds, 7 ounces and was able to stay with me in my hospital room. In my birth plan, I specified he not be given a pacifier, formula or sugar water so I could have the best shot at breast feeding.

My son was born | breast feeding | How I Overcame Low Milk Supply and Kicked Formula to the Curb | A Breastfeeding Story

The nurses and lactation consultant instructed me on how to breastfeed and Grayson seemed to latch on (with some struggle). Still, I wasn’t doing very well on my own and needed a nurse’s help each time I tried to feed him. On the second day, I had a new, less knowledgeable nurse and everything went downhill.

In the hospital, only the nurses and doctors who were present during the birth were aware of my birth plan. During a morning examination without family present, one of the nurses gave Grayson sugar water. The sugar water made him very sleepy for the rest of the day. When I tried to feed him; he would just fall asleep. We also had family and friends visiting that day, and I felt shy whipping out my breasts in front of them. Not knowing any better (or what to do), several hours went by without a feeding. I asked for the nurse’s help but she didn’t know what to do. That afternoon, I requested the lactation consultant to help me.

By the time the lactation consultant showed up that evening, nearly eight hours had passed since his last feeding. With some struggle (and crying from Grayson and I), we got him to latch on . We were scheduled to check out of the hospital the next afternoon, but after a morning weigh-in, we were told that Grayson would not be able to leave because he lost too much weight–over 10% of his birth weight of 7.7 pounds.

We were given two options: Stay another day in the hospital or feed him formula in the hopes he would gain enough weight during the day to meet the required weight percentage.

Eager to go home, I decided a little formula wouldn’t hurt. I read in the baby books that a newborn’s tiny stomach could only hold 2 teaspoons of liquid, so I was astounded when my difficult-to-feed son quickly and easily drank down the full 2-ounce bottle of formula. Another bottle later, he weighed enough for us to go home. We left the hospital with a box of formula and my long struggle to breastfeed had begun.

Leaving the hospital | increasing milk supply | How I Overcame Low Milk Supply and Kicked Formula to the Curb | A Breastfeeding Story

Over the next few days, my milk came in just fine, but I couldn’t get Grayson to latch on correctly. He would cry, and when he did latch on, he would suckle for an hour or fall asleep. I started pumping every few hours, getting maybe an ounce of liquid from both breasts. Grayson would sometimes nurse for an hour at a time, then drink down a whole bottle of formula.

At this time (and for months afterward), I wasn’t producing enough breast milk to feed him. I would alternate filling his bottles with pumped breast milk and formula, making sure he drank the breast milk first. At least he was getting some.

Pumping for bottle feeding takes twice as much effort and time as breast feeding or bottle feeding alone, so I wasn’t getting much sleep during this time. I would pump after every breast feeding, and/or every two hours. That means an extra 15-20 minutes of sleep I wasn’t getting 24 hours a day. I was a zombie.

My pediatrician recommended a lactation consultant. She came to the house and immediately said the baby wasn’t latching correctly. My middle-of-the-night hour-long feeding sessions were just pacifying the baby, not actually feeding him. Basically, Grayson preferred the bottle at this point, because it was easy. With a bottle, he got a full belly quickly without all the struggle of breast feeding.

She recommended a few things:

  1. Grayson would fall asleep while breast feeding. I needed to detach him from my breast if he was falling asleep to ensure he knew that feeding time meant business.
  2. No more lengthy feedings. Give him 10 minutes and stop if he was slowing down.
  3. Watch under his chin to see if he is swallowing. If not, detach him from the breast.
  4. Always attempt breast feeding before the bottle. Or, if he is too upset, let him bottle feed for 2-3 minutes, and then try to breast feed.
  5. When bottle feeding, stop every five minutes. Twist the bottle nipple out of baby’s mouth and burp him. This interruption will make bottle feeding less enjoyable, less “easy” for baby.
  6. Mix the formula and the breast milk. Just a little breast milk in the formula during every feeding ensures baby is getting a steady exposure to antibodies and nutrients not present in formula.

I used her methods for about a month, until pulling the bottle out of his mouth every 5 minutes turned into a battle at every feeding. The poor guy just wanted to eat, and I decided to let him do it without restriction, giving in to the idea that he would be bottle fed–but with as much breast milk as I could pump.

I tried everything to get my breast milk production to the point where I could match Grayson’s voracious appetite. He was quickly eating 4 ounces in a sitting, while I was producing half that amount. Some of the things I tried at this time:

  • Lactation tea
  • Fenugreek suppliments
  • Lactation cookies
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Pumping every few hours + after feedings
  • 1 beer a day (I didn’t mind this one a bit)

I noticed that every few weeks, my breast milk production would drop off, and then pick back up again. I would start pumping more often at these times. Into my third month, I was sometimes producing 8 ounces of breast milk in a sitting and reduced pumping to every 4-6 hours. I was finally producing enough milk to eliminate formula completely.

happy baby breast feeding | How I Overcame Low Milk Supply and Kicked Formula to the Curb | A Breastfeeding Story

Over the next 6 months, I continued to attempt breast feeding and Grayson started to get the hang of it. I was able to rely more and more on breast feeding alone. Breast feeding soon became his preferred feeding method and by the time Grayson was 9 months old; he refused bottles completely and breast fed, along with eating solids.

Fast forward and my little guy is 15 months old and I’m trying to wean him. Pumping is well behind me (thank goodness) and I can look back at all the hard work I did to breast feed my child.

My story isn’t a typical one, and I hope my struggle to get my baby off formula will help moms out there who may be having difficulties with low milk supply and breast feeding.  Below I included links to some of the products that helped me, plus my favorite recipe for breast milk cookies (yum!).

Ameda Purely Yours Double Breast Pump

This is the breast pump I used. It costs less money than similar brands and it is still going strong (after a few replacement parts).

Lansinoh Lanolin for Breastfeeding 

This helps a lot with soreness.

Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags

I love, love, love these storage bags. To this day, I have breastmilk in the freezer for my little guy and give it to him mixed with cows milk. Great product!

Lactation Cookie Recipe

Recipe by Noel Trujillo

Breast Milk Cookies

How I Overcame Low Milk Supply and Kicked Formula to the Curb | A Breastfeeding Story

How I Overcame Low Milk Supply and Kicked Formula to the Curb | A Breastfeeding Story

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 -4 tablespoons brewer's yeast

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Premix the flax seed meal with water and let sit for 5 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, sift together the flour, brewer's yeast, baking soda and salt.

Stir together the dry mixture with the butter mixture. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoons of batter onto a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before removing from tray.

http://loveandduckfat.com/overcame-low-milk-supply-kicked-formula-curb-breastfeeding-story/

Do you have any suggestions for what helped you overcome low milk supply? Please share in the comments below!

This post may contain affiliate links to products I purchased and used myself. I recommend these products. If you decide to buy any of these items, I may recieve a small compensation.

35 comments

  • Vicki Lesage

    Glad to hear your persistence paid off! I hear ya with the pumping – my son was in the NICU for 11 days and I had to do a lot of pumping and it’s so much extra work but it’s worth it. He was a preemie but weighed 7lb 8 oz when born! Which sounds good but it meant his big body got tired of eating before he was full, so the hospital supplemented with bottles and a feeding tube. Hence the pumping, to make sure that he was getting as much breast milk as possible. But then he got even lazier with the feeding. Fortunately the hospital staff was wonderful and helped me transition so that I could breastfeed full-time once at home. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story and glad it worked out for you!

  • Ashley B.

    The cookie is a wonderful idea! I formula fed both my children from the very start, Neither would take to the breast. It was weird, and a little disappointing, and I tried so hard-but formula it was in the end.

  • Kristi

    I breastfed too, for a short time. I know how challenging it can be. Glad to read that your persistence paid off. The cookies look yummy – didn’t know there was a cookie that could benefit breastfeeding.

  • Amber Edwards

    I seriously could have used your story years ago! I struggled with breastfeeding all three of my kids. Very same experiences. And I just wasn’t producing enough to keep their bellies full. I didn’t have much help and no access to lactation consultant. SO I missed out. And I regret it. If I have any more kids I want a successful breastfeeding experience.

  • Helene Cohen Bludman

    Good for you for being persistent. I gave into bottle feeding with my first. He was a preemie and the doctor was pushing the bottle. In retrospect, I wish I had been more insistent about breast feeding, which I had been totally committed to doing. With my next two I breastfed until they were 5 months old.

  • Nanny Flowers

    With my first, the nurses gave him a bottle without even checking to see if I was breastfeeding or not. When I took him home he almost didn’t eat for 4 days because he just almost completely refused to nurse and cried so hard every time we tried. I gave up because I got scared he would starve to death. They really need a better system for caring for babies in the hospitals so they don’t make things hard on new moms with incidents like this.

  • Fabulous Perks

    I was fourtnate engouh to not have an lactation problem. I have been nursing my baby from birth. He wants nothing to so with a bottle and it kind of sucks. He depends on the breast!

  • Pam

    Good for you that you stuck with it! It seemed like it was quite involved but well worth it in the long run. I had some similar issues with one of mine but it all worked out. This post will be really helpful for others that are going through the same thing.

  • Ave

    We had the same situation you had with latching. But after couple of days of practice we got our daughter to latch on correctly and did not have to use formula anymore. I’m really happy that I kept on trying and did not give up as everypody told me.

  • Nicole Brady

    I had heard a beer is a good way to kick things up but have never heard of lactation cookies! Glad you were able to give up formula… BFing is so much better for the baby and lots more economical!

  • Jennifer Williams

    I had a similar story starting off with my first son, it took a while but we too got rid of the formula. My second was constantly rough no matter what I tried, everyone wondered why I bothered when it was so hard but it was worth it. I have no issues with formula I just wanted to do this for my boys.

  • Nikki

    It’s great that you were able to get your milk supply up and feed your son the way you wanted to. I formula-fed, but I know other moms who went through difficulties. It just took time really, and persistence.

  • Rosey

    How wonderful that you persevered until you reached that level of success. Such a wonderful mom story. We have a similar one in my family with my daughter-in-law. 🙂

  • Ashley Gill

    With my daughter I had similar issues that you went through with your son. I was so defeated and had to return to work so I decided on formula. I didn’t try to breast feed my son and I regret the decision. With the next child I am not a SAHM and will do my best to breast feed. I have pinned this page to refer back should I need it in the future. Thank you!

  • amanda ripsam

    Yum, lactation cookies lol sounds funny to me. However I wish I had them when I was breastfeeding not that I had low milk supply I just had a child who would throw up each feeding due to feeding difficulties we had to thicken her formula with rice cereal and I added breast milk to the mix for added nutrition.
    I really tired so hard not all of us momma’s can breast feed but this is great for those who are able to. My 6 year old is strong and healthy despite her feeding difficulties.

  • Dawn

    That’s great that you stuck by it, even though it was difficult. I tried to breastfeed my daughter for a month and I didn’t produce enough. I went back to work at 4 weeks and it was downhill from there. If I had read this way back then, it might have helped me.

  • Annie

    You go girl! I am afraid when the time comes for me to be preggo & then breastfeed as a low milk supply is definitely on the list of worries!

  • ellen Isreal

    My third child was premature and in the hospital for 8 weeks. At first I had a very hard time producing milk for her. I was told to pump for no more than 5-6 minutes, then wait for 20 minutes and do it again. Everytime I felt the letdown response, I knew I was ramping up milk production. Within three days of pumping every 20 min, I could have fed an army. I was producing so much milk at that point that I donated it to the NICU unit for babies whose moms weren’t providing breast milk. The whole key was having just a few days of nursing or pumping every 20 minutes during the day. I did not do it at night. The number of times you experience a letdown response correlates with the amou n of milk produced. It was amazing! Just remember – longer is not better – more often is better.

  • brenda

    Hello! your story is inspiring:) I have been pumping for a year in almost 10 days, and also have a large freezer stash that we are slowly working through. we had so many breastfeeding issues in the beginning, and did exactly what you did in the beginning (for 5 months) but I didn’t have low milk supply, he was said to be orally immature from the lcs. At 5 months, he figured out nursing for comfort but still not pulling milk. That is awesome that at 9 months you were mainly breast feeding! I am curious to know, you mentioned in your post that he poor guy just wanted to eat, and I eventually gave into the idea that he would be bottle fed with as much breast milk as I could pump” -so at some point did Grayson just figure it out? I know everyone’s situation is different, but when you said you gave in, you still kept trying at the breast and then it clicked for him? We are aways away from maybe baby #2, but I think about this sometimes when I think how hard we worked and try to improve upon the situation. Thank you for your post!

    • Marni Mutrux

      Hello Brenda!
      Thank you for commenting! Grayson went through different phases…but I always kept trying to breastfeed even when he was getting just about all his nourishment from a bottle. Eventually, he did seem to get better at it, and I started producing much more milk. I also switched the bottles I would use and perhaps that had something to do with it. At some point, he started to prefer breastfeeding on his own. I’m sure your second try at breastfeeding will be much different…as they are all such unique experiences. Good luck to you and great job pumping for so long! It’s a huge commitment and takes a special mommy to work so hard.

  • TONYA DAHL

    Glad you stuck it out. I can sympathize with your struggles. I am surprised the lactation consultant didn’t recommend a SNS? I had a breast reduction 20 years ago and it never occurred to me that I could not breastfeed until I I had my daughter. I had damaged ducts that was not getting the milk out. I went to a La Leche meeting crying my eyes out and they were so supported and helped me breastfeed my baby. I ended up putting my daughter on raw goat’s milk and using a supplemental nursing system(SNS). So I had double duty. I made a homemade raw goat milk formula that I would lightly warm put into the SNS bottle and attach the tube to my nipple and I exclusively breastfeed my daughter for 6 months. Then she went straight to a bottle and pacifer as the tube can only accommodate for 6 months then they start to drink more. So I was happy that I got 6 months of bonding. I think if you would have had the SNS it could have helped things a long as they are getting a little bit of your breastmilk and formula so they get fed more and still have to work hard on the breast. It’s good to see mom’s not give up and healthy for baby.

  • Shea Anderson

    Hi! I am so happy to stumble upon this. It is almost the same situation I’m in, although, for us he latched and sucks great, prefers the breast but I don’t produce enough and pump terribly. In fact I gave up on pumping.

    My son is 11 weeks old and I consistently make (at the lactation specialist) 1 1/2 ounces – 2 per feeding (every 2 hours). I supplement with 3 ounces of formula and DREAM of being able to only breast feed.

    Would you please help me? What do you recommend I do? Pump after every feeding and eat all of those supplements? I’ve been doing fenugreek, oatmeal, Brewers yeast, lactation cookies, and would love to try a beer every night! Does any kind work?

    I am glad you had so much success. Congrats and thank you for sharing your story!

    Shea
    sheadjanderson@gmail.com

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