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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- No more lengthy feedings. Give him 10 minutes and stop if he was slowing down.
- Watch under his chin to see if he is swallowing. If not, detach him from the breast.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!).
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).
This helps a lot with soreness.
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
- 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
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.
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.