My Adventures in Boobing
I am very sorry for the long and rambling nature of this story and the chances are it will be a 3 part saga. I wrote this first part a really really long time ago when Eilys was tiny. The first part of this tale is here and the second part can be found here. ***Disclaimer*** I am in no way a medical professional and I am not giving advice in this blog. This is just what I did and I was under the supervision of my midwife the whole time.
Hello again! Welcome to the third exciting instalment of my breastfeeding tale. In the last part of the story Dylan was about 3 months old at the end. I kept breastfeeding Dylan until he was just over 9 months old. I supplemented him with formula until about a month after we started to wean him when he was 7 months old. He took to solids like a little champ and he’s very adventurous with food. As soon as he was having 3 meals a day he dropped most of his milk feeds and I just breastfed him in the morning and before bed. Jump cut to Dylan at 1 year and 7 months old and I’m pregnant again!
I really wanted to have a totally different experience this time and wanted to be prepared for any issues as much as possible. I rejoined the facebook group that I’d been a part of for Mum’s who have low supply issues and read all the information they had and then I read 2 of the books that were recommended on the group (well, bits of books). The first was “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk” by Diane West and Lisa Marasco and the second was “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by La Leche League International. Well I say “I read” I bought both books and looked at a few of the chapters in the books but mainly used them as a reference. During my first midwife appointment I explained what had happened with Dylan and how I wanted to try again. She was really positive and helpful and said that there was every possibility that there would be no problems this time round.
In my head I formed a plan of attack. Firstly, I was going to take supplements during pregnancy to stimulate my boobs to make more glandular tissue, I was then going to make a colostrum store and thirdly I was giving myself 2 weeks after the baby was born to get it right before throwing in the towel with no guilt if it wasn’t working properly. This last bit was the important bit. I put so much pressure on myself with Dylan that I honestly think that not being able to exclusively breastfeed him tainted the first few months of his life.
Anyway, pregnancy this time round was different but also very samey. When I was about 26 weeks pregnant I decided to bite the proverbial and send in a picture of my boobs to the facebook group for Mummy’s with supply issues. As I knew another member of the group personally, I asked one of the group’s admins to put the photo up for me. I sent her a snap of a front view and both side views. I know what you are thinking, and yes, I sent boob snaps to a complete stranger and yes, I am probably a bit mad. But I wanted to rule of IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) as a problem and it has very visual markers. The admin woman said that she could put the photos on the group but she could see that I had none of the markers. I asked her not to bother then and on my search went!
I started to take alfalfa supplements at 32 weeks pregnant which is suppose to help build breast tissue during pregnancy. Honestly, I saw no difference at all but continued to take it until I gave birth. I also bought Goat’s Rue tincture to start taking at 36 weeks pregnant but after umming and arrring about it I decided not to take it. One of the side effects of Goat’s Rue is that it can slow the clotting process and could cause excessive bleeding during labour and I didn’t want to risk it. At 35 weeks pregnant, I started to bank colostrum, To say that this was soul destroying might sound hyperbolas but it really was. I was hand expressing, using manual pump and using an electric pump and still I’d only get about 1-5ml everyday, which is apparently normal but looks really pitiful. I had bought some 1ml, 2ml and 5ml feeding syringes from eBay and froze them in sterilised milk storage bags. I wanted to have enough colostrum in the freezer to supplement feeds during the first 3 days of the baby’s life so I worked out that I needed to bank about 200ml. Not a chance! I think I managed to bank about 35ml by the time the baby was born.
My poor midwife must have thought I was a right case, every time I saw her I had a different barrage of ridiculous questions and ideas about why breastfeeding hadn’t worked this time. As I said before, she was brilliant. She ordered more thyroid tests for me, all came back normal and she sent me for a Glucose Tolerance Test to rule out Insulin Resistance being an issue, it wasn’t. I had also contacted a “lactation consultant” via the magic of the internet and had emailed a few times. First off, she irritated me by saying that everyone can solely breastfeed if they want to, er no, and then she said she would need to charge me to give me any actual advice, fair enough the woman has to make a living. She emailed me a few times and basically told me that I couldn’t breastfeed Dylan exclusively because I didn’t try hard enough… Obviously, I wholeheartedly disagree and no more emails were exchanged. My midwife had put me in touch with the infant feeding team at the hospital and with one of the awesome ladies there we drew up a feeding plan of attack. Luckily, Becky was really knowledgeable about low supply and was really supportive and gave me a lot of help and advice.
So Eilys was born. 2 weeks early (but that’s another story) but she did the newborn shuffle down to my baps and had a good old munch. She was born at 8:21pm and we left the hozzi at about 1am and in that time she had had several good feeds. I was feeling very confident and happy about the whole thing. She was good as gold the next day but that night, oh my goodness, she cried. And cried. And, yep you guessed it, cried. She got herself in a right old state so we gave her some of the spare colostrum and then, after that didn’t settle her, we caved and gave her formula. It didn’t really help, she kept crying but she wasn’t as frantic. I was trying so hard to breastfeed her but it was so incredibly painful. She was latching but would fall off a lot and when she cried her tongue seemed to be very restricted in her mouth.
We had her 3 day check the next day… The Doctor checked her over and then said “I think she is a bit dehydrated”…Oh no. Not again. I crumpled. I had tried so hard for this not to happen again. I tried not to cry, I failed. The Doctor was lovely, gave me a little hug and said it was just one of those things and not to stress. She got some blood (after several attempts at the heel prick, how horrendous is that to endure?!). The Doctor advised that we top her up with formula. The Doctor also found that Eilys had a very severe tongue tie which probably wasn’t helping matters.
A tongue tie is when the tongue is connected to the bottom of the mouth more than it should be and it can make breastfeeding very painful and can make it difficult for the baby to stimulate milk flow. Eilys had a type 1 tongue tie. She referred us to have the tongue tie snipped but we were told it would be at least a 3 week wait!! By the time I left the check up I had calmed down and I felt back in control. Topping up with formula isn’t a problem, I was not going to feel guilty because I had done everything I could do but I wanted answers. I wanted to know what was wrong with me!
I requested a meeting with the lactation consultant of the infant feeding team as I had heard lovely things about her and apparently she really knew her stuff in regards to low supply. During the appointment she asked me lots of questions, watch Eilys feed and then gave me a fondle.Then she diagnosed IGT. My right boob only had milk ducts on the underside (about 25% of what is “normal”) and my left boob only had 50% of the ducts it should and both were severely lacking in glandular tissue. FINALLY an answer, a reason why! It felt like a weight had been lifted. She said that what I was doing was great (pumping every 3 hours, taking goat rue, taking fenugreek, letting Eilys breastfeed when it wasn’t too painful) and she made an appointment to visit after her tongue tie had been corrected.
And so we continued, pumping and topping up with formula. I tried a few other things that were suppose to aid milk production like coconut water (due to it being super hydrating), lactation cookies, oats oats and more oats, green juices etc etc but none of really helped increase supply. I stopped taking fenugreek quite quickly as it gave Eilys really painful wind. Things improved after the tongue tie correction. Eilys was able to breastfeed without causing me pain and I pumped after each feed to help boost supply. I tried to use my Medela SNS but Eilys refused to feed with it. I have no idea why, she just wouldn’t feed if it was attached! I only managed to pump after every feed for a couple more weeks after her tongue tie correction. It was so exhausting and with a very very active, and increasingly mischievous toddler it got pretty impossible. Every time the pump came out Dylan would either want to “make Eilys milk” himself (cute) or see it as an ideal opportunity to climb the curtains or bounce on the sofas or shout nursery rhymes out of the letterbox. We kept up the breastfeeding with formula top ups going until Eilys was 21 weeks old.
At about 19 weeks Eilys started to get really grumpy whenever I tried to breastfeed her. I don’t know why but it made feeding her very stressful and not very pleasant so after a couple of weeks of trying to keep it going I knocked it on the head and stopped. Some people will read that and think that I should have kept trying but seriously, why do something that was stressing us both out?
I am really proud that I managed to feed Eilys for as long as I did and I am quite pleased that it was her that decided to stop. It has been a lot easier this time round. I was able to put a lot of my demons about breastfeeding to rest and I enjoyed the whole experience this time round. I was able to spend me time just enjoying the connection with my daughter rather than the constant worry and upset from the first time round. Please feel free to ask me any questions about this but as I have said at the top, I am by no means an expert, I am just a Mummy sharing her experience with y’all.
Thanks for reading