When I was pregnant with my son, I was committed to breastfeeding exclusively. I went to classes, read all the books and blogs, talked with other moms who successfully breastfed, and asked for their advice. I joined online breastfeeding support communities and found local groups to attend after I gave birth.
With all my preparations I was confident I would succeed. Sure, some women struggle but I would overcome, and if there were any issues I would hire a lactation consultant.
In all my research and preparations, I never came across the one thing I needed: what to do if your milk doesn’t come in.
After 25 hours of labor, my son was born and I became a mom. He latched right away and over the next two days we seemed to be doing well with the whole breastfeeding gig. The day we were set to go home I still hadn’t become engorged but the lactation consultant and nurses told me not to worry as sometimes it can take longer for milk to come in. I felt assured by their words and was excited to take my boy home.
Bad news came. I was actually positive for group B strep. My test during pregnancy must have been a false negative, so my sweet newborn boy was being admitted for a week of IV antibiotics. We were so thankful this was caught early. After a couple hours thinking the worst about what could have gone wrong, I started to feel relief and was going to look at this as a positive thing. I was a scared new mom and now I got to spend the next seven days surrounded by medical professionals (including lactation consultants) while taking care of my newborn. On top of that, I wouldn’t have to cook, clean, or host anyone in our home until we got this parenting thing down! Blessing in disguise.
The excitement started to fade with each passing day for many reasons, but the worst was that each day would pass and my milk still wasn’t coming in. Every nurse and lactation consultant had ideas and opinions on what I should be doing, and we tried them all. Dismissals eventually lead to concerned looks and medical tests. I was obsessed with finding the cause and was trying anything and everything to get my milk to come in. They had me pump to see how much I was producing–only a few drops. My son was losing weight and inconsolable during and after feedings–signs he wasn’t getting enough to eat–so we started SNS.
I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and like a complete failure.
After 7 long days, it was time to go home. My doctor told me what I had feared the most: they were out of options. They didn’t know why my milk hadn’t come in. I could continue to breastfeed, but I either had to do so with SNS or follow with a bottle. For two more weeks at home I continued a pumping-SNS cycle. After those two weeks, it was time to call it quits. I was devestated. My body had failed me and I didn’t know why.
While I was never told an official diagnosis by a medical provider, besides seeing “history of lactation disorder” in my medical records, after hours of research, I believe I have Mammary hypoplasia or insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). For the life of me, I have no idea why the dozens of nurses, lactation consultants or doctors couldn’t give me this information, and not knowing just added to my trauma and postpartum struggles.
Fast forward two years. I had my daughter, and again was unable to produce milk. I was emotionally prepared this time, but one of the things I found frustrating with both experiences was the lack of information and support available for formula-feeding mamas. Even though it is rare for women to not be able to produce milk, every woman I know has struggled with breastfeeding, and many supplement with formula at some point in their baby’s first year.
So why isn’t there more info out there to help?
Feeding my kids I had to learn tips and tricks as I went along, but I don’t know why these things couldn’t have been shared beforehand or been readily available to me. Here is what I wish I had known.
Not being able to breastfeed does not affect the bond with your baby.
Your baby will not be sick all the time due to lack of breast milk.
3. Am I the only one?
It is very common to supplement with formula at any point during babe’s first year.
When feeding, stop to burp about half way through the bottle. If your baby is fussy during or after a feeding, it could be gas. Burp more often, try these exercises, and ask your doctor about gas drops.
5. Feed on demand.
Charts will give you an idea of how much and how often your baby will eat, but know this could be totally off, as it was with both of my kids. As long as they are gaining steadily and your pediatrician clears them with a good bill of health, listen to your baby. They will tell you when they want to eat.
6. Info for beginners
7. Saving money
There are lots of ways you can save money! You can get free samples and coupons from formula companies. You can ask for formula from the hospital you gave birth at and your doctor’s office. Take whatever is offered. Not only are you saving money, but you may need to try several different kinds of formula brands and types to see what works best for your baby.
8. Bottle brands
Like with formula, it may take you several different bottles and nipples to find the right one for your baby, so wait to buy in bulk until you know what works for you. These were the bottles both our kids used and I highly recommend them. If the nipples collapse during your baby’s feeding, loosen the cap a little.
9. Make a Registry
Start a baby registry and add formula. Even if you are not gifted formula, use the discount at the completion of your registry to stock up!
10. Try Generic
Try generic to save some more money. Walmart, Target, Costco, Babies R US, and even Hy-Vee have great generic brands. Have no fear, the FDA requires all formula to meet the same strict safety, nutrition, and manufacturing guidelines. We love Target’s generic for the price savings compared to name brand, but also because you can save 5% more with the red card and another 5% more for setting up a mail subscription. Boom!
11. Get a Dispenser
For on-the-go feeding, don’t forget to grab one of these. Buying the individual packets or prepared liquid formula will cost a small fortune.
Finally, don’t take advice literally. What works for you wont work for everyone. I hope if you decide to breastfeed it works out for you. I hope if you bottle feed you know that doesn’t make you any less of a mother. If you worry about the decision and are afraid to try one or the other look around at your coworkers, neighbors, and friends. Can you tell who was breast fed or formula fed? Love your kids like crazy and let go of any obligations or expectations. Just enjoy your beautiful baby.