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Before giving birth to Beckett, every parent had told me that the first weeks of your new baby’s life are the most challenging. Though that was definitely a very difficult time, the next weeks that followed were also quite challenging with one thing being the constant – more struggles with breastfeeding.

At ten weeks post partum my breastfeeding experience took an unexpected turn. As you may have read in my last post, breastfeeding began with many different obstacles for me to overcome. The latest one came when I had the joy of discovering my period had returned less than three months after giving birth. I knew it was a possibility that you could get your period even when exclusively breastfeeding but never in a million years did I expect to get it that quickly after having a baby. If you know me and have read my previous post, From No Period to Pregnant,  you may think it is a bit ironic that I would be one of the few to get my period back so early after having had such challenges getting it regularly not that many years ago. And so alas, the lovely red witch decided to make her grand re-entrance into my life at Beckett’s young age of ten weeks. And boy did she produce all kinds of new problems for my life as a breastfeeding mommy.

When I got my period back, my milk supply almost disappeared completely. It had been going down for the week prior (which apparently happens to those who get their period while breastfeeding) and I wasn’t really aware of it. I didn’t realize Beckett wasn’t getting enough milk until I figured out that he was dehydrated. I noticed he looked thinner so I took him to the doctor and sure enough he had lost almost half a pound. I stressed out and my milk supply was affected even further to the point that I had basically no milk left to feed him. Luckily I had stashed a ton away in my deep freezer when he was first born so I was able to supplement with frozen milk while I worked diligently to get my milk supply back up. The first step I took was to call back my favorite “Boobie Mobile”, My Nursing Coach. Linda, the lactation consultant, recommended I take a medication called, Domperidone, to help get my supply back up. DP is a medication meant for gastrointestinal issues and happens to have the side effect that it stimulates prolactin (milk production) and can increase a nursing mother’s milk supply.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have always tried to do things the natural way and not the medical way. In my moment of desperation, I began taking Domperidone without a moment’s hesitation. Beckett was still so young and the thought of no longer breastfeeding was devastating. So I started taking the medication immediately and within a couple of days, my supply was back to where it had been before. I was so excited to be able to share this special bond again and yet in the back of my mind a bit concerned about what this medication might do to me over time. I had done a ton of research and with the exception of minor side effects while on it, I learned there have been no long-term effects on the mother; less than .01% of it makes its way into the milk, making it also safe for Baby as well.

Just before Beckett’s four month birthday I was at a crossroads; I needed to decide whether to re-order more medication or try to get off of it and see if I could still produce naturally as I had done so abundantly at the beginning of Beckett’s life. I decided to try and get off of it by slowly cutting back on the dosage. In a matter of days I realized that the only way to keep my supply up at this point would be to continue on DP as my body had become dependent on it. I had an incredible amount of anxiety during this time and wasn’t sleeping well. I was still concerned about the unknown affects it may have on Beckett despite what I had researched since I hadn’t discussed it with his pediatrician before taking it.

Luckily, when I visited the pediatrician that week she gave me her blessing to stay on it and wrote me a prescription. I was an emotional mess in her office that day as I had been having a terrible week of getting Beckett to nurse (he had fallen in love with the bottle when I had to supplement back at ten weeks) and was also having extreme difficulty with getting the milk out with the pump. I told her I had been dealing with a ton of anxiety and mood swings, which we both just figured was due to hormones and the stress of whether or not to continue on the medication.

When the pediatrician returned with my prescription, she mentioned that Domperidone could cause anxiety and/or depression; something NOBODY else had mentioned to me between the lactation consultant and other women that had been on it. My nutritionist and wonderful friend, Debra Delson, further investigated the medication when I mentioned that I was on it and was able to tell me more about what can happen on the drug. I was having major letdown issues (when the milk takes a long time to come out) so much so that Beckett was losing patience and it was constantly a battle with him to breastfeed. I was having difficulty sleeping and was moody and anxious. I dealt with minor stomachaches. I would become engorged and not be able to pump the milk out – all things caused by the medication.

Upon learning this I decided that in order to be the best mom I could be for Beckett, I needed to take care of me as well. It was a heartbreaking decision but I decided staying on the medication wasn’t the right thing to do and would have to give up breastfeeding. I needed to stay true to who I am and what I always preach on House of Health…you are the only person that stays with you for your entire life so you must first take care of YOU and then others!

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the milk didn’t entirely disappear upon quitting breastfeeding. I managed to continue pumping and giving Beckett a decent amount of milk until this past week when I got my period again and the milk supply almost completely diminished. It has been a sad week of packing up my breastfeeding supplies but I keep reminding myself to look at the positive – he had a great start to life with over five months of breast milk and I did the best I could.

There is a lot of pressure on women to breastfeed today. It is wonderful that women are being encouraged to give this gift to their babies but the flip side to it is that it creates tons of guilt when it doesn’t go well and a mom chooses to or is forced to quit. I know women who have had no chance at breastfeeding due to breast surgery, cancer or the baby is allergic to its mother’s milk. I will be the first to admit that before Beckett, I judged women for not nursing; I felt they were robbing children of the amazing nutrition that comes with breastfeeding. I had no idea the challenge that was ahead of me and that sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

It’s amazing what we will do for our children. I was very close to continuing on a path of taking a medication that had already proven to be bad for my physical and mental health just for Beckett’s sake. Even today I sometimes still question whether or not I did the right thing by going off of DP and I ask myself where things went wrong; and then I snap back into reality and remember that I made the right decision and it wasn’t my fault! I tried everything!

As a society, and particularly as moms, we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything perfectly. Whether you are a parent or not, I hope in reading this you will be kind to yourself about whatever thing that hasn’t gone exactly as planned for you. I had the pregnancy of my dreams, the delivery of my dreams and have a perfect, health, happy baby. Just being able to have a baby at all is such a gift! I’d say I am three for three so it’s time to move forward and focus on taking care of me so I can take care of Beckett.

I am happy to report that I have been making Beckett a homemade formula for the past several weeks. I decided that since quitting breastfeeding freed up some time I wanted to give him what I found to be the next best thing: fresh goat milk based formula. I will post the recipe for those interested in my next post and tell you more about it (and promise it won’t take me as long to post again! Been busy battling breastfeeding 😉 ).

I hope that whatever happens in your life that doesn’t go according to plan, you can find peace within yourself and enjoy the new plan that unfolds. And that you take a second to check yourself before you judge others on their choices because as clichéd as it sounds, you just can’t truly understand another person’s path without walking in their shoes.

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After having a fairly easy, uneventful pregnancy, I just assumed breastfeeding would be the same way. I had heard it could be difficult but I had mentally committed myself to the process, no matter what. I had a very rough start to my breastfeeding experience and even though I had taken breastfeeding classes and learned so much about it, there was little mention of how difficult it can be at the start. Fortunately, over time, and with proper instruction, breastfeeding has become fairly simple and something I really love.

Throughout my breastfeeding adventure, I learned that approximately 70% of women struggle with breastfeeding while only 30% succeed without any issues. I wanted to share my breastfeeding struggles to help other women be prepared for the parts of the process nobody warned me about – latching, and waiting for the milk to come in.

In my birth plan I had made a point of asking my doctor to bring the baby to my chest immediately after birth so I could bond and breastfeed. I had learned that those first minutes were crucial in making that connection with my child and beginning the breastfeeding bond. My son, Beckett, was not in the mood to make this connection just yet so though he was bright-eyed and ready to take on the world, he didn’t want to breastfeed. I tried not to stress out about it and was relieved when he finally did come to the breast within the first hour of his life. He latched right away so I thought we were off to a great start!

It wasn’t until later that night that we started having problems. All of a sudden, he didn’t want to latch anymore and began screaming at the top of his lungs, most likely due to his frustration and hunger. Thank goodness (or so I thought) the hospital provided a lactation consultant to come help us. I wish I could say she was amazing and did the trick, but far from it. She convinced me that Becks was having trouble latching due to the shape of my nipples and handed me a “nipple shield” and wished me luck. I was a bit perplexed. We hadn’t had an issue with my so-called inverted nipples earlier so why now had my nipples decided they need this stupid plastic thing to get my baby to eat? Regardless, I was happy to feed him and put a stop to the screaming so I took the shield and got the job done.

The next day I requested another lactation consultant to come and give me her opinion. Just like the last one, she gave me very little of her time and saw that I had a screaming frustrated baby so she essentially gave up on me and said to keep using the shield for now. I felt so confused! Upon leaving the hospital, I had met one final consultant very briefly who got the baby to latch immediately and sent me on my way. When we got home, he wouldn’t latch the same way again. I used the shield and did the best I could to just make sure he was getting the food he needed and that was all.

Because of using the nipple shield, my milk was taking longer to come in than it normally would. On that first night home from the hospital, Beckett became hysterical with hunger but as a new mom, I couldn’t calm him down enough to get him to eat more. I assumed he must have just been overly tired, as he had slept very little compared to most newborns in the hospital. He spent the entire first night at home alternating between sleeping and screaming, and ashamedly, I admit he went almost seven hours without eating. I kept trying and trying but to no avail.

At around 5:30 the next morning when Beckett woke up after a good long sleep, I prayed to every spiritual being known to man that he would take the boob and get the food that he needed. Thank goodness he did but my milk still wasn’t in! I called a lactation consultant that my pediatrician had referred me to, and though she was completely booked for the day, she made time for us knowing this was a baby who was starving and not yet getting milk.

Linda, the lactation consultant  (known as “My Nursing Coach”), was a godsend! She showed up in her hippie van known as her “mobile breastfeeding center”, fully stocked with everything one could need for breastfeeding, and Linda was full of incredibly helpful knowledge. With her help, Beckett immediately latched on, without the shield, and by the end of our two hours together my milk had come in with a vengeance! Finally he was getting the nutrition he needed and gained back the significant amount of weight he lost within the first week. Phew!

After nine weeks, I can finally say we have breastfeeding down but the issues didn’t stop after that first week. I barely dodged a breast infection twice, have had to deal with overactive letdown (too much milk) causing gas pains for the little guy, had engorged breasts that caused bleeding (that I didn’t even know about until it showed up in Beckett’s spit-up – scary!) and sore nipples. It really took me a solid two months to get in the groove completely, and I wanted to share my story so any new or expectant mothers know that they aren’t alone if they have a similar battle with breastfeeding. I have heard many other stories of women struggling with lack of milk, bleeding nipples, babies refusing the breast, etc…so just know it may not be the dream situation you hoped for at the beginning.

Becoming a mother is overwhelming as it is. Then add on the fact that this tiny person’s entire being is relying on you and your milk to survive and the whole situation can become very intense quickly. Supplementing with formula was not something I wanted to do, so if you’re like me, the pressure is 100% on you to feed this new little life. To this day, I still feel a little pang in my heart when I think about that first night home with Beckett, when I didn’t know any better and essentially let him starve for several hours. If I could do it over again, the one change I would make would be having the lactation consultant come see us that first day we were home, when the baby still wasn’t latching properly. Doing so, would have saved us a very stressful first night home and odds are, my milk would have shown up sooner.

I feel incredibly fortunate that we’re past our breastfeeding issues (for now anyway) and that I can share this incredible bond with Beckett. I hope you don’t have such a dramatic battle with breastfeeding and if you do, you have the access to help. Our insurance paid for our first visit with Linda’s mobile breastfeeding van (my husband calls it the “Boob-mobile”), so it is definitely worth looking into if you don’t get the help you need at the hospital.

Please share your stories to help educate women for their journey so they feel more confident and ready once their little bundle of joy joins us in the world.

Thank you for reading my story. Below are some tips I have learned for a better breastfeeding experience.

Written by Lana House

Studio owner, House Pilates

HEALTHY TIPS FOR BETTER BREASTFEEDING

  • Make sure you drink tons of water while breastfeeding. It is the most important thing for a great milk supply
  • Don’t go hours without eating and make sure you eat lots of healthy fats. Remember that baby is still eating what you are eating just like during pregnancy so eat plenty of healthy foods and eat often. You are burning a lot of calories!
  • Motherlove Nipple cream is AWESOME for sore and cracked nipples. Made only of organic ingredients such as olive oil and shea butter, it is completely safe for baby to eat should there still be some left on your nipple come next feeding
  • More Milk Plus by Motherlove is a fantastic herbal product to help increase your milk supply if yours is low and works almost immediately. Also works later if your milk supply seems to slow down. (They also make More Milk teas as well).
  • There are plenty of other great tips on Linda, the lactation consultant’s, website which include dealing with a breast infection, how to pump and save milk, etc… mynursingcoach.com