From the second I decided I wanted to have a baby I knew I was going to breastfeed. I was obsessed with breastfeeding throughout my entire pregnancy. I would watch YouTube videos about proper latch, positioning and tips on bringing in your milk until 4am. My husband would even tell me, “Babe, you’ll be fine…you don’t have to worry so much. When we get to the hospital the Lactation Consultant will be there to help, but you’re totally going to get it right away.” Oh, how I wish he was right…instead I had nothing but issues and struggled so much in those first few days and weeks.
For most women, a proper breastfeeding relationship is extremely difficult to establish. There are a lot of different factors to getting it right and it can be extremely overwhelming for a new Mama. You’ll have to learn how to latch your baby on properly, how to listen and watch for hunger cues, and you’ll stress and stress about your milk production until you’re blue in the face.
For me, establishing a breastfeeding relationship was nearly impossible and I went through hell and back to successfully breastfeed my daughter. I have a mild case of Mammary Hypoplasia, which caused me to make little to no milk for the first week of my baby’s life. Mammary Hypoplasia, also known as insufficient glandular tissue is a very uncommon condition that can cause low or no milk production. Women with mammary hypoplasia simply did not develop proper mammary tissue during adolescence, which can make pumping very difficult as well. We also don’t have many breast changes during pregnancy, for example my boobs pretty much stayed the same aside of from becoming a bit swollen towards the end.
I was in the OR being stitched up from my unplanned c-section when the time finally came for me to breastfeed my daughter for the first time. She laid on my chest quietly. She didn’t do that instinctual little baby crawl to the breast, she didn’t open her mouth wide searching for my nipple…she just laid there, perfectly content with soaking up my warmth but not putting forth any effort to nurse. I was assured some babies take a little longer to initiate breastfeeding and to continue with skin-to-skin contact because it would entice her to nurse. We tried again when I was taken to the recovery room but every time she would latch she would fall off within seconds and we had to start again. It was disheartening to say the least; she wanted to nurse so badly but had no idea how to stay attached to my breast so she would cry and cry and cry.
When I met with the lactation consultant she taught me how to properly latch my daughter onto my breast and what to do if she fell off. She taught me how to hold her so that my incision wouldn’t sting and taught me how to look for cues that would let me know when she was ready to nurse again. She taught me all of these vital skills with a worried look on her face…I knew something wasn’t right; she was keeping something from me and I wanted to know what it was. Before I could ask her if there was something wrong with me, a reason why my daughter was having such a tough time nursing, she latched beautifully and I successfully breastfed her for the first time in 12 hours. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I forgot about all the issues we faced before and I was just present in this magical moment I worked so hard for. The lactation consultant left the room and I peacefully nursed Delilah for an hour straight. I was starting to feel like I could actually do this, like we finally figured it all out and everything was going to work out for us.
Breastmilk is the best first food for a baby, the most nutritional food ever created and I wanted my daughter to benefit from that.
Hours went by and all Delilah did was cry. I was latching her on the way I was taught, before she even gave me hunger cues. I could see her jaw moving the way it’s supposed to when they have a proper latch, so I knew I was doing that part right…but I could tell my daughter wasn’t getting enough milk. Every time they weighed her she dropped weight, so much so that they started talking about supplementing her with formula. I adamantly declined and refused the formula, not because I think formula is wrong, but because it was not the path I wanted to take with my daughter. Breastmilk is the best first food for a baby, the most nutritional food ever created and I wanted my daughter to benefit from that. So I continued to breastfeed until they sent the lactation consultant back in to speak with me. With a heavy heart she told me that I had Mammary Hypoplasia, that she knew it from the second she saw my breasts. “Your breasts have a wide gap in between them and your nipples point downwards. Pair that with your low milk supply and you are the poster-child for this condition” she said. “It’s time for us to start supplementing with formula, your daughter is losing far too much weight and she could really suffer if we continue down this path. Yes, breast is best…but unfed is dead.” Those words resonated with me every single time I offered her a bottle. I could hear them in the back of my mind as I watched my perfect daughter chug down that formula like she had never eaten before in her life…because she hadn’t. I wasn’t producing at all. No Colostrum, no nothing. Every time my daughter latched she was sucking on air, the poor thing was starving and I had no idea.
“It’s time for us to start supplementing with formula, your daughter is losing far too much weight and she could really suffer if we continue down this path. Yes, breast is best…but unfed is dead.”
I did everything in my power to bring my milk in as quickly as possible so that I could breastfeed my baby and stop supplementing. A lot of women with this condition aren’t able to breastfeed at all, unfortunately so I was working against the odds but I was determined. I latched her on every hour, sometimes sooner if she gave me hunger cues.
If she wasn’t latched I was pumping and in between all I did was cry. My nipples were sore, cracked and bleeding, my incision hurt like crazy and I was so upset because I was told in the hospital that I my body may never make enough milk to sustain her and I may need to supplement with formula throughout our entire breastfeeding relationship. Pumping was such a painful experience for me; because of my condition I have very little tissue around my nipple, causing 80% of the skin around my areola to pull into the flange with each suction of the pump. I bought the smallest size flange on the market, I used coconut oil to lubricate my breasts while pumping, I tried to hold the skin so it wouldn’t be pulled in…Nothing worked and every second was excruciating but I kept going. By the third day I finally saw the smallest amount of milk in the bottles! My milk had come in and I dropped the bottle feeds right then and there. I nursed around the clock and kept my pumping routine strong and from that day on my daughter was exclusively breastfed. All of my efforts had paid off and a few months later I even gave up on pumping! It was excruciating and my daughter hated bottles, she preferred her milk from the tap so I ditched the pump and never looked back.
I have officially been breastfeeding my baby straight from my breasts with no supplementation for thirteen glorious months. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done, I worked my ass off to get here. I cried, considered quitting, and broke down more times than I’d like to admit but I am stronger for it. Every painful second was worth it because the bond I have with my child is unlike anything I have ever experienced and I know she is benefitting from nature’s perfect first food. I truly love breastfeeding this little girl and I see no end in sight.
Breastfeeding is difficult, frustrating and so, so demanding…but it’s also the most beautiful, magical, and truly amazing thing you will do in your life. So hang in there mama because YOU GOT THIS.