The blame game with milk supply and demand

After five days of the triple feed program, we went back to the doctor’s office for the RN/lactation consultant to check the baby’s weight to see that it was working, and the good news was that it was working; she was finally gaining weight and getting on track. So the RN suggested we continue the triple feed until her one month appointment on January 10th, much to my disgust and exhaustion. We also did a weighted feed to see how much milk was being transferred when she breast fed for 10 minutes on each breast and found that she only transferred 1 ounce. So, the good news is she IS getting milk from my breasts; the bad news is that it’s not enough for her to be exclusively breast fed. This crushed me, as this was my hope and goal.

The RN observed part of the feed and just came to the conclusion that I was the problem because I probably had low milk supply, which kind of pissed me off and immediately sparked my desire to get a second or third opinion. Both my experiences with international board certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs) in person at the hospital and here at the pediatrician’s office felt terrible; I was not being given the full lactation consultant experience and instead I was getting blamed without the full picture. At the hospital, all the LC did was listen for a swallow and check latch. Here, she didn’t give me the full hour I was supposed to be given despite charging my health insurance $275 for the stupid visit. She didn’t bother asking me about my pump settings or flange fit; she never discussed anything about me, which is supposed to be the focus of an LC visit.

I spoke with two other lactation consultants about her conclusion, and they both thought it was flawed: since milk supply is all about supply and demand, if the demand is not there, meaning the milk removal is not effectively happening by an efficiently feeding baby, then my body doesn’t get the signal to make more milk because I am not properly being emptied. So it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, but having an inefficiently eating baby makes the supply worse. And though she suggested that I take supplements like fenugreek and I will try it, I realized after chatting with these other LCs that the only way I was going to ensure my baby would get breast milk and that my supply would continue and/or go up is if I continued to pump milk. I may just need to increase my pumping and even attempt to be one of those “exclusive pumpers,” or EPs, even if I am an under supplier due to nearly three weeks of inefficient and poor milk transfer. I would still attempt to nurse, but the main way Kaia will get my breast milk is via a bottle of pumped milk. I just need to find ways to increase my milk supply, whether that is via power pumping or some other ways to further stimulate my nipples.

I would never have imagined I’d become a 7-8-time-per-day pumper, or wannabe exclusive pumper. But I did not choose this path for myself; it chose me. I still wish I had a proper IBCLC experience, and the closest I got to that was the Cleo IBCLC I spoke with, who was unfortunately virtual only. But she actually made me feel seen and heard, and she even called me a couple times when I was getting anxious and about to have a breastfeeding melt down. I never thought that my breastfeeding journey could feel so lonely and isolating, not to mention make me feel so inadequate as a mother. I’m trying my best, but my best is not enough to fully 100 percent nourish my own baby, and it just hurts.

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