I remembered after a very long and frustrating time of sitting with her and trying to nurse her, that I had bottles of formula in the kitchen. When we were discharged from the hospital, we were sent home with a small black diaper bag (kind of symbolically fitting, now that I think of it), full of small bottles of formula and coupons to use to buy more when those ran out. Thank goodness, I thought. I opened one, which conveniently came with a nipple. Which was handy in a home with no bottle-feeding supplies, for a person who had had no intention of ever using a bottle.
I gave it to her, and she gratefully and hungrily gulped it down and settled down. She smiled and fell asleep. I had such mixed feelings. What did this mean? How often was this going to happen? It seemed I was running out of milk! After only a few months? How could this be? What was wrong with me? What would happen to my baby?
This went on for several days. I was running out of formula. I had to face the reality: I was going to have to go to the store and buy formula for my baby.
I know there are worse things. I know there are mamas out there that don’t even get the three months that we had. But in that moment, as I sat in my new mama world, I felt like a total failure.
I did what I usually did when reality seemed too grim to be true, I called my husband. He asked if there wasn’t some sort of help out there for breastfeeders. And then I remembered La Leche League. I had become aware of them at a parenting fair years before, when I was representing a small private school. The idea seemed so foreign to me back then. A whole organization dedicated to breastfeeding? Really? Whatever for?
I called my local leader and asked for help. I heard one of the kindest voices I’ve ever heard on the other end of the phone. Soft-spoken, with an endearing British accent (the way she says “babies” still melts my heart), she explained to me that I was experiencing something that was extremely common for breastfeeding mothers and babies at around three months. She explained that my baby was going through a growth spurt common for that age, and that often there is a tiny, temporary gap in supply and demand of milk at this time. She cautioned me not to panic and supplement my milk with formula.
Whoops. I confessed it all to her. Now I was sure we were doomed.
She explained to me the concept of supply and demand when it comes to breastmilk.
It turned out, the more demand there is, the more milk there would be. Period. So, by “supplementing” with formula, I was cutting down on the demand, and therefore decreasing the supply. She assured me that we could come back from this, and that it would just take a little trust and patience.
It turned out, the more demand there is, the more milk there would be. Period. So, by “supplementing” with formula, I was cutting down on the demand, and therefore decreasing the supply.
I remember hearing her describe one of the things I needed to do during a breastfeeding session as “gentling her along” while she and I dealt with our frustration as she requested more milk from me. I truly do not think I would have had it in me to trust that it was OK to hear my baby cry in frustration like that, and to work through it, had it not been for someone I trusted guiding me through it. For all the instincts I thought I had regarding this, there were none available to me for this particular issue.
I called this LLL leader, Angela, many many times over the next couple of weeks, needing to hear her explain what was happening, and needing her reassurance that we were working through our little “hiccup”. And that it would be worth it in the end.
And it was. My little girl and I figured it out. I ended up not only trusting the person on the phone, but also trusting myself as I saw things improving. And trusting my baby as she relaxed into our process. We could do this. We ended up having a happy breastfeeding relationship until she was about three years old, when it ended on its own.
I ended up being so inspired by this process, that I went on to take LLL leader training myself and joined a group in my area, where I made friends that are still in my life 10 years later. I was so excited that there was support out there for this, and so frustrated to think of all the mothers out there who give up, or feel like a failure like I did, simply for lack of information or support. I had a strong urge to just shout what I had learned form the street corners. I wanted everyone to know. Why shouldn’t they?
We have more instincts than we know. We are better at this than we know. There is more support out there than we know. It is worth it.
Republished with permission from Consciously Parenting.
D’Anne Dougherty is an intuitive counselor with 20 years of experience helping people gain clarity and harmony with the energies of their environments. She is a parent coach, specializing in support for intuitive parents and parents of intuitive children. D’Anne has studied curative education of young children, and she completed her Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge College in 2000. She spent 9 years in a Kindergarten classroom and helped to support families of young children. Since experiencing the loss of her husband, D’Anne has been inspired to offer grief support, and intuitive counseling for the bereaved. D’Anne received formal herbalism training from Susun Weed, and offers training on the subject, as well as remedies from herbs she has wildcrafted herself using old folk remedies. D’Anne Dougherty lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with her daughter and several animal friends. Find more from D’Anne on her website.