So, let me start off by saying I’ve always been an advocate of breast feeding. During medical school we were taught about all the biological reasons that breast feeding is best for both baby and mother, and I’ve always encouraged my patients to nurse their babies whenever possible. But I don’t really think you can understand or adequately talk to people about the trials and tribulations of being dedicated to breast feeding until you’ve been there-done that. It’s remarkably easy for some women to latch their newborn and the milk just flows for them, while other women have difficulty with latching their baby, or their milk supply is lacking.
That first week of breast feeding gave me profound insight into why so many women give up early on – it is hard, frustrating and at times emotionally draining work! I’ve personally struggled with producing enough for my baby girl and was really stressed when preparing for going back to work when she was 7 weeks old. I tried pumping early on in the process, but it seemed like every time I pumped after feeding her, we would play catch up that whole day (and night sometimes!) because my supply suffered, and it continued on for days afterwards when I continued to try to pump to store extra milk. As physicians we always counsel new moms not to feel inadequate when they struggle with these issues, but there I was, right in the middle of it, and feeling very inadequate that I couldn’t pump and store enough milk for my baby to feel secure going back to work.
And of course, stress doesn’t help the milk production situation much…
I’ve been back to work for 6 months now, and my goal is to nurse my daughter through a year old at the very least. I am very fortunate that I have supportive family that helps take care of my angel while I am at work, and I can see her every day at lunch (and nurse her too! Score! Less pumping!). It’s also a blessing that I have control over my schedule and can block out visit times to pump in my office for 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon, but there have still been so many weeks where my supply has dwindled and I am left panicked about her having enough milk for the next week. I even pump on my way to work (with a hands free bra of course, strapped in and covered before I start the car) to get an extra ounce or two for her.
There were nights early on where I set my alarm for 3 am to get an extra ounce or two pumped for her as well, knowing milk production is highest around 2 am. I have read every medical article and blog I could find (while up in the middle of the night nursing her a lot of the time) and tried all sorts of non-medical ways to boost my supply – mothers milk tea, fenugreek supplements, oatmeal and then some more oatmeal, adding flax seed to all my food, drinking 3-4 liters of water a day, even drinking some dark beer, none of which really made a big difference in my supply.
So, as I sit here writing this, pumping away, I laugh at the things I have gone through to give my baby girl breast milk, and realize I may sound crazy to some of you! I think, before I had Juliette, I might have thought a patient was going overboard if they told me what I just told you… Clearly now I have a different take on things.
I guess the moral of my story is, do what is best for you and your baby, and try not to stress (easier said than done)!!! Enjoy the ride!