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Stories of Strength

Nicole's Story

Nicole's Story

When I was pregnant, I read about two things: birth and breastfeeding. By the time I was 38 weeks and finished my birthing class, I figured that one way or another this baby was leaving my body (hopefully) soon. Breastfeeding, however, I felt a little more ambivalent about. I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn't have a deep, driven desire to do so. I figured if it worked, it worked, and if it didn't, it didn't and that would be that. What I really heard, though, was that everyone makes enough milk. Period.

My daughter was born after 36 hours of labor at 5:21AM on Friday, September 12, 2014. I had specifically asked for no help in latching during skin to skin as I wanted her to have the chance to do a breast crawl. She did and ended up latching beautifully. She sucked and sucked and fell asleep and we continued that pattern the rest of the day. That night, she was incredibly fussy -- crying, yelling -- but I had prepared for this, knowing that the first few nights out of the womb were going to be intense. My husband and I also figured we were just drained from the whole 2 1/2 day labor thing.

We made it home and continued feeding on demand. By Sunday night we figured something had to be wrong, as she was just screaming and screaming and no matter how often I nursed her she would not calm down. My husband eventually stuck his finger in her mouth and noticed that it was tacky. Think when you're parched for water and you’re mouth feels sticky. We decided to give her some formula since we had an appointment with the pediatrician lactation consultant that next morning. She ate and fell peacefully asleep. I felt awful.

The first thing the lactation consultant did was a weigh and feed. There was no change in her weight from start to finish. Oh how I cried. My child, this newborn thing that I was to take care of, was being starved. She had lost 13% of her body weight. We came up with a plan to syringe feed her after each nursing session, and then I would pump, the thought being that my milk was slow to come in. At each meeting with her thereafter, there still wasn't a change. She continued to reassure us, though, that my milk just hadn't come in yet, and sometimes could take up to 10 days to do so, because everyone makes enough milk. So, we continued on your path of syringe feeds.

By day 10, there was still little milk - not even enough to measure a change on the scale, and that was when we called MilkWorks. The three of us met with Suzy who was so kind. She provided hope when there wasn't much, she fixed teeny problems with the latch, checked for ties, and most importantly, it would turn out, taught us how to use a homemade SNS.

The SNS is where my story changes from most mom's who struggle to nurse in the beginning. I have something called Insufficient Glandular Tissues (IGT). It means that when my breasts were supposed to development the mammary tissue to carry milk in puberty and in pregnancy, they simply didn't. I have learned that IGT is actually a last resort diagnosis as most often there are hormonal issues or other things that get in the way (Insulin Resistance, Hypo- or Hyperthyroidism, PCOS, testosterone imbalance etc.) I have had all of the testing done, however, and we have landed on IGT. At most, I can make 5ml's (a teaspoon) of breastmilk in a pumping or feeding session.

So, breastfeeding looks different for me. At every nursing session (save those middle of the nights), my daughter is latched and fed with the SNS. If you're unfamiliar, it is called a Supplemental Nursing System, and you fill it with breastmilk or formula. There are different kinds, but basically, there is a tube that I hold to my breast while I latch her. She then gets the minimal breastmilk I make as well as being fed. Most importantly, to me though, is that she receives all the other benefits of breastfeeding too -- healthy jaw development for example.

This is our story, and this is how we nurse. It's been almost seven months of feeding her this way. I'm still sad that I can't exclusively breastfeed, but I'm getting more okay with that. Nursing is such a personal experience, and looks different for everyone. As a society we seem to think you either breastfeed or you don’t, when the truth is there are many, many women who are doing our best with both formula and breastmilk. And there is no shame in that.

Resources:

IGT And Low Milk Supply Support Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/IGTmamas/)

This group has been the most helpful for me as a place with women who have low supply (there's almost 5,000 member, it's an issue). Their files section is robust, to say the least.

Inclusively Fed Babies: Combo-Feeding and Supplementing Parent Support(https://www.facebook.com/groups/760462407402895/)

I think this place has been helpful for women who use both breastmilk and formula. There are so many questions and so few answers for those of us who feed both.

Supply Line Breastfeeders Support Group of Australia (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SupplyLineBreastfeedersSupportGroupAustralia/)

And this group, if you plan to use a SNS long term, or at all, has helped me with many questions that others couldn't.