The boob dramas

It has taken me several days to muster the emotional energy to write this post. The past week has been one of the hardest and most draining I have experienced in some time. 

The short summary of all of this is that I’m faced with a low milk supply currently. Everything with feeding had been going swimmingly with Baby N a natural until I went home last Thursday. Hindsight suggests that I got too stressed, anxious and exhausted in the first two days home and this manifested itself in a drop in my supply. I’m quite angry at my husband about this – although have not directly discussed it – because I think he had some kind of adjustment meltdown during these days which manifested itself in him being difficult and not helpful at times. 

Throw into the works that I have no family here, being a first time mum is terrifying and I’m in recovery for the c-section and you’ll see the general picture of how it all fell apart. I also came home from the clinic to several loads of washing and various chores that needed doing. While he did pick up a lot of the slack, he quickly seemed resentful to my requests for things to be done. I’m sure I was demanding but HELLO, if this is not the time for him to be super-husband and suck it up I don’t know when is. 

By Sunday the paediatrician was telling me to get a breast pump to support my feeding as baby N was not gaining weight. Hubby again procrastinated with this, so we were delayed in getting one. By Tuesday the Dr was getting worried. This came after The Worst Night Ever where the baby cried and fussed all night and could not be soothed. Now we know that’s because he was starving hungry but then I just thought I was the most awful mother ever as the night turned into day and I had not slept a wink. 

Tuesday was also the date of our baby photo shoot and unfortunately the photos just show to me a hungry, exhausted baby. It’s something that makes me sad to my core. I think I’m going to hate those photos forever now. 

By Tuesday night we had sourced a breast pump from a friend but then so many small dramas one after the other led to us not having the right parts and I wasn’t able to pump until Wednesday – a full THREE DAYS since the doctor told us to start pumping. This is bad because my milk supply had depleted even further during these (wasted) days. I have cursed myself multiple times for not having bought one before baby arrived. Same goes for a steriliser, bottles etc and also the sunshade for the car window,

By Tuesday night I was worried sick about the baby, my parents-in-law had also involved themselves in the situation and between them and my husband they all insisted I give the baby some formula. I was so exhausted and confused and worried that I relented, even though I didn’t want to. I’ve always believed strongly in breast feeding and the overwhelming sensation for me was abject failure. 

Failure as a woman. Failure as a mother. Also, if you look at my whole journey I’ve failed to do things the natural way. I’ve failed to conceive naturally, I had to take many medications to continue the pregnancy, I had to deliver via c-section and now I can’t breast feed effectively. Total failure. I cried rivers on Tuesday. It was exhausting. I was so devasted I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my mum what was going on. Not that she can do much from the other side of the world, but still. 

Of course the thing to focus on is that the baby needs feeding and he was immediately better with formula. He slept better and longer (as did I) and he looked better on Wednesday (also as did I). 

Once I got my pump going Wednesday I was able to supplement his breast feeds with a top up of booby milk via a bottle. We also started a new regime whereby hubby feeds him formula at about 1am which means I can sleep from about 11pm to around 3am when he wakes up for his next feeds. I’ll confess this works remarkably well and I almost feel human with this schedule. I’m grateful to my husband for this. 

I did however feel embarrassed telling the paediatrician that I used some formula as she’s super pro-breast feeding but I eventually did. She wasn’t so cross at me but she was furious at my inlaws for pressuring me to use formula. Meanwhile the inlaws keep mentioning other paediatricians that they know are excellent in a not-so-subtle dig that I should change doctors. 

So much of this is (unwelcome) cultural politics. I chose the paediatrician without consulting them and also she’s a foreigner (like me). So regardless of how super qualified she is (she studied at Oxford, FFS) they are never going to like her. Ugh. 

We did another weigh in on Friday and unfortunately baby has only gained a little weight so I have to be more focused on quality feeds. My life now is a cycle of direct breast feeding, followed by giving him a top up of previously expressed booby milk, followed by more pumping. It’s exhausting and means I can do very little else. 

I can get about 40-50ml per pumping session now which is a big improvement on 10-20ml on Wednesday. I’m also taking some herbal supplements including Fenugreek to support my supply. 

Hubby is not super supportive of my efforts to continue breast feeding and seems to think formula is a better and easier option. It’s hard to stay focused without a supportive network around and I’ll confess I’m really down about the whole thing. 

Hubby is delighted to be going back to work on Monday and is not hiding it. He’s certainly making big efforts to help with many things especially as I cannot drive for another few weeks. He’s tired too and I appreciate that. However, I’m now worried about how I will be on my own. I’ve already gotten some cabin fever!! It would be better  if I could drive but also if it was cooler weather. I can’t even take the baby for a walk in the stroller as it’s over 30 degrees by 9am. I could take him in the evening after about 8pm but I’m so exhausted that I have not managed this either. Maybe that’s my goal for next week.  

To finish on a positive, baby N is overall a lovely baby. He only cries when he’s hungry (see above), if he has some gas or if you strip him naked. I appreciate I have a lovely baby who even looks like me (yay) so it’s not all bad. It was a bad week and the pumping is not fun but if we can get his weight up then everything will be ok. 

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22 thoughts on “The boob dramas

  1. I am so so sorry your having a time breast feeding. Support truly is key when struggling. Any local support groups? Lactation Facebook groups?? I’m currently exclusively pumping and it is exhausting! (We are supplementing too). I like the motto I’ve seen around recently “fed is best” no matter breast or formula. The mom guilt is heavy with your first baby, no matter what the reason. 🙏🏻🙏🏻 praying for you! Do what’s best for you, baby and your life!

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    1. Thank you lovely. That’s so kind of you. I’ve thought of you MANY times over the past few days and wondered how you were doing it. I have full respect for you! I’m not sure if there are local support groups – something for me to look into although I may struggle as I’m not fluent in the local language. I can’t even speak English some days when I’m tired. Haha!
      My clinic does give great BF support though and I called one of the ladies on Tuesday night when I felt like I needed someone on my side. She actually was great and said it was ok to supplement in order to get some rest. Up until then I thought supplementing was some kind of bad thing. I seem to have seen the light since because a) sleep is good and b) the baby is looking better now that he’s not starving (funny about that).
      It does help so much to know you are also pumping and supplementing. Some of the guilt has lifted so thank you. xxxx

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  2. I’m sorry things got so tough so quickly. While I can’t offer any advice, know that I’m thinking of you and will pray that everything smooths over soon. Also, thanks for the pics. He’s a cutie! xoxo

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  3. This all sounds horribly familiar. And I am glad you have articulated it so well in this post. If it helps… we also had a meltdown in the first couple of weeks, and issues feeding. Our baby was losing weight and worried our pediatrician – and we had to pump and supplement, but I have now found out that nearly everyone I know has had to supplement at least a bit with formula, and also had some degree of a meltdown (don’t forget your hormones are also readjusting something like a mega period) – do not feel bad about it. Formula babies are just as fine as breastfed babies…… saying that, you are still a new mamma and have time to build your supply back up. It is really hard and you feel like you are either feeding, pumping of cleaning 24/7… but hang in there it is worth it. It is definitely way more hassle to start with to pump and feed, but that all reverses later on when the baby feeds less often and you have your supply and don’t have to clean the pump gear. Few tips – 1) drink a beer! The yeast helps bring your supply up. 2) it is all about supply and demand. If you want to get to EBF then you need to aim to get to the point when you can pump a minimum of the number of oz that your baby is being fed not by the breast, so that you are in sync….. this unfortunately means a lot of ‘dry pumping’ to stimulate the breasts to make more – sounds like u are doing this. Sorry you don’t have support, are there any other new mammas you can text with – it really helps to know other ppl are going through the same thing. Are your family coming to visit at all? Also don’t feel like a failed ‘natural mum’ that is bull shit – you have grown a wonderful baby, and it sounds like what you have been through is totally normal. Xxx good luck it does get easier especially when the babies can finally smile and make it all worth it xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for all the tips and comments. It’s really helpful. I’ve got a problem with my left boob being practically dry so I don’t even know if I’ll be able to rescue my supply fully but I’m trying. They want me to pump 6-8 times a day on top of breast feeding him for 10 mins each side each time then top him up with expressed milk or formula. I’m struggling!! I’m so exhausted. I had 2 x 2 hour sections of sleep last night and now I’m home alone all day until about 8.30pm. I find it annoying that hubby prioritises the gym over helping me out at home.
      No one is coming to visit from my family. They’re all in Australia so it’s very far and expensive. My mum would come if she could but she is poorly with leukaemia so it’s simply not an option. It breaks my heart as I could really do with her around.
      How many times did you feed with formula per day when you were supplementing? When do they start feeding at longer breaks than 2 hours? xxx

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  4. P.s. Now husband is going back to work can u get a maid to come in and help u out with housework/feeding you? Or a night nurse to help with baby at least for first week hubby is back? Expensive but totally worth it.

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  5. This all sounds so familiar to me too…I think I cried every day, multiple times a day for weeks, all around feeding. At times I was almost mad at my baby, I was just so irrational. It’s super hard, you’re doing some hard work for your baby right now! It took me a while to get my supply up, but I did, and since about 2.5 months (she’s now 4), she has been EBF with no top ups. There is hope! It can take time, and it feels epic because there are so many feeds in a day, and some go well and some don’t. Good luck, you are still in the very difficult early days, I promise it will get better 🙂

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    1. Wow!! Well done! How did you get your supply back up? They want me to pump 6-8 times a day on top of breast feeding to stimulate the supply. I’m running out of hours in the day!! I just don’t know if I can do it. I want to but I’m so exhausted. When does it get better??!!

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      1. Sorry, just saw this! I had so much trouble with low supply at the beginning, likely due to poor latch and poor transfer. I ended up on supplements, first fenugreek and blessed thistle (which I don’t think did much for me, so I stopped), and then domperidone which i am still on (30 mg three times a day). I’m afraid to stop it now, but maybe I could. Latch gradually improved and also helped that I got her posterior tongue tie released at 6 weeks. I had to supplement for over 2 months, first with formula, then with expressed milk. I used the SNS system (tube at the breast) which was a serious pain in the ass, but I was afraid she would like the bottle more, so I used it. Actually wasn’t so bad after a while. There was also the benefit of ongoing stim at the breast which is the best way to increase supply. I set alarms at night so as never to go more than 3-4 hours without a feed. I never pumped more than a few times a day, just couldn’t bring myself to do it, but for about 2 months, I pumped at least once a day in the evenings after a feed. I haven’t pumped or supplemented since about 2.5 months, but I would say things were better by 2 months. There is something called power pumping, where you pump for 20 min, break for 10, pump for 10, break for 10, then pump again for 10. Apparently doing this once a day for a few days can help with supply. Honestly, I drove myself totally bananas with everything I did. I was a mess for weeks, crying all the time, sad and depressed about the feeding, jealous of anyone who could just feed their baby no problem. I feel like a new human being now, but I’m not sure I did the right thing going thru all that. I can barely look at my pump without feeling kind of traumatized. Part of me just wishes I never cared about breastfeeding and just fed my baby formula and enjoyed her from the beginning. I never had a problem with formula, I just really unexpectedly loved breastfeeing (when it was going well). Whatever you choose to do, or how you do it will be the right thing for your baby, most important that you are healthy and happy! It will get better, all of it, I promise. Your baby will start to smile and your heart will melt each time 🙂 Sorry this was so long, I read obsessively about breastfeeing, so now there is a lot in my head, lol.

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      2. Wow! You did go through a lot but bravo for being so brave. I also feel traumatised by the pump so I’ve quit it entirely. I now give him some boob for 15-20 mins and then formula. It’s not perfect but he is fed and gaining weight nicely.
        I also feel resentful towards those who can BF without any hassles but maybe they have other issues that we don’t. I am trying not to over-think it all but it’s hard. Hearing your story makes me feel less alone though. xxx

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      3. Sounds like you’ve come to a good place 🙂 You’re right, everyone usually has something that they are dealing with, if it’s not feeding, it’s sleeping or colic, etc…hope you find things slowly start to get easier over the coming weeks!

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      4. Thank you lovely. I think we are getting there but some days it is a lot harder than others. Knowing that this is a phase which will pass eventually is helpful.

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  6. Sounds like a bad week. Sending you a big virtual hug! Sorry to hear about the disappointing photo shoot. Maybe you could get someone else to take a few nice pictures in a week or two once you are all feeling a bit better? Sorry about the breastfeeding trouble too. So many women have difficulties with it, please don’t feel like a failure! Is there any chance your Mum or any family members could come visit you for awhile? I hope you are managing ok now by yourself that hubby is back in work.

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    1. Yes a very bad week but I’m still trying to save the milk supply. Unfortunately no one is coming to visit me. Australia is far away and expensive and people have their own lives, jobs, kids etc to contend with. My mum can’t come unfortunately as she has leukaemia and it’s very difficult to travel both with the illness and to juggle her treatment schedule. It’s a shame as it would be a big help.

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      1. oh yes of course your poor Mum wouldn’t be able to travel over then. It must be hard to have her so far away. The suggestion someone mentioned earlier about getting a cleaner is a good idea, just so you don’t have to worry about housework on top of everything! We have one actually who comes once every two weeks and cleans bathroom, kitchen, hovers and does ironing. It’s great. I know it can be hard to find someone though. Is there any chance your husband could use some of his annual leave, maybe take some half days to be around more? x

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  7. Aw, this all sounds terrible. I’m so sorry you are having a rough time so far. I hope it’s been getting better. Your husband should support you, regardless of what his mother/family members think. Maybe he can go with you to the doctor to hear what she has to say? Sounds like you have a smart doctor. I’d trust your gut and your pediatrician. I don’t have any actual advice, but I know you’ll figure it out! Good thing babies are cute, huh? ❤

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  8. Your in-laws sound a lot like mine, interfering and pushy. Trust your instincts and do what feels right to you – ignore what everyone else thinks. I think you’ve done an amazing job to keep up the breastfeeding, inspite of the difficulties. Sounds like you have a good sleep shift arrangement sorted, it makes all the difference and makes you feel more human and able to cope. I think you’re doing an amazing job. Xxx

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