Confessions of a Low Supply Mom

Welcome to the “I’m a Natural Parent – BUT…” Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.

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Photo by Christy Scherrer

I nurse wherever and whenever my children need. I’ve had women tell me they admire that, that they love how I normalize breastfeeding, and that they applaud me for pulling out our Lact-Aids out in public. Along with my dedication to child-led weaning and perserverance through nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing, I almost sound like a breastfeeding super-hero.

Except when it comes to breasfteeding, I’m far from it. I would do just about anything in order to exclusively breastfeed my children: pumping, eating specific foods, taking herbs, taking medications. I’ve done it all. Even though we knew prior to pregnancy that a medical condition would most likely affect my supply, I kept positive, supposedly setting myself up for success. In fact, I was setting myself up for failure – my own. When I didn’t make enough milk and I listened to my first child scream in hunger, I cried. When I first supplemented, I cried. Each time I tried something new and got my hopes up that this would be the thing that would fix everything, I would only plummet to new lows when it didn’t.

So while my dedication to child-led weaning, nursing in public, and lactivism in general stands, know that there is a crying, seething green monster inside of me that would do just about anything to shed these Lact-Aids and nurse my babies (toddlers, children) without them.

    • I hide formula in my cart. Sure, I try to be nonchalant when I do it so I don’t send the wrong message to my children. However, it always seems that something big just happens to land on top of the can of formula. I end up building a little pyramid of items around it so that I don’t have to see it. Setting items up on the conveyor belt and paying for them, I look anywhere but at the cashier. I don’t want to face what I might see reflected there: a mom with a child in a sling who can’t even fully nurse her own child. When the formula makes it home, the label comes off. Somehow, I think taking off the label lessens what it truly is and makes it easier to face. It doesn’t, but I try still do it.
  •  I am jealous of other mothers – not the ones nursing their children but the ones who gave up or didn’t even try. When a relative mentioned how she was so happy she was able to nurse her child for as long as possible (5 months) and that she had to quit because pumping at work was such a drag, it ate at me. I know what pumping is like. I pumped for the first year of my first child’s life, trying to increase supply, while also trying to nurse him. I pumped for the first year of my second child’s life once again trying to increase supply and while working through her own issues with latch, suck, and what turned out to be silent reflux, dealing with her rules for nursing that I figured out along the way. Pumping sucks and I’m glad that with my last two children we have been able to forego it, but I would do it again if it meant I could have a full milk supply. I don’t judge women who choose not to nurse, whether by culture, misinformation, or some other choice, but I am most certainly jealous of what they gave away. I know women have all sorts of reasons for choosing not to breastfeed and it isn’t any of my business, but the giant green jealous monster still rears up. If they aren’t going to nurse anyway, why couldn’t they be the one with low supply?
  • I’m afraid to go anywhere without Lact-Aids because my child might want to nurse. Even when my children are two, three, or four years old, I have Lact-Aids packed in the diaper bag any time we are out. I keep them in a littel cooler bag. I even have them in a little cooler bag around the house, a leftover facet from when my older daughter was suffering from silent reflux and gave me 30 seconds to latch her on after the very first sign of hunger.
  • I feel angry every time someone says that women shouldn’t nurse in public or talk about the benefits of breastfeeding because “some women can’t breastfeed.” Less than 2% of women who have given birth to their children cannot exclusively breastfeed, and most of them, like me, will be able to have a partial milk supply. Don’t give me the excuse that some women can’t breastfeed for not supporting nursing mothers. I am a low supply mom, and I am that 2%. The very best thing we can do for women is to give information and be supportive of breastfeeding in private or in public so that they are not being sabatoged in their breastfeeding.

So, that’s my confession. Outwardly, I’m a cool collected lactavist helping other mothers and nursing my children, with the help of Lact-Aids. Inside, I’m an insecure weeping, jealous mess who feels like a failure.

 

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I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that “natural parenting” means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

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20 thoughts on “Confessions of a Low Supply Mom

  1. Does it help to know that I admire you more than you will ever know? What an amazing testament you are! And not only are you a role model, but you really take time to help other mamas who are struggling with their own breastfeeding problems. I remember you reaching out to me when I was having supply issues with Kieran! Don’t you ever feel like a failure. Your success and perseverance has contributed to the success of many other mamas.

  2. You’re not a failure! I’m jealous of mothers who tried and then quit, too–the ones who had no problems, just didn’t like it. I nursed my daughter for the first three weeks of her life with a tongue-tie that caused me excruciating pain before it could be clipped. And my son for four days before his was fixed. Sometimes I feel like it’s not fair that others have such an easy time, but just aren’t dedicated to it.

  3. I think you are amazing – the SNS overwhelmed me and made me feel that I couldn’t breastfeed so I chose to martyr myself and pump only. I missed that connection with my son. I’ve been that crying blubbery mess too and I completely agree with you – the comments about not being able to nurse are just a backhanded way to suggest that it is okay not to nurse. For me that wasn’t my plan and I wish I never had to hear those comments. Stubbornness is probably the only way I got through it as well. I really did feel liberated the day I left my pump at home but worried the entire day that I had made a mistake. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with us and for being that lactivist hero to others even if you don’t always feel that way.

  4. I am so sorry you’ve felt so much pain about this! I really admire your perseverance and determination when it comes to breastfeeding. I hope you know that you are making such a huge difference in the lives of other mamas: helping to increase awareness about supply and alternative supplementing methods (like the SNS), as well as normalizing breastfeeding for every nursing mama out there. So much love to you. <3

  5. Omg I could have written this! Thank you for this. My daughter is 7 months old and I am also part of the 2% due to breast surgery. I never used the lactaids but have mostly ep since she was about 3 months. Medications, herbs, foods, massage, drinks, etc… We have tried it all and been through it all with mastitis, thrush, blisters, etc. I make my husband buy the formula and my heart sinks every time I give her a bottle of it. It’s good to know I’m not alone! I’m hoping to make it a year but she’s getting less than half bm now… We will see what the next few months bring I guess. Congrats on everything you have overcome to give your children everything you cold!

  6. I’ve pumped too, for children who could not physically nurse (although they were able to go to the breast after some time). I worked through alot and I realized mother’s aren’t a failure if they cannot breastfed… you only fail when you chose not to fed your child. Feeding your kid- breast, bottle, formula, SNS, pump, whatever- is the most important thing!

  7. Mandy, these are such honest and important insights. It sounds like you have been a source of great inspiration for other moms and their breastfeeding challenges and can truly empathize with the struggles of other mamas. Thanks for sharing!

    -Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling

  8. If I try to imagine myself in your place I know that it must be one of the hardest things to go through as a Mama committed to breastfeeding and I’m sure I would have felt many of the same emotions. But you are a testimony to tenacity and should be proud of everything you’ve done so far and the support you have given to others. You definitely didn’t fail. I for one am inspired. Onelove

  9. You truly are inspirational! I know many have already said it, but I will again…you are not a failure! In fact you are quite the opposite. You have never given up and that is amazing–what a gift you have given your children and all the many mamas you have helped on your journey. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  10. Pingback: Confessions of a Low Supply Mom « living peacefully with children – Your Guide To Breastfeeding

  11. Oh, I feel for you, I do. I ended up supplementing, despite my best efforts with pumping, herbs, etc., because was my son wasn’t gaining weight. I have various theories about what went wrong, but I will probably never quite lose the combination of pain, shame and anger surrounding my memories of that period.
    Thanks for this post.

  12. Coincidentally I am reading this while pumping. I have an over supply issue. But I donate to a mama that works hard, like you do, to work at their breastfeeding relationships at all costs. I have SO MUCH respect for you, for keeping at it even when it is expected in our culture to give up. And to be such an advocate at the same time: you are amazing.

  13. This is a very raw and powerful post and I admire your courage in sharing this. It does not make mothers any less ‘natural’ if they feed their children differently, regardless of how they came to that choice. It is honest accounts like this that humble me in regards to breastfeeding advocacy because women struggle with nursing for all sorts of reasons. Despite your situation I can see that your are dedicated to providing the best for your children in the way that you are able to and that is worthy of praise.

  14. You are a true inspiration indeed. I am also among the 2% and though I was lucky to have a friend donate milk until my supply picked up, I felt so many of the same feelings that you did. The first time I gave him formula, I cried and he puked. It was awful. I am forever blessed that I had a donor, but it still doesn’t compare with knowing that you are maing enough of what your little babe needs. It’s a hard battle to face, and it sounds like you are doing it marvelously. Blessings to you for being so perseverant and dedicated to your babies. Remarkable!

  15. Thanks so much for sharing this. Nursing has been a struggle for me and with my first I had to stop at 4 months. I’m still nursing my 10.5 month old and I’m doing my very best, but sometimes, I feel like such a failure because she’s so tiny still. Thank you for being honest about hiding the formula… there’s a hidden pack in my home too, just in case. After what happened last time, I’m too paranoid to be without it… even though it makes me a bit un-crunchy.

  16. Thank you for your honest post. I too am a low supply mom who always planned on exclusively breastfeeding. No amount of pumping, dietary changes, or herbal supplements could increase my supply beyond a certain a point and I’ve had to supplement with formula for my son to grow and thrive. Like other low supply moms I’ve been depressed, ashamed, embarrassed, jealous, angry, and hopeless, but I’ve turned a corner in the last month and no longer feel shame about feeding my son the way I do. I am giving him all the breastmilk that have to give him, but more importantly I am giving him my love and devotion.

    I don’t know about you and other low supply moms but I’ve felt really abandoned by my local breastfeeding community. I nurse at every feeding and follow up with a bottle, and as soon as that formula bottle comes out the “friendly” nursing mom I was chatting with suddenly finds someone else much more interesting. The lactation consultants at our local hospital had no guidance for long term supplementers like me and called my feeding relationship with my son merely “acceptable.” I’ve been attending a local breastfeeding support group just to show that there are genuinely women with low supply who still manage to maintain a nursing relationship with their children, but I’ve been feeling increasingly unwelcome. It feels like just another kick in the shins after everything I’ve been through.

    Have others had a similar experience?

  17. Thank you thank you for sharing this! Veronica and all others I went through almost the same…..felt rejected and ashamed..I’m a natural Mom and should have been able to DO this! A blend of bottle and breast was what I did…and I envied the BF Moms….and felt misunderstood. Bless you for sharing!

  18. This must be so hard… people can be so judging, even in the natural parenting community. ANd then obviously there’s the self guilt. I had to put my first child on formula when I was on meds and my babe was forced formula in the hospital. Til this day I could smack myself for the latter and I spend a long time feeling guilty about the first