Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Milksharing From My Friend's Perspective

This is what my friend Melissa has to say about being a milksharing recipient

A rollercoaster. That is what breastfeeding has been like for me - moments of excitement (when I have lots of milk) to moments of terror (waking up to empty breasts). That being said, I love breastfeeding. You might even say I’m addicted to it.

Let me start from the beginning. From a young age I heard stories from my mother of her love of breastfeeding and her participation in milk sharing while my sister was in Sick Kids Hospital. I was fascinated with breastfeeding, and anticipated the day when I would follow in my mother’s plentiful ways! So when I found out I was pregnant I would daydream about breastfeeding. Sitting in my living room with the sun streaming in through the window staring at my precious child while he/she drank from my breasts with ease. But when the time came for me to live out this fantasy, things were much different than my dreams.

When my son, Brayden, was born I was able to put him to the breast within the first ½ hour, and it felt good. He latched on with ease. For the first couple days I thought everything was going so well. This breastfeeding thing was easy… that was before we went to weight him. Our midwife office had been making house visits for the first couple days and as expected he had lost the usual post-birth weight. But after two weeks Brayden wasn’t gaining weight like he should be. Typically a newborn, after losing their birth weight and once their mother’s milk comes in, should be gaining an ounce a day. During the span of a week Brayden had only gained 1.5 ounces!

When the midwife told me I thought, ‘Ok, so he’s a slow gainer.’ It wasn’t until I called my best friend (and my doula) Melissa that I realized the severity of the situation. Brayden’s sleepiness and relaxed mood was due in part to the fact that he was starving. Talking with Melissa (and a Lactation Consultant), we put together an action plan: rent a bi-lateral pump, begin taking herbs (Blessed Thistle & Fenugreek), as well as take a breastfeeding vacation. If you’re not sure what a breastfeeding vacation is, it is when you do nothing for 24 hours but breastfeed. Literally, you do nothing but breastfeed. I had my mother in-law come over and look after my food needs during the day and my husband took over in the evening. I stayed in bed, had loads of skin-to-skin time with Brayden, pumped the heck out of my breasts, drank lots of water, and took herbs.

The first time I pumped I was able to get out a teaspoon of milk…yup, that’s right a whole teaspoon! Wow, was I shocked and discouraged by the lack of milk. My first thought, once I saw the lack of milk, was ‘how was I going to feed Brayden? Do I have to give him formula?’ Not that I’m not totally opposed to formula, but for me I didn’t feel comfortable feeding it to Brayden. Because of my diet, he had never had non-fruit sugar before. Talking it over with my husband and Melissa we decided we would use her milk to feed Brayden until I could bring up my supply.

That is what we’ve been doing for the past month and half. Every morning my amazing husband leaves the house early to drive over to Melissa’s house, where he picks up 4-6oz, depending on the day, of her milk. Another friend also donated her milk to us during the first 3 weeks. I’m now taking Domperidone, herbs, herbals teas that encourage milk supply to increase, as well as pumping whenever I can. Some days I wake up full of milk, feeling great about feeding, while there are other days I’m dry and feel like I’m back to square one. Thankfully on those dry days I know my child won’t starve - I have Melissa’s milk to keep him fed.

Throughout it all, I still love breastfeeding. Even during those first few days of realizing that my milk was low, I knew I’d never give up on breastfeeding. Milk sharing has allowed me to have breathing space so I can relax and let my body build up the supply. At first I didn’t want to share my story with other women, as I felt embarrassed and that I had failed my son. It wasn’t until my husband questioned me after I had left out that fact that I was struggling with breastfeeding when talking with friends of ours. I replied that I was ashamed. It only was after I started talking to other women that I found out that many women struggle with milk supply and need to top-up. Listening to many of their stories I realized how very fortunate I was to have a friend share her milk with me.


Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

Oh, Melissa! I can relate with you. But do not be ashamed. You are doing amazingly well. You are working hard to find ways to give your baby the best possible outcome. Yay for both of you, Melissas!

I did want to add that Domperidone and Fenugreek are contra-indicated. You probably already know this since you have Melissa, but I was surprised to find that many lactation consultants in my area didn't even know this, mainly because Domperidone isn't very well-known yet. So, if you are taking both, stop immediately! Many women who are doing both wonder why they have moments of dryness and this is why. Anyways, it was something I wasn't told initially.

I don't know if it is related, but I was also told to be getting plenty of fats (which I wasn't), and as soon as I started intentionally getting those fats in my diet, my milk started coming in with much more consistency.

Best of luck to you! And yay for having a friend who could donate to you. :)

nancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
melissa said...

How wonderful that you had Melissa nearby (yay Melissas!), who could offer not only her milk, but also her support. Thank you for sharing your story! I'm sure it will encourage many :)

Amy @ Anktangle said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Melissa, even though you were initially tentative. I'm so happy that you got the support you need to help build up your supply, and in the meantime, that you have Melissa to give you extra milk for your son. What a blessing your friendship is!