My wife Louise had a very healthy first pregnancy. Aside from the expected nausea and morning sickness (which was more like morning, noon and night sickness) in her first trimester, and some heartburn towards her due date, it was a glowing and happy pregnancy. She had been trying to fall pregnant for around six months, so we were thrilled that the wait wasn’t too long, and that we didn’t need any interventions.
She went into labour just two days before her due date, and had a five-hour labour with an epidural. There were no complications, and we were over the moon with our son Liam, a healthy 3.2kg and 50cm boy (and future rugby player just like his dad!)
With some guidance from a midwife, Louise managed to kick off her breastfeeding journey. It appeared that Liam was latching fine and that mother and baby were on the road to an envisaged happy feeding experience.
However, Liam was agitated after feeds and after our paed ruled out wind or reflux, or anything else, she suggested we top up with some formula to see if it was a supply issue. We did our due diligence when it came to researching the different formulas available and while there are some really great ones out there, we decided on Novalac as it doesn’t contain sugar. Our little dude lapped up his Novalac formula, so it appeared that he wasn’t getting enough milk from Louise, and that he was still hungry after his feeds.
For the next few days, Louise would breastfeed Liam, and then top up with formula to account for what appeared to be a low supply. Louise wanted to increase her supply as much as possible and tried to pump enough to compensate for the formula feeds that our baby was being fed. She pumped three times a day (including in the middle of the night), drank lots of water, and tried to relax (studies have shown that stress can hamper milk supply).
She also consumed all kinds of galactagogues to increase her supply – from lactation teas and cookies, to flaxseed oil, oats and brewer’s yeast. In fact, if you had told her to eat raw onions sprinkled with salt and cinnamon, she would have done it – she was determined to exclusively breastfeed, and wasn’t so happy with having formula in the mix, literally.
“I explained that her sanity and health were worth more than the breast milk, and that our son was better off with a content mom, rather than one who was unhappy, insecure and exhausted.”
From my point of view, I was just happy to have a healthy and thriving baby, and it was a wonderful bonding experience for me to give formula bottles to Liam.
Despite all her efforts to increase her milk supply, Louise wasn’t winning. It would take her around 50 minutes to get 40ml, not enough to cover the amount of formula Liam was being fed, and certainly not sufficient enough to keep stored. The pumping was taking time and effort, and Louise was defeated each time. She started questioning her ability to produce sufficient milk, and despite seeing two lactation specialists and asking for advice on various social media platforms, she was unable to increase her supply based on the recommendations she got.
The harder she tried and didn’t “succeed”, the more despondent she got, and the more she started questioning herself as a “capable” mom. She was exhausted and frustrated, and while Liam was thriving, Louise wasn’t. It felt like she was slipping into a dark hole, and she mentioned often that she was a “failure” for not being able to do something as natural as breastfeeding. I did my best to encourage her and to make her feel better, and despite all the platitudes and the knowledge that “fed is best”, I couldn’t uplift her in any way.
One evening, I got home from work to find Louise sobbing in our bathroom after another pumping attempt. I tried to comfort her, but she kept on repeating what a terrible mother she was because she couldn’t give our son enough milk. I urged her to try and see this from another angle, and that our boy was healthy and that she was doing a brilliant job. I suspected it was going to take more than just a pep talk from me to not feel like a failure and to get out the slump – I know how real these feelings and perceptions are for new moms.
I begged her to consider stopping breastfeeding as I felt the toll it was taking wasn’t worth it. She was reluctant to even think about it because she felt that breast milk would be best for Liam. I explained that her sanity and health were worth more than the breast milk, and that our son was better off with a content mom, rather than one who was unhappy, insecure and exhausted. I also recommended she see our GP to determine if she had postnatal depression, and if it needed to be treated (she didn’t go in the end – once she quit the breastfeeding struggle, things eventually lifted and she became “herself” again).
She agreed to stop, but I could see how much it broke her to do so. She stopped expressing milk, and cut down the times she was breastfeeding Liam, until she ceased completely. Though she felt guilty at times, she could see how much better things were without the battle, and seeing a growing and content little boy made her realise and come to terms with the concept “fed is best”.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of health professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.