How Alison increased her milk supply

Our Beautiful Daughter Stella was born on 26th January, 2012.  She is our gorgeous Australia Day baby.  I never expected I would like or enjoy breastfeeding, it felt as if it would be a strange thing to do.  I didn’t know a lot of people who had breastfed for very long or at all for that matter.  Looking back I am glad that my perception of breastfeeding didn’t stop me from trying.  I wouldn’t want it any other way now.

While pregnant I read a lot of material on breastfeeding and decided that I would give it my best shot as it was very beneficial for my baby and myself.  I decided six months would be my maximum, if I even made it that far as so many people I had spoken to had trouble and ended up weaning early.  My husband Darren and I did not realise there was such a technique to it when we attending antenatal.  Darren was very supportive so we got off to a good start.

We had attachment issues right from the beginning and Stella lost over 10% of her birth weight while we were in hospital.  It was an overwhelming feeling at first, this little person relying on me to nourish them.  Neither of us seemed to know what we were doing!  I remember sitting with my midwife while she helped me hand express 2ml of colostrum into a syringe so we could get some food to give to my very sleepy baby.  The whole thing seemed so absurd, wasn’t this supposed to be natural???

The pain was unexpected.  My nipples developed cracks and grazes which brought tears to my eyes at every feed.  My midwife suggested Lanolin cream so off Darren went to the pharmacy to buy the cream.  What a relief.  It stopped my poor cracked nipples from sticking to my breast pads and was very soothing in between feeds.  I was quickly developing a very strong bond with Stella.  Despite the pain, it still felt so very special.

By day four my milk still hadn’t fully come in and Stella had lost a bit of weight.  We had to stay in hospital another day.  I was instructed to feed at least every two hours for the next 24 hours, followed by expressing after each feed to increase my supply.  What a depressing 24 hours that was.  Along with the baby blues, I was faced with not being able to rest between feeds as I had to express.  I have never been a big cryer but the tears were endless.  I felt so guilty that Stella had lost weight and was terrified I was starving my baby.

After the 24 hour saga, we were able to go home.  The paediatrician prescribed me with Motillium where one of the side effects is an increase in milk production and also advised me to take fenugreek.  I was feeling confident with our latch (even though my nipples were raw from the previous 24 hours) and was very ready to go home.

Our first night was not too bad considering we no longer had our meals being cooked for us and we now had housework to worry about.  However, the attachment issues seemed to be happening again and by the second night I was again experiencing a lot of pain when feeding.  I remember thinking, “really?  After nine months of pregnancy, labour and childbirth why did something as natural as breastfeeding have to be so painful??”

During the day wasn’t so bad.  I would sit on the couch propped up on pillows in front of the window in the sunlight and we would seem to get this breastfeeding thing happening.  During the night it was a different story.  Darren would get Stella out of the bassinet beside him and change her nappy while I readied myself mentally and physically for feeding.  I just could not seem to get it right at night time.  I think the combination of the darkness and sleep deprivation did not help.  Darren would help me position both Stella and my breast as I would often be crying uncontrollably in anticipation of the pain.  This would go on for the first four weeks and I think I was crying more than Stella at this stage.  It was an extremely stressful period.  It often took me 10 minutes to work up the courage to feed Stella.  I was feeling emotionally drained and the thought of giving up crossed my mind but I persevered.

The cracks in my nipples were very sore and I tried every trick in the book.  In the end I would lay under my lounge room window in the sun topless after rubbing breastmilk on the cracks.  This seemed to start healing the cracks a bit.  However the real change came when I started taking Stella out to the lounge room and sitting exactly as I did during the day.  I started this about week three.  By the time week four rolled around, it dawned on me that the paid was subsiding and I was no longer crying when attaching my baby.  What a wonderful feeling of success and happiness.

When Stella reached three months of age we encountered a few more issues.  People around me were concerned she was not “getting enough milk” and were insisting on routine and weaning. This bought on a whole heap of self doubt and unnecessary anxiety.  I felt I was starving my child again even though both my Doctor and Child Health Nurse were unconcerned.  She was in the 50 – 75 percentile and well hydrated and happy.

I still could not get rid of those feelings though as I did not feel as ‘full” as I used to either.  I even tried a four hourly routine but returned to demand feeding as I realised this would further mess up my supply.  It probably didn’t help that Stella was sleeping through the night, but I wasn’t about to wake a sleeping baby.

I did a stack of research and tried everything to increase my dwindling supply from Motillium, fenugreek, extra water, rest, expressing but I was still worried.  I stumbled across Boobie Bikkies when I was purchasing an Ergobaby carrier and a book from Pinky McKay’s website.  I signed up for a monthly subscription as I was ready to try anything.  Not only were the bikkies tasty, they well and truly worked.  I was experiencing more let downs and felt more “full” again.  They are individually wrapped which is so convenient and it was so much easier for me to buy them than make them myself.  It was such a relief to get rid of the unnecessary stress of worrying about my supply.   After three plus months of using them I now know my supply is good!  Pinky’s book Parenting by Heart was just the kind of reading material I needed at the time too.  It really reassured me that I was doing okay!

Stella is now seven months old and we are still breastfeeding.  My six month time limit that I put on myself has been and gone, I was nowhere near ready to wean at the time.  I don’t know when our breastfeeding journey will end but I no longer need to stress about it.  We will just go with the flow.

Alison Luke, Mother of Stella , 7 months

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