The horrible crazy path of breast milk expressing

Author: Mother Cat   Date Posted:1 June 2017 

You’d think this shouldn’t have happened. I spent weeks and months trying to forgive myself...

So when bub was 4 weeks old, I had the horrible realisation that by exclusively breast feeding my baby, I was starving her. I hadn’t even noticed my little baby looking weak and becoming skin and bone. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice- probably partly sleep deprivation and also she seemed to sleep fine, so I was thinking, surely she’s getting enough, otherwise she’d be crying. Heart wrenchingly, I found out later, that she probably didn’t’ have the energy to cry!

You’d think this shouldn’t have happened. I spent weeks and months trying to forgive myself- Why hadn’t I seen that she wasn’t gaining weight? How could I not know? Why didn’t I get her weighed sooner? Weirdly enough her first, and only, weight check from a visiting midwife looked promising, so I thought that my breastfeeding was going to continue being adequate. With no further visits, and no planned appointments, I continued on exclusively breast feeding, actually feeling proud that it was all going so well. How wrong I was. The day I finally realised that she was sleeping for way too long and not rousing easily and taking 2 hours to feed, we got her in for a weigh. No weight gain for over 2 weeks.

So then came the crazy plan- get up every 2 and a half hours and express, then wake up bub and feed her with the expressed milk and then formula top-ups. Initially she was too weak to suck on the breast (yes, the mother guilt had a field day/week/month). The other option was to go purely on formula. With an intense desire to breast feed, I, like a lot of mum’s I know, chose the crazy plan. This plan wouldn’t have been sustainable if I hadn’t had a large network of support, and a supportive husband who was still off work and able to help. For those without much extra support, this choice may not be possible and keeping sanity and getting some rest is, I believe, top priority. If changing to formula means you’ll gain your sanity back, it makes complete sense.

I even tried the supplemental nursing system, which for some mums I know had a great experience and worked well for them. For me, I found it incredibly awkward so the trial didn’t last long.

I finally stopped pumping after a several months, it was starting to interfere with everything, I started becoming anxious about missing a pumping session and I knew I needed to stop for my own sanity. So I broke up with my breast pump slowly, it was a painful breakup, feeling torn both ways. But it needed to happen. I also need to acknowledge that I had a lot of practical support for these few months that made expressing possible. If you’ve got little in the way of family and partner support, expressing isn’t always compatible with sanity!

So what did I learn after I broke up with my breast pump- it had done me well, it helped me give more breast milk to my bub than otherwise possible. But my relationship had almost sent me into significant anxiety.

So, what I would recommend for new mums regarding breast feeding is this:

1. Get your bub weighed a few times in the first few weeks, so you can know how bub’s weight is going- I waited too long, although trying to get out of the house with a newborn is a mission! Trying to count wees and poos is almost impossible in the blur of the first few weeks! Local chemists sometimes have baby scales, GP surgeries and your local child health nurse are fairly easy ways to get bub weighed.

2. Seek help early with any breastfeeding problem- attachment problems, supply problems, cracked nipples, the list goes on! Lactation consultants can be amazing, so do your best to see one. If this is not possible, try your local child health nurse or GP. More on nipple pain in an upcoming blog.

3. The wonderful world of YouTube has some great information about breast feeding- the “biological nurturing” approach, also called baby-led attachment, can be helpful if you are having a hard time getting bub to attach. A great video on this is: Another good video on YouTube about attachment is called Fit Pregnancy- How to Breastfeed- Deep Latch technique”

4. There are some great resources and some not so great ones regarding breast feeding information. The Australian Breast feeding association can be quite helpful- Another one of my favourite sites is Yes, it is American, but has high quality information that is based on quality research.

5. There is actually lots that can be done for low breast milk supply- have a look at my next blog!

This information is general and may not apply to you or another person. If you have any concerns about your health or the health and wellbeing of a child, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information in this article.

The information in this article was current at 19th June 2017

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