Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Mama's Breastfeeding Journey

(Note:  I am NOT a Medical Professional, nor am I a Lactation Consultant.  I am a new Mama who's sharing a story to try to help other new Mamas!)

This is not my baby!  But my goodness, what a cutie! :)

Ever since human beings started to populate this earth, breastfeeding has been the most singularly crucial aspect of our survival.  Back in those primal days, there was no Quickie Sip on the corner to pop over and buy some formula.  Yes, there were other factors that obviously affected the human's ability to survive, but without breastfeeding, not a one of us would be here.

As a culture, we have ebbed and flowed with whether it's right to breastfeed past a certain time, breastfeed at all, formula feed only, etc. etc.  The pressure to ONLY breastfeed is astounding!  We all look at each other and judge motherhood in a snap, without taking a LOT of factors into

 We are shamed if we breastfeed in public and then we are shamed if we don't breastfeed in general.   Let's stop with the shaming and start with loving each other and showing a little compassion.

 I remember being about four years old and walking the Plaza in
Santa Fe, NM, with my Mom.  We walked past a woman breastfeeding her baby.  I completely freaked out.  "MOM!!!  WHAT IS THAT WOMAN DOING TO HER BABY!?!?!?"  My Mom laughed at me and explained that she was breastfeeding and further explained to me the importance of breastfeeding and that she had breastfed ME for the first 6 months of my life.  That was the moment that I realized how important and powerful and essential (not in that power hungry gross way) women are to the world.  Yes, we are just as smart and strong and capable as men.  But don't forget:  We have the ability to not only bring life into this world, but we can also sustain it through breastfeeding.  That was a pretty amazing TA-DA moment I had at just four years old...  (Now think about that:  If women weren't shamed for breastfeeding in public in our country, I would have never freaked out.)

When I was pregnant, I spoke to a LOT of Moms.  Everyone had their own birthing story and breastfeeding story.  Some breastfed their kids for a long time, some didn't breastfeed at all.  One of my best friends who breastfed HAD to pump BEFORE feeding, she was so engorged her baby couldn't latch.  Another friend breastfed her baby and he had such a voracious appetite that she had to hybrid (supplement) feed and do partial formula.  Another friend literally couldn't produce milk to save her life.  She would pump and pump and not even half an ounce would come out, so she had to strictly formula feed.  Another friend would breastfeed through the day and formula feed at night, as she felt she was too low on breastmilk when night time arrived.

There are a zillion factors that can affect our breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding can be more challenging after a C-Section, stress on the mother can affect our milk production, an improper latch from the baby can affect our supply, etc. etc.

My breastfeeding story with my Sweet Baby Hope has been filled with challenges.

It started with my birthing story, which was a major whammy.

I REALLY wanted a natural birth!!

I was gushing blood with each contraction and decided to go the way of the epidural.  The poor fella trying to administer the epidural wound up hitting a nerve in my back that was attached to my leg and I jumped out of my skin and screamed.  (It felt like I was hit by lightning on the right side.)  He took out the catheter and then noticed the tip of the catheter was missing.  Either it came out of the package that way or the tip was left in my back.  (Note:  He was beyond apologetic, we took several x-rays the next day and the tip was never found.  IF it is in my body, it is lodged in soft tissue and cannot pop into my bloodstream and travel.)

After that, my blood loss made me too weak to be able to push, so I asked for a C-Section when my Doctor arrived.

Since the epidural had gone south, they had to use general anesthesia on me in order to deliver my baby... Which also meant neither my hubby, my mother or myself was going to get to see Baby Hope come into the world.  Which also meant she and I did not get that moment where she crawls up my belly in search of a breast to start feeding immediately.

 Baby Hope and myself, hours after she was born

After they delivered her, my Doctor had to hunt around for the source of my bleeding and only then discovered I had some random ruptured artery.  Had I pushed to deliver naturally, I wouldn't be here typing this super long blog post.  Sooooooo, THANK GOD I listened to my body.  And if that epidural hadn't broken in my back, I wouldn't have wound up asking for the C-Section.  So for everyone who just went: OHMYGAWD they broke an epidural catheter in her back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am so grateful that happened.  It all worked out and happened for a reason.  And it's OK.  Baby Hope arrived safe and sound and I am still around.

But in terms of breastfeeding, the odds were now STACKED against us.

*General Anesthesia
*Extreme Blood Loss
*Extreme Pain from such an extensive surgery
*Pain Meds
*Baby Hope's tight frenulum (See below!)

I got to hold Baby Hope soon after the ordeal, of course.

I tried breastfeeding at the hospital (5 day stay). We thought I was on track until Baby Hope started to lose a lot more weight than what is normal.  So we had to supplement with some organic formula to get her weight back up and had to pump and pump, trying to get my milk to start flowing.

I thought we had gotten the hang of breastfeeding by the time we left.  I gave her very little formula and her latch felt OK, but I had nothing to compare it to since she's my first baby.

THIS IS NOT BABY HOPE, Image from Internet.
At her first pediatrician appointment, she had lost a bunch of weight again.  At this appointment, the Doctor noticed her frenulum was too attached to her tongue, thus shortening her tongue's ability to REALLY latch properly.  So that was another setback!  (It's also known as being tongue-tied)  I took her to the ever amazing Dr. Raffi Mesrobian (An incredible ENT who had performed my thyroidectomy when I had thyroid cancer in 2013) and he performed a frenectomy on Baby Hope.

(LADIES!  If your baby even MIGHT be having latch issues, definitely get their frenulum checked.  Apparently, it's often overlooked and I would hate for you to turn yourselves inside out when that could be the only thing standing in the way of rockin' breastfeeding.)

I was POSITIVE milk was going to start flowing now!  In fact, it seemed like it had really started to come in.

Throughout all of this crazy ordeal, I was REALLY blessed and lucky that my husband's aunt is a Lactation EXPERT.  Mary-Ann Schmutte has been my biggest saving grace through the whole process and has not only been an incredible source of "what do I do NOW?!?!" but a rock solid cheerleader.  It was thanks to her suggestions that I was producing milk at all!  She introduced me to Fenugreek, Brewer's Yeast, Lactation Tea, Lactation Cookies, and of course to keep pumping as much as I could.  I even went to acupuncture twice.  (No big difference in milk supply happened, but it was a wonderfully relaxing experience!)

My husband has also been a great source of support--the man makes my lactation cookies for me!  The secret ingredient is love, I think.  ;)

I am also grateful, beyond measure, for my Mama having been key in support and cheering me on during my darkest hours of sadness and my Mother-In Law has also been truly wonderful and supportive.  These women rallied behind me and showed constant love and support.  THANK YOU!!!

From Pixar's INSIDE OUT

After a couple months of all of this crazy making  activity and trying, I had to relinquish control of becoming a Mama who solely relied on breastfeeding her baby.  I had cried over it a million times (which doesn't help milk flow, by the way!), felt like a complete loser, was totally frustrated.. you know, feeling every negative emotion one can feel and was reminded that ALL of those things make it harder for milk to flow.

So I let it all go.  By the time Baby Hope was three months old, I accepted that I would have to 'hybrid feed' her by giving her as much breastmilk as possible and supplement with organic formula for the rest of her nutrition.
This is what I use.  There's a million options, seek what's best for you and your baby!

I had to slow my roll and recognize that given the 9,000 obstacles, I was making enough breastmilk to give her really important nutrition and have incredible bonding time with her!  When she's upset or tired, giving her breastmilk sips calms her down and helps her go to sleep.  At night, she and I get to cuddle and sleep together and she feeds off and on through the night on my breasts.

 Who am I to complain about THAT?!  Those are cherished and special moments.

Even more importantly:  BABY HOPE NEVER GAVE UP ON
ME!  She could have chosen to only rely on being bottle fed formula.  But she prefers breastmilk and has never given up on me supplying her with not only the breastmilk, but the cuddles and love that go with our sacred time together.

 To keep my milk supply groovin', here's my daily routine.  Note that it's spread out through the course of the day, not all in one whack.

*Pumping  (Renting a hospital grade pump.)
*9 Fenugreek Pills  (I tried the raw sprouts, but it had the same effect as the pills.)
*6 cups of lactation tea
*3-4 lactation cookies
*8 ml of Motherlove Milk Plus  (Thank you to my cousin Krystal for this gem!)
*Morning Oatmeal with a tablespoon of Brewer's Yeast
*Morning Meditation with my Baby

I officially make enough milk to make my baby a happy girl, but not a full girl.  I am officially at peace with being a hybrid feeder.

What matters the most is our babies feel safe, nurtured and have the necessary nutrition to grow!

If you or anyone you know are having a pickle of a time on your breastfeeding journey, it's OK.  It is OK to do what YOU need to do for you and your baby.  My insane journey comes from my own desire to be a breastfeeding Mama.  It does not come from society's pressure to only breastfeed.

Hope this helps someone out there to think of different ways of helping milk get going or at least be at peace with whatever decision you've come to in regards to breastfeeding.  And may all of our babies be healthy and safe and grow up to be truly quality humans who grace our planet.

In love for healthy babies,

Michelle Tomlinson


  1. What a beautifully poignant post, Michelle! Mothering is the greatest spiritual practice in surrender and unconditionality from day one onward.