Today, I’m sharing some of the wrong things I made as a first-time breastfeeding mom that probably affected my milk supply.
I exclusively breastfed for nine months. I’ve always struggled with my milk supply and just recently accepted that we have to mix feed because my baby still isn’t gaining enough weight for her age.
If you’re a first-time mom and planning to breastfeed, or currently breastfeeding and struggling, I hope my experiences can help you with your journey.
Without further ado, let’s go.
Mistake 1: Going in Unprepared
To be honest, I’m a pessimist and I feared that something wrong will happen when I give birth. I didn’t want to prepare because I was thinking, what if one or both of us died, what’s the use of preparing to breastfeed? I did read a bit when I was pregnant, but I didn’t want to go deep. So, when baby and I both came out of the operating room alive, I had no clue what I was up for.
I didn’t know that breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally for some moms. Because our baby latched on perfectly the first time, I thought, okay, we’re good. But then the engorgement came. I had no breast pump, I didn’t know about hand expression, I didn’t even know I had to wake her up to nurse because she was sleeping so much and not really crying a lot. I didn’t know that my baby was still getting colostrum even if I couldn’t see it, so I immediately resorted to formula because I was scared she wasn’t getting fed.
I get that with so much information online and in real life, it can be overwhelming. But knowing at least the basics would’ve saved my milk supply in those first few days. All of the mistakes I made happened because I came in unprepared for breastfeeding.
Mistake 2: Buying Multiple Breast Pumps
I started pumping on the fourth or fifth day, using a Horigen pump I borrowed from my sister. I was expecting that I’d be pumping like at least 10 ounces in 10 minutes, because my sister used to. But no. I was pumping half an ounce to 2 ounces per breast pumping for half an hour. I thought that it’s the pump’s issue so I bought a Wondermom, which produced the same or less amount. After that, I started searching for the pump that would work for me. I didn’t think that constantly changing pumps could have an effect on my milk supply. Apparently, in breast pumping, there’s this thing called “learning curve” like your breasts and pump are getting to know each other. I think so, because when I finally gave up my search and settled on Spectra S1, my milk supply started to increase.
Mistake 3: Relying on Galactogogues
Lactation drinks, lactation cookies, lactation brownies, malt, fenugreek, moringa, you name it, I used it. Whatever was suggested on the Facebook breastfeeding groups I joined, I tried it. But I didn’t see a dramatic increase. Well, I used Herbilogy tea, and saw an increase but my baby started to get colicky so I stopped. But I was relying heavily on galactogogues that I thought even if I ate crap – like Oreos and chocolate drinks crap – I would have lots of breastmilk. It was too late when I discovered that the proof of the effectiveness of galactogogues are based on anecdotal evidences and would work on some moms and not in some. It turns out, we don’t need anything than the basics: enough water, enough calories from whole foods, rest, and emptying of the breasts are what really work in improving milk supply.
Mistake 4: Refusing to Nurse on Demand
The first time the nurse brought my child to our hospital room, she said if breastfeeding, I would feed my child every hour, and if using formula, every two hours. So, that’s what I did. I fed my baby on schedule. Even when we went home and her nanny said she’s hungry, I would say she wasn’t because it wasn’t time yet.
In addition, I decided to pump instead of nursing her on my breasts. Even if she was crying, I would finish the pump and feed her on the bottle.
I noticed then that my child then stopped demanding to nurse all the time. She seldom cried unless really hungry, and I wasn’t having letdowns as much as I wanted. As I was not emptying my breasts all the time, my body thought I didn’t have to make much.
Mistake 5: Joining Breastfeeding FB Groups
Now, this would make me sound so ungrateful because I got so much information from virtual mom communities. These are treasure troves for anything mom, anything breastfeeding. But I found that they could also be counterproductive.
Everyday, I would see pictures and videos of other moms’ freezer stashes and I would get jealous of them, and angry at my body’s inability to produce the same. As a pump and consume mom, I was already insecure, and then having to see comments like “True low milk supply is rare” or “Just add one more pump” made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. Even though I was pumping 8 times a day and just getting 12-15 ounces per day, I was tired and I lacked sleep, I ate more than I should, these moms were saying I wasn’t doing enough. Having to see comments like “Look at pictures and videos of your child” or “Bring your child’s used clothes while pumping” and not seeing an increase, made me question myself, don’t I love my child enough?
It is absolutely not the fault of the moms in these groups. I know they only mean well, they just want to share, and I’m so thankful for all the information I got from them. This one’s on me. My insecurities and my competitiveness, fueled by constant exposure to other moms’ “successes” caused my body and mind to be stressed. And stress is the enemy of breastfeeding.
So, knowing now about these mistakes, what would I do differently if I were a new breastfeeding mom? I would NOT overcomplicate breastfeeding. Drink enough (not too much), eat enough calories from nutritious foods, sleep as much as I can, empty my breasts by nursing often, and stop comparing myself to other moms. In addition, I wouldn’t be too hard on myself and my body. Whatever happens, even if the amount I can pump remains low, I wouldn’t feel bad about our breastfeeding journey.
There, I hope this blog helped you, even a bit. Thank you and see you again!
Thanks to Timothy Meinberg @timothymeinberg for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/NFH6LovuJso