"Hold your baby's hand instead of a bottle"

The WINNERS for the ItzBeen have been announced! Check back later for the next giveaway!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

If you just couldn't make milk

This post is for those who just couldn't make milk.

I realize that this is a pro-breastfeeding blog, and that some of you tried, and wanted very badly to breastfeed, but just weren't able to. In previous posts, I talk about how in order to have the best chances of breastfeeding we need to have knowledge and the right support from family and be as prepared as possible by purchasing helpful supplies like pumps, nursing pillows, creams, bras, etc. All of these things will increase your chances on having a successful nursing relationship, but what happens when you have all these things and still can't do it?

There's a term I've come across in my research known as "Failure to Lactate" or "Lactation Failure" which I cannot stand, because once again it creates this idea that if you can't lactate you've somehow failed. This is just one more additional source of guilt or frustration or anger or any other negative association that gets attached to breastfeeding or the inability to breastfeed in general. What this term actually means is that for reasons unknown (could be genetic or physical) a woman cannot produce enough milk to provide the nurishment for her child.

There are tons of resources on line that go over How to Overcome Lactation Failure and they might be helpful for those who are still trying to nurse but aren't making enough milk or are having latching difficulties or some of the other common breastfeeding challenges, but then there are some women who come to a point where they have to accept that they are not going to be able to breastfeed. And this is where I like to focus on one tip: Redefine Success. A woman decides before her baby comes that she wants to breastfeed instead of formula feed, but a sense of failure seems to settle in as soon as she has to feed her baby with anything other than breastmilk. I know this scenario all too well. I experienced it with my first son and even broke down and purchased a jug of premade formula for my second during times when I just thought I couldn't do it anymore or that my baby would be better off on fomrula. I've spent countless hours talking with a few friends who could not breastfeed and continue to torment themselves with guilt. I recently spoke with a friend who was frustrated because she tried to breastfeed, and pumped as much as she could,  but wasn't able to make more than a quarter of an ounce from only one breast. At some point, she had to accept that her baby clearly needs more than that and she would have to use formula. For some women, breastfeeding isn't an option, even if they really wanted to breastfeed.

This is where I'd like to invite any woman who wasn't able to breastfeed, for as long as they had hoped, to redefine success. At the start of this post I said that using all of the support and knowledge possible will increase your chances of having a "successful" nursing relationship. I didn't qualify how long that relationship had to last for or whether or not breastmilk exclusively made up the baby's diet. For some, successful might have to be that a mother tried her best, used all the resources she had, and gave her baby as much as she could. For others, it might be that they could never establish a healthy latch and their baby received breastmilk from a bottle, and formula may or may not have to be added to that baby's diet. Whatever the story, view it as success. You did your best for your baby and by my standards that equals success!

For the mothers who tried but weren't able to breastfeed, or produce as much as they wanted to, give yourself a pat on the back for at least trying and take comfort in knowing that your baby has a mother who was willing to try and did the very best she could with what she had at that time.

"Most" of the literature out there will tell you that every mother can breastfeed and that almost every breastfeeding challenge can be overcome with the proper attention and care, and these things may very well be true - for the "most" part. I have dug a little deeper in wanting to understand why some women were not able to breastfeed and I have found numerous blogs and websites where women have come together to share their stories on how they tried every tea, beer and supplement, how they pumped until they bled and cried, and although they should have been able to produce milk, they simply couldn't. As a mother it is so easy to blame ourselves, to focus on how we could have done better, but sometimes we also have to look at what we have done and accept that we are all doing the best we can and that's the best thing for our babies!