The Challenges of a Breastfeeding Mother
In the early, sleep deprived days of being a new mother, I faced many challenges. The first big one came about pretty early on. One day my milk was leaking like crazy, a couple of weeks later my milk supply had nearly dried up. My daughter was very slow to gain weight because of the breastfeeding challenges, and she was diagnosed with “failure to thrive”. A pediatrician basically gave us two days to show significant weight gain, or we were heading back to the hospital and they were going to tube feed my daughter. We had already been supplementing with formula, but apparently not enough. My partner and I started to keep a log of how many ounces we were feeding. The doctor suggested 24-30oz of formula to get her weight up to an acceptable level and prevent hospitalization. My midwife suspected tongue tie and referred me to a lactation consultant. We started working closely with the LC to try to bring my supply back up. My daughter’s Frenulum was clipped, and we saw some significant changes with the latch, but my supply was still really low. I tried all the recommended herbs and galactalgouges (a food or drug that promotes or increases the flow of a mother’s milk), until I smelled of a pancake house. Fenugreek, one of the highly recommended herbs causes you to smell like maple syrup. None of the herbs really seemed to be helping enough. I also pumped like crazy to try to increase my supply, and the results were so depressing. My lactation consultant informed be of a few pharmaceuticals that have the side effect of “increased milk supply”. In my state of grief and anxiety, the one she suggested as the most effective, with the least negative side effects and lowest transfer rate was called Domperidone. Domperidone had been recently banned by the FDA, because it caused cardiac issues in people in the seventies that were predisposed to cardiac issues. There were no negative side effect for healthy lactating women, except increased milk supply, which is exactly what I needed. Reglan, which IS FDA approved, had side effects of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and a much higher transfer rate. Definitely not side effects that a new mother needs to endure. I recently read a story of a mother that had been prescribed Reglan, committed suicide, leaving behind her partner and 4 month old child. Just heartbreaking. Because of the FDA ban, my lactation consultant, told me that I had to obtain the medication from England, Australia, or Canada. She gave me that address of an online pharmacy that carried the medication and told me I would need a prescription from my midwife. I got all the necessary things in order and placed my order. The drug took two weeks to arrive, and after about a week or less I started to notice an increase in my milk supply. I was still pumping like crazy, the increase was gradual, but eventually I was able to decrease the amount I was supplementing until I no longer needed to supplement. The Domperidone was my last hope and it worked wonders. Many tears later I was able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter like I had planned all along. I’m not saying it is the miracle drug that works for everyone, but it worked wonders for me. During the first sleep deprived months, I thought why would the FDA deny this medicine to a healthy lactating woman? I had all kind of hair-brained conspiracy theories running through my head. To this day I still believe that the formula lobbyists, and the politicians that seek to control women’s bodies, are partially behind the ban. For one, the drug is cheaper than supplementing with formula. Perhaps there is no connection, but a big part of me still believes there is. I feel fortunate that I had the resources in my community to gain access to the medication I needed to breastfeed my daughter. She just turned one approximately a month ago and we are still nursing. Our nursing relationship is mutually comforting. My daughter will be fussy or upset, and I will nurse her and she will be comforted almost instantly. My partner and I call it checking in. If my story can help any mother struggling with the challenges of breastfeeding, I will be a happy mama. Oh yeah, regardless of if you supplement or breastfeed, please never forget that you are an incredible mama! Being a mother is the most challenging and rewarding job I have ever had. I wish it were more valued in our society, we are only raising the future generation!