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For many breastfeeding mothers, low milk supply is a constant worry. During my first few months as a nursing mother I dealt with minor supply issues. However, I was so distracted by other breastfeeding issues that I didn’t fully address the problem of low milk supply until my daughters were over 6 months old.
I have twin daughters, Julia and Aria, they were born April 27th, 2011. We had planned on having the twins naturally at home, but they ended up being born by c-section after a long 3 days of labor. Needless to say the birth was traumatic, but my work was far from done. I was DETERMINED to breastfeed. In my mind there was no other option.
I’ll recap the first 7 months for you. It was a seemingly endless test of my determination to breastfeed. I had grown up around women who breastfed their babies and knew it wasn’t always a walk in the park, but I had no idea how hard it would be.
Both girls had Raynaud phenomenon.. It took Julia 4 months to outgrow this and I was so concentrated on Julia the first months I didn’t realize Aria had the same problem. Because of this, Aria formed a habit of bad latching that will still show up if she’s stressed or overly hungry. I also dealt with thrush, mastitis, post-partum depression and have
Raynaud’s is basically a circulation problem. I won’t explain more about it here other than it is intensely painful. Breastfeeding did not let me win without a long hard fight, but I did finally win. I have a wonderful husband, supportive family, a faithful God and a determination inherited from my mother that saw me through those tough months.
Breastfeeding Crisis: Low Milk Supply
When Aria and Julia turned 7 months old my milk supply started to diminish. The girls became very fussy, and I began to use the milk I had stored in the freezer for extra feedings.
I increased my liquid intake, food portions and nursed frequently. In the past that’s all I had to do to resolve low milk supply. But I didn’t see any difference even after weeks of doing this. In fact, my milk supply was watery, and diminishing.
After everything I’d gone through I couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that low milk supply would be my Achilles heel!
My diet during this time was full of pasture raised organic eggs, grass-fed beef, broths, lots of veggies and an occasional smoothie with raw milk. I was healthy, exercised, cooked 99% from scratch… I didn’t know what I was doing wrong!?
I had loaned my copy of Nourishing Traditions to a friend, so I headed to my library to see if they had it. I searched Sally Fallon in the database and found that the library’s copy of the book was checked out, but another book showed up that Sally Fallon had written the forward to: The Untold Story of Milk by Dr. Ron Schmid. I took it home and started reading.
I’d always been a supporter of raw milk, but had never really read up on it. When I saw the book at the library I figured I should research the raw milk issue more thoroughly. As I made my way through the book I was fascinated by the corrupt history of pasteurized milk and the benefits of raw milk. I hated drinking plain milk, but it was obviously very nutritious so I half-heartedly bought a whole gallon of raw milk and intended to increase my smoothie making. It sat in my fridge for several days until I read this about Dr. Francis Pottenger MD:
“Pottenger’s research so convinced him of the importance of raw milk that he recommended one quart of raw milk per day to pregnant and nursing women. According to Pottenger, women who did not have access to raw milk, or who refused to drink it, put the development of their babies in jeopardy and should not breastfeed.”
It was late at night and I had already pumped. But I went into the kitchen and gagged down a huge glass of raw milk. It wasn’t that bad, but I was still grossed out at the thought of drinking a quart a day! I thought, Oh well, that guy was just over the top and it probably wouldn’t even help. I brushed my teeth very thoroughly and went to bed.
Low Milk Supply Resolves After One Large Glass of Raw Milk
Then the miracle happened…I woke up around 5am engorged and leaking everywhere! I pumped almost 6 ounces, and then nursed my girls when they woke up an hour later.
Well, that was the end of me refusing to drink raw milk!
My milk that I had just pumped was thick and my daughters were obviously happier than they had been in days. I was an overnight raw milk advocate!
It took me awhile to get used to drinking plain raw milk, and I did cheat… I added carob, homemade chocolate syrup, or made smoothies with it the first month or so, and I didn’t always drink an entire quart… But I now drink 2 large glasses a day, and crave it if I’m tired, hungry or after I exercise. It’s a mother’s dream food because it doesn’t require cooking or prep, just open the fridge and pour a glass.
In March my milk supply was once again put to the test. The girls were 11 months old at this point… So, they had large appetites. Both of the girls got the chicken pox and exclusively nursed for almost a week. Aria had them worse than Julia and so she exclusively nursed for over a week. I was tired, but didn’t have any supply issues. In fact, I was still able to pump extra at the end of each day. After the chicken pox was over I knew I didn’t need to ever worry about low milk supply issues again.
Raw Milk Helps Moms With Low Milk Supply!
Aria and Julia are now 13 months old. They nurse 3-4 times a day each, and are happy healthy little girls. I’m not really thinking of weaning at this point. It took almost 9 months to finally figure out breastfeeding, and the past four months have been awesome. Last month they started tandem nursing again… Being a mom is tiring. If it wasn’t for the pauses of nursing during the day I don’t know if I’d sit down and just enjoy my children. It forces you to sit, think and notice your baby. And when nursing is over they’re so endearing that I end up playing with them and ignoring the dishes and laundry. If I was giving them bottles they would independently feed themselves and I would probably continue on with my chores.
As a mother of twins I feel compelled to share my story. I believe it’s vital to breastfeed multiples because of the bonding time. If you’re pregnant with multiples most doctors will assume that you won’t even try to nurse, or that you’ll automatically supplement, but prove them wrong. The first 6 months is insane and even though it was so painful to nurse I’m glad I did. I was able to really get to know each one individually and I’ve never really felt guilty about ignoring one over the other.
One more note to breastfeeding mothers. I did talk to different lactation consultants during those months, but discovered that the research I did on my own was far more fruitful. The lactation consultants were very nice, but I don’t think any of them expected me to succeed.
In our culture it seems to be instilled in us to “try your best, but not to worry if you fail because no one will blame you.” That attitude is particularly prevalent in the medical world towards breastfeeding. Lactation consultants, nurses and doctors would give me a pat on the back for attempting to breastfeed, give me some useless advice, then proceed to tell me that “no one would blame me if I supplemented with formula. In fact, some women just aren’t able to breastfeed, and it would be less stressful if I just supplemented.”
Those kinds of comments fed the fire beneath me to prove them wrong, and honestly helped me stick to breastfeeding no matter what. I will admit that I was a die-hard and nothing else mattered at times. Was I too hard on myself? I don’t think so. I think we’re just conditioned to think that if something is gut-wrenchingly hard and painful then it might not be worth it. Well, it is worth it. Nursing is our special mother/baby time. Breastfeeding is also VERY important for the mother’s health. It helps to lose weight, forces you to keep yourself nourished and to sleep well.
When a mother has her baby she needs to take things slowly and not jump right back into the fast lane. Sit, contemplate and fully enjoy your beautiful new baby. You spent 9 long months making that child lying in your arms, now enjoy the fruits of your labor!