A nurse noticed that my daughter was "tongue-tied," which prevents a baby from massaging the nipple with the tongue to cause letdown. After I consulted one doctor who denied that this issue played a factor in breastfeeding, my general practitioner referred us to a surgeon who "clipped" my daughter's tongue to relieve the condition. One problem down, two to go.
My research made me pretty certain that I have hypoplastic breasts. Essentially, women with this condition have underdeveloped milk-producing breast tissue. That would explain why my breasts didn't grow during pregnancy or become engorged after my baby was born. Often, hypoplastic breasts have a characteristic tubular, "empty" appearance, and tend to be widely spaced with swollen-looking nipples. Because they have unusually low milk-producing cells, women with hypoplastic breasts can experience breastfeeding problems like mine. More or less convinced that I had breast hypoplasia, I was determined to do whatever I could to augment my milk supply.
Knowing that milk production after the first six weeks is all about stimulation and frequency, I got a double breast pump with the hope of increasing my supply. It took me three days to make a meager two ounces of milk. According to all the reviews I had read, I had a good pump so I knew that equipment wasn't the issue. I just wasn't making much milk. With more research, I learned that there were things I could do to help boost my supply.
I learned about the purported effect of herbs like fenugreek, blessed thistle, oatmeal, raspberry leaf, brewer's yeast, and goat's rue on milk supply. I read studies about Domperidone, Reglan, and progesterone treatment. I took notes on all the therapies I could find that had some potential to help me, and had a long talk with my doctor at my postpartum checkup. She gave me a prescription for Reglan. Days later, I did a little dance when I pumped four ounces in 24 hours. For me, that was huge progress.
Some of the best advice I got during my early, turbulent months of breastfeeding was also some of the simplest: Calm down! This, from my daughter's pediatrician, who noted ways in which my type-A tendencies were leading to more problems than solutions. My constant pumping was causing me a lot of pain, for example.
It took me a long time to accept that I would never be the sole source of nourishment for my child. When I want it, I want it all, my way, and five minutes ago. It was hard to get all fired up about what seemed to be miniscule victories compared to the breastfeeding achievements of my peers. But that pediatrician's observations prompted me to see the glass half full: When my daughter was three months old, I realized that most other moms faced with my challenges probably would have given up long ago. I felt victorious.
I'm proud of my achievements. My baby takes bottle and breast with equal ease. When I nurse her, there's a connection there that nothing can replace. Ahh, the ecstasy.