Joshua was born on August 23rd, in the water, at our home. He weighed 6lbs 2oz and was 19 inches long. He was a tiny little guy, but healthy. Before he was conceived I knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed him. I have a daughter who is 27 months older than Joshua and I was not successful with breastfeeding her. I quit after 2 weeks because it was "just too hard."
I am a different mother than I was the first time around. I was so excited to try breastfeeding again. I bought a pump (which wasn't a good one, but I thought I would only need it from time to time). I didn't buy any formula or have any in the house. I had a cabinet full of formula before my daughter was born because I knew it "might not work out." I didn't want that temptation to give up this time around. I wanted to know that the only way my baby was going to eat was from my breasts because we did not have any other options in the house. I stocked up on lanolin and breast pads. I bought a latch assist because I remembered I had a hard time getting my daughter to latch on because I wasn't "sticking out" enough for her. I felt prepared. I felt confident. I had support. I had the most determination I ever had to accomplish something (besides my homebirth). I was not at all ready to accept "no."
His birth was uncomplicated. 17 hours of labor and an excellent birth. We were healthy. He breastfed for an hour straight afterwards. I thought, "This is wonderful! This is going to work this time!" He slept a lot his first day which was normal. His 2nd day he was still sleeping a lot. I was waking him up to feed. He didn't want to stay latched. He would pop on and off constantly. He would only actually be sucking for 30 seconds at a time at best. I would work with him for over an hour each time before he would get exhausted and go back to sleep.
My milk came in on day 3. I felt like I had plenty to give him. I didn't want to start pumping in fear of an over-supply. I look back now and think I should have started pumping. Day 3 he wasn't any better at latching. He was still sleeping a lot. I didn't feel he was getting enough. My midwife called because she noticed my concerns that I posted on Facebook and said to come in the next day so he could be weighed. At our 2 day check up he was 5lbs 10oz, which was in the normal range for weight loss after birth. Day 4 I went in to my midwife's office. I expressed my concern. I told her how he was popping on and off. I fed him so she could see his habits. She suggested different positions and that I feed him around the clock, that I not allow him to sleep for very long, and hold him skin-to-skin. He was weighed and was still 5lbs 10oz, like 2 days previous. She asked me to come in the next week.
Joshua eats his first meal
I did what I was told and things seemed a little better, but not by much. When I left her office that day (Friday, Day 4 of his life) I immediately went to BabiesRus and bought a My Brest Friend pillow. It was much easier to position him with this. We came in on Tuesday - he was now 8 days old. I was still having difficulties with him staying latched. He was weighed at 6lbs even. I was so happy! He had gained weight despite my worries.
I continued to nurse him around the clock and we came back in the next week. He is now 2 weeks old. He was weighed and was 6lbs even. He had not gained any weight in a week. I felt like a ton of bricks just fell on my chest. My midwife said to keep doing what I was doing. We came back the next week. He is now 3 weeks old. He was weighed and he was still 6lbs even. Not even an ounce gained!
What is wrong with my baby?
What is wrong with my body?
My midwife told me to start pumping and give him expressed breastmilk through a syringe with my finger or through a tube at the breast the same time he is latched on. I started to do what she said. I started pumping and it hurt so bad! I was tore up from my pump and literally in tears. I needed a new pump. I expressed what I could through the pain and he was finger fed. He was still popping on and off, only staying latched for a minute at best. His suck was not all that strong but I didn't know at the time. I didn't have anything else to compare it to since my daughter only breastfed for 2 weeks. We went in to the office again the next week. He was 4 weeks old. He seemed bigger to me, surely he has gained weight! Right? He was weighed: 6lbs 4oz. He gained weight! It was not enough, though.
1 Month old Joshua, 6lbs
We really did have a problem. My midwife asked if I would be ok with supplementing with formula. Joshua was so skinny and just looked sickly. I agreed even though it broke my heart. I was completely devastated. I wanted him to not have even 1 drop of formula, but I had to do it for him. I started finger feeding him formula and he was spitting up more but was otherwise tolerating it okay. I was still trying to breastfeed him. His latch and suck were not improving. I bought a new pump that was more comfortable and started pumping like crazy. I started taking herbal supplements. I was on fenugreek, blessed thistle and later on goat's rue. I was drinking mother milk's tea and making sure I had plenty of water to drink. When he was 1 month old I was pumping about 2-3oz total (both breasts) each session. I pumped 4-5 times a day.
We went in the next week. He was 5 weeks old and had been on formula for 1 week. He weighed at 7lbs 4oz. He gained 1 pound in 1 week! I was so happy to see the scale move, but sad because it was the formula that made it happen, not my milk. We scheduled to return to the office in 2 weeks to make sure he was still gaining, and for my post-partum check up. Over those 2 weeks his interest in the breast diminished. After 2 weeks of finger feedings I gave in to the bottle. My daughter was acting out and feeling neglected. It would take me so long to finger feed him each time. He was eating 4-5oz by 5 weeks old. The bottle made is it easier and happier for both my children. I would still put him to the breast but he started denying it. He stopped trying to latch on and his suck just wasn't strong enough to get the hind milk out. We know now that was the problem to begin with. That is why he wasn't gaining weight - because he wasn't getting the fatty milk. I never did have a giant supply of milk. If I wasn't taking the herbs, it may have disappeared a lot sooner than it did. I think I might have IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) but am not certain.
We went back 2 weeks later. He was now 7 weeks old and weighed, 9lbs 4oz! He had gained 2lbs in 2 weeks! He was still gaining 1lb per week. I was thrilled he was gaining weight. He was much more alert, and seemed happier. Deep down I still felt awful that this was all because of the formula. I wasn't making enough milk to cut it out. By 8 weeks he wanted nothing to do with the breast. I continued to pump. And I looked into donor milk.
I contacted a milk bank in North Carolina. She said it would cost $3.50 per ounce! I was shocked. We could not afford that. I thought I would just have to accept that my son will have to be primarily formula fed. My daughter was formula fed from 2 weeks of age and she is "fine." I convinced myself that the milk I was pumping was his multivitamin and I had to continue. I knew every drop mattered. At that point I was making 6-8oz per day to give to him. That amount continued until he turned 3 months old. After Thanksgiving I started getting merely drops, and that was all. I had a decrease before but it came back with more blessed thistle and goat's rue, but I was tired of fighting. I had been working for a good milk supply since Day One and I was exhausted from the around the clock pumping. I was not a happy mom. It showed, and I knew my kids could feel this.
On November 18th, however, before the Thanksgiving milk slump, I went to two mom's houses for the first time. And it was there that I picked up two weeks worth of breastmilk from them! I had contacted the mothers through Human Milk 4 Human Babies on Facebook. That day was the last day my son had any formula. When the milk bank wasn't an option anymore, I found HM4HB - or rather, it found me.
I thought my son would never have the breastmilk he deserved. But today, the offers of milk continue to pour into my inbox. My son has received milk from 8 different mothers from HM4HB so far. A few of them have offered to continue pumping for him and give me milk in the future. My son has been exclusively fed human milk since that day. I have a deep freezer we bought solely for this purpose and it is half full right now of frozen milk. Tomorrow I am going to pick up another 400oz (est.) from one mother.
My son is healthy and happy! I am completely satisfied now that he is off formula entirely. I feel better about my "failure" at breastfeeding because of HM4HB and the generous moms who have donated to us. My son is still gaining almost 1 pound per week. I know he is doing great and it's not because of some artificial formula. He weighed 15lbs at 3 1/2 months old and I am pleased to know he has the antibodies in his system thanks to human milk to fight through the winter/flu season. My husband and I have had a cold already and he didn't even catch a sniffle. My daughter was 3 months old when she caught her first cold while being exclusively formula fed.
If it wasn't for HM4HB my son would also be 100% formula fed right now because I am no longer producing milk. I know formula is not poison, but it is not what nature intended for our babies. I know if it wasn't for the formula in the beginning, my son would not have gained any weight. Formula has its occasional purpose. It's 4th in line behind breastfeeding, expressed milk from a baby's own mother, and then donor milk. If I don't have to give my son formula why should I ever? HM4HB is such a great organization! I believe without doubt it will make our world a healthier place because more babies will have access to breastmilk. To see mothers helping mothers is what reminds us that their is good still left in this world. There are hundreds of people doing a selfless service to help another mother and her baby. Not everyone would give their baby some other mother's milk, but I have chosen that this is the best for my son. I know he will thank me later for all the time and effort I have put in to his health and well-being. He will also have a lot of "milk mamas" to thank as well!
Thank you to HM4HB and the many, many mothers out there who have donated to us or will in the future!
Thank you to all those mothers who are donating to other mothers.
Update: Read Part Two of Joshua's Story here: Joshua's Story: Why I Still Choose Another Mother's Milk
Lindsey Ward is a 24 year old wife and full time mother to two beautiful children - both whole and happy! She's a homebirthing, lactivist, intactivist who considers herself to be 'semi-crunchy.' She says she is both loved and hated for her health-conscious advocacy for babies and their mothers. Ward serves clients through her Virginia based, Know Better, Do Better Birth Services, and also directs Intact NoVa.
If you would like to donate milk or need milk for your baby, please visit the Breastmilk Donation page to discover your options.
World Milksharing Week Homepage
For additional helpful books, websites, and articles for nursing mothers, see Breastfeeding Resources.