The Quest for Lactation

I am a big supporter of breastfeeding. There’s nothing more beautiful and natural than a nursing mama, right? I always planned to nurse my little ones when they came along, ever since I was a little one myself. My plans were revised when my daughter was born; she has a small mouth (as I have been told by dentists all my life that I also have, which makes sense, because she strongly resembles her Mama) and I have, apparently, wide nipples. (Who would have thought I’d ever be talking about my nipples in a BDN blog post?)

She was born a healthy 8 lbs, 14 ounces. Just over the line to make them watch her glucose closely; the first 24 hours of her life were a nightmare of heel sticks and tears, through which latching was hardly even an option. She’d freak out and just wail. We had to supplement with a little tube, attached to a syringe of formula, until the nurses were satisfied that her glucose was okay, and then they finally left her poor little pincushion heels alone. But still she couldn’t latch without stressing out.

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This doesn’t look like the face of a tortured soul, but I assure you, her soles were covered with tiny needle-prick scabs.

When my milk came in, the day after we came home, I thought things would get better. They didn’t. By the time she had her one week check-up, she’d lost ten ounces from her birth weight, and I felt like the worst mother alive. I started pumping, and resumed supplementing with formula, and by her next appointment she was finally showing signs of thriving and gaining. I breathed a sigh of relief, and planned to continue pumping to build my supply until her little mouth wasn’t so little anymore.

Then my electric pump, brand new, stopped working after a week of use, and I had to start using the hand pump they gave me in the hospital. This wouldn’t have been quite so much of an issue, but I have had some wrist problems that I had originally chalked up to pregnancy-related carpal tunnel, but haven’t gone away. Pumping was misery, and though I try to be diligent, my supply never increased. In fact, it’s started to decrease. I have a borrowed hospital-grade pump, which I use several times a day, but my breastmilk is still dwindling.

Amid so much social pressure and well-meaning advice from people telling me that it’s not possible for my nipples to be too big for my baby’s mouth, that I don’t need to feed my baby formula, and that my body will make enough for her — which they apparently are, I do, and it obviously won’t — I have persisted. I have continued trying to build my supply. I’ve increased my caloric intake, when I read something that suggested that might be a contributing factor. I’ve been drinking Gatorade, because a couple of friends mentioned it helped them. I’ve been taking fenugreek supplements, continuing to pump regularly, and I even made lactation cookies. Nothing seems to help, and it’s hard not to feel like a failure, even though the most important evidence — my healthy, happy, and most importantly not stressed out baby — is staring me right in the face.

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If she were any less stressed out, she’d be unconscious. Incidentally, at five weeks old, staring me in the face is one of her favorite pastimes.

While I applaud people who are able to breastfeed with little to no effort, and I wish it could have been our reality, I’m beginning to accept that it just isn’t. I’ve decided to give myself a few more weeks to try and build my supply, and if it doesn’t work, I’m going to cut myself some slack and start spending the time that I’ve been using for pumping (and washing the pump parts, which is more time-consuming than the actual pumping) and researching ways to build my supply, simply enjoying my daughter while she’s still an infant. I don’t want to look back on her first months of life and feel guilty, or stressed, or angry at myself for my body’s failings. I want to remember the warmth that spreads through my body when she curls up on my chest and closes her eyes, the way my heart swells when she looks in my eyes and smiles, and the way her tiny fists feel, wrapped around my fingers while I hold her close and give her a bottle. That’s the important stuff — not where her food comes from.

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Baby’s first walk in the stroller! I promise there is a seatbelt under that blanket.

Lactation Cookies
These cookies are pretty dry, so you'll want to eat them with a big glass of ice cold milk!
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons flax seed meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brewer’s yeast
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars, then add eggs and peanut butter and mix well.
  3. Add dry ingredients one at a time, mixing well.
  4. Roll dough into balls and flatten onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
  5. Bake 9-11 minutes and allow to cool before storing.


Fia Fortune

About Fia Fortune

Fia Fortune is a home cook who enjoys gardening, creating recipes for her two blogs, cooking for herself and her boyfriend, and trying to keep up with their blended family of four cats.