You can read about the posts related to my breastfeeding trials:
Years ago I wrote about my greater-than-average issues with breastfeeding Gabriel. Happily, I was able to nurse him until he was just over twenty-five months old. In the end, I kind of encouraged Gabriel to wean, though mostly by not offering him opportunities to breastfeed. I consider it to have been very close to self-weaning on Gabriel’s part. Additionally, this method of weaning was very easy on me, his ever-present mother. Though I am not opposed to tandem nursing, I knew that with my low supply issues with Gabriel, I wanted all of the milk that I was able to produce to go to the new baby.
When Joshua was born, our nursing relationship got off to a great start. I remember the lactation consultant visiting me, and complimenting me on being a “nursing pro.” Our breastfeeding was wonderful for the first day or so. But by Joshua’s second night, I recognized the signs of hunger, or rather of inability to sleep due to hunger, of me not being able to produce enough milk, or even colostrum. Although I had known intellectually that there was a good chance that I would need to supplement any future babies, I had hoped that I would be able to avoid doing so. Thus, with great disappointment over my low supply, I learned how to use a supplemental nursing system, or SNS. I used the SNS exclusively for the first five weeks of Joshua’s life, at which point in time I started giving him some bottles instead.
The only problem that I experienced with Joshua was some soreness during the first week, not from improper latch, but from the nearly constant nursing that newborns, at least my newborns, do in those early months. In order to make as much milk as possible, I breastfed my babies nearly constantly for the first six months or so of their lives. By “nearly constantly,” I mean every twenty or thirty minutes when they are awake, and if they slept for more than an hour or so during the day, I got out my breast pump. I know that this is pretty extreme breastfeeding, but as a stay-at-home-mother, I have been able to keep up with it with Gabriel and Joshua. I admit that I had to let some other things slide in order to do so, but I think that mothers of newborns in general need to prioritize in terms of what gets done and what waits.
I spoke with a lactation consultant about my diet, and based on my overall balanced diet, vast array of supplements, and committment to nursing, she ruled that I was doing everything right, and that I was doing everything in my power to make enough breast milk, but it just wasn’t happening. During the first week home from the hospital, I read a small handout book on breastfeeding that the hospital’s lactation consultant had given me. While I am sure that I still have this book, I cannot locate it at this time or remember the title. Using the method described in the book, I nursed Joshua, then pumped to make sure my breasts were empty, and then waited two hours before pumping again in order to estimate approximately how much milk I was making. I did this a couple of times over the first six months, and my results were always the same: I make between 1.5 ounces and 2 ounces of breast milk every two hours, which means that I produce somewhere between 18 ounces and 24 ounces of breast milk per day. According to Kellymom, most babies under six months old require approximately 25 ounces of breast milk per day, so I do not make much less than the necessary amount. This explains why Gabriel was meeting all of the normal milestones, but did not grow much, or even complain of hunger, during his first few months.
As I continued to read that little booklet, I stumbled upon a section on hypoplastic breasts. The more I read about the condition, the more I was convinced that it was the cause of my low supply. Like so many other mothers with mammary hypoplasia, I was so relieved to have an answer to my low supply issues. I think that most mothers, especially those who have problems with breastfeeding, have guilt, and it was wonderful to find an answer and have the weight of my inability to produce enough milk lifted. Even though I had always known deep down that I was doing my best to make as much milk as possible, without a diagnosis, I had wondered if there was something more that I could have done, and whether I had done something wrong that resulted in my “failure” to breastfeed exclusively. I consulted a lactation consultant for a proper diagnosis, who had to consult someone else or additional materials to do so, but she eventually diagnosed me with the condition.
Happily, my condition is mild. I am able to produce the majority of my babies’ food for the first six months of their lives, and I am incredibly thankful for that. At twenty-five months old, Joshua is breastfeeding still, and will likely breastfeed until he is two and half, or even older. Although I have experienced a couple of plugged ducts while breastfeeding Joshua, the issue never escalated to the level that I had experienced with Gabriel.
Based on my understanding of breast hypoplasia, oftentimes women find that their supply increases with each baby, so I am hopeful, but not getting my hopes too high, that I may be able to breastfeed exclusively one day. At the very least, it would be nice to supplement less, if possible. Additionally, now that I have a diagnosis, I can look into treating it during any future pregnancies, as well as while I am breastfeeding.
Every time I hear about a woman who cannot breastfeed, or has difficulty breastfeeding, I wonder whether she has the same condition as me, since breast hypoplasia goes undiagnosed frequently. After struggling to make enough breast milk to breastfeed two babies, and having consulted with several lactation consultants and doctors, I feel like someone should have been well enough educated in causes of low milk supply to tell me the answer. In case anyone reading this post now, or in the future, thinks that they may be experiencing low milk supply due to mammary hypoplasia, or thinks that they may be at risk for it, the following are several links that I have found helpful:
Ask Moxie on Hypoplastic Breasts – I especially like the success stories that she shares.
Supporting Mothers with Mammary Hypoplasia – La Leche League article.
Breastfeeding and underdeveloped (hypoplastic) breasts – Babycenter article.
Supporting Moms with Hypoplastic Breasts and Low Milk Supply – Facebook group.