Somehow we made it to two months of breastfeeding. At first, it didn’t seem like we would last more than a couple of weeks. Even after putting my baby on the breast, on demand, for seven days, we found out that she lost more than 10% of her birth weight. We quickly supplemented and I started pumping. When I did, I realized I had extremely low milk supply. I was pumping about 10-15ml, less than half an ounce, every 2-3 hours. First I thought there was something wrong with the pump, so I rented a hospital grade pump but there was no difference. I spoke to lactation consultants, a medical lactation consultant, my endocrinologist, rheumatologist, gynecologist, and pediatrician to try to understand what was causing such low milk supply. There were correlations, guesses and maybes but no answer. My thyroid level could be a little off, my Sjogren could possibly cause low producing milk ducts, all my medications could interfere with a healthy milk production, my baby has a restricted gape, my body is under too much duress due to my multiple illnesses — these could all be contributing factors.
When I relayed my disappointment to my rheumatologist about not being able to nurse exclusively, she pointed out that with all the things that could have gone wrong with the pregnancy, the birth, and postpartum recovery, if low milk is our biggest problem, we are doing well. She is absolutely right. And I knew I couldn’t push myself like I did with my first baby. The last time I took a difficult breastfeeding situation too seriously, I ended up on my deathbed. Determined not to make the same mistake, this time, I am pumping and nursing only as much as I can.
And so why do I keep going? For all the work I put in, nursing and pumping, I produce only about an ounce every 2-3 hours, not enough to even cover half of her daily needs. But I have decided to give my baby as much milk as I can and also resort to a lot comfort nursing. She might not get enough milk from breastfeeding, but she benefits emotionally and I treasure these loving moments together. I have learned that during comfort nursing, there is a lot of bonding, the baby learns to trust and interact, it is comforting and reassuring to the baby, it decreases baby’s heart rate, which helps her relax and sleep, and it improves mouth and jaw development.
With my body being what it is, I am thankful that I can even do this much and also grateful for my baby, who works hard at suckling despite not getting much milk. My baby and I are in this together!