Living with low milk supply

This is part two of a three part series about living with Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT).

You can read about my story here. Here are some things I have learnt from my two experiences of breastfeeding (and supplementing with formula) due to IGT.

  • Best is best, sweet lady.
  • Only you can forgive yourself.
  • Try to make peace with, and love, your breasts. They are doing their best.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve and feel sad/disappointed/angry.
  • It’s not always going to feel so hard.
  • IGT fucking sucks.
  • You've got a lot going on, Mum
    Pumping, drinking breastfeeding tea and looking after two boys

    Just because you can’t exclusively breastfeed it doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed at all.

  • The vast majority of people who see you breastfeeding/bottle feeding/using a supply line won’t judge you. They may be curious if they see you mix feeding, but they won’t judge you. Women often give themselves a much harder time than anyone else would.
  • Surround yourself with support. Because IGT and related conditions are pretty rare, sometimes your best support will be from other mums online. Like the amazing IGT Mamas Facebook group.
  • Once I imagined love, rather than just milk, being transferred through both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, I felt so much better about it all.
  • It’s really annoying to read in a lot of breastfeeding literature that it’s very uncommon to have bonafide low supply (i.e. supply issues that aren’t due to some other issue with baby’s latch or introducing formula etc.) when you have bonafide low supply.

  • Take photos of you feeding your baby. You will treasure them.
  • Try your best to be grateful for each feed. That’s a much more healing place to come from than spending each feed worrying it may be your last or wondering how milk your little one drank. I know this a million times harder to do than it is to say, but it’s true.
  • If I was feeling tense or finding feeding hard because I was feeling so down about my supply, I found meditation helped a lot. In the early days you can pop a pair of earphones in (before baby is old enough to pull them out!) and listen to a meditation or some nice music. I love the free Mind the Bump app and it comes with meditations.
  • Whatever amount of breastmilk you feed to your baby (by whatever means it takes) is your sacred gift to them. In the case of IGT you’ve gotta focus on quality, not quantity.
  • Feeding lying down is the greatest
    Feeding lying down is the greatest

    Have as much skin-to-skin contact as you can. It helps milk supply and it also just makes you feel happy.

  • Get creative about the breastfeeding positions that work for you and your baby. I fed Clem lying down most of the time until he had head control.
  • Feed your baby. If some, or all, of their milk is formula then that is 100% OK.
  • Donor milk is an option.
  • Find a lactation consultant that you trust to give you a proper diagnosis and answer your questions.
  • You can still be the kind of mother you want to be, no matter how your breastfeeding relationship turns out. For me, that meant co-sleeping and demand feeding even with bottles in the picture. I keep sterilised bottles of water and measured out amounts of formula by the bed as well as breastfeeding in bed overnight.

There are a lot of products out there with claims to increasing your supply. It’s impossible to do everything, so just concentrate on doing what you have the time/money/mental space for. I tried a bunch of things and I have no idea what actually worked and what just made me feel better, (but in mothering sometimes those two things are actually one-in-the-same).

  • There are changes you can make to your diet that may increase your supply and also just make you feel better in general. Eating lots of fresh vegetables, good fats and protein plus some fruit and cutting out junk food and lowering sugar and carbohydrate is where it’s at. I learnt a lot from the book ‘Motherfood‘ by Hilary Jacobson.
  • Don’t freak-out about dietary changes though. Even small incremental changes will make a difference. Just do what you can.
  • Breastfeeding tea is delicious (my favourite is from Julie at Blissful Herbs).
  • Boobie bikkies are good, but it’s best to either make your own or buy some that aren’t laden with sugar. I used this recipe but increased the brewer’s yeast to 7 tablespoons.
  • Pumping will help your supply, but don’t feel bad if you can’t do it as often as the books say! I found that breastfeeding my babies frequently and doing short bursts of power pumping (one-two days pumping for about 8 mins each breast after as many feeds as possible) worked better for me than endless pumping.
  • If you’re pumping a tiny amount it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is all you are making. Babies are much more efficient at getting milk from the breast than pumps.
  • I used Motillium (AKA Domperidone) with Leo, but didn’t use it with Clem and concentrated on herbal remedies (prescribed by a Naturopath) instead.
  • I never tried one, but some people swear by Supplementary Nursing Systems (SNS) or supply lines.

Our book doesn’t tell you how you should feed your baby

When we were writing You’re Doing Great, Baby we decided very early on that we wouldn’t show any pictures of the baby feeding. Mothers use their breasts, bottles, SNS (supplementary nursing systems) and tubes (for premmies) to feed their babies. We didn’t want anyone to feel excluded.

I remember when Leo was tiny I’d be reading a book about babies (Baby Love etc.) and I’d get to the chapter about breastfeeding and how good and important it was and I’d just bawl my eyes out and never pick up the book again. I promise that if you’re in the thick of breastfeeding or other challenges you can read our book without feeling like a failure. Everyone is doing great.

You can read other parts of my story here:

Breastfeeding with Insuffcient Glandular
Part one of the breastfeeding series
Part three: stuff I want to say to you about breastfeeding challenges



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