Written by: CDR Holly Hart, Naval Air Station North Island, Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Pacific Operations Officer
It was my worst nightmare….my newborn baby Aspen was losing weight, and my body was not providing for her! My husband and I decided to have a baby in our forties. I was 43 when I had Aspen and we both knew that she was going to be our only child. I wanted to do everything I could with her and have no regrets.
I KNEW that I wanted to breastfeed but my body was just not producing and I had to wear nipple shields to draw my nipples out. As she continued to lose weight, the doctor said I had to start giving her formula or Aspen was going to end up in the hospital. I did not want to give her formula; I was supposed to be providing for her. Why wasn’t my body producing milk? I was in tears in the lactation office at the hospital. I was told sometimes mothers just will not produce milk and it was ok. This was not ok with me!
I wanted to experience breast-feeding, the connection and snuggles with my baby that I had read and had been told about from one of my best friends. The lactation consultant said I could try these things to start producing milk; take the galactagogue herbs, to eat oatmeal, pump after nursing every 2-3 hours and massage my breasts while Aspen was nursing to completely empty them of all milk. I was stressed with all of this knowledge, why was this so HARD?
The lactation consultant at the hospital was supportive but said I had to start supplementing formula and gave me a syringe, tubing, tape and a box of formula samples. Each time I was to nurse, I need to tape this tubing to my breast, put a nipple shield on and make sure Aspen had the tubing in her mouth while nursing! It was so hard, stressful and most of the time Aspen would spit out the tube and I would not realize it until I had pushed the syringe of formula out all over myself and I had no idea if Aspen had gotten any of it at all. Oh and I was told to relax and breath whenever I was nursing, HOW could I? I was ready to give up.
Then I found Carly and Mamas and Milk. I am active duty military and Tricare covered lactation appointments with Carly. I made the first appointment I could but Carly also suggested coming to the support group that met once a week. There I could meet Carly and she would be able to help me before our appointment the following week. What a supportive group! I was out of the house talking to other nursing Moms, hearing about their struggles and happy stories. It was so welcoming and made me relax for the first time.
I had multiple appointments with Carly and they were always something I looked forward too. She was so supportive, we gradually got rid of the nipple shields and she recommended no longer pumping after nursing and spending as much time skin on skin with Aspen. I dove into breast-feeding with new vigor with her support! I could do this! I was taking a breast-feeding herbal supplement called Lactiful, three times a day, eating oatmeal (which I love) for breakfast every morning and actually relaxing when I was nursing. I was still supplementing with formula but Carly showed me the Medela Supplemental Nursing System, which was so much easier than the syringe, and tubing I had gotten from the hospital. If you have to supplement while nursing, buy the Medela SNS! It is worth the money!
Then one day it happened, Carly said the words that I had been longing for, for almost 3 months! “Holly, you don’t have to supplement anymore, your body is producing all of the milk Aspen needs.” It was the most incredible moment! We had done it Aspen, Carly and me. I could not have done it without Carly’s support. She got me through the tough times, the hard days and the tears that were always shed durin our appointments. I needed all kinds of support from Carly when heading back to work and getting my body to let me pump the milk out but it worked! I was able to pump close to 25 ounces each day while at work which was enough for Aspen’s meals the following day. It was incredible! I continued to take
the Lactiful supplement twice a day and had oatmeal for breakfast. I was not about to change anything for fear of not producing enough milk.
Aspen just turned two in October and she is still nursing at night before bed and sometimes during the. day on the weekends when she is tired or as soon as I get home from work. I am so glad I fought so hard for this opportunity! I love her snuggles and when she stares at me with her blue eyes while nursing. I will treasure this experience for the rest of my life!