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    Nursing with Low Milk Supply: Mommy the Gatekeeper

    February 5, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    If I have one rule of thumb about nursing babies when supplementation is consistently required it is this: Nurse first. Every time. Without exception. Baby O. is five months old and we have never, ever, ever missed a nursing period. Ever. I am very serious about doing what I can to make nursing successful. This is by far the most helpful thing to do: always nurse before supplementing.

    Baby on Strike

    A couple issues consistently arise with this approach, and one is the nursing strike. My understanding is that moms with normal, healthy milk supplies are often tempted to give Baby a bottle when Baby goes on strike {translation: Baby is obviously hungry, but refuses to nurse}. I don’t really know why all babies go on strike, but it seems that they do.

    If normal nursing moms are tempted to turn to the bottle during a strike, you can imagine how much more tempting this is to a mom who is already giving Baby a bottle with every feeding. You’ve prepared it. It is sitting right there next to you {or, in my case, on the floor next to my rocker where I hide it so that Baby can’t see it while nursing}. And when Baby refuses to nurse, the temptation is to “just skip this feeding.”

    Which can sometimes turn into skipping the next. And the next. And the next.

    Until Baby ends up inadvertently weaned, plus you have no milk left.

    The other option isn’t exactly the easiest road, but it is to persevere. Each baby is different. Some of my babies responded well to me “taking charge” like when they were newborns and helping them latch on. My current baby doesn’t like that at all. But I find if I just leave him in position and hold him gently, he finds his own way most of the time. On the days where he doesn’t, I just let us both take a break. Just last week, I put him in his excersaucer to play for while before trying again.

    Feeding the bottle first isn’t evil. But it could possibly be dangerous. I find that never starting this pattern is the best defense against premature weaning.

    Letting Others Feed the Bottle

    Might I suggest that you rarely or never do this? My basic argument from nature would be along the lines that Mommy was designed to feed Baby. It is really just an obvious thing. So just because there is something wrong with your body that makes you require a bottle doesn’t mean you need to hand the job over to someone else.

    I really regret that, with my first couple of children, I bowed to the pressure to act like a formula mom. In our society, a mom who uses bottles is considered interchangeable with any other person capable of holding a bottle. It is expected that Mom will hand that bottle over to Dad, grandparents, the baby’s older siblings, and babysitters. Breastfeeding moms don’t have this problem.

    Now, for the record, my husband occasionally gives the baby a bottle. I’m not saying this is immoral or something. However, I will say it is unnatural, and the more the happens, the less normal the process. In fact, we have a joke around here that if you can make milk, you are allowed to feed the baby.

    Even though I use bottles, I now feel free to act like a mom with a full milk supply. It is my job to feed the baby. God designed my body to feed this baby, and even though my body doesn’t do that job well, I can learn from its design that this is still my job.

    Because bonding is part and parcel of what it means to nurse, feeding the baby the bottle yourself should, in my way of thinking, prolong nursing. Not that there are any studies that prove this. However, keeping Baby associating Mom and only Mom with milk sustains that feeding relationship.

    Remember, if you want to feed with Low Milk Supply, you’re going to have to do the hard things, and that might mean giving pretty much every feeding yourself, even when you don’t feel like it. There are a number of nursing moms whose babies are so strongly opinionated they refuse to take bottles at all. It just happens that, due to circumstance, the Low-Milk Mom has a choice to make. The thing to remember is that if you make enough choices away from nursing, you don’t have enough milk to woo the baby back in the direction of nursing. Because of this, it is important not to wander from the path.

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