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    Nursing with Low Milk Supply: Taking the Long View

    February 3, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    Last time I wrote on this issue, my father threatened to boycott my blog. He prefers me to discuss politics or issues. And so do I, for the most part. Well, actually, I prefer to discuss books and ideas. But, just as when I did all of my GFCF blogging way back when that was an issue for us, I think that the things that we learn have a chance, thanks to Google and Friends, to benefit others in a way not seen before.

    This is part of my take-the-good-leave-the-bad philosophy of Internet use.

    So here is the deal. I have had a super-low milk supply throughout my almost eight-year career here at the microhomestead. I have already written about trouble-shooting and remedies, both prescription and herbal. That was what I discussed with my last baby. {If you are interested in those things, please click on the “Breastfeeding/Supplementation” label at the bottom of this post.}

    Today, we’re going to talk reality. What if, after trying everything and going to many, many lactation consultants, including one of the best in your entire state, you find that you are in that 5% of women who just don’t make the grade. What then?

    Well, you can quit and give your baby formula. Or you can persevere, nurse that baby, and then supplement. The latter is inefficient, but it has its benefits. And it is what I’ve chosen to do. Over the course of this series, I’m going to explain the things that I’ve learned which make this journey more {and less} successful.

    If you are male and read this blog, I don’t blame you for ignoring me for a couple of days.

    Taking the Long View

    When any mother begins to nurse a baby for the first time, more experienced mothers will encourage her to take a long view of the situation. In other words, don’t focus in all the frustration and pain right now, but realize that the whole process, and even the milk, isn’t fully mature until about six weeks of age. If you keep going for six weeks, chances are everything will come together and it will be much easier by then.

    This is not the “long view” of which I speak.

    When you have a low milk supply, you have to take an ultra-long view. You need to see how your actions today will impact your potential to nurse future children. This long view stretches over many years, not many weeks.

    By far, my worst supply was at the very beginning with E. {Poor E.!} Seriously, my supply with him was miniscule. And I was absolutely humiliated by that fact. {It has taken a few babies to get over this.} But I nursed him because of something my second {I’ve had five} lactation consultant said to me. She said that the act of nursing one baby develops your potential for nursing future babies. She said that supply tends to increase with each baby, and if, for instance, you couldn’t fully nurse your first, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same will be the case with your second, as long as you persevere.

    I can’t even remember this woman’s name now, these many years later, but I do remember that she opened my eyes to the big picture. A lot of life is actually this way. What I do today impacts not only what I do tomorrow and the next day, but even my ability to do those things well. In regard to nursing, if I wanted to ever nurse a baby well, I was going to have to suck it up and work hard with my first, even though it often felt like torture.

    I will spare you the details.

    The point with a first baby is to figure out how to nurse that baby for as long as possible. In my case, that meant six months. Not bad for someone who averaged about one-fifth of an ounce production per feeding.

    And let me assure you that this pays off. Now, when I nurse my fourth child, I produce about one to two ounces per feeding. This level of production still requires a lot of supplementation, but what a difference from the first baby! The change has been gradual. With each baby, I’ve produced a little more.

    So: if you are one of the folks who come here via Google looking for help with low milk supply, welcome. Make yourself at home. Over this series, I’m going to talk practical, daily life and how to make this as successful as possible.

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