I wasn’t going to write about this plainly ‘coz I thought I’d bore the socks off everyone – but after receiving lots of emails about the topic and urges from new mothers to share, I thought I’d put it down in writing.

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Here is my story about Milk.

After I had birthed, I ruminated about getting back in shape and got a couple of comments from existing mothers about focusing on my milk supply etc. It was a touchy topic and I might have come off as quite sensitive and defensive about the issue.

The truth is I was having major issues at the time and hadn’t quite gotten to grips with everything. I was suffering from major guilt that I couldn’t let go of and I suppose I was afraid of what others might think.

(It’s weird what silly emotions you deal with when you’re a first time mum.)

The honest fact is that breastfeeding hadn’t worked out for me as I had planned.

I had completely prepared myself for birth: I had Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. I went in with the mentality that I would go with the flow and go with whichever plan that would get baby out safely. I had flexibility in this.

But this wasn’t the same with my attitude to breastfeeding. My Plan A was all I had and this was to feed for six months to a year of Naomi’s life. I did not stock any formula in the house and I had bought one of the most expensive Medela pumps on the market, in anticipation of how I would manage when I went back to work.

I envisioned myself pumping in the office during my lunch hour and filling the pantry’s fridge with bottles of milk, like most mums that I know.

But this wasn’t to be.

Everything had gone smoothly from Day One. Baby was born weighing okay, no jaundice, latched on alright after skin-to-skin contact etc. For a week, I breastfed fine. She ate and slept fine and I thanked God for my healthy bundle of joy.

But on Day Six, I started to bleed quite excessively. Obviously worried, I called my OB for an emergency appointment and she saw me first thing on a Sunday morning. She scanned me and said I looked alright, but told me to monitor my bleeding. She told me to head to the A&E if the bleeding got too much for me to handle.

That day, the bleeding seemed to subside and by night, I felt fine. I went to bed a happy mummy. But in the middle of the night, I woke up feeling like I had wet myself. Dazed and confused, I realized I had actually bled myself awake.

To cut the long and gory story short, I bled so much that I fainted on the husband. Twice. Thankfully, he held me right before I blacked out both times and realizing the situation had become serious, he called for an ambulance and I got admitted to the hospital for four days.

As soon as I got in, I was put on an anti-biotic drip to prevent infection. I wasn’t able to feed Naomi for the entire length of my stay and I was put on oral anti-biotic after being discharged, so I couldn’t feed her for a further six days after. She had to go on formula.

That really sucked. I felt horrible the entire time and like I was a failure. Every time I pumped out the milk and dumped it, I felt like it was such a waste and I hoped she would latch back okay once the whole ordeal was over. I also went for outpatient surgery to get some leftover placenta out of my uterus (which may have caused the bleeding) so the whole affair was very upsetting and I was very emotional.

I kept wondering if I had done something to have caused the bleeding, i.e. strained myself etc. As such, the entire time I was in hospital I wouldn’t take any visitors. I didn’t tell anyone I was there until I got out.

I kept blaming myself for the whole thing.

Thankfully, once I was able to feed again Naomi immediately suckled and took to the breast. I was so happy to feed her again! I kept her on pure breast milk for about 12 days after that… However, each day was a struggle. She would scream and cry despite being on the breast almost 24/7.

My mother and mother-in-law suggested that perhaps my milk supply wasn’t kicking in and that I should supplement with formula. But I was insistent! I had soups four times a day, I drank milk about three times a day, I was eating as much as I could to make sure my body could be as cow-like as possible. I didn’t exercise either. I just did what everyone told me I should do. I took Fenugreek and I had longan and red date tea coming out of my ears.

But she kept screaming.

Was it colic? I was so desperate one evening that I took her to the pediatrician and this was when I discovered that she was actually underweight. The paed gave me some tablets to help with my supply too… Ginny the Doula came over and taught me how to hand express to stimulate the breasts, which I did heaps after but still…..

I was distraught. Everytime Naomi cried I felt like I was hurting her. So to save my sanity, I gave her a tiny bit of formula and….

She stopped crying. She looked around the room curiously like someone had given her a new face. ‘Oh my goodness,’ I thought. ‘Have I been starving her?’

From then on, I supplemented with formula. Each time she needed to feed, I’d suckle her first and let her have whatever I could produce. When she sounded frustrated, I knew I was empty and then I would give her formula on top of what she had already had.

The next time I took her to the paed, I was told her weight gain was now normal. Thank goodness!

Obviously it wasn’t long before I completely dried up naturally. I didn’t even have to try to wean.

It was after I completely dried up that I decided to start my exercise regime. And I am a whole lot happier now and sooo over the guilt of not breastfeeding anymore.

At first I still felt really crappy about how it all went, but you know what?

Once I let go of all the guilt, I realized that I am a much better mother now. Naomi cried a lot more when I was stressing over feeding her but now she smiles and giggles more because her mummy smiles and laughs a lot more around her.

And I’ve come to the realization that, well……

That’s all that matters.

27 Responses to All About Milk

  1. agnes says:

    Janice,
    thanks for sharing that – and sorry to hear about the ordeal you had to endure with the bleeding & fainting – not pleasant at all. But I think a lot of us newbie mums do have ideals and plans about many things including BF and for some of us the plan doesn’t succeed.

    I’m glad you have moved on from any morsel of guilt and are a happy mummy with an equally happy and healthy bubs!

    agnes x

  2. HL says:

    Hey babe thanks for sharing. It’s both inspiring and encouraging, and I’m so glad that both you n baby are happier now =)

  3. pat says:

    There’s a reason why formula milk out on the shelves cost so much, because they are full of good stuff for our babies. Nae’s going to still grow well even without being breastfed! So long as you & Nae are happy, that’s the most important! :)

    Can’t wait to see you both soon*

    • Janice says:

      Yeah it took me awhile to realize that. I just got so upset and I think that even tho I was eating the most nutritious things, the stress was getting to her through my milk anyway!

  4. Glad you’re doing ok now. Must have been traumatic for yourself, let alone the guilt you felt. At the end of the day, really the most impt thing is a happy mummy = a happy baby. =)

  5. Tina says:

    Hi Janice, I’ve always loved your blog (been an avid reader for years). And this entry was particularly raw and honest, it is everything you’ve always been in all your years of writing. I can only imagine how motherhood is like, but you’re doing great. Thanks for sharing, I found this story to be a beautiful one, and I’m sure Naomi will read this someday and realise what a fine Mother she has xx

  6. baobabs says:

    I’ve also been a silent reader for years and love your anecdotes about life and your positivity. Sorry about the scarey ordeal and glad you and the baby is well and happy!

  7. Shaz says:

    I insisted on breastfeeding my daughter for the first month and all she did was cry. She looked underweight but i was so stubborn. One day, she was given the ready formula given by the hospital, and she drank like it was the best thing that ever happened. That was when i realised my milk wasnt enough and I had starved her for a month! Long story short, she had formula ever since and growing happily. Didnt stop me from feeling like a failure though!

    • Janice says:

      I hear you, Shaz! It took me ages to get over it. But I think the faster you let go of it, the faster baby settles into a happy and healthy routine :)

  8. CL says:

    Thanks for this timely reminder. We are due in 6 weeks time and like you, I am flexible about my birthing plan and have communicated my options to the husband and the gynae. Then again, like you, I have only a PLAN A for feeding! I have bought, yes, possibly the most expensive Medela pump, a feeding pillow, a new armchair for the nursery, different brands of breast pads etc. And NO formula. The husband was excited about diapers and FM at first but I chided him for wanting to buy FM – hey, dont jinx my supply, i’m going to be a cow! Gotta bear this entry in mind and remind myself what’s really important at the end of the day – a well-fed happy and healthy bub! Glad that you survived the ordeal and that now you and Naomi are both happy :)

  9. Shiqin says:

    Hi Janice. I was the one who wrote on Formspring and requested for you to write about your own bf’g issues… And I have to say, I am thankful that you did. Honestly? It’s like reading my very own story, what with the bleeding and Fenugreek and supplementing with formula and dealing with people who think that I’m a failure.

    Thanks for sharing, Janice. I’m done with all the guilt, too. As long as our babies are happy, healthy & getting the thumb ups at every well-baby check-up, then that is all that amatters. :)

    • Janice says:

      Oh dear, I’m glad you were able to identify with my story! And no worries, you weren’t the only one asking but you sure were THE push factor!

  10. Cherie says:

    Hi Janice,

    thanks for sharing this and i couldn’t have imagined the ordeal that you have gone through. makes me feel ashamed that i was complaining like mad during the first month after my son was born (just days after naomi).

    am glad that you are all well now and am happy.

    like you, i didnt prep any formula. Thankfully, a friend told me that i could request pre-mixed bottles of liquid formula milk from the hospital the day i discharged. its free and i had it on standby. thought i’ll share this so that your readers get to benefit from it too.

    it saved my baby from the hunger cos the milk wasn’t coming in fast enough and he was crying out his lungs the day i got home cos he was sooo hungry.. i was feeling guilty when my mum started my baby on the formula milk and cried over it badly for failing to provide enough breastmilk. but at the end of the day, when i see my baby happily sucking from the bottle and finishing it in an instant.. it struck me that anything works so long the baby is fed and not starving. :)

    you have done great and its very heartening to read about your entries as a mum and about naomi. keep it up!

    • Janice says:

      Don’t feel bad for complaining – the first month is so hard! I was so amazed at how brutal and torturous the sleep deprivation was, so I feel for any new mum. Thanks for the tip! Naomi had some of those when I was admitted to hospital since I didn’t have any formula on hand too. The hospital charged us for it tho! I suppose because it was an A&E admittance rather than a maternity package!

  11. guerrrilla says:

    aiyoooh. i’m not a mum, but i was absolutely floored reading this. damn J!

    you know you’re blazing the trail for us would be mums right? dunno why you’d think this is boring poppet. if anything, i think its darn cool your blog is almost an informal “forum” about motherhood. i seriously enjoy reading your post-birth entries and lurking at the “shop”!!! bring it yummy mummy!!!

  12. Sharon says:

    I m pumping my milk now as i m reading this entry. I m on day 26 and milk supply is still low. My bb was introduced formula due to jaundice when discharged and i still have not gotten over the guilt when ppl say i should be on total breastfeed rather than giving formula. Hope one day i can be like you…indeed a happy mummy=happy bb! All the best to you n little nae. She simply adorable!

    • Janice says:

      Whatever nutrients she is getting from you is great and nothing is wrong with supplementing! Give her what you can and for as long as you can. You’re doing great for even trying!

  13. Zoe says:

    hi, just popping by to say that it’s perfectly normal to feel how you felt about not BF-ing naomi. My girl was also partial FM-fed cuz my milk was slow. She cried a lot too when I insisted on full BF. It didn’t help that a lot of my friends in the forum had overflowing supply that burst their freezers.

    but with the lack of pumping and breastfeeding also came more time to enjoy the baby and be with the baby. so by and by the guilt melted away. It also helped that my mum cooked really nutritious stuff for her once she could take solids and she’s grown up really well and healthy. (Dare I say even healthier than some of my friends’ breast-fed babies from the amount of sickness i hear from them).

    My point, breastfeeding isn’t everything really. :)

    And sorry to hear about the bleeding. I hope they gave you a good explanation on why the placenta wasn’t fully removed. I’ve read articles on such cases but have never heard from people I know so it is quite a shocker. Do take loads of tonics and nutritious stuff to build up your health. It’s crucial to your well-being in the long run!

    Take care and be well!

    • Janice says:

      Yes! I have a lot more time and feel a lot more emotionally stable now to be there for my baby. And she seems healthy as a horse too, so I realize now that’s the most important thing :)

  14. Marie-Christine says:

    Hi Janice. Thank you for sharing your story. You are very brave. Something similar happened to me but I was lucky enough to bring the baby with me in hospital and feed him.

    It’s so hard not feeling guilty. You can’t blame yourself. You really did everything you could do. And at the end of the day, your little girl is happy, and that what’s important.

    Take care Janice.

    • Janice says:

      Andrew brought her along too but they put me on an anti-biotic IV immediately so I was told not to feed her. I’m glad you’re fine too!

  15. yellow says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. This article really resonated in me, I also had to struggle with the same feeling of incompetence and guilt when I made the decision to keep my daughter on both formula and BF. I received tons of comments about how BF was best (from doctors, nurses and friends). I took fenugreek and even prescribed medication to get my milk up. I truly only relaxed the day I decided to let go of my own expectations of having a fully BFed baby. Emilia is now 6 months old and is a fantastic, sweet and happy baby. I’m so glad to hear that both you and Naomi are doing great. I have been enjoying your mummy and ickleshop posts so much!

  16. Michelle says:

    Hi Janice, Thanks for sharing your story. I have a 2 year old and she was born 6 weeks early so she was a little thing at 4lbs 11oz or 2.12kg :) I had no plans about bfg; I was going to give it a go and see what happens. I didn’t even buy a breast pump! I was not fanatical either way and thankfully wasn’t surrounded by “well meaning” folks who sang the “exclusively bfg with latch” song to me before, during or after. Since my baby was a preemie, she had to be given special formula to gain weight and I was fine with it. So long as she is getting what she needs, I don’t care. When my milk supply came in, she was on partial formula and breast milk and this continued on until she was a year old. Today she is a thriving 2 year old and I wouldn’t change a thing. I made the decision to exclusively pump i.e. no latch after she came home from her 2 weeks NICU stay. I had alot of struggles with pumping (clogged ducts every other week), I was not able to produce much milk, even when I drank a ton of water and ate herbal supplements etc., yet somehow, I made enough to supplement her formula milk. I persevered with pumping because she was a preemie and I was hoping that some breastmilk will help and as my PD said, some is better than none. I respect choices – be it to exclusively bf (latch or otherwise) or be on formula or a mix of both etc., Sure I had folks who will tell me latch is the best for bonding blah blah blah; but that is not my choice so they should really bugger off. I have received raised eyebrows when they hear that my baby was on partial formula and breastmilk – if I could, I would have given them the finger. At the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for our sanity because happy mummy = happy baby. Best wishes :)

  17. pinklorisa says:

    I think new mothers will be constantly worrying and struggling with the thought of whether we have given the best to our precious first little ones. Because the little ones are so small and helpless, we try so hard that we forget that we just need to take it easy and let it go; they will still be alive!
    Thank you for sharing your story. I think when the second one comes along, we’ll be more easy on ourselves.

  18. Min says:

    Hi Janice,
    Don’t feel bad on not able to bf-ing totally. I was also a failure.. only consolation was that i was really really dilligent.

    I also bought the most expensive pump. I pump dilligently like a machine 3-4 hrly. drank as much as i could.. also took Fenugeek

    but my output was really pathetic.. could only get 30-40ml per side even after 4-5mth of pumping.

    i’m just one of the rare low milk supply.

    I tried all sort of method.. e.g. going to Lactation consultation , manual squeezing by hand and even bought a Avent manual pump (as i read diff breast adapt to diff pump)

    I’m a mother of 2 boys.. and both were on 80% FM and 20% BM.. though we could not bond or can’t give them the best.. at least time is well spent with them instead of hanging around with my pumps!