A Lack of Mother’s Milk

Firstly thanks to everyone for the lovely congratulations and best wishes on the arrival of little Theo (we finally decided on his name!). 

I wish I could write a beautifully positive and upbeat post about how well everything is going. I want to say that I’m Mother Earth, a natural at parenting and that Theo is thriving. The reality is sadly worlds away from that desired scenario. 
Theo had a bit of a tricky start – he had jaundice and had to go under a photo therapy light in an incubator for 24 hours. I was advised that he would process the jaundice better the more hydrated he was and so was told to formula feed him. I was really devestated by this, as he was breast feeding well until that point. I felt like I couldn’t argue with the paediatrician and I was so tired and overwhelmed that I capitulated and started forumula. Of course the breast feeding since then hasn’t been going well. We got home from hospital on Tuesday and since then I have been trying to feed and also expressing with a double pump around the clock. The milk however is just not flowing. Little Theo has lost too much weight, mummy and daddy are exhausted and we’ve decided to stop trying to breast feed although I will still express for a while and see if anything changes. 

This decision has not been taken lightly. Breast feeding is something that is very important to me, for the benefits for the baby, for the bonding experience between mum and baby, and for the sense of doing something for your baby that no one else can do. I was prepared for cracked and bleeding nipples, for pain and for a baby who needed me all the time. I was not prepared that I just wouldn’t be producing milk despite regular stimulation. I have been feeling so sad and so disappointed by this situation that if I’m honest it has really ruined my enjoyment of Theo’s first week in the outside world and especially his first few days at home. 

I feel so let down by my body. I don’t understand why it won’t do what Theo and I need it to. It has compounded my feelings of worthlessness as a pregnant woman that I developed after Isobel and now as a mummy. My body couldn’t keep Isobel safe, and now Theo is here, it can’t feed him sufficiently. I keep thinking of how I took medication after Isobel to stop my milk production. Then I had the milk but no baby – now I have the baby but no milk. If I can’t do anything for Theo that someone else isn’t able to do, then how I am any more important to him than anyone else? How am I his mummy? I’ve been in floods of tears every single day, sad about the situation and then guilty for feeling sad and not enjoying this precious time with this beautiful new baby boy. 

Since losing Isobel, I thought I would have more perspective, to know that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how a baby is fed, just that they are alive to be fed! However I have still gotten caught up with thoughts of being a failure as a mummy, with being useless and worthless, with thoughts that Simon and Theo would be better off without me and even with thoughts that it was easier dealing with the loss of Isobel than it is being a mummy to Theo. I hope anyone reading this will realise how much it pains me to have these thoughts, how much I know on a rational level that they are not true and how much I wish I didn’t feel the way I do. 

On top of the distress about the feeding situation, I am simply missing my daughter too.

Our lovely midwife asked me today how I normally deal with overwhelming negative emotions, which prompted me to realise that I haven’t been using any of my helpful coping strategies. I’ve avoided writing about my feelings, I haven’t spoken to my friends, I haven’t been out of the house (or even gotten dressed) and I haven’t even allowed anyone to visit the baby get except my mum and Simon’s mum. I haven’t wanted anyone to know that this has not been the joyous time they all want it to be for me. I am ashamed by how much I am struggling and it’s made me withdraw from people which is just making things worse. 

Writing this post has been the first part of my plan to process some of these thoughts and emotions. I also plan to post on the Pregnancy After Loss Facebook page to get some support from other mummies. I am going to eat my first meal for days. I am going to have a shower, shave my legs, do my hair and put some make up on for the first time in a week. After Theo’s next bottle we are going to put him in his pram for the first time and go for a walk. I am going to do skin to skin after every bottle feed so I still have close time with my beautiful baby. That’s the plan so far. I hope my next update will be a little more positive but if it’s not, if the reality is still painful and hard, then I hope I have the ability to be brave and face it and share that too. 

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8 thoughts on “A Lack of Mother’s Milk

  1. That is such a brave post to write. I wish I could give you a hug. I’m really worried that I’ll just be completely useless once Pip arrives. With the aftermath of a c-section and my disability I’ll be very dependent on Paul and Pip will be too. He tells me that I’ll just have to sit down and give Pip lots of cuddles. It’s not the same as being able to care for your new baby though.
    Theo is gorgeous (lovely name too!) but negative feelings are normal, especially when the road after birth isn’t smooth. So many women (and men) struggle with negative feelings after birth and they haven’t gone through anything like you’ve gone through.
    The important thing is that you’ve recognised your feelings and you’re beginning to make positive moves to help.
    I’m sure that the steps you’re taking will help and little by little it will get easier. We’ve shown we’re good at baby steps, just keep moving forwards and talking about how you’re feeling and slowly things will get easier.
    Xxxx

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  2. Sweet, sweet mama, you are doing a wonderful job! New babies are hard no matter what! You are a wonderful mom, both to Isobel and Theo. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. I see strong and fierce in the face of adversary , loyal and loving in honoring Isobel, mama love in your gaze at Theo. There is no right or wrong way on feeding new babies, there is only love, and Mama, you got that!

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  3. He’s adorable. And I love the name Theo. You’re so very brave to write this. While I can’t speak from experience your feelings all sound very reasonable, though I know they totally suck. I think probably a lot is compounded by re-grief related to Isobel. I can’t imagine the first days/weeks/months with your rainbow, as happy/relieved as I can imagine you are, would be easy – there is just so much going on, so many complicated emotions. Y0u seem to be taking so many positive steps towards improving the situation, this post being the first. I hope that some of these steps bring you relief in the coming days. You are an amazing mother – try not to let anyone or anything, including yourself (though I know easier said than done) tell you otherwise. Thinking of you, sending love. xoxo

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  4. Hi Alanna,
    Huge congratulations on baby Theo’s safe arrival. Love the name 🙂 and he’s absolutely gorgeous. I also would love to give you a massive hug. Our story is very similar and I can relate to everything you’ve said. Like you, we lost a little girl (Sariel) and had a little rainbow boy (Ceolán). My husband is even called Simon! I was so determined to breastfeed too, because of health benefits, bonding etc but mostly because I missed out with Sariel. Milk but no baby and then baby with feck all milk. We had tongue tie issues, then weight loss, hospital with ‘failure to thrive’, pumping 7 times a day for months, lactation consultants, massive pressure from muppets in the HSE who just wanted me to give him a bottle as a quick solution. It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job and that your mind is made up but if you want to continue, I can recommend an amazing lactation consultant and pumping/feeding tips. My supply went way down and the main cause was stress. I can only admit that now but God help anyone who would have said it to me at the time. It’s like saying don’t be upset about your daughter dying. Easier said than done! In hindsight, 11 months later, with lots of councilling, I know it was the normal stress of motherhood, the grief of losing Sariel and not letting myself ‘moan’. Thinking that I had to be the perfect mother that can do everything and never complain. Your plan for minding yourself sounds fantastic. And the plan for continuing to bond with Theo through skin to skin, snuggles, walks and pumping is exactly what you both need. Your feelings are completely normal and understandable. Theo loves you more than anyone in the world and you’re doing a great job as his and Isobel’s Mummy. I was so annoyed with having to top him up with formula, thinking I wasn’t able to fully feed my own baby and what kind of mother was I that I couldn’t keep the first baby alive and couldn’t feed the second one, when someone pointed out “you ARE feeding him!” Will I add you to the feileacain rainbow support group? On a positive note, the dull clouds of hormones, stress, guilt, and tears do go away and it does get easier. 11 months on my underweight ‘failure to thrive’ baby is a chubby little monkey who’s still boobing in spite of it all. Please get in contact any time. Jacqui xxxx

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  5. You are a wonderful Mommy to Isobel and Theo❤️ I too cannot speak from experience, but I can see how overwhelming and emotional Theo’s arrival was/is coupled with not being able to breastfeed him. You are so brave for writing this post, you are always so open and honest and I appreciate that. When our little Penelope is born in September, I know I won’t be alone in my struggles because of brave mamas like you. Hang in there, you are so much stronger than you feel right now. Sending you love and hugs from Colorado 😍

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  6. I hope things work out and you are able to breastfeed your baby but as a mom that was in the same position a few months ago I can tell you he can thrive even without. My son was induced two weeks early and spent 8 days in the NICU for low blood sugar where he was bottled fed. I pumped and pumped and my milk just never came in, it turned out I had a bad infection and needed surgery so being away from him for a hospital stay didn’t help the situation. Even after 4 lactation consultants we just couldn’t make it work. Trust me when I tell you it was 100% harder on me than it was the baby. He’s now 4 months, happy, healthy and perfectly normal sized.

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  7. My heart is breaking for you, I’m so sorry, but I’m not surprised by your negative emotions (from all the literature I’ve read about rainbow babies).

    I wish you would stop beating yourself up, you have survived losing your baby girl, which is basically impossible! now you have survived a rainbow pregnancy, that is huge! You are an inspiration, your honesty is helping others who are too afraid to admit their real feelings and are suffering in silence.

    You will settle into becoming a mummy of two, just take one day at a time. You will honour Isobel by continuing as the best Mummy possible to her and her little brother, despite the horrifically toxic combination of grief, and postnatal hormones.

    I wish I could take away your pain, please know that breastfeeding is difficult for any Mum, let alone one who has gone through what you have.

    Thinking of you, Isobel and Theo 🌟

    xxxxxx

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  8. Big Big hugs! I struggled with my BF journey too and it’s not easy on mom. You’re doing an amazing job for this little boy.
    He’s beautiful! xo

    Like

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