Darillyn Starr:

This excerpt was taken from a post on 6/17/03

I have been thinking all week about all of you discouraged, moms, and trying to think what to say to help you turn your situation into a positive one! Please rest assured that the majority of us who have spend a great deal of time nursing babies, as see ourselves as highly successful, also went through periods of being discouraged and wanting to throw in the towel. In fact, some of us actually did throw in the towel with our first babies, but regretted it enough that we became more determine not to give up with subsequent babies!

I see many different situations where there is discouragement; pumping before baby, nursing a recently adopted baby, and trying to nurse a bio baby, either re lactating or dealing with serious supply problems. One thing that you all have in common is that at least part of your discouragement is over the amount of milk that you can (or can’t) pump.

It isn’t possible to give you all the exact same advice. For those of you who do not have a baby yet, and are discouraged about the volume you are pumping, I would remind you, again, that pumping results do not necessarily bear any relation to what you will be able to produce for a baby at the breast. Pumping is not the same kind of stimulation. Some women’s breasts can be expressed well with it, and come can’t. A lot has to do with individual anatomy. Also, it is hard to have the same emotional response to a pump as a baby.

Remember that you can nurse your baby, when he/she finally arrives, without ANY kind of breast preparation, and that, in fact, many of us have done that. If the pumping is just stressing you out, you have the option of stopping all together, or reducing the amount of time you spend at it. Most of us who start out cold, having done very little, or no, advance preparation, nursing with the Lact-Aid, will start producing drops of milk within two weeks, and many in just a few days. It may seem that you would be wasting the effort you already put in, if you quit pumping before you get your baby. However, it is even more of a waste for you to get so discouraged that, when you finally do get your baby, you can’t relax and enjoy bonding because you are so worried about how much milk you are producing. Some women’s bodies seem to be able to compensate for the anxiety and still produce, and let down, breast milk, but others of us are very affected by it. There are even bio moms with full supplies who cannot let their milk down during a stressful situation.

For those who already have a baby, who is willing to take the breast with the Lact-Aid or SNS, my advice is to stop thinking about milk production for a period of at least two weeks. Just fill the supplementer, let it provide the nutrition your baby needs, in addition to whatever milk you are producing, and stop thinking about your own milk. It may sound hard, but it can be done! Don’t keep track of how much supplement your baby is taking (unless, of course, there are concerns about growth) during this period. Put your pump away and resist the temptation to use it. Leave it at your husband’s office or the home of a friend or relative, if you don’t think you can resist the temptation to use it. Don’t try to hand express either. That will also make it hard to keep your focus off of producing milk, and you wouldn’t have any way of knowing whether you were even doing it correctly. Spend that time concentrating on bonding with, and enjoying, your long-awaited baby, and getting the logistics of nursing with a supplementer worked out. Nurse your baby as much as he/she is willing, and you feel comfortable doing it, both with and without the Lact-Aid. However, don’t worry if you don’t hear swallowing while nursing without it. Babies often learn to not expect much milk flow without the tube there, and do non-nutritive “flutter” suckling, which does not do much to express the breast, without it, so they are not likely to get much, regardless of how much you are producing. Although it does not express the breast well, I believe flutter suckling is valuable, as skin to skin contact, providing tactile stimulation to the breast, and also because it provides you a time to just relax and enjoy nurturing your baby without having to worry about whether you have a tube positioned correctly! Besides trying to get your baby to latch without the Lact-Aid, you can also pull it out of their mouth when you think they have had enough to eat. Many babies will spend a lot more time suckling that way. If you are prepared in a comfortable place, it is also a good time to get some well-needed rest for yourself.

I really think that pumps are backfiring on a lot of moms. With the options we now have available for increasing milk supply, one would expect that that there would be a larger percentage of adoptive moms who are succeeding at establishing a mutually satisfying, long-term nursing relationship than there used to be, but that is not what appears to be happening. There may be several factors involved in this, but I am convinced that the widespread use of breast pumps by adoptive mothers, especially those who have a baby willing to nurse, is really backfiring and interfering more than it is helping.

Ladies, when we say that the nurturing benefits of breastfeeding are worthwhile, regardless of milk supply, and that even a small amount of breast milk is beneficial, that is the honest truth! Sometimes I think it comes out sounding like the “booby” prize (pun intended) for those who are less successful, but it really isn’t. It really breaks my heart when I see ladies who are doing a wonderful job, nurturing their babies and providing antibodies through some amount of their own milk, who are discouraged and feeling like they are not very successful, because they can’t see much milk when they pump!

Part of it is how one defines success. In recent years, it has become more and more defined by number of ounces that can be pumped. Obviously, there are a few people who are more interested in being able to pump milk, than they are in really raising a baby at the breast, but I don’t think majority really feel that way. Think about it. Who provides her baby with the most benefits, someone who is able to provide a large amount of pumped breast milk, for a period of months, or someone who provides the emotional benefits of nurturing at the breast, and some amount of breast milk, until the baby decides he is ready to give it up? The answer may be different in countries where formula feeding is associated with high infant mortality, but the fact is that, in the industrialized world, most babies do quite well of formula alone, from a bottle. Nurturing at the breast, providing a diet of a combination of breast milk and formula is a very respectable way to raise a baby! I don’t know if most of you know, but nurturing also stimulates a baby’s immune system, and that should not be discounted either! Of course, a baby can be nurtured with a bottle, but that is not exactly the same as breastfeeding. Also, I worry that the babies of moms who spend much time pumping their breasts will get less than the optimal amount of nurturing.

Darillyn Starr – 7/14/03