Converting back to a green life, one week (and nap time) at a time

Leave a comment

The End is Not the End

April 2016

I know I said I wouldn’t do this, but here is one more blog post.

I was sitting here wasting time on Facebook (it’s amazing how much time I can lose just clicking on the garbage that comes up on my newsfeed) when I could be doing something more productive. Like writing. Or like not using electricity at all. Like reading.

While I’ve been on mat leave I’ve been reading a lot. I recently read the Mitch Albom book “The First Phone call from Heaven”. In the story, one of the characters mentions the phrase “The End is not the End” in reference to heaven, and is also apparently a House of Heros song.


I’ve also been trying to wean LM. I’ve decided I’m just done. He’s almost 9 months. It’s ok. I did my best. He’s going to be ok either way. Just when I think we’re done, we’re not. He asks for me (he does a little bobbing bird on my chest when he wants the boob. It’s kind of sweet. 🙂  When he’s really hungry he doesn’t care where the food comes from as long as it comes fast!). And I can’t believe I only have three months of mat leave left  😦

It’s time I put this blog to bed and move on. The amount of electricity I’ve used researching and writing this blog is not lost on me. My family needs me. I need me. And as much as I love blogging, it’s taking up more time than I can put into it to make it the way I want it. I’m too hard on myself for not posting or tweeting regularly, or making timely posts related to current events. I often feel rushed when doing a post and I make mistakes.

My plan was to go back to each post, add tags, edit grammar and spelling, add links for interesting things I’ve found out since I wrote the original post, update my progress, etc.  But lets be realistic – as they say “ain’t no one got time for that”!

And I’ve realized, just like I’m not perfect, just like we don’t parent perfectly or the way we might like too, this blog isn’t going to be perfect. So what if it’s not written like a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Just like parenthood, it’s raw and its real. So why change it now?

I started this blog for New Year’s 2014. Today, my 35th birthday, seems like a good day to finish it off.

So as a final post, here are some things I wanted to write about. I’ve been trying to clean out my e-mail accounts, where I e-mail my blog ideas to myself, and I just seem to have so many green ideas I want to write about while incorporating them into events in my life.  I didn’t want to be one of those websites that just lists a bunch of tips without actually trying them myself. But I want to share them for my readers anyway. Who knows, maybe some day I will try them. I guess I can always go back to this list. And some of them just made me laugh.

For each of you who reads this blog, try out a green challenge from the list below. In this way, the blog has no end.

Here they are, by category/topic/tag:

Waste Reduction

How did a sea turtle get a straw up its nose?

Worms could help reduce waste

101 uses for Mason Jars! (well actually just 18, but who’s counting;-) )

The Destiny of Restaurant Crayons

The Unintended Consequences of Banning Bottled Water

Waste Reduction on Campus


Repurposing an Old Toothbrush


Food Security/Waste

Tax Break for businesses that donate food

Just Eat it Restaurant Waste Video

Use it don’t lose it!

denHaan Greenhouses – local source for tomatoes and cucumbers

Fair Trade Recipes

French Law Bans Food Waste

Ugly Food!


I was going to participate in the National Geographic Hashtag challenge, but as with a great many things I ran out of time. So here’s the photo




Sustainable Seafood – Loblaws


Infant Feeding

Breastfeeding Dairy Free

Lactose Overload

Breastfeeding & Alcohol Consumption

Formula FYI

Pump & Dump


Sustainable Diapering

The Diaper Divide

7th Generation Training Pants


Environmentally Friendly Sanitary Pads

Now that Aunt Flo is back in my life I’ve been thinking about this a little more.

The Honest Company

Goodbye Diva Cup


Environmentally Friendly Funerals/Burials/Estate Planning (not that I plan on trying these any time soon – for all the right reasons!)


Burial Pods



Our kitty has recently had some health problems, which got me thinking about this even more

Ethically Sourced Pet Food

Crystal Cat Litter

Silica Cat Litter

Ecofriendly Cat Litter

Homemade Cat Litter

Homemade Cat food

More Homemade Cat Litter



Natural Pest/Weed Control



Water Conservation/Pollution

Drugs in Drinking Water

The Surfrider Foundation

Gold in Sewage

Water used to grow favourite foods

Microbeads Banned


Eco-friendly Shopping

The True Cost of Clothing

Germs in Cloth Bags

The Green Mom Review

Toxic Items at Dollar Stores

Chemicals in Dollar Store Products

Dollar Store Product Contaminants



Advice to Fathers

The Most Expensive 2-hour Nap

A Day at Home with a Newborn

10 things kids should see their parents doing

Journey from Anti-Vaxx to Science

Please don’t visit my Newborn

10 ways to really help someone with a new baby


As I’ve said before, through this blog, I’ve learned that as with every thing in life, we have to make decisions. Just like we can’t always be that perfect parent, we can’t be the perfect environmentalist. But we try. We try and we hope it’s enough.

And then there’s this guy. Am I him? I don’t think I want to be him. If you can’t follow my blog, follow the frog.




Leave a comment

Born Hungry: Part III

Are you still there? Thanks to my readers for sticking with me. 🙂 In my first post, Born Hungry Part I, I summarized my experience breastfeeding my daughter (MD). I discussed the multiple problems we encountered, things we tried, what worked and what didn’t, and the outcome. And the guilt and frustration of it all.

In Born Hungry Part II, I summarized how with my son (LM) I unwillingly relived aspects of my first breastfeeding experience. I discussed what went wrong this time, what went right, how I made peace with it all and how things are going now.

In this final post on this topic, I’m going to dig through some family history, and make the environmental connection to breastfeeding difficulties, bringing this blog full circle, in a way.

If you read both of my previous posts on these topics, I salute you. There was a lot there. That was after I had condensed some timelines and removed some sections to improve the flow.

There was a lot I didn’t get to talk about. Like how at about three months MD and I had a breastfeeding breakthrough (she was nursing, looked up at me, unlatched and cooed and smiled at me) which is what made me want to pick it up again.

I didn’t talk about how I bought an SNS, but ultimately ended up not using it because every time I looked at it the thought of cleaning it 8 times a day made me want to throw up. (I salute any woman who has tried this contraption).


I didn’t talk about how my iron should likely have been tested as well as my thyroid. I’ve always struggled keeping my iron up and it was probably lower than it should have been after giving birth due to the extra blood loss. Some of the symptoms I experienced (cold all the time, extreme fatigue) were certainly consistent with anemia, which could have impacted milk production.

I didn’t talk about how nursing sessions with both my children would regularly last for an hour or more. I didn’t learn until later that this can be normal See Frequent Nursing. It just felt like my milk was made of water.

I didn’t rant about jaundice, how we’re not provided with enough information about it; how our parents’ generation were taught to fear it; how PHNs tell us not to worry about it; and how if it’s only tested once in the hospital how the heck do we even know what the levels are in our baby.

I didn’t talk about how I think there should be more research done on breastfeeding science. I didn’t get a chance to review much of the primary litterature, though from what I have read it seems most studies are decades old. And my experiences breastfeeding seem to lead to more questions than answers.

And I didn’t go into much detail on how I felt we were brainwashed to breastfeed. Mind control is defined on Wikipedia as the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. In our case, persons in a position of authority continually and consistently bombarded us with information on breastfeeding, that breastfeeding was the only choice and that there were no other acceptable options, at a point in time when we were most susceptible to being coerced.

I did blast nurses and the health care system. I didn’t mean to. I know they work hard, skipping lunch and pee breaks, not to mention exposing themselves to contagious diseases when no one else will.

I just needed to vent my frustration somewhere. But getting it down on paper as it were also helped me see why, with such limited resources, they spend time helping the women who are having “minor” difficulties breastfeed better, rather than getting to the bottom of why another woman is having supply issues when it seems all avenues have been exhausted. But I still think we, as a health care system and as a society, could do better.

We could do better preparing expectant parents, giving them the information they need to make an informed decision, providing more logistical support when the baby arrives, and preparing their support systems with the most up to date information. We could do at least this much.

Breastfeeding is not only an infant health issue, a public health issue, a preventative health care issue, and a women’s rights issue. It is also a mental health issue (women who experience difficulties breastfeeding are at greater risk for postpartum depression – and it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as to which is cause and which is effect), and an environmental issue.

I didn’t talk about how I spoke with female relatives about their experiences breastfeeding. (They had no supply issues; one had issues with the latch with their first child and no problems with the second).

Both of my grandmothers had passed away many years ago, and I knew that both my mom and dad had been formula fed. My mom said her mom (my maternal grandmother) tried to breastfeed, but she “didn’t have any milk”. It was the 1940s, when formula was being promoted and breastfeeding knowledge was going out the window, so who knows what was really going on.


My mom breastfed me for five months. I was exclusively breastfed until four months (except once at 6 weeks), but between my two and four month check ups I had lost weight, so she had to supplement with both formula and Pablum to get my weight back up.

She was plagued by guilt for years, which led to her continually feeding me. I became overweight (50 lbs at age 3, 90 lbs in grade 3) and have struggled with my weight all my life. She wasn’t provided with any counselling to reassure her that it wasn’t her fault that her supply went down. In the 80s, she was taught to feed on a 3-4-hour schedule rather than on demand (she had no support from her mom either, since as I mentioned above she hadn’t breastfed). Also, I was crawling at four months of age, so my energy demands, and therefore her milk production, needed to be even higher. She also wasn’t provided with any information on how feeding on demand could boost her supply.

When I was researching the symptoms of IGT, I also read about the suspected contributing factors to this type of abnormal breast anatomy. Ironically, obesity is one of them.

Another suspected contributing factor – endocrine disrupting chemicals. As I discussed way back in Week 1, endocrine disruptors mimic the bodies natural hormones, such as reproductive hormones. This is a simplified explanation, but when these chemicals “bind” with the body’s tissues in the place of the hormones that should be there, the tissues don’t develop and/or don’t function properly. It is thought that exposure to these chemicals during fetal development or during puberty inhibit proper breast development, leading to IGT (see La Leche League and Environmental Exposures and Mammary Gland Development).

Endocrine disruptors such as BPAs are found in many plastics, such as plastic baby bottles and bottle liners (BPAs have since been removed, but would have been present in the 80’s). BPAs were also used to line food packaging, such as formula containers (see Health Canada and ABCNews).

Ironically, it seems that my mom’s difficulty breastfeeding may have led to my own difficulties. Between overfeeding me due to a “starvation complex”, the bottles used to supplement, and the formula itself, I would have been exposed to endocrine disruptors during infancy. Whether that was enough to impact later breast development is hard to say. (Do the formula companies know this? Was this their plan all along? Is it all a conspiracy?)

Or maybe it was something she was exposed to while she was pregnant. Or maybe it was something I was exposed to during puberty.  It would be interesting to survey some of my childhood friends born and raised in my community around the same time to see if they’ve since had any difficulties breastfeeding.

Makes me glad, for my daughter’s sake as well, that I’m trying to eliminate endocrine disruptors from our life by using glass dishes instead of plastic, natural cleaners, etc. as I’ve discussed elsewhere in this Blog.

I tell you, if I ever find out that we were exposed to a chemical growing up that caused this, I am going to go all Erin Brockovich on their asses.


Which actually got me thinking . . . another group of common endocrine disruptors is the halogens, such as bromine and chlorine. Both of these chemicals are commonly used in swimming pools. We had a pool growing up, and I practically lived in it every summer from age five until I moved to university. Having said that, bromines are in the same group as iodine and therefore bind to thyroid tissue, not reproductive tissue. But still . . .


Hopefully I’ve been able to break the cycle somewhat, and my daughter, if she so chooses, will have an easier time breastfeeding.

Whatever she chooses,  ultimately #FedisBest.


For more information about endocrine disruptors and pools see:

Clarity for Spas

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers

Poison hiding in your environment




Leave a comment

Born Hungry: Part II

September/October 2015-March/April 2016

What does breastfeeding have to do with going green, you might wonder. Primarily the waste reduction aspect – no formula containers to recycle, no bottles to wash. Additionally, the nutritional benefits of a “natural” food.

In my first post (Born Hungry Part I) I described my struggle to breastfeed my daughter (MD). There have been many days when I wished I could do it all over again, and do it right.

When we became pregnant with our second child, I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding again.  But this time I was ready. I purchased a breast pump, had bottles and formula ready, and purchased a bottle of fenugreek from The Healthy Bug health food store down the road.

Most importantly, I was armed with information. I knew what breastfeeding was supposed to feel like, and how beautiful it could be. I went in with the opinion that as no two pregnancies or no two babies were the same, there was no reason to believe my breastfeeding experience would be repeated.

I had a relatively healthy and uneventful pregnancy (noticed breast changes right away, which continued throughout the pregnancy), and LM was born the day before his due date (see And Finally). Labor and delivery again were very fast but without any complications, and he was a healthy weight.


When he latched on in the delivery room and immediately started the now familiar suck-swallow, I was so relieved it was almost orgasmic.

I continued to nurse on demand (trying to wake him every three to four hours the first day), and it just felt so much better than it had with MD. It felt natural. I was experiencing some pain in the left breast when he first latched on, but I expected that would improve in a few days. The lactation consultant that came to see us in the hospital (wow so the health care system had learned something in the last four years!), she commented that my nipples seemed large but otherwise everything seemed ok.

So when after day two when LM and I had been up all night, his weight was still dropping, he was jaundiced, and he still wasn’t peeing as much as he should have been, I was disappointed but still determined. I knew that all of this except the peeing part was normal, and he was still well above seven pounds so he had a little more weight to work with than MD.

After much discussion with the nurses and the OBGYN at the hospital, we decided to supplement. I didn’t want to go through what we’d gone through with MD. I could feel that my breasts were getting bigger and that my milk was on its way in. But I knew a little bit of formula now would help flush his system and make sure he could pee, give him calories to breastfeed effectively, and give me some much needed rest. This time the health care practitioners were very supportive of formula.

Within an hour he had a pee. He also only took a little bit of formula before settling down for a long sleep, which the nurse said was encouraging, as it indicated he was likely full of colostrum and transitional milk.

That afternoon we were discharged, and we brought LM home. I fed him on demand, every two to three hours during the day and every three to four at night.  There were a couple of nights he slept nearly six hours. I wasn’t going to set an alarm, as I knew we both needed rest, but I woke him as soon as I woke.

I started taking fenugreek the day after we got home. We also supplemented a couple of times, as it was August and very hot, and I felt I had nursed him with all that I had but he was still screeching for more.

On day five I woke at midnight to full, leaking breasts. Hallelujah! My milk was in! I nursed him until he wouldn’t take any more and he drifted off to sleep. He drained one side and part of the other, and I pumped off what was left.

PHN came in the next afternoon he had gained weight – horray! She suggested we stop supplementing. I asked her about the painful latch on the left side. She said, oh that’s ok, it should clear up in a few days.

I was relived and happy to be breastfeeding my baby, and did not anticipate any problems. But then . . .

Over the next day or two he still wasn’t peeing as much as he should have been. I was concerned about both the jaundice (which seemed to be getting worse, not better) and dehydration since it was so hot. I wanted to have the PHN come two days later to have him weighted again, but she wasn’t available. So at one week I was out and about to take him to a mom and tot group to have him weighed. Sure enough, he had lost two ounces. The PHN was stumped.

He was pooping regularly and it was the right consistency, he was sucking and swallowing at the breast, he was latched deeply (on the right side anyway), I could see milk in his mouth, I could notice a difference in my breasts before and after nursing, he was now waking every three hours on his own most of the time to eat, and was taking anywhere from 10 minutes to 25 minutes to empty a breast. He was alert and not lethargic. He was falling asleep while nursing, but most newborns often do this. He was still jaundiced though (the other nurse told me not to worry about the jaundice. How could I not worry when my whole family was worried!) It was also still very painful when he latched on the left side. Something just wasn’t adding up.

“Do you mind if I look in his mouth?” the PHN asked. Of course, go ahead I replied. “Aha”, she exclaimed, “he’s tongue tied, and lip-tied. He can’t get a proper latch to empty the breast or stimulate the breasts to make more, and he’s tiring himself out trying. Keep supplementing him for now and speak to your GP at your next visit to have it clipped.” After telling her about the experience we had with MD, she said chances are my daughter was tongue tied too. (That would certainly explain why I had such a hard time with her).

At two weeks of age he had the tongue tie clipped (they wouldn’t cut the lip tie). The Dr. said to have the PHN check the latch and have him weighted in a few days. Oh, and by the way there are these exercises you should do to keep the tongue tie from growing back, but you can see them on Youtube. Really? A Dr. is directing me to YouTube for medical information? Oh my postpartum nerves!

Within a few days I noticed that he was no longer falling asleep as easily at the breast. Now that he was staying awake to empty my breasts, it seemed like he was rarely satisfied at the end of a feeding. It was like I was playing catch up all the time. I continued supplementing when it seemed necessary.

At one month check up he was gaining weight, but just barely, and he was rarely content at the end of a feeding, even after giving formula. I asked the Dr. for domperidone again, and she provided a prescription. In hindsight I probably should have asked for this at one week, but my Dr. is hesitant to prescribe medications that aren’t needed and I don’t know if she would have considered this “necessary” at that time.

At two months it was the same story – the domperidone and fenugreek had helped, and most of the time I could feed him (usually between midnight and noon) and just supplement a few times a day (usually afternoon and early evening). I felt like I was just about there.

But my Dr. still wasn’t happy with the weight gain. She suggested that maybe I made “skim milk”.  That is, that my milk does not have a high enough fat content to satisfy him or help him gain weight faster. She agreed that based on genetic endowment (he comes from a family on the large size on all sides) and activity level (holding his head up at 45-90deg at 2 months of age) I should continue supplementing him whenever he needs it, and that he would stop when he had enough (something we were concerned about with MD).

When I pumped I took note – sure enough, about 2 ounces of foremilk, toped with a skim of hindmilk (much like gasoline on a puddle). I also noticed how much slower the hindmilk came out: the foremilk sprayed out forcefully, while the hindmilk was more like a “drip drip drip” resembling a leaking faucet. At this point I’m thinking I would love to have my breastmilk analyzed by the Dal Food Sciences group, for example. Do we really know that all breastmilk is the same?

Of course, when I mentioned this to the PNH, she said that “skim breastmilk” was a myth. Oh why can’t all health care practioners have the same information? See KellyMom for a really good article explaining human milk production and fat content. See BalanceBreastfeeding for a more balanced perspective, that leads me to believe I had impatient babies who wouldn’t wait for the “drip drip drip”!

At one Parent & Tot drop in session I did a before feeding and after feeding weight, with the PHN. The difference was about two ounces. The PHN seemed alarmed at this, but really couldn’t explain it or offer any other suggestions.

I am drinking lots of fluids, getting lots of rest, nursing every 2-3 hours during the day and 3-4 at night, pumping when I have time, taking the highest dose possible of domperidone and fenugreek, even drinking mother’s milk tea. I continue to offer the same breast until I can’t express any more, doing breast compressions, and nursing in different positions to make sure he’s emptied each breast (as much as possible, acknowledging that milk is constantly produced). If I feel another let down I put him back on the boob before I resort to bringing out the bottle. And yet . . . I still don’t seem to have enough milk (based on baby’s behaviour, diaper ouput, and weight gain).

When I have spare moments (when LM is napping on my chest but I can’t seem to sleep myself), I’ve been doing some research.  I came across some information I’d found when I had MD but decided to take a closer look – IGT.

Insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) means that some women, for whatever reason, just don’t have enough glandular tissue in their breasts to make enough milk. And not just for a hungry child, but for any child. It is hard to diagnose, because it usually only becomes apparent when a woman first tries to breastfeed.

Some of the signs are listed in this article by La Leache League and Best for Babes.

Breast asymmetry (one higher and slightly larger than the other), wide spacing (lack of cleavage), lack of changes during pregnancy, and downward pointing breasts with “empty sack” appearance are a few of the traits that I have.

It would explain why when I look at photos of myself, it always looks like I’m not wearing a bra even when I am. It would explain why I find bra shopping difficult; why my breasts are barely a B-cup, small in proportion to my 5’7” 170 lb frame and 38-40 bra diameter, or why no matter how I adjusted the shoulder straps I couldn’t get enough lift. It would explain the proportionately large nipples the lactation consultant in the hospital noticed. It might also explain why, even though my babies weren’t latching properly, I never developed mastitis.  It’s like aspects of my life were finally starting to make sense.

The scientist in me craved more information. I wanted to see a photograph or other image demonstrating these traits. I finally found some, and I was floored. I held the iPad in front of me while I stood in a mirror. It’s like the illustrator was looking at me when he drew the picture. I couldn’t believe it. “It’s not you it’s your boobs” I thought to myself.

One day I finally broke out the ruler and measured – one inch. One inch between my breasts. So not technically IGT. So I decided to ask for another opinion.

When I mention the possibility of IGT to PHN, I’m met with “oh, I doubt it, that’s pretty rare”. I feel like saying, “well, how many clients have you had? Maybe I’m your first.” I wish I could track down that one PHN that I spoke with months after having MD.

This is where I just want someone to look at my boobs (something no one, for either child, has done, except for that one lactation consultant who noticed my nipples while looking at the latch) and tell me I’m not imagining things.

I’m not trying to come up with an excuse to quit. I just want to be reassured that I’ve done everything I can and that it’s not my fault.

I’m not the only one having trouble getting health care practitioners to acknowledge this.  Many others have written about their own experiences and the struggle of others:

Little Help from Doctors

Diary of Lactation Failure

Why I don’t breastfeed

The Manly Art of Breastfeeding


And others go a step further, questioning some of the benefits of breastmilk and breastfeeding culture altogether, and the lack of science behind some claims:

Breastfeeding Conspiracy

Breastmilk not a pure food

Tyranny of Breastfeeding

The Case Against Breastfeeding

Lactivist Crusade

Meanwhile, there are some helpful resources on the internet that further explain IGT and what you can do to help yourself and your baby, even if the health care system won’t:

Kelly Mom – IGT

When Breastfeeding doesn’t work out as planned

Dr. Sears – Getting Enough Milk

Hidden Cause of Feeding Problems- IGT

Nipple Size & Breastfeeding

Not everyone can breastfeed

Delayed or lack of lactation success – Insulin & DNA

The Booby Traps

Yes you can breastfeed

Baby Centre – Underdeveloped Breasts

How to supplement if you have low milk


Fussy Babies – it doesn’t necessarily mean you have low milk (but sometimes it does)

Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding

10 things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding

Markers of Lactation Insufficiency


Another resource I’ve found helpful is the book A Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk.

This book describes numerous possible problems that can affect breastfeeding success. There are a couple that might have affected me:

  • Hormone receptor generation period – for some women there is a small window of time when the body has to be cued to produce milk (through frequent nursing), and once this window is past milk production stabilizes;
  • Delayed letdown – I thought there was no milk there when there really was, it just took a few more minutes than usual to let down. As I waited, LM grew more frustrated which made me tense which further inhibited the let down;
  • Milk “withdrawal” – in some women when the baby unlatches, milk draws back up into the breast, and it can take a minute to come back down when they latch back on. Again, the baby might get frustrated, thinking there is no milk there.


While I may never get LM off the bottle completely (which is ok – he could still go to med school after all 😉 and his weight will more likely be linked to his activity level and our eating habits (MD is perfectly fine at age 5 🙂 ), I think I’ve finally made peace with it. I am still breastfeeding, even if not exclusively. I know in my heart it’s not my fault even if the health care system doesn’t.

And who cares – he’s eating and growing and getting the best of both worlds. When you think about it, back in the day, if a woman had difficulty making enough milk, there would have been other women around to help – wet nurses, and cross nursing. There was sugar water, there was boiled cows milk and corn syrup. Or the child would have died. Infant mortality rates were high, and who knows why some babies “failed to thrive”.

In all my discussions with breastfeeding moms, I have run across just as many moms who had “too much” milk. They regularly developed multiple cases of mastitis in the beginning, and had to pump at all hours just to feel comfortable, because it never seemed like their babies were taking enough.

What would have happened to these women back in the day? They would have offered their breasts to nurse babies of other women who were struggling or had died in childbirth. When you think about it, we didn’t evolve as individuals. We evolved living together in caves, huts, etc., cooking and hunting together and rearing our children together. Women with good milk supplies would have passed on their genes through their female children. But the genes of women with low milk would have also been passed on, if their babes were nursed by other women.

Cross nursing doesn’t get nearly enough attention, and is generally considered socially unacceptable. Of course, there are also some legitimate medical concerns. La Leche League has a very interesting article documenting concerns and history of cross-nursing and wet nursing. See also this ABC story and this Babble blog post about one woman’s experience cross-nursing.

The closest we have is donated human milk, such as through the Human Milk Bank and Northern Star in Alberta,  available to premature babies through which is a great start. This health magazine article provides an interesting summary of the breast milk banking process.

It makes me wonder whether receiving breastmilk, full of antibodies and proteins from another mother, would reduce a baby’s chances of developing allergies, for example. I wonder if this has ever been studied? Of course, premature babies receiving milk would already be compromised . . . Anyway, it does get me thinking.


So what went wrong this time? In some ways, nothing, because, after all, I am breastfeeding.

This time around, I may have been a bit too quick to supplement, and maybe I am one of those women who has a very short window for generating receptors (not enough milk removal while LM was still tongue tied or maybe I let him sleep too long). Or maybe I do have IGT. Who knows if I’ll ever know.

But this is what still frustrates me. Are we doing enough to help women who want to breastfeed? Sure there’s lots of support out there to “keep trying”. But telling them to “keep doing it” or “try harder” doesn’t answer why she’s having the problem. And you need to know the root cause of a problem to fix it.

What if IGT is more prevalent that we thought? (And it’s likely to be, based on some info I’ll get to later) What if its closer to 5% rather than 1%. Well, out of approximately 8500 births in Nova Scotia last year (so approximately 8500 potentially breastfeeding moms), 5% is 425.  Four hundred twenty-five women who might not generate enough milk for their babies. 425 too many not to help as far as I’m concerned.

Even for the women who don’t have IGT, society as a whole is still not providing the support we need. There are the women who breastfeed exclusively very successfully, who due to work and/or travel obligations end up having to wean prematurely or “pump and dump”, for example.

In the words of a fellow blogger, we are set up for failure. But what if we set them up for success?

If governments, health care professionals, families and society were serious about breastfeeding:

  • Prenatal education would include all available information about both breastfeeding and formula feeding, including when formula may be medically indicated;
  • Prenatal messaging would include potential breastfeeding difficulties and what to do, along with the message that “everyone can breastfeed, not everyone can breastfeed exclusively”;
  • Prenatal education would include information sessions for families and secondary caregivers, to educate about any breastfeeding myths or outdated information and allow families to provide the support new moms need (because you can’t be arguing with your family when you’re looking after an infant);
  • New mothers who have decided to breastfeed, and who are experiencing difficulties breastfeeding, would be permitted to stay in the hospital for three to four days or until their milk comes in;
  • Newborns would be examined for tongue tie and have it treated in the delivery room;
  • New moms with breastfeeding difficulties would have their thyroid levels tested as standard procedure;
  • Public Health would work with 811 to provide 24-hour breastfeeding support hotline;
  • could provide a prescription for domperidone to pregnant woman who have struggled to breastfeed previous babies. Alternatively, to avoid long waits to see Drs. Nurses would be authorized to prescribe domperidone for women who have had difficulty breastfeeding previous children, so moms have access to it as soon as possible after delivery;
  • Pharmacies would stock fenugreek and blessed thisle and have scales available for weighing newborns;
  • Public Health Nurses, OBGYNs, Pharmacists, and GPs and other health care professionals would be required to attend breastfeeding workshops as part of their licencing and continuing education, to ensure all health care professionals are providing new mothers with consistent information;
  • A team approach would be applied for new mothers experiencing difficulty breastfeeding, involving the OBGYN, GP, Public Health and other relevant practitioners, to ensure everyone is on the same page for treatment (and the new mom isn’t constantly relaying messages between the groups);
  • OBGYNs and PHNs should be trained in recognizing IGT, and women should be screened during pregnancy;
  • The breastfeeding support team should help a woman set breastfeeding goals. Six months is a long time; goal setting needs to be broken up into smaller increments, much like weight loss or preparing to run a marathon. SMART objectives might also work here as they do in project management. While many women do breastfeed six months and beyond, when you’re struggling that length of time is overwhelming and feels like an eternity.
  • Breastfeeding physiology would be taught in high school biology and home economics classes, in an effort to both educate on and normalize breastfeeding.
  • Governments would work with the airlines and the TSA/CASA to ensure no breastfeeding mother has to “pump and dump”.

I know, it’s a tall order, especially considering the stresses the health care system is already under. And not being a health care practitioner myself, maybe I’m completely out of my tree. Either way, maybe it doesn’t have to be that hard. Maybe the breastfeeding community of practise, a few interested health care practitioners, support groups like La Leche League, and a few moms like myself can work together to turn these ideas into reality.

It’s also a tall order considering women who breastfeed without difficulty are shunned by society for doing so in public. But that’s a blog post for another day . . .

I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep breastfeeding. I keep telling myself every ounce he gets from me is golden, and is one less container of formula in the recycling. But its just as much effort to wash a bottle that’s had one or two ounces in it vs. four or five. I just don’t know how much longer I’ll keep going. But I’ll let you know.


Update March 2016

It’s 7 ½ months and counting and yes I’m still breastfeeding. The six-month mark was rather anticlimactic – there was no medal presented or confetti thrown at the Dr.’s office at LMs six month check up. A little pat on the back or “good job” from my GP would have been nice. But I guess that’s what Facebook is for, right?

Think again. When I asked a simple question looking for ideas to get LM to stop biting, it almost started a riot. I know this is a passionate topic, but the “Mommy Wars” have got to stop.


I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep going. The love-hate relationship I have with breastfeeding continues, and as with anything there are good days and bad days. I definitely see light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m offering less, he’s asking less. I don’t think I’ll miss it in the end, but I am satisfied I stuck it out as long as I have. By breastfeeding at all, I am confident I provided the best possible start to life that I could for both of my babies.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a great article explaining the benefits no matter the length of time you are able to breastfeed.

For anyone who wanted to breastfeed and struggled, I salute you.

For anyone who didn’t want to breastfeed and struggled with being shamed or made to feel guilty, I salute you.

For anyone who was able to meet their breastfeeding goals, I salute you.

Because we are all in this together.


A letter to breastfeeding moms who struggled: Dear Mom Who Breastfed

Read about how one mom broke up with her breast pump.

Leave a comment

Born Hungry: Part I

September/October 2015

There are days I just want someone to look at my boobs and tell me I’m not crazy.

This post has been nearly five years in the making. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say, and sat down to write it a couple of times and stopped because it gives me a headache, and a heart ache. And because I just have a lot to say, so its going to take me a while to get it all down.

And I need to get it down, to help me heal and move on, to reassure other women who have gone through the same thing that they are not alone, and to hopefully help pregnant mommas out there not go through what I went through. I hope the following is both good reading and a good resource.

But let me start at the beginning. If you’re sitting down to read this, grab yourself a cup of coffee or whatever and hang on.

Even before I met my partner in life and conceived a child, I had always intended to breastfeed my children. For me, it seemed like the most biologically logical and environmentally friendly thing to do. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t breastfeed. I had this idea that everyone should breastfeed, and that formula should be by prescription only. I really had no idea what I was talking about.

Once we became pregnant with our first child and started the provincial public health prenatal classes, we were provided with lots of information about breastfeeding. Very little information was provided about formula feeding, aside from one or two slides about supplementation methods. When someone asked about formula feeding, the nurse teaching the class basically said they weren’t allowed to talk about it, but we could e-mail her after class with specific questions. I was ok with that, because I was going to breastfeed for a year and had no intentions of using formula. We were sent home with brochure upon brochure with breastfeeding tips and support groups to attend, outlining why we should breastfeed and why our baby doesn’t need formula. We were also taught to look for physical gestures or cues our baby might give for hunger or other needs, and that if they cried we had missed the cue. They also taught to respond to cries immediately to avoid causing undue stress to our baby.

When my parents visited a few weeks before our first child was due, they asked whether I had any bottles ready or formula on hand. I was confused – why would I need that; I was going to breastfeed. I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t end up having much of a say in the matter.

I was due February 25th and finished work on February 4th. We were basically ready, but I was looking forward to having a few weeks off to rest up, make some freezer meals, and do some reading about parenting and newborns in general. We knew nothing about little babies, having not even so much as changed a diaper.  I was lucky in the sense that I’d had a very healthy pregnancy, though I felt horrible the whole time, between the nausea and fatigue. I was looking forward to not being physically pregnant, but was in no hurry to be a mom just yet.

But my cervix had other plans. February 12 at 6am my water broke. Earlier that week I’d been having the odd cramp and pain in my back, and had lost my mucous plug, so I figured things would happen soon. We got checked out at the hospital, and were sent home as I wasn’t having any contractions.

All day I tried to eat well, rest up, and wait. We waited, and waited. Nothing. Until about suppertime I started feeling a bit nauseated. Around 7pm I started having some mild cramps. By 9:30 pm I was on hands and knees in the worst pain I’d ever experienced, on the phone to the hospital wondering what to do. They were timing my contractions, and indicated that I could stay home a bit longer as the contractions were still to erratic to warrant coming in. My husband in his wisdom decided we should go in anyway. By 11pm we were at the hospital, and when I was checked I was fully dilated. An hour and a half of pushing later, and our little girl arrived in the world. It was love at first sight.


The passage of time after this point is a bit of a blur, but sometime while in the recovery room I indicated that I wanted to try breastfeeding my daughter (MD). The nurse and Dr. were 100% on board. The nurse grabbed my breast and expressed some colostrum, waving it under our little girl’s nose. I held back a shriek. I wanted to tell the nurse to stop being so rough, she was squeezing too hard. Then the baby latched on. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt. I didn’t say anything, I thought, “my God I just got through labour with out drugs, what’s wrong with me?” The nurse watched me breastfeed my baby girl for a few moments, and proclaimed that we were naturals. With an unmedicated delivery, we shouldn’t have any problems breastfeeding. I was relieved, but I bit my lip and carried on.I was so proud to finally be breastfeeding. As much as it hurt, it was a dream come true.

Eventually we were brought to our room, where I was looking forward to MD having that long post-labor sleep all the books talk about, and getting some rest myself. I had now been awake nearly 27 hours. I wasn’t expecting to be woken every hour for the next three hours by nurses to check me and my parts. When my OBGYN came in to examine me the next day she asked whether the bleeding had slowed down any. I wasn’t really sure, but I certainly wasn’t filling a pad every hour like they had told us to watch for. Then she mentioned that I had lost a lot of blood. At the time I wasn’t aware of the significance of this statement. I carried on trying to get rest and learning about how to care for my new baby, who seemed to want to nurse constantly (so much for that long sleep). I would attempt to feed her (through the pain), which seemed to take about twenty minutes, put her down, and she’d wake up, or one of the nurses would come in and say “she’s hungry”. “But didn’t I just feed her?” I had no idea this was to be expected, to some extent.

We struggled with the latch and with breastfeeding positions. Nothing felt right or natural. Each nurse that came in had a different opinion as to how I should be positioning her. All I knew was that I was in pain, far more than I thought I should be. The nurses said, “oh yes, when they first latch it can be a bit painful, but no more than a toe curl”.  Whatever that meant. I seemed to have lots of colostrum, which I ended up manually expressing and feeding her drop by drop. When I did manage to get her to latch properly, she seemed to drink and swallow for a time, then the suck-swallow would slow down, as we had been taught. We recorded it on the chart we were provided with. I thought when she fell asleep she was done, as we had been taught. I had no idea that the suck-swallow I was observing was not coordinated or sustained enough to obtain much milk.

By her weigh-in that night, her weight had dropped from 6lbs 6 oz to 6 lbs. I wasn’t alarmed. We had been told, all babies lose weight at first.

The second day we got no rest either, as we were greeted by no less than 22 people, either family, audiologists, my OBGYN, public health, and someone giving out books. I was still high from the love of my new baby and relief of no longer being pregnant, so I was excited and eager to speak with everyone.

When my OB asked whether I was feeling any tingling in my breasts yet, I responded affirmatively. I had no idea the pain I felt was from my soon to be cracked and bleeding nipples.

The second night MD cried all night. We took turns holding her and trying to sooth her, alternating with me trying to feed her. I had now been awake nearly 72 hours (minus the odd catnap) and was becoming beside myself with fatigue and hormones.

When we asked one of the nurses for advice, she suggested using a soother. Great idea! we thought, and asked if they could provide one. We hadn’t brought any with us, as we were instructed not to use them in prental classes, as soothers can cause nipple confusion and “screw up” breastfeeding. The nurse replied that they didn’t have any either, we would have had to bring one with us. Our second experience with conflicting parenting advice, from health care professionals no less.  I was discouraged, and she must have sensed this because she followed up by saying that she would check with the NICU. Until then, one of the other nurses offered to hold MD in some warm blankets for a while so we could rest. We got maybe 45 minutes when the nurse returned her to us, as she was done her shift.

When the nurses did the second weigh-in, MD was now 5 lbs 12 oz. I was concerned, but not alarmed. Mostly because I was just excited to bring home our first child, where I was sure I would be able to get some rest, and because I didn’t feel like being in the hospital was doing any good.

The next morning, we waited with baited breath to find out whether we would be able to go home. In two spots in the room was a big sign that stated “Discharge is at 11am each day” as if it were some kind of hotel that had a check-out time. 10:30 came and my OB still hadn’t been in to check us. We felt in the dark. I asked the nurse if she knew if I would be going home. She said she would call the Dr. I said no, you don’t have to call her, I just wanted to know if we would be able to go home or when the Dr. would be in. She called her anyway.

Not too long afterwards the Dr. showed up.  “Someone in a hurry to go home” she said. I was embarrassed. No, I replied, we just wanted to know what was happening. One of the nurses had mentioned the night before that based on MD’s weight loss we might have to stay. The Dr. replied that as long as breastfeeding was going well it shouldn’t be a problem. The baby was healthy, I was healthy, and according to the chart we had been filling out MD was nursing well (or so we thought) so we were discharged. A nurse checked the car seat as we left. And that was it – we were off.

Once we got home I did get some rest, and tried to nurse every two to three hours or on demand as needed, forcing her to nurse a half hour on each side, as we had been taught. I had no idea this method was tiring MD out. That night we didn’t get a lot of rest, as she seemed to want to nurse all the time. My parents were staying with us, and took turns holding her.

The following day we had our first visit from a Public Health Nurse (PNH). MD’s weight had continued to drop, now 5 lbs 8 oz. She also hadn’t had a BM, though she was peeing. I was concerned, but was so excited to have her home I wasn’t alarmed. My understanding from what we had been taught was that it is normal for babies to lose weight in the first few days, and just to keep nursing.  My milk still hadn’t come in. The nurse watched me breastfeed, and indicated that she wasn’t “seeing a whole lot of milk transfer”. Whatever that meant.  She said to keep working on the latch and she would come visit again in a few days.

The nurse followed up with a phone call later, indicating that the weight loss was now past 10% and asked me what she thought I would do about breastfeeding in the next 24 hours. I mentioned something about pumping. I didn’t understand that this would be useless for my baby if there was nothing there to pump. She mentioned trying formula. I indicated that I didn’t want to use formula because I didn’t want to “screw up” breastfeeding, as we had been taught, and we had a family history of dairy allergies. She just said ok, and reminded us if we saw any signs of lethargy to have her seen by a Dr. Of course I replied. I hadn’t connected the weight loss to what she was saying. Why would they have told us in class to keep breastfeeding and not to give formula if the colostrum couldn’t sustain them until our milk came in?

I continued to practise breastfeeding. I put her down at one point to check her diaper, and noticed that she didn’t have the walking reflex on the change table that new babies all exhibit. Taking this as a sign of the lethargy we had been cautioned about, we took her straight to the ER.

The ER doctor, along with a team of nurses, residents and others in scrubs, looked her over, ran blood work, gave her some sugar water (which she devoured) and observed her for a couple of hours. Their conclusion – she needed a good meal and a nap.

The resident said we could take her home, but asked me what I would like to do next. Why are you asking me, I thought, aren’t you the Dr.? Aren’t you supposed to be giving me recommendations for what to do?

They sent me home with the bottle of sugar water. No instructions on how to store it (it should have been refrigerated), how to feed it, or how or where to get more.

The next morning, when she still seemed sleepy and still hadn’t had a BM we had her checked by my OBGYN (my GP was on vacation). She said our baby was perfectly healthy, just needed to fatten up. I told her my milk still wasn’t in and that I was still having trouble with the latch, and asked if she wanted to look at my breasts. She pulled back as if shocked, and said no, the she’d leave that to the nurses. She then gave me a prescription for domperidone to help my milk supply, and mentioned fenugreek. She agreed with me about not using formula just yet, and suggested that we keep using the sugar water for now. This would help provide calories MD needed to breastfeed. I asked where we could get more or how to make it, and she said to check with the pharmacist. Then she recommended we have her seen again in a few days.

When we returned home I tried to get some rest while a family member took in the prescription. What we didn’t know then was that the Dr. hadn’t written on the Rx that it was for breastfeeding, so I was given the wrong dose instructions by the pharmacist. The pharmacist wasn’t that knowledgeable of sugar water (they certainly didn’t have any in stock) but between him and a family member whose background was in health care they cobbled together a recipe, which my husband made when they got back. The pharmacy also didn’t carry fenugreek, nor did they know where I could get it.

That afternoon family arrived, who each were thrilled to take turns holding the new arrival. I suggested a couple of times that I take the baby upstairs to feed her, which was met by “if she was hungry she’d let you know, just relax and enjoy her”.

By the time everyone left that afternoon, day four or five, both my husband and I were spent. We were excited to be new parents, but exhausted and overwhelmed. We just didn’t know it yet.

That night was the roughest. Again, MD was awake all night wanting to eat. I was in pain from severely cracked and bleeding nipples. Every time she latched on I screamed and sobbed. I knew I needed help, but where was I going to get help at 3 o’clock in the morning? Public Health was only open 8am-4pm.

I kept going back to the “Breastfeeding Basics” book Public Health given us, which stated  “don’t let anyone tell you to give your baby formula”.

Talk about brainwashing. In my exhaustion and hormonal state, I still hadn’t put the pieces together. It wasn’t sinking in that because my baby wasn’t getting enough breastmilk from me she needed something else to sustain her.

Every three days we were going back to the clinic to have her weighted and see a Dr. MD’s weight was basically the same. I had tried pumping too, but wasn’t getting very much.

Finally one Dr. said we better try formula. I explained my misgivings, especially concerning allergies. He suggested just putting a bit of formula on her lips; if there is any swelling, stop and have her seen. If not, proceed with offering a bottle. I wish someone had told us this sooner.

Later that day, we did the “test”. She had no reaction, so we offered a bottle after nursing. She’d only take about a quarter of an ounce before falling asleep.

The whole feeding process became exhausting (as if we weren’t already exhausted enough). Every couple of hours I would keep MD awake to nurse 30 minutes on each side, offer as much formula as she would take, and pump whenever I had time. And every three days we were going to the Dr’s office to have her weighted. I was basically getting no rest, and neither was she. There literally weren’t enough hours in the day.

Three weeks in I finally got  to see my own GP. MDs weight was still low. (I don’t remember how much, because they weighted in grams and I didn’t do the conversion to pounds). My GP immediately asked if we were supplementing. I explained we had only recently started and why. She seemed mad. “It takes six weeks not six days”. I didn’t know what she meant. I didn’t learn until later that it takes six weeks to build your supply. And that “the first six weeks” campaign by Public Health was connected to this point, not that it took six weeks to decide if you liked breastfeeding or not. But I’ll get back to this later.

She asked about labour and delivery, I gave her the whole story. She suggested that it had been so fast my body just hadn’t caught up. And not to have her nurse 30 mins at a time – there wasn’t enough milk there yet and I was just tiring MD out.

My GP also corrected the domperidone dosage – two pills four times day. Feed MD 10 minutes on each side and follow up with 1 ounce of formula, every 2-3 hours or on demand. Stay home and rest. And best of all, have public health come in a couple of days. Finally some sensible advice! I thought.

And in a couple of days her weight was finally up, significantly.

Her weight gain continued and she started sleeping better, and so was I. This system worked for a couple of weeks. I was finally starting to enjoy motherhood when three things happened: MD started staying awake longer, she had a growth spurt, and the period of purple crying kicked in. All of these things are normal at 4-8 weeks, but for some reason I didn’t know about them.

It seemed like my beautiful, sweet, helpless little baby cried all the time. No one in my support circle knew about purple crying, and even though she was now steadily gaining weight she was still the smallest baby ever in our family, so everyone assumed she must be hungry.  I was trying to follow what the Dr. had told me, but it was beyond challenging. I felt like all I did was breastfeed. I couldn’t even get dressed or get proper meals because every time I put MD down she cried. She’d also started spitting up what seemed like excessive amounts. And she was still too small for the baby sling/carrier that I had. I wish I’d read My Baby Won’t Stop Crying People suggested getting out. First of all, it was March and rainy and cold. Second, how could I go to a parenting support group when I couldn’t even get dressed?!

At her one month check up I asked the Dr. about both the crying and the spit up, and the Dr. said MD probably just needed a burp or a distraction. Distract her how? I had no idea what toys or games would be appropriate for this age, and everything I tried didn’t work. But I didn’t tell my Dr. this. And if she’s just had a good meal then she probably just wants to suck so try a soother. But she wouldn’t take a soother. And if I didn’t know how much breastmilk she was getting from me, how did I know if she’d just had a good meal? And that the reflux means I’m feeding her too much. What I didn’t know was that there are treatments for reflux suitable for babies. And that excessive crying can cause reflux by swallowing air.

At six weeks I literally felt like I’d hit a wall. I stayed in bed most of the day, except when I had to go downstairs to make a bottle or to try pumping. MD still cried all the time, and wouldn’t take a soother. I didn’t know then that this is also a symptom of tongue tie – but I’ll get back to that later.

When I pumped, I’d only get about an ounce from both sides. I had no idea this was normal at this stage. I couldn’t pump after every feeding. Who was going to wash and sterilize the equipment while I was holding a baby who wouldn’t sleep any other way? I was spiralling into a depression. And I officially hated breastfeeding. At my six week check up I tried to maintain my composure as best I could and stick to health related questions about my baby. She’s doing fine the Dr. said. But I’m not I thought. I didn’t know how to articulate this to my Dr.

My Dr. asked what I wanted to do. I thought I had to make an either or decision. I didn’t know doing both was an “acceptable” option. I decided to stop breastfeeding. The Dr. replied with “well, you gave it the six weeks, I’ll let you know if she gets too fat”. These words will forever be embedded in my mind.

I asked how much formula to give her; the Dr. said 3 ½ ounces every four hours should be fine. I had no idea formula was based on body weight. I asked her what kind, she said “I don’t know, I never had to buy it”. Seriously?! if you go to a male gynecologist looking for an IUD, they don’t say “I don’t know I never had to use one”.

That evening before trying to put MD down for the night, I gave her a full bottle. She was content after the feeding and promptly fell asleep. She then slept for about five hours straight, and so did I.

When she woke a little after midnight, I was engorged. Ahhh, so this is what it’s supposed to feel like, I thought. I needed MD to nurse, and badly. I gave her an ounce of formula first, then let her nurse to her fill. She had a classic suck-swallow rhythm, and after a few minutes abruptly pulled herself of the breast and contentedly fell back asleep.

In hindsight I probably didn’t need to give her formula, my breastmilk would have likely been enough at that point. But again, I had no one to call for help at that hour. And I was torn – hadn’t I already decided to stop breastfeeding? I was always the type of person that once I made a decision I stuck to it, I didn’t flip-flop on issues. I thought that by changing my mind again I was showing weakness of character.

If only breastfeeding had felt like that from the beginning, I would have felt differently about it. Over the next couple of weeks, I attempted to wean MD, nursing when it was convenient and gave formula the rest of the time. A small part of me quietly longed to repeat that midnight feeding.

Despite MDs satisfaction at the end of feedings, she still seemed to cry all the time, and wanted to comfort nurse. I had no idea she was really trying to nurse herself to sleep. I didn’t know babies needed to suck to fall asleep.

The PHN came to see me again one day, and reassured me that even if I stopped breastfeeding I had given my baby everything, the best possible start. I asked about the “comfort nursing”, and the nurse replied that babies have no self-soothing skills yet. Whatever that meant.

She also asked me if I experienced any breast changes during pregnancy, or if we’d had any difficulty conceiving. I thought about it – I had certainly gotten bigger around, but my cup size hadn’t changed, and it had taken us about eight months to conceive. I didn’t understand the significance of this question until later.

She also said if that had been her child she’d have given them formula the second night home from the hospital. I was appalled. I just starred at her. I couldn’t even respond. I didn’t know how to respond. How could she say that?! Why didn’t she say it earlier?! But she did. But I had already been brainwashed and was exhausted to the point I couldn’t receive and process the new information.

I moved on, and tried to make my way through the fog of new parenthood. Slowly MDs temperament seemed to improve and I started to find my way. I wish I’d read 100 Days of Darkness , so that I’d known most of what I had experienced was within the normal range of motherhood experiences.

When MD was about three months old I ran into a friend at the mall one day. She was pregnant with her second child at the time, and was excited to see my baby and chat to me about new motherhood. We ventured into the topic of breastfeeding, and I mentioned that unfortunately I had to supplement. Her eyes darted from side to side and she replied under her breath “Don’t worry, everyone does it”, as if we were members of some club chaired by Lance Armstrong.

Over the next few months, I started going to mom and baby groups, speaking with many other moms, and reading online forums. I learned that my experience, my difficulties breastfeeding, was not unique. Not by a long shot.

There was a good friend, whose daughter would not open her mouth to breastfeed in the first 48 hours and was diagnosed with reflux. She was tube-fed formula once, and my friend pumped every three hours and tube fed breastmilk. Finally, at seven weeks her baby latched, and she was able to breastfeed for nearly eighteen months. (In fact, no one told her she could stop pumping, so she pumped every three hours for three months). Her daughter was given medication for reflux. Why wasn’t mine?

A coworker of my husband’s had been breastfeeding successfully until around three months. Her daughter had stopped gaining weight. She was advised to just “keep breastfeeding” and her body would catch up. Except it never did. One night, showing signs of lethargy, she ended up rushing her daughter to the ER. They were advised to put her on formula.

One of the moms at a parent’s group I went to told me her story. Her daughter was in the six pound range at birth, but due to a poor latch dropped below six pounds within a couple of days. She was sent home from the hospital with formula (why wasn’t I?), but the baby started projectile vomiting. A dairy allergy was diagnosed and she was advised to take the highest dose of domperidone and pump. She pumped exclusively for one year.

Another mom at that same group ended up putting her baby on 100% formula when her milk failed to come in.

Yet another had problems with latch, the baby failed to gain weight and the mom developed a bad case of mastitis. They only nursed a few weeks.

Another’s little guy had such a hard time latching that he tore part of her nipple off.

And yet another, a nurse herself, tried everything for six weeks and finally concluded that she had no milk and switched entirely to formula.

A colleague from work told me her sister’s story of breastfeeding her first child – like me she had struggled with early low milk supply, and had tried pumping, various pills, everything she could to no avail. Her second child she didn’t even try nursing and went straight to formula.

There were also multitudes of stories in the online community, one in particular “Fearless Formula Feeder” really hit home.

Sometime during this period, I also heard a CBC White Coat, Black Art episode, describing similar experiences across the country.



While it was somewhat reassuring to know I wasn’t alone, I was furious at the health care system for not only allowing this to happen, but also for not telling new moms what could happen. I’ll get back to this point later.

La Leche League was surprisingly supportive when I reached out to them and told them my story. “You gotta do what you gotta do to keep your child alive” was their perspective. They also questioned why I hadn’t been advised to give MD formula first then breastfeed, suggesting that the extra calories upfront would have allowed her to breastfeed better. Great advice! But a few months too late.

I finally encountered a sympathetic Public Health Nurse who, after hearing my story, told me that there are about 1% of women who don’t make enough milk, and just maybe I’m in that 1%. Finally, someone from the health care community admitted that it might be my biology, and not my apparent lack of determination, that contributed to my breastfeeding difficulties.

I eventually found some information that reassured me that there were likely physiological problems surrounding pregnancy, labor and delivery that let to my low milk supply:

  • Blood loss. Remember when I said the Dr. said I lost a lot of blood? Well, for a Dr. to say this there must have been a lot. I didn’t need a transfusion, but I remembered later that they had given me an injection of oxytocin to help my uterus contract, because apparently my own body wasn’t doing its job. Blood loss during delivery is one of the main reasons for lack of or delayed milk production, as it affects pituitary hormones and prolactin production.


  • Lack of glandular tissue. Remember when I said that my boobs didn’t really change in size during pregnancy – apparently they should have increased in size significantly. This is a sign of lack of sufficient glandular tissue to generate the milk. I’ll talk about this more later. But every woman is different, and with everything else that went wrong (see below) it was hard to say for sure. So I didn’t read too much into this at first.


  • IV fluids – I was given IV fluids for several hours during and after delivery. I don’t know if this is standard practise or not, but it can lead to edema and reduced milk supply (see Low Milk Supply causes).


  • Thyroid problemsThyroid hormone levels can inhibit effective breastfeeding. My thyroid levels were never tested, so I have no idea if this was a problem or not. I certainly remember having some of the symptoms (dry, itchy skin; cold all the time; post-partum weight gain; excessive fatigue). But not all cases are symptomatic.


All the while I still longed to repeat that midnight feeding. I ended up trying “relactation” around 4 months – nursing every two to three hours plus taking domperidone and fenugreek to build my supply back up.

I still had misgivings about formula feeding. We had been taught that it would make our children overweight, due to the composition of the formula itself and because small babies have such a strong sucking reflex they don’t know enough to stop when they’re full, setting them up for a lifetime overeating. I wish I’d seen this doula’s website. Having struggled with my weight all my life I knew I didn’t want this for my child. The “rules” say so many ounces every four hours, but she always seemed hungry more frequently than that. I was obsessed with not over feeding her. I looked for help online, but the internet being the internet, there was lots of conflicting information.

The following websites provided some good tips and reassurances:



Healthy Children

What to Expect

Fearless Formula Feeder


In the end, I breastfed to some extent for about seven months. MD weaned herself not long after the introduction of solids. While I never fully repeated the “midnight feeding” experience and always had to supplement some, as MD got older and more efficient (and finally latched without causing me pain) I finally experienced the beauty of breastfeeding.

Nevertheless, for months, even years after, I felt frustration, bitterness, anger, sadness, guilt. I was frustrated, bitter and angry with the public health care system and my own biology for being denied the opportunity to breastfeed, and sadness and guilt for not being able to provide the best for MD.

To add insult to injury, when I told some health care practitioners my story after the fact, I wasn’t met with a “wow, it’s amazing you lasted that long”. Instead I heard a “oh, that’s too bad. Most babies don’t wean themselves until between 1 and 2”.  Furthermore, because I didn’t breastfeed very much, I had a very hard time losing weight.  Double-whammy.

What went wrong here?

I’ll admit there was a hell of a lot I didn’t know. On top of that, a hell of a lot went wrong: fast labour and delivery didn’t give my boobs a chance to catch up with my body (high cortisol, produced during stress, can delay milk production), blood loss during delivery, poor latch, well meaning family members sabotaging attempts to breastfeed (misinformation, lack of rest), and general new parent or “performance” anxiety. I had most of the so-called “booby traps”.

But there was a lot that went wrong that could have been prevented by a more functional health care system.

  • Lack of rest. As far as I’m concerned, my health care providers, including Public Health, did not emphasize or adequately define “rest”. I thought I was getting sufficient rest, but in hindsight I know it wasn’t nearly enough.

Prior to getting pregnant and having a baby, I had a very busy life. A typical Saturday might look like this: wake up, go for a run and/or clean something in the house; get cleaned up and have breakfast; go to the farmer’s market and/or get groceries; do some baking or other hobby; have lunch; have friends over, go to a public talk at the library, work on a home renovation project or do volunteer work; make dinner; go to a friend’s house or out to a movie or club. Yes, all of that in one day. So going from this to doing nothing but look after myself and my baby was a HUGE adjustment that we were in no way prepared for.

What they meant by “rest” was not laying on the couch surfing the internet or having visitors (although that would have previously been considered a “restful” activity to me. They meant being horizontal, in bed, trying to sleep.


  • My health care providers, including Public Health, did not provide adequate or timely information about formula feeding, including when it might be medically indicated. I firmly believe that if I’d been able to give MD formula in the first week it would have given my body a chance to catch up, and her body the calories she needed to breastfeed effectively.


  • Public health also brainwashed us about crying. We were made to feel that if our baby was crying, we had missed some all important cue and weren’t doing or jobs as mothers. This caused undo stress and anxiety, which likely inhibited the letdown reflex and let to a high strung baby, creating a vicious cycle. (Cortisol from the stress of the whole situation likely further inhibited milk production).


  • Discharge procedure from hospital. I should not have been let out of the hospital when I was. We needed at least another day. There was a total lack of communication regarding discharge, which left us feeling lost and in the dark about our own health.


  • Conflicting advice and miscommunication between health care professionals. Why didn’t anyone else mention the “allergy test”? Why weren’t my reflux concerns taken more seriously? Why wasn’t the pharmacist told that the prescription was for breast feeding? Why did  each nurse have their own “opinion” about positioning and the latch?  I’ll admit sometimes you need to try different things, but the fact that nothing was working should have been a clue that something was wrong.


But where do we draw the line as to when, what and how we should be educating ourselves, and what information the health care professionals should provide? I’ll get back to that later.

Would this experience with my first child forever taint my view of breastfeeding? The story continues.


Read more about The Fourth Trimester here.