Breastfeeding With A Lactation Aid

Jaclyn's Son nursing with a SNSJaclyn, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

We’d been trying to conceive for a while when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism). I became pregnant almost as soon as I started treatment for Hashimoto’s and had a very healthy pregnancy.

We moved to Canada from the UK when I was around 10 weeks pregnant. There are few midwives in the province I moved to, but I had excellent care from my doctors, who were very responsive to my birth plan to be as natural as possible. It was only towards the end of the pregnancy I found out there might be a risk of low milk supply with hypothyroidism. I thought I was doing everything possible to ensure baby would breastfeed well, given that I’d planned a natural labor and delivery with a doula in the local maternity hospital. As I was new to the country, I also started attending La Leche League meetings to meet other likeminded people.

I was referred to the post-dates (post due date) clinic at 41 weeks and five days and hoped to be told all was well and to come back in a couple of days. Baby had been head down for many weeks and was moving well, but unfortunately his heart rate was dipping dramatically and the decision was made for an emergency cesarean delivery. That was changed to monitoring, then inducing labor overnight.

My son was born weighing nine pounds with an Apgar score of 9! It turns out the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. He found his way to my breast easily, and I was relieved that all was well.

Over the next couple of days I was able to express a little colostrum, and the nurse said he seemed to be latching well. He was sleepy, though, and had jaundice, so he was put under bili lights for a couple of days (this can be done in room thankfully). There were no real concerns regarding breastfeeding, though I was starting to feel a little sore on one side.

Finally we went home. My son nursed all the time! I knew this was normal and made myself comfortable on the sofa. My son was a happy and sweet soul. He rarely cried, and the public health nurse who visited was happy to help with some positioning and tips. I mentioned I was very sore, but she couldn’t see a tongue-tie. She was a little concerned he didn’t seem to be having enough dirty diapers but was overall content.

However, between weeks two and three he didn’t gain any weight at all. Looking back at pictures, he was a spindly little thing! I was reading everything I could and had met with an LLL Leader. Nothing was helping him gain weight, so with much guilt and sadness I realized I was going to have to supplement. I was very wary of bottle feeding him and still suspected he had a tongue-tie. I had a friend who’d started using a lactation aid a few weeks previously, and I asked the LLL Leader if she could help me out.

It was such a learning curve. I hated giving him formula, but he drank so much and immediately started gaining weight. He was thriving on every drop of milk I made, plus 8-12 ounces of formula a day. It was still agony, and we had him assessed at seven weeks with a posterior tongue-tie diagnosed and revised. Thankfully, around nine weeks breastfeeding finally felt comfortable and easy, even with the tube. I very quickly gave up supplementing overnight so we could get more sleep, and my son seemed fine with that decision.

We introduced solids at six months—which he loved—but ate very little. He always preferred to breastfeed. Around eight months it became a battle to get the tube into his mouth, and at nine months he would yank it out of his mouth. I decided at this point it wasn’t worth the battle for the one to two ounces he received, so we stopped supplementing at this point.

It was such a battle, and so many people didn’t “get” it. I had people laugh out loud at the tube, and wonder why I didn’t just give him a bottle. My son turned two years old in May and still loves to breastfeed often. It brings us both a lot of peace and calm. I felt so much guilt for the longest time, but I am so glad we persevered.

Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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