Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Milking for Mira

My pre-NICU vision of feeding Mira included her on a Boppy, us in a glider in her nursery, staring lovingly into each other's eyes while she sucked from my breasts as they gushed milk. It also included her breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and not using pacifiers.  Here's the reality: me, sitting on the side of my bed every three hours, staring disgustedly at a yellow hospital-grade pump, with a handsfree pumping bra with a bottle protruding from each of two very sore nipples as they sucked less than one milliliter from each. I mean, the pump is pretty awesome but it's not Mira. And my body knows it. All this while my baby is laid up in the NICU drinking someone else's breast milk (now she's on formula) and learning to suck with a pacifier.

It goes without saying that "Milking for Mira" has been a bit of a bust. I was blessed with my first drops of milk just five days after she was born (on my birthday, no less). The next day I pumped a full ounce (32 mL) and thought I was off to the races. Well, that was before eclampsia. A few days after I had Mira, I ended up back in the hospital because I was nauseous, vomiting and my blood pressure was high - a condition called eclampsia. That meant, no food or energy to pump for four days. Which meant my body got the cue that we didn't want more milk and shut down on me. 

It took me one week of pumping nearly every three hours to get even a drop. Pair that with me trying everything that I could...all at once...and it made for a stressful and anxiety-provoking situation. I tried eating oatmeal every morning, massaging my breasts before pumps, Mother's Tea, Gatorade, taking a prescription med called Reglan, drinking milk, eating salads, and taking fenugreek pills and prenatal vitamins. You name it and I've tried it. Oh and then my milk all of a sudden went away again. That's when I "hit the bottle" - yes, I drank beer (it's a thing, I'm not just being a lush, I promise).

And then I got perspective. It took for one of the doctors to tell me that they are not looking for me to "nourish or completely feed" Mira, yet they see whatever milk I produce as "medicine" for her. That it's specially made for her and includes antibodies that are healing to her, so any little bit helps. I had been holding myself hostage in my house, pumping all day and visiting Mira at night only to arrive with sometimes less than half an ounce of milk. Most times, it was only enough for one of her eight daily feedings. 

And I almost gave up. Until I was told that even 5 mL is enough and useful. It helped me accept the news that she would have to ween off donor breast milk to formula as it was needed to help her grow. It helped me encourage her to suck on her pacifier so that she would learn how to suck a bottle and maybe even my breast later (she's both eating from a bottle and has tried latching to my breast). Most importantly, it helped me feel less guilt during the times I would have to leave my house and miss a pumping session. It also helped me be ok with calling the whole thing off for a day if my nipples were too sore or it was stressing me out too much. In short, I chilled the hell out.

If you are around people who pressure you, whether it's your family or the folks in the NICU, tell them to step off. Beware, everyone is going to ask you about your milk. Don't be afraid to tell people you don't want to talk about it if it feels like too much pressure. Everyone's body is different and you should do what works for you. If you can't produce enough milk for your baby, it's ok. The truth is, it's a double-edged sword. NICU moms don't have the pressure that if we don't produce milk that our babies will starve. They give our babies either donated breast milk or formula from the start. But we also have the challenge of not having our babies there to help us keep our supply going and have to put in extra work.

So take some pressure off if you're not producing as much as your baby needs. Milking like a cow just isn't for everyone (side note: tonight some young mom who just had her baby last week brought in like four bottles full of milk and I laughed to myself thinking of how lucky she is to have those young, perky breasts while my old ones are barely putting out two puffs of powdered milk for Mira! LOL). Make sure to take advantage of the lactation consultants, whether in the NICU, the WIC office or in labor and delivery in the hospital. Read as much as you can about how to stimulate production, but don't let it overwhelm you. Take people's advice, but not too many people. Do one thing at a time to really find out what works for you. And most importantly, if you're not producing, try to "milk for medicine" like I am now doing. A little bit helps a whole lot.

I hope this helps. Thanks for your prayers and support. 

My milk on July 14 from one breast and one pump...I was WINNING!

And now my baby sweetness is drinking from a bottle!


  1. Yay! Such an encouraging post. Love you guys and can't wait to see you soon...xoxo.

  2. You are doing a great job & Mira is so sweet❤️