by Louisa Brandenburger, IBCLC
As lactation consultants, we hear this phrase all the time. Sometimes it is due to poor breastfeeding management, such as infrequent feedings or early formula supplementation. Then there are women who simply choose not to breastfeed. I want to talk about the mothers who have chosen to breastfeed and who cannot PHYSICALLY make enough milk. This may be due hormonal or glandular concerns, or due to breast surgery. Research has shown that only 1-5% of women fall into this category, but in our line of work, we meet these mothers daily.
Sometime we are the first health care professionals to have to tell a woman that she needs to supplement her baby with formula. (Yes, some moms seek out donor milk, but for many, formula is the only option.) My heart just breaks for a mother like this.
She has been told by everyone, including lactation consultants like myself, that breastfeeding is best. She has spent her entire pregnancy researching what’s best for her precious baby. She’s read that her breastfed baby will get sick less often, be smarter, will have a lower risk of obesity. She’s be told time and again about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of formula feeding. She believes that breastmilk is the superior way to feed her baby.
Suddenly, here I am telling her that she is unable to fully breastfeed.
She may be told by friends and relatives to “try harder.” Yet she has already spent weeks doing anything and everything she can to make more milk. She’s tried pumping for hours on end, herbal supplements and/or medications, and she still cannot make enough milk.
My hope is that we can be more empathetic with these fragile women. I understand that most women will never have to deal with this, but the small percentage of women who do, need our love and support. Many moms who are in this situation tell me that feel they have failed as a mother. Your ability to breastfeed does not make you a better mother. Any amount of breastmilk given to your baby is an incredible gift. The moral of the story is: tread lightly when you hear a mother say “I couldn’t make enough milk,” she may truly not be able to make enough milk.
At the BRC we offer a support group for moms who have low milk supply. Spending time with other mothers who are struggling with the same problems can make it easier.
Here are some great websites for further reading.
Louisa has been an IBCLC at the BRC for 5 ½ year. She is a mother of 4 amazing kids who keep her busy all the time. She has been married for 19 years to a wonderful man. When she’s not driving her kids to all their activities, she’s doing what she loves best, cooking or reading! In her spare time Louisa is part of a book blog. Louisa reads 3-4 books per week!