"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" – John 3:16
Before my little one was born, I had never been told how hard breastfeeding would be. Even in our antenatal class, the teacher kept pressing on about how natural it was and that everyone should be able to breastfeed. Of course, without much mental preparation, it came as a shock that it was really painful and I didn’t have enough milk for my daughter. In the first two days, I could hardly put her down. She kept sucking and the moment I put her down she cried to get back. The nurses told me it must be that she was trying to stimulate my breasts to produce milk.
Day 3, we still hadn’t seen much milk coming out, but she lost 11% of her weight. We were advised by the health visitor to put her on formula. We really wanted to make breastfeeding work so we decided to give it another day. Day 4, she lost 14% of her birth weight. We panicked. I felt a big failure as a mother as I couldn’t give my daughter milk. Rationally I knew I shouldn’t feel that way and it was perfectly fine to give her formula. Then we used formula supplement to boost her weight. And she did manage to gain weight very quickly after taking formula.
Method to boost milk production
In the meantime, I did a lot of research on Internet desperately finding a way to increase my milk supply. I found a lot of helpful websites (especially kellymom) and we came up with the following method of the three-hour circle:
1) Start by breastfeeding her with 15 or 20 minutes each breast,
2) Then change her, and feed her formula, which normally takes 15 to 30 minutes
3) Finally pump each breast for 15 or 20 minutes (she often slept, but sometimes lay looking around after being fed formula)
So we did this 8 times a day. Sometimes I stretched the night circle to 4 hours and hence reduced the day circle to 2 hours; so that I could sleep longer at night. In the first few days, we used formula supplement for every single feed. Once I started to have more expressed milk, I replaced formula supplement with expressed milk starting with the day feed as the formula supplement kept her sleep a little longer. By day 13, we managed to use formula for the night only.
Transition to exclusive breastfeeding
My first pumping only gave 10 ml each breast. I noticed it was best at night and in the early morning and reduced gradually during the day. Day 7 the peaked time gave nearly 30 ml in total and it increased gradually to 80 ml in total at day 16. At this time I felt more comfortable with my milk supply and decided to try breastfeeding only (i.e. without supplement) for one feed during the day. That feed lasted for 2 hours but my little one was finally satisfied without supplement. She slept soundly for more than an hour after that feed, rather than woke up immediately crying. I started to increase the breastfeeding only feeds in the next few days. Day 21, which was a Friday, we decided to try breastfeeding only for the night as well, since my husband, without work the next day, could support me at night. But it went well. She is now six and half months and since day 22, she has been exclusively breastfed.
We used a notebook to record all the necessary data including her weight, formula intake, and breast pumps. We divided the notebook into 4 columns: feeding, pee/poo, breast pump and others. We recorded the time for each thing, left or right breast, how long to breastfeed and pump, how much formula and/or expressed milk was taken. I found recording information very helpful, especially to monitor formula intake. Later I found out that there are many good apps for doing it, for example ‘baby tracker’.
My baby, who is 6 and half months, has been exclusively breastfed since day 22. Since I had such a problem with milk supply, I really appreciate it when it works. I do intend to breastfeed her for a long time. She had tongue tie and once it was sorted, it helped breastfeeding too. I will share our experience with tongue tie in another post.