My breastfeeding success was accepting that I am a breastfeeding mother, even if it means using a lactation aid. The day I realized this, was one of those little “aha” moments. After 3-months of trying everything under the sun to increase my milk supply (and believe me I tried it all) – I dumped out all the pills, herbs and strange concoctions and returned my breast-pump. I felt empowered. I realized that I had been obsessed solely with obtaining the milk, rather than enjoying the beautiful bond of breastfeeding. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but I finally counted myself as a “regular” breastfeeding mother.
We had a rough start to parenting. I had a negligible milk supply and a first baby with an incredibly spirited (impatient!) personality. Luckily it never actually occurred to me in those difficult first hours to give up on breastfeeding. On Day 3, by luck or fate, we were fortunate to have the most amazing and experienced lactation consultant land on our door-step (she would later be known as my daughter’s breastfeeding angel). With her guidance, on Day 5, we began our breastfeeding journey with a lactation aid.
In the beginning, when it seemed like a two person job (my husband and mom were my dedicated support team), I wondered how would I do it by myself let alone leave the house? Yet as the weeks passed, I continued to achieve little milestones until eventually I found myself breastfeeding anywhere I needed to. My husband came up with creative solutions to help me nurse with a lactation aid in public so that no one even knew I wasn’t doing it the “regular” way (this was important to me in the beginning although later on I would cease to care). I probably should have taken a cue from my friend’s children – one day she happened upon her 2-yr old son and 5-yr old daughter “breastfeeding” their dolls with shoe-laces (they had spent many hours observing me!). They accepted implicitly what had taken me much longer to accept.
I definitely produce some milk – and I do not underestimate the health benefits of that (even a teaspoon provides those all-important antibodies and nutrients) – however breastfeeding for me became more than just about the milk, it was a way of mothering. Sometimes it was simply a welcome “excuse” to sit in my most comfortable chair and enjoy nature’s way of calming a stressed out mother. When I was pregnant with my second child, everyone wondered if I would need a lactation aid the second time around. To be honest, I was actually pretty neutral on the topic. (Great if I didn’t need it, fine if I did – as what else had I known?) As it turned out, I was able to nurse in the morning without it for the first few weeks.
Breastfeeding with a lactation aid was certainly not something I had planned upon. When we received our crash course on Day 5, we believed (and hoped) the lactation aid was a temporary solution. For many people it is, but I am proof that it can also be a long-term one. Fast forwarding 3-years, I have fed each of my two children with it for over a year and along the way became a passionate breastfeeding advocate. I feel extremely fortunate to have experienced this special part of motherhood and I have no doubt that my girls are better off for it.
*Note: Use of a lactation aid should be shown by a person experienced in helping mothers with breastfeeding. A lactation aid “is a device that allows a breastfeeding mother to supplement her baby with expressed breastmilk, formula, glucose water with added colostrum or plain glucose water without using a bottle” (citation: Dr. Jack Newman – http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=doc-LA). One of the benefits of a lactation aid is that the baby will receive the mother’s milk in addition to any supplement. The simple “improvised version” consists of a container for the supplement—usually a feeding bottle with an enlarged nipple hole—and a long, thin tube leading from this container. Manufactured lactation aids are also available (e.g., Medela Supplemental Nursing System™ (SNS); Lact-Aid© Nursing Trainer™ System).