The Breastfeeding Diaries: Holly from Belle to Businesswoman

July 17, 2013

 Hello! My name is Holly from Belle to Businesswoman, and my bouncing baby boy, Graham, is 10 months old. I’m so happy to be sharing my story here on Julie’s blog. I've enjoyed reading all of the previous stories and I hope my experience will help a few new moms out there.

I always wanted to breastfeed. It was something I'd always pictured doing when I dreamed about being a mom. It seemed like such a sweet thing to do – a calm, snuggly way to bond with your baby. And of course I wanted my babies to have all the wonderful benefits of breast milk!

Graham was born 4 weeks early. I was sure I was going to have a 10lb, 2-week late baby, so you can imagine how surprised I was that he came so early, weighing in at 6lbs 2ouces. I had a very easy labor and birth – everything worked the way it was supposed to - including my epidural, thank goodness!

I was able to hold Graham for about 5 minutes after he was born, and then he was whisked off to the NICU so they could monitor his breathing. I didn't get to hold him again or feed him for 12 hours. A lactation consultant was sent to my recovery room soon after the birth to show me how to pump. I really hadn't thought much about pumping – I thought I'd have plenty of time to figure that out once my maternity leave came to an end. I started pumping that day every 3 hours…little did I know that I would be chained to that pump for a lot longer than I ever expected.

Once I was finally able to try to feed Graham – I was so optimistic. He latched on right away and seemed to be eating. We worked and worked and worked at breastfeeding while we were at the hospital. My husband and I went to the NICU for every feeding (every 3 hours) the first few days – even during the night. And I was still pumping every 3 hours too.

We were told Graham was a “lazy eater” and wasn't actively sucking during feedings, even with a bottle. One nurse said he had “wimpy white boy syndrome.” (Statistically, white males do the worst in the NICU. They just take longer to develop.) So after I breastfed, they would feed him formula through a feeding tube. I was discharged from the hospital after a couple of days but we had to leave Graham behind. They wouldn't let him leave until he could eat 12 full bottles in a row. Leaving him there was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Every day we would drive over to the hospital in the morning in Atlanta's rush hour traffic. We would stay in the NICU all day until around 11:30pm when we finally drove home. And I was still pumping. We had 5 consultations with 3 different lactation consultants that first week. But my milk never fully came in. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I wasn't able to feed Graham right after he was born. Or the fact that he was a “lazy eater.” Maybe my body didn't respond well to the pump. But the most I ever made was an ounce total each time I fed Graham or pumped.

This is ALL the milk/colostrum I pumped the first week of Graham's life.

Graham was discharged a week after he was born. I was so happy that day! I finally got to be one of the moms I kept seeing leave the hospital – riding in a wheel chair out to the car with a brand new sweet baby. One of the best moments ever!

At this point, I was still optimistic about breastfeeding and thought I would eventually make enough milk to feed Graham. We tried so many different things that first month. I was still pumping for 15 minutes after each feeding, every three hours. Our routine looked a little like this: I would try to breastfeed (for about 20 minutes), then feed Graham a bottle (which took about 20 minutes for him to eat) and then pump for about 15-20 minutes. So I was feeding/pumping for almost an hour, every 3 hours…even at night. It. Was. Exhausting.

I tried eating tons of oatmeal, which is supposed to increase your milk supply. I took fenugreek and blessed thistle and drank mother’s milk tea. We met with one last lactation consultant and she suggested trying a heating pad on my chest, taking hot showers and doing some breast massage. (Which my husband was more than happy to help with – ha!) We also tried an SNS system for about a week, which is basically a bottle with a tube that you tape to your nipple. As the baby breastfeeds, they are also fed with formula or expressed milk from the tube.

I even ended up taking Reglan for a month (a prescription drug for gastrointestinal problems that can increase your milk supply) despite all the scary side effects. (Reglan can cause a permanent condition called tardive dyskinesia, which can cause unusual uncontrolled movements of the face, mouth, tongue, arms or legs, similar to Parkinson’s Disease.) Yikes!

That first month was awful. Since it took so long to feed Graham, I felt like I couldn't go anywhere. I was so lonely. I was exhausted. I was dealing with the emotions of being a new mom, I was getting used to being home all day alone (after working in a busy, talkative office), I was worrying about going back to work. And to top it all off, I finally admitted I was suffering with postpartum depression.

And even after all of that, I was still only able to produce one ounce. After that miserable first month, I decided to come to terms with the fact that one ounce was all I could make. I accepted it and finally put my pump away. But I still wanted Graham to get what little milk I made. So I continued to breastfeed him my ounce each time he was ready to eat. Then, right after, I supplemented with a bottle of formula. It still took a little bit more time, but the extra 20 minutes was worth the extra nutrients he was receiving.

And I LOVED breastfeeding. That bonding time that we shared was so special to me. I loved looking down at Graham while he ate. Especially once he got a bit older and started to look back up at me. And those sleepy smiles while nursing - so sweet!

So that was our normal. It worked perfectly for us for about 5 months. After that, Graham decided that he wasn't patient enough to breastfeed first and then have his bottle. I continued to try for about a week until I realized he just wasn't going to have it anymore. I got back out my pump and pumped my ounce for Graham every three hours during the day until he turned 6 months old. Then I cut it back to just once in the morning. Every drop counts, so Graham still gets a few drops of my milk each day. I've also been blessed with a wonderful friend who has donated some of her milk to Graham.

I wish I knew exactly why I never produced enough milk. And I pray that things will go smoother with the next baby. I also wish there was more information out there about having an early baby or a baby in the NICU. I was so unprepared for that situation.

As for advice for new moms – I’m not really sure what to say. I guess just know that your hormones and emotions will be out of whack when your baby arrives. I was in such a depressed state and although some of it was from the postpartum depression, I know a lot of it came from being so obsessed with trying to make breastfeeding work. I was scared I was going to feel like that forever. But it does pass. And your hormones will even out and you will feel normal again.

I'd also like to tell new moms to not put so much pressure on themselves to breastfeed. Formula is just fine and you aren't a failure if it doesn't work out. But I didn't listen to that advice, and honestly, I'm sure I'm going to be even more determined with my next baby to make breastfeeding work.

I'm so thankful I was able to experience breastfeeding Graham. And so blessed that my amazing husband was completely supportive during this whole experience.

We have millions of pictures and videos of our sweet nursing sessions that I will cherish forever. He is such an amazing baby and I’m so glad I was able to provide milk for him, even if we had to supplement. I love him so much!

Make sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries series at the top of my navigation bar. 

If you would like to contribute your story, please email me!

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8 Responses to “The Breastfeeding Diaries: Holly from Belle to Businesswoman”

  1. I loved this! It hits close to home for me and sounds almost exactly like my story. I find it comforting to read other mom stories about this to know I am not alone. Thanks for sharing!


  2. I love this. You never know what to expect. And what curveballs will be thrown your way. But as long ad mama and baby are happy and healthy your doing it right!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Holly. What an emotional roller coaster those first few weeks are, huh? Man, we are so hard on ourselves. You did amazing! I hope you look back on your experience with pride knowing that you did absolutely everything you could. Way to go, mama!

  4. What a beautiful baby!

    Love your blog :)


  5. Thank you for finally featuring a story of someone who despite all efforts couldn't make all milk needed. This is my story as well, and since the time I had to go through this, I have found that this is more common that people will lead you to believe. Based on the number of similar stories, this is NOT an isolated 3% of population, as someone stated here, that deals with such issues... Good luck to you! You're a great mom! I wish I had been so strong and assertive about breastfeeding as you!

  6. AnonymousJuly 17, 2013

    Came here by way of Holly, but I look forward to checking out the rest of your blog!
    H- thanks for sharing! I know this helps out many and I'm lucky to have a friend that will be able to share so much knowledge and support when we finally get around to babies :)
    - L

  7. Julie - Thanks again for sharing my story on your blog. This series is such an awesome idea - I know it's helping lots of mommies out there. (Including me!)

    Erica, Erin, Sara, Nicole, Madalyn, and L - Thank you for the encouraging comments. I love how supportive everyone has been. "Mommy guilt" is a strong enough emotion as it is - we don't need other moms bringing us down. It's wonderful to see how each of the posts here on "The Breastfeeding Diaries" has comments from moms encouraging each other and building each other up - no matter what the story is.


  8. Following your blog. :)
    Please do visit mine-
    Like or follow it if you do think it's nice!


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