I made a breastfeeding mistake that I knew nothing about!
Listen up mamas. If you’re breastfeeding or planning on breastfeeding, I urge you to read this.
I don’t want you to make the same breastfeeding mistake I did!
So here’s what happened…
I breastfed Lily exclusively up until 3 months.
At 2 months, I started pumping (a little) because I knew there would be some days that I would have to be away from Lily (and my doctor also recommended it).
At Lily’s 2 month checkup, the doctor said that she was on the low percentile for weight and the doctor recommended me to give her one bottle of formula at bedtime to ensure that she continued to gain weight.
I really didn’t want to do this. It just bothered me, ya know?
My mom breastfed my brother and I until we were 2, and I wanted to reach my goal of at least breastfeeding for a solid year.
Long story short, I decided to start pumping in hopes to get my body to produce more milk (and also to have a good stash in the freezer). I decided I would give Lily a big bottle of breastmilk at night time instead of resorting to formula.
I actually had a really hard time pumping! My body didn’t make as much milk as I had seen from other women, but I still made it work for about another month. (actually my right breast made like 2 times the amount that the left did…so weird and frustrating!)
At this point, Lily was a little over 3 months old.
One of these days in particular, I pumped SO much that my body literally ran out of milk.
Not. Joking. Completely out of milk.
I had pumped and fed Lily ALL day, and when it came time for her night feeding, my body literally had no milk left. I breastfed her for 45 minutes and afterwards she was still starving. Sadly, I had to give her the last stash of breastmilk in the freezer. The problem was that this stash was what I had pumped all day to have for Lily the next day when I had to be away all day. Soooo…I literally didn’t have any food for Lily for the next day!
I was in tears. How could I be trying SO hard and my body would not work properly?!
That morning, Shane had to go and get Lily formula from Whole Foods. What else do you do? I can’t let my baby go hungry, and I couldn’t stay at home that day with her.
It’s so hard to decide what kind of formula to pick! There’s cow, soy, and goat available in Whole Foods, but only cow & soy available for infants. I really didn’t know what to do, I just knew I needed something immediately.
So here were a couple issues that arose. Shane wanted her to have cow milk formula (as opposed to soy). I didn’t want her on cow anything because of all the crazy shit in cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is designed to turn a newborn calf into a 600 pound calf in 6 months…not what I had in mind for my baby… but then again, the soy formula was full of cane sugar! (it’s so fucked up) In a tizzy, we bought an organic cow formula, and I just said “buy the most expensive organic one.”
I totally didn’t feel good about her on cow’s milk formula, but for a baby, I truly didn’t know which was worse – cow milk or cane sugar soy?
I decided to do my research later because my brain just didn’t know what do on the spot, ya know?!
Over the next month, I continued to breastfeed, pump, and research as much as possible.
After about the first week of doing the nightly formula thing, I freaked out about the cow’s milk formula and dumped it all out in the trash can. I then started giving her a soy formula bottle at night.
I kept pumping even more, but I felt like my milk supply was decreasing. I couldn’t understand why my milk it was decreasing.
I talked to a lactation consultant and asked her if she could recommend anything. She said it sounded like I was doing everything right.
There was only one thing that I thought may could have contributed to my lowered milk production…
Birth control pills.
Let me tell you about that for a moment.
My gyno said I should be on birth control. I ended up choosing the Nuvaring. I had wanted to do the copper IUD (because it’s hormone free), but she said I would end up wanting it removed because it causes even heavier bleeding and more intense cramps…NOT something I wanted.
I asked the lactation consultant if birth control could be affecting my milk production, and she said no and said recommended that I pump more. (wtf?)
I pumped every 2 hours, and often expressed NOTHING!
I tried Mother’s Milk teas, lactation snacks, lots of oats, tinctures, all of that stuff.
Literally, nothing worked.
I finally found a lactation expert, Corrine, through the La Leche League. Corrine was brilliant. I cannot express how educated and caring she was.
She told me that my breastfeeding mishap came from the estrogen in birth control. It is what killed my milk supply.
The problem is that once you change the hormones in your body with estrogen, you can’t reverse it. So my milk was gone basically forever.
About 1 in 8 women who use birth control while breastfeeding will see a huge drop in their milk supply.
I started crying on the phone because I was SO upset that this had happened, and even more upset that NO ONE had told me about this!
How could a doctor put me on birth control and not tell me there was a chance it could lower my milk production?
I mean…it totally makes sense when I think about it, but I was blown away that this information wasn’t front & center everywhere!
So it turns out that most brand name birth controls are dual hormones (meaning they ave estrogen & progestin) – most of the time estrogen will end milk supply. Not always, but often.
Progestin-only birth control is preferred while breastfeeding. There’s a small chance it may lower milk supply but not nearly as often.
My medical doctor did tell me to NOT take hormonal birth control, he said to only use the copper IUD if I wanted to take birth control, but I didnt realize it was because of a lowered milk supply, and I wish I would have listened. When my gyno recommended the Nuvaring, I trusted it and went with it (also the thought of an IUD made me want to throw up – I felt like my cervix already had too much trauma).
Anyways, I was extremely disappointed that this happened, but I am happy that I have a platform to be able to share my experience. I hope that this can help educate other breastfeeding mothers so they can make the best educated decision for themselves and not have the same breastfeeding mistake I had!
Please read more about this HERE on the LaLeche website.
It took me a while to get over the emotions of the situation, but I finally had to come to peace with the truth. I knew that I had tried my best given the information that I had (or lack there of) at the time.
Corrine’s kind advice was that I should know that I did the best that I could and to now choose the next best options. She said that since Lily was almost 5 months old, I could start introducing solid food. (I was happy to hear this.) She said that as far as milk is concerned, the next best option to mother’s milk is another mother’s milk (yes, breast milk from someone else), after that the second next best option is raw milk from a goat (that’s a bit unattainable to me), and luckily there are high quality goat formulas…
Now, let’s talk about formula for a sec.
Like I said earlier, I already had Lily on some soy. I never really felt great about that either.
Long story short, after I spoke with Corrine and came to peace with the fact that Lily would need to be on formula full-time, I ended up switching to goat formula. I will tell you more of what lead me to this educated decision in another post.
I am going to break this up and talk about formula in a separate post because this is just a lot of information.
For the moms who want to know now, this formula is the one that I’m using.
I feel content with the decision and the type of milk I’m using for Lily. I am happy to say that she is thriving and is SO happy to be getting TONS of milk, lol! She is liking solid food, and her favorites seem to be avocado and pear.
As for now, please share this with anyone you know who may be breastfeeding now or in the future! All moms deserve to make the best educated decision about they bodies and their babies and not make the same breastfeeding mistake I did.
No matter what decision you make for you baby, it is the right one because it is what is best for you! It’s important to not get too caught up in the emotions, and to move forward.
A fed baby is always best.
Love y’all, Ashley.
PS- Check out my other articles for new and expecting Mamas here.
Ashley you are not alone in this issue. When I had my son just like you I was given the Nuvaring and my milk started drying up luckily my sister in law is a lactation consultant and told me to remove it and I was able to get my supply back. This is a major issue doctors are not educating mothers on. We trust that what we are being given is for the best and come to find out it is horrible. Thank you for writing this I am sure it will help a lot of mothers.
Yes, I was actually on Nuvaring too; I just said BC pills for the sake of explaining. That’s so great you got the correct information soon! You’re right; it’s a major issue.
I’m so sorry you went through this. Your doctor definitely should not have recommended the NuvaRing knowing that you were breastfeeding. Sounds like you made all the best decisions for your little girl. She looks happy and healthy! Good job, momma and extra kudos for spreading the word!
Thanks Ashley. Yes, she’s a very happy little tot now. XO!
Hi Ashley I’m so sorry you had this experience! The one thing that bothers me the most about this is that your gyno told you not to get the copper iud!! I decided to use the iud after having my second baby and my experience with it has been great. My periods are not any heavier than before nor has my cramping been worse. When I did my research about it it did seem as those two were the biggest complaints about it but everyone’s body reacts differently and knowing that hormonal birth control lessens your milk supply it’s a bummer your gyno didn’t advise you to at least try the iud then if it wasn’t working for you find another route. Thankfully your baby girl seems happy and thriving and I think the goats formula is a great choice!!
I totally agree with you! Was the copper IUD application (I don’t know what to call it) painful? I know everyone is different with that as well.
I went into it super afraid that it would be painful but surprisingly it wasn’t bad at all! I did have some cramping after but it only lasted one day. I hope that if you decide to try it it you have a good experience as well I would feel terrible if it was bad! ????
I feel ya, after I gave birth my doctor put me on mirena, telling me that side effects were extremely rare. It didn’t mess up my milk production thank goodness, but it completely messed up my hormones. Even after getting it out, I spent months dealing with extreme weight gain, acne, mood swings, irritability (and this was all while following a healthy plant based diet and exercising daily). My hormones didn’t get back to normal and my symptoms start to resolve until I weaned my daughter completely. Searching online I found that this is a pretty common experience for breastfeeding moms who had iuds put in after giving birth, and their doctors never mentioned any possibility of a hormone imbalance. I’ll never use an iud again, it was a horrible experience.
Yes, that’s just another downside! It’s pretty crazy. Any of those hormonal birth control methods are so unhealthy. 🙁 Thanks for sharing your story. Love, Ash.
I’m sorry you went through this. But there are so many misconceptions when it comes to breastmilk and pumping. Pumps are not as efficient as babies at getting the milk out. I had great supply but could never express more than 40ml.
It’s not an indication of supply! As for low weight gain, there is so much more to it! Some babies aren’t as good gainers as others. That’s why we have all different body types too as we are older. When looking at weight gain, so much more has to be taken into consideration: how many wet nappies is the baby having(6-10 in a 24 hour period is adequate), are they generally settled, happy and sleeping well, are they meeting their milestones?
If this is all normal then the baby is fine and the breastmilk supply is sufficient.
Doctors are not trained adequately in infact nutrition and especially not in breastfeeding. I think it’s important for all mums to seek the opinion of an experienced ibclc first before a doctor/pediatrician
I wouldn’t have been able to breastfeed as long as I did if I listened to my doctor and didn’t have the support of a lactation consultant.
Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for this article and I hate that this happens. My son is 2 months old and my dr. just put be back on the pill two weeks ago.. I took it for about 13 days and on day 11 I noticed when I was pumping I was producing half of what I used to. I figured my birth control was the only thing that had changed so I did some research and found your article. I am absolutely devastated. How long did you take the birth control before you realized? I am so upset with my doctor for putting me on it without a warning that it might dry my milk up. I just thought it would come back … but now after reading this I’m not so sure. I wonder if the time on it matters?
I’m so sorry to hear that! I took BC for one month, but milk stopped almost immediately. I found that some Dr’s say that this is myth. It’s really sad! Unfortunately the milk won’t come back. I tried to pump daily for months and nothing made it come back.I finally talked to an highly educated lactation specialist and when I said birth control she said that the milk will never come back in; I burst out into tears, but she was wonderful and reminded me that I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. That is why I tell all mothers now; it’s the least I can do to help other moms. I don’t understand why more people aren’t screaming this from the rooftops?! Like if you are breastfeeding, DO NOT take hormonal BC (copper IUD can be used because it’s not hormonal) if you hope to continue breastfeeding – it’s not worth taking the chance! 🙁 Please remember that it’s not your fault, and you are an amazing mama! (Also, yours probably won’t get worse. Can you breastfeed at all now? It just won’t go back to what it was before BC) I know this doesn’t help how you feel right now, but I ended up doing massive research, and used Nannycare goat milk formula for my daughter, and it went really well. If you have to supplement at this time, I wouldn’t supplement with anything other than that brand. Check my blog for the post about it if you haven’t seen it. Sending you so much love!!