a breastfeeding journey...the road less travelled.

I am so so excited to have my very first guest post here on Natural Urban Mama!!   Please give a nice warm welcome to my dear friend and fellow babywearing mama, Shannon Mozak from Metamorphosis. Shannon is a babywearing, wrap-hoarding, crafty mama to three beautiful girls. She is also passionate about breastfeeding eduction and spreading the word about milk sharing.

This is her story..... 

When I was pregnant with my third baby I was sure that breastfeeding would be a success this time. I was absolutely convinced that the reason I had struggled so much with my first two was because of bad information and not enough support.  Before baby number three arrived I made sure that I had all the right information and a terrific support network of breastfeeding mothers and friends to help me get it right.

Then, Alana was born in a wonderful gentle homebirth. I was giving her the absolute best start she could get as far as our breastfeeding relationship went.  I laid back after her birth and snuggled her and waited for her to find her own way to the breast and self attach. And there she stayed for nearly every waking and non-waking moment of her life for the next six weeks.

I think I knew it was not going well long before I admitted it to myself.  She was peeing frequently, but very, very small amounts and not having nearly enough dirty diapers. The ones she did have were suspect. I talked to my friends, sought the advice of my doula, talked to several lactation consultant friends and even after all of this, my mama instincts were still telling me something was not right. So I went and had her weighed.

After six long weeks of feeding Alana on-demand (almost non-stop), not only has she not gained weight, but she was nearly a full pound lighter than her birth weight.  Concerned that something other than my milk supply must be the issue I took her to the doctor for the first time. The doctor was more than alarmed and sent us to the Stollery Children's Hospital immediately. Still, I was convinced that breastfeeding was not the problem.  After all, I had done everything right.....how could it go wrong???

In order to rule out milk supply I had to make Alana wait two hours before feeding her.  She had NEVER been off the breast for such a long period before but we waited the agonizing two hours and then I fed her for as long as she would nurse on both sides and then she was weighed.  She took in a whopping 20 millilitres (just over one tablespoon) of breast milk.  Total.

From here, it did not take me long to put two and two together.  My other two babies had the same difficulty with breastfeeding.  No matter that I had done everything right, beginning right from the moment of her birth, my body was not able to make her enough milk.

I immediately reached out to friends that I knew.....not for breastfeeding support or advice, but for their milk.  I asked everyone I knew if they had a freezer stash they would be able to donate to us. I posted on my Facebook page that "It would take a village to feed my child."

Thankfully, I am a part of an incredible community of mothers and I got a wonderful immediate response to my request for milk.  After only one night in the hospital on formula I was able to take Alana home and feed her donated milk. For one whole week I fed her on the generosity of my friends and their friends.

I was at a La Leche League meeting near the end of that first week talking to the leaders and other mothers there about how I felt so blessed that so many mom's were willing to donate their milk, but that it was soon going to run out.  What would I do then?

It was suggested that I post a need for donated milk on the Human Milk 4 Human Babies - Alberta Facebook page. And as soon as I got home from that meeting I did just that.

Again, I was extremely blessed. I made a connection with a mom not too far away from me who had a premature baby whose due date was exactly Alana's birth date. She also happened to have a huge oversupply issue.  Ever since then I have been working with this one mom who donates the bulk of Alana's perfectly age appropriate breast milk.  Every week we meet up and I bring home several grocery bags full of frozen milk.

Still, sometimes this just isn't enough.  So in order to keep the frozen milk lasting as long as possible, I have asked any nursing mother who is comfortable with the idea to wet-nurse my baby.  I am always amazed at the generosity and so very grateful when yet another mother offers to nurse my baby.  I can't help but think of all the wonderful antibodies she is being exposed to and that so many moms have enough love in them to share this very special gift with my sweet baby girl.

I love that some moms in my immediate group of friends have started affectionately referring to Alana as "the community baby". I wish that every mother who truly wanted to breastfeed her baby but could not for whatever reason, could find the same support and sense of community that I have found.

Sometimes, I still feel sadness when I see posts on Facebook from breastfeeding advocates that insinuate that my baby is not getting the absolute very best because I can't breastfeed her.  Then I think about watching her drift off to sleep comfy and satisfied at another mother's breast and I smile.  My baby is getting the best.  She is getting more love than I can give her alone.

By seeking out donated breastmilk, both frozen and fresh, I am taking the road less travelled as far as breastmilk feeding goes but I know that I am giving my baby the very best that I can give her.

It is my hope that by sharing Alana's story I can get more people thinking about and talking about milk sharing. Direct, mom to mom sharing.  Every baby deserves breastmilk, even if its own mother can't provide it.

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. 

~Robert Frost