Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How I got a full milk supply

This post is intended for people interested in adoptive breastfeeding, specifically inducing lactation. If you are not interested in these things, you probably don't want to keep reading :)

I am on an adoptive breastfeeding group on facebo*k, it was brought to my attention that I may have lots of people asking me about my experience and how I got to a full milk supply. Apparently it is similar to one of things like when someone looses 100 pounds and everyone wants to know all their secrets!  I thought I better write it all out now before I forget... so here it goes, all my secrets: how I got a full supply...

First, before anything, I have to thank God for this gift He gave me. I would never have reached full supply if it wasn't for God giving me this gift. At one point near the beginning, I was upset with how small my supply was, 10 mls or something like that. A good friend told me that all I can do is my best and God would take care of my supply. So I made a deal that I would do all I could on my end, put in my hard work and whatever milk supply I got I would thank God for and view as a gift from him. So every drop that I have is a gift from my creator. He deserves all the glory for every drop of milk I have, after all it was His design for mamas to feed their babies. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by his goodness and this gift to me that only He could give.

I won't talk about how much this means to me as I have talked in a previous post why it is so important for me to breastfeed or at least try to, so I'll leave it at this, it is hands down one of the top blessing I have ever received.

Where I started:  I learned from an adoptive friend about inducing lactation. As most people have no clue that you can do this, I also had only a vague idea of what this meant. I was told about Dr. Newman and his protocols. When I was matched with our son, I went online immediately and printed off his inducing lactation protocols. Since I only had a few months before picking up my son, I decided to follow the accelerated protocol. Within days I had a Dr. appointment where I got a prescription for Yasmin birth control and domperidone. I took one Yasmin pill a day as well as 20mg dom 4 times a day, for 42 days. The protocol says 30-60 days. I had exactly 42 Yasmin pills so that is what I went with. I did not enjoy the hormones from the Yas, it is a high dose of estrogen and seemed to make me feel a bit crazy, but my breasts grew two sizes so it did it's trick! I started the first day with the full dose of the dom which turned out to be a big mistake as it hurt my stomach a lot. After the first week I went to 10 mg 4 times a day and then slowly weened myself up to the 20mg 4 times a day.

Then came the pumping: The day after my 42nd Yas pill I stopped taking them and began to pump. I started off slowly with 5-7 min every 3-4 hours as this is what the protocol calls for. After a few days my nipples became incredibly sore, but I didn't stop. I began to produce drops within the first day, but nothing more than a couple drops each side. I remember after the first week trying to save 5mls of milk and my husband telling me that it was ridiculous! It's just that I had worked so hard for those drops, I just couldn't fathom throwing them out so I didn't start saving until I had a little more than that. After a couple weeks I met someone on the facebo*k group who had produced a full supply. She graciously messaged me and walked me through my first few weeks. She told me step by step what she had done and encouraged me that I could do it. I don't think she will ever know what that meant to me. She was exactly the person I needed to talk to and somehow we found each other at the perfect time. SO I changed a few things after talking with her. I bumped up my dom dose to 30 mg 4 times a day as well as increasing my pumping times to 20 min every 2 hours with waking up one time at night. Let me tell you this has not been easy, in fact one of the most dedicated things I have ever done in my life. I brought my pump to work and spent each break locked in the bathroom with my pump. I was tired but thankfully only worked part time so I had lots of time at home as well. I started waking up very early to pump before morning shift when I worked, pumped on both breaks then immediately after I got home. It was stressful but so worth it. And I can't forget to mention that after every pumping session, I had to hand express to fully empty the breast. This usually took about 5-10 min and I believe has really helped with my increase! I think what has helped with pumping is that I tried to make it as flexible as I could. I have done so many things wearing this pump! I have cooked, cleaned, worked out on the elliptical, painted my house and my mother-in-law's house, driven, played games... the list goes on. I look ridiculous but I wear my husband's sweater over my get-up which attempts to hide the beauty of the pump. I don't really care who sees me doing it as when I am in my house, this is what I need to do. I was a bit shy at first, but with my family and friends I just dont care anymore! I could not handle sitting on my bed for that many hours a day (approx.4.5 hrs/day) so I have made it as flexible as I could.

The herbs: When I started pumping I also started taking the herbs fenugreek and blessed thistle. I am not too sure how much they played a role in my supply but I took them. I took three pills of each with every meal. I felt like I was swallowing pills all day long! I recently have stopped taking them, about a week ago and have noticed no difference in my supply, in fact I have increased, so I am not sure how much they actually work. They weren't cheap either and made me smell like curry maple syrup so I am happy to just ditch them at this point! The only side effect I had from the herbs where occasional headaches and I feel that that occurred when I wasn't drinking enough water with them.

Water: Water and I have not had the best relationship over the years. I would way rather drink anything else as for some reason I just did not enjoy drinking water. As soon as I began pumping I began craving water. As soon as I would start a pumping session I would need to chug water. Drink as much water as you need. You need liquid in order to produce liquid!

Food: I was told that oatmeal would help to increase your supply so I starting eating oatmeal for breakfast. I currently haven't eaten oatmeal for weeks and my supply has still increased so I am not too sure how helpful it was but none the less it can't hurt. I also made some lactation cookies with brewer's yeast, coconut oil, flax and oatmeal in them which were very tasty. Who knows if they did anything but I enjoyed eating them! The one thing I will say is that you should never restrict your calories when your producing milk. I read that for every ounce of milk you make it takes 20 calories to make it. That puts you at 600 calories for 30 ounces which is quite a lot. I find I am hungry constantly. I eat whenever I'm hungry. I try to eat healthy food but I have had a crazy sugar craving throughout this process so I haven't stayed completely healthy :) My husband has been in shock over the amount of food I have been packing home and likes to make fun of me... I really don't mind and have even made fun of myself on many occasions. I have gained one pound over the past 4 months and I think that I can chalk that up to milk supply, so I don't feel bad about eating as much as I want these days! I have continued to work out around 2-3 times a week through out this protocol as well as that is what I done for a long time. Sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less depending on the week.

The Pain: This topic deserves a paragraph to itself because this was one of the hardest things for me to overcome. Almost immediately my nipples became very sore. The pumping without much milk really killed me. I ripped and scabbed but could not stop long enough to allow myself to heal. Sometimes I would hand express instead of using the pump to try and give myself more healing time but it hurt still. This lasted for around two months. I had been looking for the medela nipple cream, but it had been sold out from babies r us so I was using coconut oil. When my sister was here visiting, we went to buy milk bags at Walm@rt. I was wondering down the isle when I found the nipple cream. I was so excited I must have exclaimed really loudly to my sister that I found it! She laughed at me and said she has never seen anyone so excited over nipple cream. All that to say it hurt. Physical pain aside, nothing compares to the emotional pain of infertility for me. There was no pain that was about to keep me from my dream :) It still does not feel the best, but it is a lot better and totally bearable now!

Support: I maybe should have started with this as I truly believe this is the second reason I have been successful. I read some stat about people who want to breastfeed who don't have support from their spouse and they all eventually stop. I could not have asked for a better support system. My husband, my family, my friends and the facebo*k group. I have countless support systems and they all have chosen to cheer me on in my journey. My husband knew how much it meant to me to be able to breastfeed our son so he has encouraged me the whole way. At one point near the beginning he told me to not be half-assed about it, that if I was going to do this that I had better do it full heartedly!! I know that may not sound encouraging but to me it meant he was completely on my side and wanted to see me succeed. I loved it and felt it was good timing to hear it. At times I have gotten overwhelmed at the demanding schedule of pumping. I am coming up on three months of it, but I have found that I always had someone to go to when I was overwhelmed. I actually have tears as I write this at the amount of love I have in my life. I have some very close friends, the kind who know everything about you. They have been my cheering squad through this entire adoption and now through inducing lactation. Every time I felt weary, they would cheer me on. I have blabbed their ears off about my boobs for months now and they haven't grown tired of me (or at least haven't told me). And then there are those who have gone before me. My adoption friends who have induced lactation before. The ones who give you the instructions, the ones I went to with all my hundreds of questions and the ones who truly understood what it felt like to go through this. The ones who rejoiced with me over every ounce I increased. I thank these people from the bottom of my heart. I could not have done this without you all!!!!

So there it is... I'm sure I have so much more I could add but for now this is what comes to mind.
I'll give a brief overview of the timeline of my milk increase for those of you who are interested in the time it took. I kept a daily record of how much I pumped so I could see my increase. It was very encouraging to me to see it go up. I found that I would plateau for days and then see a big jump then plateau again.

Week 1+2 - 5 mls- 3oz
Week 3- 6 oz - 9 oz
Week 4- 10.5 oz - 10.6 oz
Week 5- 11.7 oz - 14 oz
Week 6- 15.3 oz - 17.5 oz
Week 7- 17.5 oz- 20 oz
Week 8- 21.5 oz - 21.7 oz
Week 9- 23 oz - 19 oz (week of massive clogged duct)
Week 10- 21.5 oz - 23 oz
Week 11- 24 oz - 25.6 oz
Week 12- 25 oz - 30 oz
Week 13- 27.8 oz - currently around 30 oz

So now that I have the milk, I just need the baby!!!! Isaac's case will be in court tomorrow night, please pray with us that we would pass and can go get our baby boy. My next feat will be teaching him to latch! Any and all info is appreciated. I'm praying hard that God will allow him to latch and that we can build a bond through breastfeeding!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Through Triumph or Tribulation

Most of you know already we found out this morning that we did not pass our court date. We are unsure why but were simply told it was rescheduled for March 29th. My reaction was not premeditated or predicted. My heart sunk deep into my chest almost taking my breath away.  Almost instantly a cry, "God this was not supposed to happen."

God, your will be done... but I really meant, my will be done.

God, in your timing for it is perfect... but I really meant, in my timing for I have it figured out best.

Loose Christianese words thrown around by the tongue, but not deep enough to settle in the heart. My reaction translated all too well the actual meaning behind my prayers and words.


I have faith, sure, faith in what I want. But do I have FAITH in it's actuality? Faith that God will be glorified, faith through both triumph and tribulation?

So through my tears I thank God for showing me the impurities of my heart, my God in a box faith, my feel good gospel. It's shallow isn't it to demand of our creator, to put our expectations on HIM. To act as if Isaac is mine first.

Please don't think I'm being hard on myself, far too often I'm easy on myself. Sometimes we need to face the truth and I believe God has allowed me to see how I view him. My vending machine, name it and claim it, my friend before my God.

So we wait. It is hard because it's not what I wanted. But I know in my heart that before what I want, I want Jesus. And that is not taken lightly, that is not a free ticket but one that rejoices in triumphs and tribulations.

Please pray for us to want God's will more than our own, to want His timing more than our own. It is a constant battle. Please pray that we would love God more than we love Isaac.

Moving forward. All hope is not lost, but my hope is in the one who gave me Isaac, not in a jurisdiction that dictates whether my son will be ours or not, but in the one who called us by name. The giver of gifts, the one who calls us out and the one who asks us to be faithful through think and thin.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Anticipation is a nice way of describing my emotions right now. Anxiety is probably the more accurate word. Thursday night as we slept, Isaac's case went through court in Ethiopia. I thought I would be fine but I had this sick feeling as I was at work all evening. It was my last shift at work, I know a I may have jumped the gun a little, and my anxiety level was high. As the night passed and the weekend approached I felt myself relax a little, knowing that everything was closed on the weekend so there would be no chance of hearing any results. But monday came and with monday returned my anxiety. No email. No phone call.
It's Tuesday and my anxiety is slowly turning into hopelessness. You may think this is extreme, but this is my son and I'm waiting to find out if I will ever get to hold him. It is possible for the judge to say no, it is possible that some family member shows up and wants to keep him, it is possible for our son to never actually become our son. The possibility is very slim, but somehow that slim chance is all I can think about.
As the thought of waiting makes me want to scream and cry all at the same time, I find myself fighting this wait. I don't want to wait and I'm certainly not being patient about it. I don't want to ask God about it and I don't want to wait for His answer, I just want my son. I know how wrong this is, I'm just being honest.
Yet somewhere in my heart I hear an invitation.  An invitation to walk through the darkness once again.  To look at Jesus and follow him through this time of anxiety. To rest. I find myself once again in the middle of the storm screaming for Jesus to please wake up and make the waves stay still, yet He is asleep. You think I'd learn by now, how to walk through the darkness, how to rest in the storm. But I am blind and I am scared.
I know in the end Jesus is the one who defends my son, He is the one who stands up in court for him. Yet somehow I can't get through today.

I have no wise words except to pray:

Jesus, God of the Angel Armies,

You said that you will fight on the orphans behalf, that you would put the lonely in families. I know you go before us in this battle, that you have called us to it and that you would never leave us to go it alone. I ask you to help me to trust you. Isaac is your son to do with what you please. Please help us to wait on you for your answer. Please help us to rest in the boat, to find comfort in you alone. Please stand before Isaac and fight his case. We ask that we find favor with the judge and favor as they give out second court dates. We recognize that Isaac was and never will be ours to claim for ourselves but a gift that has been graciously given to us. We love you and hand our son to you. Amen.