I got so desperate to increase my milk production that I completely lost the plot.
"You're going to breastfeed, right?" This was the question seemingly everyone asked while I was pregnant. Well, it wasn't a question so much as it was a statement: "You're not a monster who hates her baby, right?" Of course not! I enthusiastically embraced “breast is best” and became convinced that if I didn't breastfeed I would be a total failure as a woman, and my neglected baby would end up with a chronic lifelong illness, flunk out of school, and resent me forever.
But my dreams of happily feeding my newborn gallons of antibody-rich breastmilk from my overflowing jugs came crashing down quickly during our first pediatrician appointment, when my baby was four days old. The doctor diagnosed my baby with "failure to thrive," which meant she had lost weight, and I was essentially starving her (!!!) because I wasn't making enough milk. My baby wasn't even a week old and I felt like I had already failed her as a mother.
This, needless to say, was not the plan — not the glowing vision I had for our first months together. I had a full mental breakdown in that doctor’s office and made it my life's mission right then and there to make more milk, no matter what the cost. I had just pushed a human out of me 3 days prior, so my mindset clearly wasn’t the most stable at this point. My wildly swinging hormones, lack of sleep and stitched up crotch all rendered me incapable of having any real perspective on anything other than my baby. I was instructed to supplement with formula, which I reluctantly did, but I was hell-bent on giving my baby as much breast milk as I could squeeze out of my apparently useless ta-tas.
That seemed, at the time, like a realistic goal, because I was told by seemingly everyone that if I just tried harder I could produce enough milk and thereby restore my title as a "person worthy of motherhood." Here are a few of the things I tried to increase my milk supply:
- Shelled out $1,600 on four lactation consultants. Do you even know how many craft cocktails that is? Not only did none of them help, one of them even told me she thought I was "brave" for not getting a boob job because I'm so flat-chested. I'm sorry, what!?
- Rented a hospital-grade pump and "power-pumped" every 3 hours, 24 hours a day. I pumped in front of my in-laws, in a moving car, and my personal favorite, the bathroom of a Chipotle. I was so insanely exhausted from waking up multiple times a night to pump like a human cow that I once passed out while pumping and ended up with boobs so sore it felt like my nipples had been through a paper shredder (0/10, do not recommend).
- Tried every supplement ever: Fenugreek, Goats Rue, Blessed Thistle...you get the idea. All they did was make me more constipated than I already was as a new mom, and reek like maple syrup.
- Ate anything that claimed to help with lactation: Milk Makers Cookies, Milk Drunk Shakes, Boobie Bars, Boobie Lattes, Boobie Bark. If it had the word "milk" or "boob" in it, I ate it. While yummy, they didn’t help me make more milk. But they did help me eat my feelings over not being able to make more milk, so they were good for something, at least.
- Went to a weekly "Breastfeeding Support Group" led by a lactation consultant who wouldn't allow us to use the "F" word. Formula. The “F” word is formula.
- Took a black market drug called "Domperidone" whose side effect is lactation. It's banned in the U.S. due to fatal cardiac arrhythmia (coolcoolcool), so I had to buy it off a shady web pharmacy based in Thailand. Did I mention it made me gain 25 pounds, oh, and could've possibly killed me?
- Tried a "supplemental nursing system," which was overpriced plastic tubing taped to my nipple so my baby drank from my nipple AND the taped tube of formula. The problem was she would try to drink from the straw only like it was a little formula frappuccino, and approximately 75 percent of the formula would spill everywhere. You do not want to shine a blacklight on my couch.
None of it worked.
See, breast was not best, for my baby or for me. The bottom line is my boobs just don’t produce that much. Months into my "breast or bust" mission, I was finally diagnosed with "Insufficient Glandular Tissue," which means I don't have enough of the actual tissue that makes milk. But instead of giving me the OK to call it quits, the lactation consultant pushed me to pump MORE, proclaiming that even "a little bit of breastmilk is better than no breastmilk" for my baby. Even with my malfunctioning itty-bitties, it was up to me to keep my minuscule supply going, no matter the cost to my body or mental health.
Fortunately, after my diagnosis — while I was sobbing hysterically and taping the SNS to my insufficient boob — my supportive and loving husband finally snapped. Forget what the lactation consultant told me: he wanted me to stop breastfeeding because he was worried about both the health of our child and me. I was devastated, but secretly, I was relieved. I stopped fighting my exhausted and depleted body and finally gave up. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest, literally. I had time to actually enjoy my baby and I started to become the mom I had always imagined I would be. I bought a Costco-sized pallet of formula and never looked back.
In hindsight, I realize I desperately wanted somebody, anybody to tell me it was okay to simply stop. That I would still be a good mom if I didn't breastfeed my baby. That it was okay to think about what I needed as a new mother. So if you're spiraling the way I was, I'm here to give you permission to put away your boob, put down the pump, tell the mom guilt to screw off, and quit. Breast milk is fine, but being a present and happy mother to your baby is better. Enjoy the precious time you have with your baby. Fed is best. Your marriage is important. Your mental health is essential. Pick up that bottle and feed your baby formula. The generic Rite Aid kind is fine! Then go have a glass of wine, because since you're no longer breastfeeding, you can drink now! CHEERS!
Beth Crosby is an LA-based actor/writer and digital creator. Her work as an actor can be seen in numerous commercials and TV shows, and her videos about the shitshow that is motherhood have garnered millions of views and have been featured on Buzzfeed, ABC World News, and The Huffington Post. She loves her husband, her daughter, and venting about being hot mess mom on her viral TikTok account, @Garbagemom.