My Breastfeeding Story: The Challenges and Rewards of Breastfeeding – How To Increase Milk Supply

The next in our series of real mums’ stories and accounts of breastfeeding…

Rhi, from mummyoffour.com shares the highs and lows of breastfeeding all four of her little ones. Rhi describes her breastfeeding and expressing journey, explaining how she pushed through the challenging times to increase milk supply and ultimately, produced more milk than she ever had before!

Rhi with Dylan
Rhi with Dylan

Hi! I’m Rhi and I blog at MummyOfFour.com. So, why am I so interested in boobs; how did I overcome the harder times and increase milk supply? Well, I'm no qualified expert but I have spent nearly 6 years of my life breastfeeding (when you add it up between all of my children) and I'm still going! I’ve had varied experiences with breastfeeding, from an easy ride, to stressed experiences, to feeling like I was rocking it.

When I had my first son, Dylan, I wasn't especially well read about breastfeeding but I knew that I wanted to do it. I wasn't stressed, my baby took to it well and it all went swimmingly, I was very "go with the flow". I fed him most of the night and did totally "baby led" feeding, my whole world revolved around him and it didn't matter. I as very lucky that we both just sort of accidentally got on with it. I breastfed Dylan until he was 17 months and it all went without a hitch.

When I had my second son, William, it started off pretty well. He fed, I was happy. Sleepless nights were harder as I had my other son's schedule to adhere to, but all in all, it began quite well. When he was a few months old, he just sort of went off feeding. He constantly "snacked" around the clock, never feeding for more than a couple of minutes (like I talked about in my Doing This One Thing post). I knew there was something up and called my health visitor. She came to see me on a Wednesday and confirmed what I had feared; his weight had dropped. It wasn't by much but a drop of any kind in a baby that age was clearly cause for concern. She told me that she would come back on Friday and if he hadn't gained weight, then he would be admitted to hospital to be tube fed with formula.

I was devastated.

I went into a tail spin of maternal guilt which fuelled crazy levels of research and sheer determination to rectify the situation. I did whatever I could to help him gain weight. As I had breastfed my first son until he was 17 months, I was convinced that I had to do the same for my second son. I was fixated on the idea that they both deserved to be given the same.

I got hold of a Medela Symphony hospital-grade double breast pump and began expressing to stimulate my supply. I then topped up my little baby with expressed breastmilk when he refused to take any more from the breast. I was up most of the night, even when my baby was asleep, expressing milk. I continued to express even when there was no more milk to drain, knowing that this would stimulate supply.

Suffice to say, my efforts paid off. In spite of the fact that he remained the kind of baby that needed attentively monitoring to make sure that he was getting enough, he gained weight steadily. In fact, by the time that he was crawling, he was very healthy and positively chunky.

Considering the rocky ride that we had been on, I was immensely proud of his rolls of fat. By the time the consultant appointment came around to address his "failure to thrive", the doctor could not understand why this chubby baby had been referred.

Then Came Baby Number 3

When I had my eldest daughter Bella, baby number 3, I was adamant that I would never go through such a traumatic experience again. As soon as my milk came in, I was expressing between feeds.

By the time Bella was a few weeks old, I had a stash of breastmilk in the freezer. I was so very comforted by this. It was my baby insurance. Never again would I be sent into a tail spin by the threat of a hospital admission. If there was ever any concern about her weight, I had all of this liquid gold to top her up and nourish her with.

Medela Breastmilk bags full of breastmilk

The result of this expressing from so early on was amazing. Freezing breastmilk gave me confidence so the whole ride went smoother. The stash of breastmilk in the freezer removed the pressure and the other result of all the expressing was how plentiful my supply was. It was as if I had tricked my body into thinking that I had twins, so whenever Bella fed, the supply flowed and breastfeeding was easy. Don't even get me started on all of the calories that I burned while producing all of this miracle milk, what an added bonus!

Baby Zara

So that brings us to baby number 4, Zara

Both Zara & I had a rocky start, health wise. I had sepsis, then a week later, we were readmitted as Zara had contracted chicken pox and needed IV antivirals.  Still, through all of this trauma, I continued with my expressing schedule. Although she was tiny, Zara thrived. I accumulated another epic stash of insurance milk, plus topped her up when I worried that she hadn't fed enough. Zara is now 1 year old and still breast fed and doing well. She feeds well through the day between her family meals, then sleeps through the night.

So that's it, that’s my journey so far!

Thank you to mum, Rhi, for sharing her breastfeeding experience. If you would like to share your breastfeeding story please email medelamums@gmail.com