Why I call myself a militant lactivist

When my first son was born, sleepy and drugged from two doses of Stadol and an extremely “effective” epidural, I put him to my breast and found that he was incapable of latching on. He literally could not suck any portion of my nipple into his mouth. Oh he would try alright, opening up with the big baby bird mouth just like his instincts told him too, but once he came into contact with my skin, he would just slip right off the nipple. There was just nothing there to grab onto. The lactation consultant was called. She positioned and lectured and huffed and puffed and finally handed over a nipple shield. As a 19 year old single mother, I think I had done more research than most, reading whatever I could get my hands on and attending a breastfeeding class during my pregnancy. But when it came right down to the scary Unknown, I did as I was told because, after all, *they* were the professionals. The shield seemed to be working. He was getting colostrum, and then 3 days later, the milk came. I had several nurses from various programs visit me in my home to help with the nursing. I was told that my baby had jaundice, and I was told horror stories of its danger. I was firmly instructed to nurse every 2 hours around the clock and I did so, each day growing more and more afraid of this terrible Jaundice that was out to get my firstborn. And yet, it all seemed to be for nought. I was referred to the pediatrician. Everyone agreed. Formula supplementation was necessary to clear the jaundice. My son was a week old, and not gaining weight.

The first bottle seemed like heaven. How easy it was to scoop out the powder, fill with warm tap water and shake. How quickly he sucked it down, and how long it kept him full. All of the sudden, nursing with the breast shield seemed like a strenuous and taxing chore. I had to sterilize after each use. I had to tote it everywhere. I had to perfectly position it over my nipple, which ruled out nursing discreetly in public. I knew that breastmilk was best, but I had been spoiled by the luxury of the bottle. Once the jaundice had cleared and he had gained the “required amount of weight”, I started pumping milk and feeding this expressed milk via a bottle. I wasn’t really sure if this would work. I had never heard of of anyone who had pumped instead of breastfed. None of the professionals had presented it as an option. I pumped until my supply dwindled and eventually disappeared. By 4 months old, my son was exclusively formula fed.

18 months later, my second son was born. I experienced the same problem. Same sleepy newborn, same inability to latch on to my nipple. Same jaundice, same failure to thrive, same weight loss, same doctor paranoia. This time, my new lactation consultants had a diagnosis. I had flat nipples. I would probably never be able to breastfeed directly. I didn’t even have the will to fight. By the time my new baby was a week old, my milk was drying out and he was drinking Enfamil. And besides…my other baby had done just fine with formula. He had thrived and was healthy and smart. Unfortunately, I realized later that my refusal to breastfeed would contribute to a nasty case of postpartum depression. Bonding didn’t come until my child was well over a year old.

Five years passed, and I became pregnant again. This time, I had renewed strength and believed that anything was possible. I wore breast shells every day for the last 3 months of my pregnancy, in order to help draw out my nipples. I did “nipple exercises”, rolling my nipples and pulling on them to make them erect and stiff. I read everything I could. I surrounded myself with nursing mothers.

I had read that a natural birth would be beneficial to the breastfeeding process. To ensure that there was no possible way that I could receive pain relief during labor, I chose and planned a homebirth. Animal was born and was immediately placed on my chest. He wasn’t suctioned. His cord was not cut. His heel was not pricked. His eyes weren’t smeared with goo. He never left my chest. He was alert and curious and he found my nipple and ferociously latched on. In my eyes, it was a miracle.

Unfortunately, in the next few weeks, I started having excruciating nipple pain. I knew that sore nipples could be normal, but this was way beyond “sore.” I would curl my toes and squeeze my eyes shut every time he latched on. Then I would cry and scream while he nursed. My nipples were cracked and bleeding. I hated feeding him. I never looked forward to it, and when he was hungry, I would cringe, knowing what I would have to endure.

The situation was made even worse because of the fact that he was constantly nursing. Sometimes he would eat for 30 minutes on each side, fall asleep for a few moments, and then wake up screaming for more. He never seemed to get full. I stopped feeling my letdowns. I stopped hearing him swallow. He was jaundiced, and much worse than my first two boys. He was not gaining back his birth weight. He had lost almost a pound. I sought help, everyone gave me advice and tips, but nothing worked.

When he was 3 weeks old, I could not take it any longer. I broke down and told my husband that I couldn’t go on. I felt like a complete failure, and I spent several days as an emotional wreck, feeling like I was a terrible mother. I was fully aware of the many benefits of breastfeeding, and was determined that my baby would still receive breastmilk. I searched the internet, and found some information about Exclusively Pumping. I found a support group and messageboards where women were pumping their milk and feeding their babies. Some of them had been doing it for a year or more! So I started on my pumping journey. I rented a hospital grade double electric breastpump from a local pharmacy. I pumped every 2-3 hours for 20 minutes. I pumped at least 8 times per day. I got up to pump once in the middle of the night. At first, I had very little milk. I was pumping an ounce during each pumping session. I started taking Fenugreek supplements and drinking Mother’s milk tea 3x per day. I ate oatmeal, blessed thistle, alfalfa, drank gallons of water and tried every “letdown” trick in the book. Very slowly, my supply increased (about a half ounce each day). I did have to supplement with formula for awhile, but within 2 weeks, I was pumping enough milk to keep up with my baby. At first, it felt liberating. My nipples had healed, I had no more pain, my baby was full and happy, the jaundice had cleared and he had gained weight. But it didn’t take long before the pumping became exhausting. I was chained to the pump. I couldn’t go shopping without making sure I could be back within 2 hours to pump. I had to bring the pump, bottles, freezer bags, ice packs, bottle warmers, and cooler to my in-laws house for Thanksgiving. I was confined to the house. I saw other people effortlessly nursing their babies and I was jealous. It wasn’t fair. I missed the feeling of having my baby close to my breast. Breastfeeding would have been so much more convenient and easy.

Eventually, and with everyone telling me “I was crazy”, I started bringing Animal back to the breast. I would let him latch on, but as soon as I felt discomfort, I would unlatch him and feed him a bottle that was warm and ready for him. At one point, I let him nurse for too long, and I got a blood blister on my nipple. It was very painful, and I just couldn’t believe that such a terrible thing could be happening. What was wrong?? I knew there was something wrong with Animal’s latch. I knew that it shouldn’t hurt, and I knew that he was not effectively drawing enough milk from my breast, and this had caused my supply to dwindle. I didn’t think he would ever successfully breastfeed. I took him to my midwife. She evaluated the latch, and found that he was tucking in his lower lip. She showed me how to correct this, but the pain still would not subside. I took him to my pediatrician. She concluded that Animal was tongue tied. She told me that we could clip the tongue, but she would not recommend it, and advised me to keep trying. At my 6 week check up, I explained to my midwife that I felt that he wasn’t efficiently able to draw milk from my breasts. My midwife wondered if maybe a huge increase of milk would help. She gave me a homeopathic remedy called “lactuca virosa.” She instructed me to put one dissolvable pellet under my tongue 3 times per day. On my way home, I took the first pellet. Within a few hours, I was engorged and leaking! I put Animal to my breast and nursed him without discomfort. While he was eating, milk was dribbling out the sides of his mouth. I had never seen that happen before! He came off the breast with a full belly and happy as a clam. I couldn’t believe it! Throughout the day, I kept breastfeeding him. I wanted to see how long it would take before he needed a bottle. 24 hours later and still no bottle! Days became weeks, my supply was more than sufficient, and I had no pain to speak of. It was amazing! I still felt very uncomfortable with nursing. Because of Animal’s tongue tie, and the way he latched, I could only nurse him in the football hold, and that made it impossible to nurse discreetly in public. It wasn’t until he was about 3 months old that he was finally able to be held in the cradle hold and I finally felt that we were getting the hang of it.

Animal is now 12 months old and still nursing. I still can’t believe that we turned things around, but I am so glad we did. When Animal is curled up in my lap, stroking my arm, looking into my eyes, or playing with my hair, I feel so blessed for the experience. Breastfeeding my son has made me a better mother. Not just to him, but to my older children as well. I had no idea how important the physiological process of nursing was for a mother/baby connection. I’m proud of myself for the overcoming the struggles, and fighting so hard for this privilege.

I’ve faced a lot of opposition regarding my views on breastfeeding. I expect it. I know what its like to feel like a failure. I know what its like to feel like you did all that you could. I know what its like to be offended by someone insinuating that your formula fed child is not healthy or smart. It’s okay to say “I didn’t have enough information” or “I didn’t have enough support/resources”. It’s okay to say “I was tired/frustrated/depressed and bottlefeeding was easier.” It’s okay to say “I was bullied into formula feeding by a medical professional, a family member, a friend.” Hell, it’s even okay to say “I didn’t want my breasts to get saggy. I wanted to start drinking/smoking/dieting again.” It is NOT OKAY to say “My breasts didn’t work. I tried everything I could and it was impossible.” Because ladies, you can’t all have broken breasts. And the majority of you are formula feeding. It is not okay to make excuses and perpetuate the myth that it is common for our bodies to fail us. While you are trying to rationalize your choice to bottlefeed in an attempt to clear your guilty conscience, you are spreading the word that your situation is normal. As a result, the children in this country are suffering and missing out on the health and psychological benefits that breastfeeding provides. Be honest with yourself, and honest with moms-to-be, and new mothers. Your experiences can help, instead of hinder if you’ll only be willing to face the truth.

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25 Responses to “Why I call myself a militant lactivist”

  1. 1 thordora October 28, 2006 at 5:42 am

    I just couldn’t handle it. The postpartum ruined all of that good breastfeeding stuff, even when it was working. (I found lanolin on my nipples helped the pain for me-Ros latched like a champ)

    And my hospital didn’t seem to grasp the whole “weight loss after birth is normal” thing. I felt pressured, and alone with it.


  2. 2 Louisa October 28, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    Yeah. Your story is depressingly like mine and about a gazillion others. If I had to bet, I’d say that the mama who started the nomorebreastfeeding blog (which I read before she closed it – and believe me rage didn’t quite touch it) had a super shitty experience and decided that it was better to attack breastfeeders rather than address the pain of her own failed breastfeeding attempt/s. I remember expressing similar sentiments as I came to terms with the factors which conspired to end my first breastfeeding relationship. I actually felt sorry for her, and I’m kind of grateful that she decided to only allow invited readers who I think we can safely assume are “converted” to her perspective.
    I like the petition though. I too believe that women, their pelvises, vaginas and breasts are not lemons. Almost all women *can* breastfeed, but very are as determined as you were to conquor the challenges you did. The example you and Rylan set is a fine one. Well done mama!

  3. 4 Jessica December 16, 2006 at 5:06 am

    Why is it not okay to say, “My breasts didn’t work”? I would fully agree that a vast majority of women who say, “I didn’t make enough milk” are just lying to themselves because they don’t want to breastfeed. It’s such a convenient excuse. I’m instantly skeptical when someone says to me, “I didn’t make enough milk,” especially when she says it flippantly, because that’s an obvious sign that she wasn’t emotionally invested and didn’t even try to make more milk.

    But I have a friend with “insufficient glandular tissue” (IGT) which is a true medical condition that can prevent mothers from producing enough milk. (http://www.leron-line.com/IGT.htm) My friend really did try everything. She visited every lactation consultant in town, tried every herb, pumped with a hospital-grade pump, used donated breastmilk rather than formula (from a friend, not a milk bank), did breast compressions, drank endless supplies of water and ate oatmeal like a horse, and in the end, she tearfully accepted the fact that she could not feed her baby enough. She was devastated.

    So even though I applaud you for talking tough to those who are looking for convenient excuses, I wish you’re entry had made room for the moms who really can’t make enough milk. They already feel guilty enough.

    • 5 Cole May 27, 2011 at 8:30 pm

      Thank you for this. Mommy has IGT too and nursed with an SNS an religiously pumped and took every supplement/medication/folk remedy she could get her hands on before giving up. She would pump ALL day and come up with a TOTAL of less than 1/2 an ounce from both breasts for all of her efforts. (That’s 1/2 an ounce a day, not per pumping session). She did all of that for over 8 weeks before becoming so exhausted that she was hallucinating and giving up so that she could better care for me. She is *still* devastated that she couldn’t make it work.

      We are happy that the author found a way to breastfeed after so many setbacks, but she had milk. Mommy just didn’t.

      Not all formula feeders want to be – and it is terrible how *some* lactivists hurl mean words and make moms feel worse. At the end of the day, we all try our best in our own situations.

  4. 6 Maria January 20, 2007 at 4:05 am

    I am searshing for ways to increase milk supply. My baby is now 4 1/2 months old I pump all the time but now she is catching up to me I am afraid I won’t have enough to feed her. I looked up the lactuca virosa that you mention, but it does not seem to be available without perscription.
    Don’t really see my HMO covering that.
    Any other recomendations? Plus, do you think it’s too late to have a breastfeeding relationship at almost 5 months?
    I tried, she gets really angry, starts crying, and then I start crying.
    Feeling robbed of the breastfeeding relationship with my baby. I bong more with the pump than with her.

  5. 7 tracy January 31, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    It’s not too late. Check out http://www.kellymom.com – there are resources there. I dont know where you are at, but try calling the La Leache League……they are in most countries…..

  6. 8 Lauren June 4, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Where do you get the lactuca virosa?? My story is very similar to yours–homebirth, latch problems, supply issues, now exclusively pumping, and I’ve taken every herb in the book. I’m also on domperidone– a drug used to increase supply. My dream is bringing my son back to the breast. Please let me know about where you get this homeopathic remedy, and the dosage if possible! Thank you!

  7. 9 jayne January 11, 2008 at 2:05 am

    I have had tropubles with my supply and just feel awful. I went on domperidone for my first child and now my second is 8 weeks old and I need to go on it agsin I would like to try lactuca virosa. Once you go on it did you need to stay on it untill they ween?

  8. 10 jayne January 11, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Thanks for your help.
    Can you tell me what dossage to use?

  9. 11 Apryl September 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Where can I buy the Lactuca Virosa and do you know what potency I should get as well as the dosage to take?

  10. 12 Heartburn Home Remedy April 15, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    The style of writing is quite familiar . Did you write guest posts for other bloggers?

  11. 13 newmom January 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Wow, what an amazing story. I admire your strength and am very happy for the end result. You are a true militant lactivist. I was wondering how long you too the lactuca virosa for? Was it just the one dose that did it for you?

    I’m on domperidone and would like to wean off and have an option just in case.


  12. 14 beth June 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Hi there,
    I stumbled upon youe website after searching “igt breastfeeding”. I have a 7 month old daughter and I have insufficient glandular tissue. I can assure you, yes, it is possible for your breasts to be broken.

    Like the previous poster’s friend, I am currently doing everything. Here’s the list: fenugreek, domperidone, goat’s rue, metformin, pumping 8x day, lactation consultant, lactation physician, and finally donated breastmilk. My baby’s latch is great…she’s awesome at the breast. But despite all my efforts, I make 8-10oz. of milk per day. With all that I do, I should be able to make enough milk for a small village.

    So, not to blow up your spot, but FYI. I would defintiely consider my breasts defective (the right one more so than the left). It’s been horrible, and diappointing, and the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.


  13. 15 emma September 16, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    While I applaud your ability to eventually have a good breastfeeding relationship with your third child, you really have no credintials to determine whether or not some people can or cannot make enough milk for their children, over the internet nonetheless. Yes bottle feeding would have been easier, or just breastfeeding, but no, I’m one of those mystical 1% of people that can’t make enough milk for their babies. I did everything I could to make enough milk, I pumped with a hospital grade pump for 3 months, I used SNS, I used fenugreek, I spent plenty of money trying to avoid the formula and I still had to use it, otherwise my son would have starved to death. That’s fine be a militant, with all your problems with breastfeeding how could you look down on someone like me because I couldn’t make enough milk for my child? Good for you that you got it all figured out the 3rd time around, but full supply or not, I still had a very successful breastfeeding relationship my child for well longer than most exclusively breastfed babies.

  14. 16 Jess Lavelle February 21, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Hi there. I’m not sure if you are still active, but I came across your post shortly after I purchased lactuca virosa. I have been taking 12 30c pellets a day, four under the tongue, three times a day, for a week, with no improvement in milk supply. Were you taking this in conjunction with anything else? I am currently taking it with alfalfa. I’ve also tried funugreek, with no luck, but if the lactuca virosa continues to not work for me, I’m going to try a combination of fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa. If THAT doesn’t work, I just picked up a prescription for reglan, but I am trying to avoid it. How much lactuca virosa were you taking? I don’t really get the homeopathic measurements, but I figured I’d ask since I’m just not having any luck. Thanks for sharing your story.

  15. 17 Lacti January 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Was the to tongue tie snipped? This post screams of tongue tie and the difficulties you were having.

  16. 18 Amazed by stupidity May 3, 2012 at 5:10 am

    And here I am… another googler of IGT and found this of all things. It is NOT helpful to expect everyone to breastfeed because that’s just not the truth. IGT and Hypoplasia are REAL and heartbreaking conditions… conditions I suffer from. I’ve tried everything you have AND MORE.. none of it worked for me.. not even 1/8 of an ounce more. I pushed and prodded and worked it and worked it and did everything imaginable and I had a child hospitalized for failure to thrive. After 3 excruciating worry filled days of every test imaginable… the doctor saw me breastfeeding and asked to take a look. I have Hypoplastic (underdeveloped and tubular) breasts and a severe lack of glandular tissue. I apparently only ever produce colostrum and by the time I am 3-4 weeks postpartum, it’s entirely gone. I also suffer from luteal phase defect. While I may be able to produce a little more milk with progesterone through most of my pregnancy.. I will never be able to produce enough to continue a supply for very long, or to exclusively breastfeed.

    LLL harped on me and guilt tripped me… WIC asked me to tell them what must be wrong with my children because they had to be formula fed and told me it was nonsense that I couldn’t breastfeed.. reducing me to tears with their cruelty. I’ve lived through the heartbreak of feeling broken and judged and had “every woman can breastfeed” shoved in my face until I can’t stand it.

    This dialogue, while encouraging to those who haven’t tried all they could.. is also near rage-inducing for those of who physically will never be able to breastfeed.

    “It is NOT OKAY to say “My breasts didn’t work. I tried everything I could and it was impossible.” Because ladies, you can’t all have broken breasts.”

    YES IT IS OK!! for those of us that that recognize this as the absolute truth, medically certifiable and completely legit. Don’t be one of the boob nazi’s that make women sink into despair just because your story ended in success. 1 in 1000 women have IGT and Hypoplasia issues. That’s no made up number… it’s reality. Try what I just did and google it some time, you might learn something.

  17. 19 heather green July 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Wow am I late in finding this article… I wanted to ask about the dosage of the Lactuca Virosa. What brand do you use and what dosage do you suggest?

  18. 20 Rae, the author of this old ass blog August 2, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Fairly strange that this post is coming up on the first page of Google under the search terms “IGT breastfeeding”, considering that the diagnosis there would put you in the 1%, WHICH THE BLOG POST MENTIONS. I wasn’t talking about the fucking ONE PERCENT OF YOU, now was I?

    • 21 Amazed by stupidity August 2, 2012 at 5:36 am

      I noticed that as well… that it came up under those search results and yet the poster was apparently a real jerk about the whole thing really – apparently totally misunderstanding what it’s really like to be in that horrible 1%…. I am.

  19. 22 female body tips May 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    It’s amazing in favor of me to have a web site, which is valuable for my knowledge. thanks admin

  20. 23 Maria September 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I am in same boat as everyone else and want to try Lactuca Virosa, but not sure where to buy or what dosage. If anyone can let me know that will be greatly appreciated.

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  22. 25 GERD September 3, 2018 at 11:03 pm

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