Thursday, May 10, 2012

Breastfeeding Difficulties: Living with IGT

I'm feeling sorry for myself lately.  The past few days I've been kind of low.  One would think that being surrounded by extraordinary women and their gorgeous children at the Homebirth Conference would have left me on a high and to an extent it did, but it also served to make me feel less of a woman... again. I hate my boobs.

My wee man is two months old and I still nurse him at each feed, but I have to supplement him and as he grows so does that supplement with my supply staying the exact same. I nurse and if I have time I hook him up to the SNS and feed him the supplement at breast, but with two school age kids and their various extracurriculars, I don't really have the time to have a 90 minute SNS session more than once a day, if even, so that means he gets a bottle.  He nurses for about five minutes on each side before getting frustrated and annoyed as the milk dries up.  This is the day to day of Insufficient Glandular Tissue or IGT.  It sucks. A lot.

I want to be able to pick my baby up when he cries and satisfy him.  I want to be able to nourish him by myself as I should be designed to do. I want stains on my shirts because my milk leaks. I want mustard poo. I don't want to smell like curry because of all the fenugreek I take.  I don't want to be hungry all the time because of the high dosage of domperidone I'm on.  I don't want to have to hide a bottle under a blanket when I'm with other breastfeeding women.  I don't want to have to explain my situation to everyone who gives me a dirty look. I want the people closest to me and everyone else -strangers included who feel they have the right to comment - who ask why I bother and suggest switching to bottles to realise they are not helping.  I want breastfeeding "experts" to stop telling me it's something I'm doing wrong.  I just want to be normal.

How can my body make and sustain this beautiful baby for ten months then not continue to do so after he is so beautifully born

I cried my eyes out the entire drive home from Dublin last week not because I was jealous of all those women I saw who were lovingly nursing their babies, but rather because I was mourning the fact that I couldn't do that.  I was sad, angry and frustrated. Why me? What is wrong with my body that my breasts never developed? Why can no one fix it? Why does no one even care enough to try? Why do people tell me not to bother?

The thoughts that go through my head are endless. Nothing can prepare a mother for primary lactation failure.  It goes against every maternal instinct one has.  Putting a baby to an empty breast only upsets him further, it's heartbreaking to watch. It kills me when I see people not even try to breastfeed, or give up for stupid reasons. It makes me mad that women who could easily feed any number of babies don't because they fear they are giving up their freedom or won't make enough or it might hurt or they just can't be bothered.  I would rather have enough milk and raw nipples or permanent mastitis than IGT.  Not being able to feed my babies just kills me and it's so hard not to be angry.  I know I shouldn't judge other women, especially because I believe most of it is due to lack of education and/or support, but still, it's just hard when you have literally tried everything under the sun to no avail.

One of the ladies in the IGT Support Group summed it up perfectly when she said "IGT is like a silent killer to the wonderment of motherhood."  So true. She goes on to share how it has affected her:

To me having IGT is like a silent killer to the wonderment of motherhood. Yes the children get older and nursing struggles become distant memories (I have 7 and 5 1/2 yr old boys too) but for now, right now I am saddened. I struggle with wondering why God would make a perfect beautiful way to feed babies and then not allow me to feed them that way. I never had fertility problems, I had no idea my breasts were empty shells devoid of mammary glands. They aren't huge but they're breasts! I even commented to my husband during my first pregnancy "well I'm leaking colostrum, so at least we know my boobs work..." after noticing there was a lack of tenderness and growth about 25 weeks in. The only reason I keep going with the SNS is for the joy I feel when I see those blue eyes peering up at me. He loves to nurse, all my baby's did. And the little smile in the corner of his mouth when he opens wide to latch on, those few swallows he gets before needing the SNS; it's worth it to me for that calm and peace and unity we have, my baby and I.

Yes. THAT is what I need to focus on. Those loving eyes looking up at me enjoying what little he can get.   I have to remain positive and enjoy the nursing relationship I do have and who knows, maybe as he gets older and adds solids I will eventually be able to eliminate supplements.  I cannot let other people's negativity and "I don't know why you bother" attitude bring me down.  I cannot look at other women who are successful and let it sadden me.  I cannot let blog posts like this make me cry and mourn.  I will continue to do what I am doing because it benefits my son and it benefits me.  Must.stay.strong.


  1. Hi Deb

    Thanks so much for sharing this beautifully written post. I can feel your emotion jumping off the page. It sounds like you're doing an incredible job. You should be so proud of yourself. Your son is blessed to have such a loving mama. Hope writing it down was in some way cathartic for you. It was very moving to read.

  2. Hey - I wish I had read this blog before the conference, so I could have said a massive 'well done' to you in person! You are doing such an amazing job, never doubt it. I have shared this post. x anne

  3. Wow, how lovely to read of a mummy that tries everything to feed her baby, what a great job you are doing by keeping it up and not just going for the easy option well done x

  4. What an amazing mummy you are. Massive amount of love and respect coming to you from me xx

  5. You are doing the best you possibly can for your child and that is incredibly admirable. The fact that you care enough to carry on and be saddened by being unable to exclusively breastfeed speaks volumes about your dedication as a mother.

  6. you are doing great! It takes a lot of time and effort to do what you are doing! It speaks volumes the length you are willing to go as a mother!

  7. You are doing amazing the fact that you have tried and continued throughout the difficulties. It is maddening when people don't understand why you struggle to do the best- but remember as mothers we always feel like we aren't doing enough or good enough- but that little bit is better than non at all.

  8. You are not alone,and it's great that you share this in detail for others. I admit that I don't know much about the supplement system, -good on you for doing all you can. Your little man will still look at you adoringly even if he's bottle fed in your loving arms. You are doing the best you can, and that is beautiful.


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