life after birth

New Mother Milk Woes

February 04, 2020
Ariel Ng Bourbonnais
Ariel Ng Bourbonnais is the co-founder of The 16 Percent, a collective that allows space for community experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss to be shared online. Recently, Ariel co-authored Through, Not Around, a collection of personal stories that arose out of The 16 Percent. She’s also the mom to one of the cutest babies we’ve ever seen, Goldie. If you have any questions or concerns about your own breastfeeding journey, please talk to your doctor. 


When Goldie was born, I had no idea how much of my future brain would be dedicated to thinking about my breasts and the milk required to feed this tiny human miracle. I thought my hard days of infertility were behind me and that I would handle everything with ease moving forward. I didn’t anticipate how my wrists would ache from expressing milk, how milk spurts would find themselves into every little corner of our house in close proximity to a sink, or how anxious and exhausted I would be most of the time.

I was cocky around the 4-month mark. I was at a party when my friend innocently asked me how breastfeeding was going. Her baby arrived one day before mine. It was nice talking about all things baby with her in a candid way. She was formula feeding, me breast, both of us happy with our decision. 

“It’s going really well! So far, we haven’t had any issues,” I said, without knowing that the next day, my supply would suddenly drop. Note to self: the universe has a wicked sense of humour. 

For an entire month, I did everything I could to get my supply back. I pumped after her every meal. I drank orange juice laced with moringa powder, which was supposed to help increase milk. It tasted disgusting which only made me think that it must work better. I drank lactation tea, ate lactation cookies, and threw back Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle pills, morning, noon, and night. I worried all the time. Breastfeeding was all I talked about. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the flow to be as fast as my baby girl wanted or needed. I mentally made the decision to slowly wean Goldie off of the breast so that I could supplement with formula. I was happy with my five months of breastfeeding and felt that I had given her my all. I didn’t feel as if I needed permission from anyone but it was still nice to know my loved ones were on board. Unfortunately, Goldie had other plans. It turned out we had a stubborn little lady on our hands who refused bottles like they were tainted with poison. 

I’m sharing some things that I’ve learned because I never anticipated such trouble with breastfeeding and I’m sure some other new moms are struggling too. 

Accept bottle help from everyone. I was so concerned with establishing a milk supply that my baby stopped taking bottles altogether. This became a huge problem when my supply dipped and I couldn’t do anything except hope my milk would return faster so that I could feed My Love. The stress of Goldie not taking a bottle when she was hungry hurt my heart. I felt like a bad person. It’s hard to feel normal when you are worried about not meeting your baby’s basic needs. Pumping and bottling expressed milk may be a pain, but it’s better to share feeding responsibilities. 

Working out severely reduced my milk supply as did drinking most alcohol. I had to limit both. Occasional yoga was the only thing that didn’t seem to affect my supply. Moderation and finding your own balance with food, alcohol, and exercise is important. One beer a day did wonders for my milk supply. 

Consider Domperidone. Originally, I didn’t want to take it because I was scared to change my hormone levels. I experienced no side effects except that I produced more milk. Research it to see if it’s something that might work for you. 

Breastfeeding is not easier than bottle feeding. The amount of time I dedicated to achieving enough milk to feed my baby was ten times harder than formula feeding. My poor breasts had been squeezed everywhere I went. If there was a light that could detect breast milk, like UV lights that detect, ahem, bodily fluids, in CSI’s hotel rooms, then our home would look like a Jackson Pollock painting.

Feeding your baby is hard no matter what way you choose. Everything is temporary and I think you are doing an amazing job. Talk to your doctor, public health nurse, and other moms. If you can, see a lactation consultant or start solids sooner. But mostly please try to be kind to yourself. Everyone is different and my experience is just one in a million. Maybe you tried all the things and there are other tricks that worked for you. I would love to hear them. The more we open up, the better it will be for everyone.