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About Me, Motherhood

August 7, 2020

My Breastfeeding Journey, part i

Breastfeeding & Jaundice



In honor of World Breastfeeding Awareness Week, I thought I’d share my personal breastfeeding journey with you.


Before I had my children, I had thought, like many others, that breastfeeding was fairly simple and straightforward.  The “hard part” that everyone talks about is the obvious hurdle of extracting or expelling a 6 – 10 lb human out of a very small orifice, so, nourishing said 6 – 10 lb baby should be a cinch. 

After all, isn’t it supposed to be the most natural and biologically innate thing to do?  For a mother to feed her own baby? 

Both of my babies were born with severe jaundice, which just means that they had an excess of Bilirubin in their blood that their bodies were unable to break down. 

There are many risk factors to the development of severe jaundice in newborns, but doctors say that jaundice may occur more often in exclusively breastfed babies, particularly those who have difficulty nursing or getting enough nutrition from breast-feeding. Dehydration or a low caloric intake may contribute to the onset of jaundice. (Source: CDC Breastfeeding Jaundice)

As quickly as we were discharged from the hospital, we were back in monitoring bilirubin levels, and I was listening to my newborn babies wail because they needed blood samples taken each and every time.  My heart broke anew, watching them pricked, bruised, and prodded. 

We were told that jaundice usually goes away on its own in time, but in Aimee’s case, she had tested for higher than normal bilirubin levels and we were told that if she continued to have levels as high as they were, that she would possibly succumb to brain damage. 

As a first time mother still trying to make sense of her new reality, this was terrifying news.  My baby was 3 days old, and I felt guilty, overwhelmed, and powerless.  I felt like a horrible mom – that all of this was my fault.

We were admitted back into the hospital for phototherapy where you basically place your newborn child in a flourescent box and she wears a mask over her eyes to protect her corneas from the UV light.  I was told that I could not remove her from the box to breastfeed her and spent an agonizing 24 hours listening to her cry and thrash without being able to hold her, feed her, or comfort her. 

I requested a breast pump just so that I would be able to still produce milk, since I was told that the first couple days of birth are crucial for milk production, but my milk had not fully come in yet, and when I did pump, I was only getting ½ oz per side at a time, sometimes pumping for 30 minutes to try and squeeze a couple more drops. 

It was my dark night of the soul.  This was the start of my motherhood journey, and it eviscerated any confidence I thought I could have as a new mom, setting the stage for what I did not know at the time was almost a year of postpartum depression.

In addition to all of this, I was also told that my baby may not be getting enough to eat and poor breastfeeding may have been exacerbating her jaundice, so we had to supplement with formula – even possibly having to switch to exclusive formula feeding. 

This wasn’t at all what I imagined and the lie that continually circulated in my mind was “You are a failure.  You cannot even provide for your baby.” 

I felt betrayed by my body, and in a way I felt like God made my body broken and not fit for motherhood.  I wondered if my children weren’t better off with a mother that was whole, and whose body was able to provide and nourish for them?

I started to envy other mothers who had so much milk that they were able to donate to milk banks.  Women who constantly had full breasts and pumped 4 – 6 ounces each breast at a time.  I felt isolated and misunderstood, as I tried to explain to my husband how it felt to feel insufficient.

I prayed that I would have and be enough for my baby.  So I dedicated myself to feeding them on demand.  Whether it was nursing through teething spells, nursing through nursing strikes, nursing while standing, nursing while walking, nursing every 30 minutes, cluster feedings, every 2 hours at night, through the screaming and the pain, I did it. 

Aimee’s jaundice eventually went away, and her bilirubin levels returned to normal after a month and a half. When I was away from Aimee, I would consistently pump 1.5 ounces per side – totaling 3 ounces per feeding.  It wasn’t much, but it was the most that I could produce.  I feared weigh-ins and constantly expected to hear from the pediatrician that she was underweight because surely 3 oz per feeding wasn’t enough?

But, guess what? 

She was always at a healthy weight and within the 90th percentile for height.  I ended up EXCLUSIVELY breastfeeding her for 13 whole months – stopping only because she needed to start daycare. 

When medical experts, lactation consultants, doctors, all the mommy websites were telling me that I wasn’t producing enough or I wasn’t going to be a “breastfeeding success story”, I kept going.

I was enough for her, and so are you, mama.

You are enough for your baby. Whether your journey looks like supplementation, exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or exclusively formula, trust that YOU are the best person for this job: chosen by God, capable, and not alone.



Read Part II of the story:
Breastfeeding & Breast Hypoplasia,
Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT)




  1. Meg says:

    Every story like yours feeds the hearts of mamas who are in the middle, about to begin, or even long past their breastfeeding journey. It is healing for every single one of those women. Thank you for sharing. Your vulnerability gives so many woman the ability to live without shame as they walk their paths.

    I made it to month 4 almost smoothly and then he started daycare and it’s been a roller coaster of a journey since. I still pump. I pump at home every couple hours while called into a meeting. I pump in an airplane lavatory routinely because air crew members are rarely near their provideD mother’s rooms. I pump through the isolation that cuts deeper somehow than the isolation of this pandemic. And after all this pumping, I have humbly asked for and accepted donated milk from other local mamas who are angels on this earth for offering it up. My supply only nearly meets demand when he’s at daycare. My dude is small, but mighty. He is smart and joyful and sweet. He is determined and stubborn and I stay strong through his attempts to refuse the breast because his 4 times per day daycare pumped bottle doesn’t require 30 seconds of his efforts to get the party started that nursing does. There was 4+ days of zero milk in the beginning with more than 10% weight loss and syringes full of formula held by a team of caring family with tiny tubes flowing down to the nipple to carefully supplement formula in a manner not to confuse the sweet babe who just wants to be nourished. The literally exhausted and loving parents eventually felt as though we were begging the pediatrician to bless our wishes to temporarily supplement with formula to nourish our hungry babe.

    None of it was what we imagined. The emotions of it all are still hard to process and close to the surface 6 months later. I have no regrets except for maybe not speaking up sooner to help my sweet babe.

    The bottom line, as you’ve so eloquently stated: still a good mom. Still enough. Always exactly what he needed. Trust your mama gut. Know you are exactly what God sent for your sweet babe.

    Thank you again for sharing your most vulnerable self.

    • Tiffany Chi says:

      Oh Megan, thank you for reading, and for your kind words of encouragement.

      Thank you so so much for sharing your journey as well. You are so strong to have walked through it all — all the unmet expectations of what feeding and caring for him would look like in his first days of life and being apart from him in order to provide for him.

      Your babe is so so lucky to have you. Motherhood calls out the most vulnerable parts of our bodies.

      I might venture to say that our babies redeem much of what we’ve always hated of our physical selves —
      how can we hate the bodies that God has given us, the bodies that gave us our children?

      Sending you love, Meg.

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"Les photographes s'occupent de choses qui disparaissent continuellement et quand elles ont disparu, rien sur terre ne peut les faire revenir."


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