Breastfeeding and PCOS

Wow, what a full post! You may or may not be familiar with “Hot Belly Mama,” but she recently gave birth to her first child under less-than-ideal circumstances (what that means, exactly, she has not said, just that her birth experience was not what she wished and hoped for), and in this post writes about her experiences with breastfeeding in the hospital.

She has PCOS, which, apparently, causes delays in breastfeeding and low milk supply in up to 30% of affected women. None of the medical staff at the hospital had any information for her on that, and she didn’t realize at the time that PCOS could affect her breastfeeding. The nurses couldn’t help; the lactation consultants couldn’t help; and, well, let’s just say that she began referring to her child’s pediatrician as “the evil Dr. Jones” for her much worse than lack of helpfulness — did nothing but promote formula (while saying she was 100% pro-breastfeeding). Also, the doctor refused to let the baby leave the hospital until she gained weight, without regard for the stress the hospital was causing the mother, without any apparent knowledge of how PCOS might affect breastfeeding and milk supply, without being able to help, without diagnosing the baby’s tongue tie and upper lip tie (which were also affecting her nursing ability [for a long post on tongue tie, click here]), and without any apparent regard for the parents’ already working with lactation consultants and being willing to go to the doctor every day until the baby gained weight (in other words, it’s not like they were neglectful parents, but were doing everything possible).

But the angel of the story was the La Leche League leader who did what none of the professionals apparently could do. Although she had no knowledge of PCOS herself, she started searching the internet for advice and information, and was able to help this new mother, when others could not or would not. When doctors and nurses get irritated by people who are willing to listen to those who are not doctors and nurses, or those whom they consider to be quacks, perhaps they need to be reminded of stories like this, and how a “regular person” was able to solve a problem that the others could not. This is not to say that the nurses and lactation consultants didn’t try — I’m sure they did. But they didn’t have the knowledge base to help, and although this woman was in the hospital for three days, the lactation consultants didn’t come up with the information to help her in that time. But a LLL leader did. Sometimes, it’s not education but dedication that matters.


6 Responses

  1. One thing I didn’t understand about part one of HBM’s post is the part where she *and* the hospital staff were surprised when milk didn’t come in by day two or three. Am I missing something? In my experience, milk doesn’t come in (especially in first-time moms) for a few days at least. It took 4 days for me that first baby. I’m sure that’s not all that was going on, but that part was weird to me.

    • I think my milk came in within two days after both my babies were born (can’t remember for sure); but it is still within the range of normal for it to take 5 days. Studies indicate that a C-section can delay the onset of milk production, as compared to a vaginal birth, which might complicate matters further for many women. In re-reading the post, though, it sounds like the nurses were fairly supportive (she notes that she was told “sometimes it takes longer”), but the doctor was the one driving home the point that her body had failed, in not having produced milk yet.

      And some people just don’t know. My friend (whose first child was born at home, and whose mother had had 3 of her children at home), was told by her mother that if she didn’t get engorged, then her milk hadn’t come in yet. Well, I didn’t get engorged the first time, but did get engorged the second time. I think I just produced too much from the start the second time, and my younger son couldn’t keep up with the over-supply. Some people just say stuff like it’s absolute truth, when it’s not.

  2. There really is a lack of knowledge amongst health professionals about PCOS. I only found out (from my own reading) that it can have an affect on milk supply after I had finished breastfeeding my daughter. I had supply problems all along and none of the midwives, doctors, lac consultants appeared to know anything about a possible link to my PCOS. Would have explained a lot, for me! At least if I’m blessed with another baby I will be armed with more information.

  3. The norm for milk coming in is about 3 days. For many it doesn’t happen until day 4. My milk never came in until day three for all four of my babies, and I don’t have PCOS. I have never heard of not letting a baby be discharged from the hospital for this. What else was going on?

    My mother’s last baby did not get the hang of nursing for 7 days. I was 12, I remember her calling her LC friend every day in tears, because she had never experienced that before. Babies have nice fat stores for this reason. So unless her baby was early, or growth restricted, there was no reason for worry.

    • Yeah, it kinda sounds like the doc was on a power trip to me. Of course, I wasn’t there, so can only go on what the blogger wrote, and how she felt about the whole situation. So sad.

  4. I am a midwife and had no idea that PCOS could affect milk supply…wow. Glad to have that little bit of knowledge now.

    Also wanted to mention that milk comes in normally anywhere from 3 to 5 days after delivery. Seems to come in sooner with women who have had babies before.

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