Overcoming the challenges of living with low milk production

Lacy and her daughter

What’s in a name? For individuals challenged by Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT), the diagnosis can come to define their self efficacy and parental identity and confidence. It’s not uncommon for mental health to suffer in parents with IGT; for them to feel quite literally insufficient.

Insufficient education about the condition among care providers and limited research on supportive practices can often compound these feelings of failure in parents.    

Kaia Lacy, a mother of two toddlers, has surmounted the peaks and valleys of living with IGT, redefining what it means to live with the condition. 

A few months after her second child (now 19 months old) was born, she created a space on Instagram dedicated to IGT support, where there once was very little.  @lowsupplymom spreads “awareness about the experiences of low milk supply, and to remain a place where we can explore our journeys together, connect with others who understand them, find resources of support, and grow together in more confidence and knowledge, knowing we’re not alone.” 

Feelings of insufficiency 

Lacy’s early parenting experiences were marked by heartache and trauma.

While pregnant with her firstborn, Carl, Lacy set a goal to breastfeed her baby for four years. She hired a breastfeeding instructor at a local birthing center, read and researched about breastfeeding.

“I felt pretty confident going into it,” she reports. 

When her son was born, Lacy says she made sure to continue to “do everything right.” That meant Carl went skin-to-skin after birth and stayed there often, nursing many times throughout the day. Still, Carl’s weight gain was concerning. 

“We were checking all of the boxes and for some reason things just weren’t working,” Lacy remembers. 

In hindsight, Lacy says of her IGT, “A lot of red flag indicators went unnoticed.” 

Hoping for answers, Lacy hired lactation care providers who offered strategies to increase milk production. They told her “If you want it, it will work.” 

At one-month-old, Carl was diagnosed with failure to thrive. 

“He’d gone from 95 percent to two percent in his weight,” Lacy explains. “Seeing this lethargic and dehydrated baby, I felt so heartbroken.  It was a traumatic time for us. I felt insufficient as a mother, as a provider.” 

After Carl received treatment, Lacy continued to work with different lactation care providers attempting to boost her milk production. 

“I couldn’t get more than six ounces in 24 hours,” she reports. “It became so representative of this feeling of insufficiency.” 

Freed by information 

After four months, Lacy started feeding Carl formula exclusively. 

“Having distance from that experience helped me gain a lot of perspective,” she begins. “I had to grieve and process and understand what was going on in my body, and that’s when I started to learn about IGT.” 

That process of gathering information empowered Lacy. 

“It helped heal me and realize it wasn’t my fault,” she says. 

Released from guilt, Lacy went into her second pregnancy accepting that she might not be able to exclusively breastfeed. 

Extensive research alongside her lived experience helped her to realize that there are no opposites in infant feeding; instead, it’s a spectrum.

Graphic with variety of infant feeding options by @lowsupplymom

“I made it a part time job to pull information together and learn as much as I could about my condition,” Lacy begins. “I focused on the mental health aspect to manage my expectations and to be able to celebrate anything I could provide.”

It’s a sentiment she wants all parents struggling with low supply to embrace: it’s not all or nothing. Lacy’s Instagram page celebrates these variations in infant feeding and she acknowledges the worth in the decision to formula-feed. 

During her second pregnancy, Lacy harvested colostrum and went on to use an at-breast supplementer with her daughter Nora. 

“We became such pro-nursers,” she exclaims (as she and Nora nursed almost through the entirety of our phone call.) 

Lacy stresses that breastfeeding isn’t simply an “exchange of nutrients.”

“It’s something so beautiful. It’s such a sense of comfort. There are so many other functions.” 

Validating and uplifting others 

With a passion for helping people combat struggles similar to what she endured, Lacy hopes to guide them to a place of peace that she’s discovered. Scrolling through the comments on her Instagram page, one can sense the relief in many of her followers for having found a safe and refreshing space. Lowsupplymom offers uplifting encouragement, research and posts tinged with playful snark

Without dismissing this thriving community, Lacy says it’s frustrating that more medical professionals and care providers aren’t equipped with information about conditions like IGT, hypoplasia and other indicators for lactation failure. 

“I love supporting moms, but this should not be my job,” she says. “I’m just a mother on the internet with no accreditation, but I do it because I want to help move forward.” 

Having recently completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC), Lacy brings a breadth of knowledge and compassion to the field of lactation. 

Her approach centers mothers and validates their experiences. 

She points out that a recent online poll she conducted revealed that the number one red flag for low supply  that was missed by providers was no breast changes in pregnancy or postpartum. 

“Everyone should be told that,” she says. “If there are signs of primary lactation failure, we need to engage in an emotionally sensitive way and support mothers’ goals, mental health and the safety of babies.” 

Addressing parents struggling with low supply, she continues, “You’re not alone. Your worth is not dependent on how much breastmilk you make. You deserve support and that’s the bottom line.”

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