Belated Breastfeeding Woes
Hi Amy! You are the shiz and your kids are ungodly cute.
When I think of the myriad of topics I’ve written to you about, I think I must look like some kind of lunatic. Probably because I am! Anyway.
We just had our 3rd boy in August, an adorable little ball of awesome. I went on maternity leave and he and I were having the best breastfeeding experience I’ve had thus far. No supplementing necessary – the boy didn’t even have a bottle of breastmilk until he was over a month. I felt really good about this. I went back to work a couple weeks ago and we were moving along just fine still with me pumping twice a day at work and nursing at night. I’d send him to daycare with 8 oz of breastmilk and 8 oz of formula and that was working out quite nicely. Since then we’ve hit a couple minor speed bumps.
He still gets up once or twice a night and started getting really lazy about nursing at night. He latches, gets annoyed that it’s not fast and instantly gratifying, pulls off, latches again. We plowed through it, but what used to take 10-15 minutes with both of dozing in bed during it now takes an hour and we’re both wide awake, and then he’s harder to get back down. So, you know, I’m exhausted. Then, this past weekend, I got strep. I was apparently allowed to nurse on the antibiotics but I got a virus on top of it and was so congested that I really couldn’t get by without cold medicine that I could NOT nurse on. And you know, I felt so crappy that I got really lazy about pumping. So I just..didn’t, really.
I kind of thought on Monday or Tuesday that I’d give it up for dead..switch solely to formula and pat myself on the back that we did so well for this long anyway. But I don’t feel good about that. Not out of any societal guilt or whatever…I was just enjoying it, and it made me slow down a bit and really enjoy this guy. So I want to keep doing it, but I’m really struggling with getting my supply back up.
A bunch of probably unnecessary background info – my husband and I both work full time, and both go to school. I’m wrapping my last semester at community with online classes so I’m not out of the house much outside work, but come January I start Penn and will be out at least two nights a week. Our oldest has a lot of sports commitments so that’s a lot of running around. All in all, we’re busy. I have a job that deals with a lot of time sensitive projects so I can’t always stick to a really rigid pumping schedule, but I do have a double electric pump and a lockable office that I can duck into 2-3 times a day. I also have a small manual pump that I could theoretically duck into the bathroom with for a couple minutes to help boost things. I take so much fenugreek that I smell like IHOP. I notice that if I skive off on pumping sessions during the day, I see a big dip in my ability to nurse effectively at night.
I’ve got my sights set on a year – so I’m basically looking for your best and most practical advice to keep up my supply with such an insane schedule.
Ah, supply problems. My old nemesis. WE MEET AGAIN.
After struggling with chronic low supply with Noah, I overcompensated in the beginning with Ezra (pumping, herbal supplements, the whole shebang) and ended up with oversupply. At which point I too got a little cocky and overconfident and started slacking on pumping sometimes, if I missed an in-person feeding. Then the biting started. Oy, that kid and the biting. He was chomping down on me practically every feeding. So I would pull him off and halt the feeding and after a few days of this I started swapping out an afternoon feeding with a bottle just to have a little respite from the Teeth Of Doom. Did I then head upstairs to pump in the meantime? No. No I did not, because BORING.
And then I was shocked when, after a week or so of this, I didn’t have nearly as much milk as I needed anymore. Whoops. And also: DUH.
So I had to basically go back to the drawing board and my assortment of newborn-days supply boosters:
1) More Milk Plus.
Personally, I’ve never had much luck with just using fenugreek alone. Motherlove’s MMP is a supplement that contains fenugreek AND fennel seed AND blessed thistle AND nettle. You can get it as a capsule or liquid, and it works quite well WITHOUT making you smell like you sweat maple syrup. (There is also the prescription option of domperidome, which can be very difficult to obtain in some states and has to be ordered internationally from online pharmacies and oh my lands. I’ve heard it works quite well, but have never personally felt like dealing with the hassle.)
Basically the same stuff as MMP, plus anise and coriander. I liked using both because I could never manage to remember to take the full recommend dosage of either thing — MMP has you popping capsules four times a day and the tea instructions recommend five cups a day. Crazy! By having both options on hand I felt more confident that I was getting the full effect. I usually made a cup of tea in the morning and at night using two teabags per cup. Then if I could remember to pop a capsule a couple times in between, I was good. (And oh, if you can’t stand the taste [I’m not a big fan, though I don’t really love herbal teas in general], you can double-brew it along with a teabag of something you like better.)
3) Nurse first, pump second.
On days that you realize you may not have pumped often enough, or when you’ve got those extra busy nights away from your baby, you can potentially make up for it by pumping for 10 extra minutes after an in-person feeding with baby. Even if you are not actually producing a single drop, your body should eventually realize that you’re telling it to produce more milk.
4) Nurse naked.
Lots of skin to skin. Bring baby to bed with you for night feedings and keep him there. Ditch the stroller or bucket carseat whenever possible while out with him and carry him in a carrier against your chest. Your body is more likely to get back into the rhythm of milk production if you keep him close to your boobs even when he’s not eating. Hormones are crazy weird like that.
5) Low-flow nipples.
On the bottles, that is, not your boobs. Since you’re describing impatience with the flow and let-down at the breast, make sure he’s working to get milk from the bottle. Bump him back a level on the nipples — go all the way down to preemie if you have to. (Though daycare providers can get impatient with long feedings and might try to dissuade you from sending in slower nipples — Noah’s did, back in the day — but just tell them it’s a temporary measure to save breastfeeding, and once he’s nursing more contentedly you’ll move him back up. Maybe. Heh.)
Give the stuff above a sporting try for a couple weeks — maybe a month? — and see if things bounce back for you. Good luck! And you know, even if you don’t ever get back to the days of nursing exclusively and continue to pump whenever you realistically can and nurse when it’s possible and supplement when it’s not, that’s sooooo okay too.
Photo credit: ThinkstockPublished November 14, 2011. Last updated January 14, 2018.