Friday, April 4, 2014

Houston, We Have a Problem--dealing with low milk supply

In a recent post on my friend's blog I wrote about my issues with breastfeeding Baby P. It was a hard post to write, and one that I struggled with very much. As I continue to struggle with mommyhood, I find that blogging really helps. So, bear with me as I gripe about my newest issue--my low milk supply!

Once my milk came in, Breastfeeding got a lot easier, and I thought that it would continue to get easier as the weeks went by. It did--for awhile. However, at week 5 P stopped taking my breast. The reasons--at the time-- was my overabundant supply and super quick letdown. Well, I no longer have either of these issues, but what I do have is something much scarier. A low supply!

In mommy groups all over the world this is the dreaded issue. We don't all face it, but for those of us who do, it is the most nerve-wrecking feeling in the world. The fear of not being able to keep up with your child's hungry demands is enough to drive you half crazy--or maybe all the way crazy.

I should preface this by saying that I am now exclusively pumping for P. She will not take the breast well. Occasionally we will have a good day where she will breastfeed 3 or four times in a 24 hour period, but most days she feeds at the breast once (the first feeding of the day). I have come to terms with this, and I am okay. I won't say that there are times that I don't miss it, but I am okay with it now. On days that she breastfeeds more, she usually does not sleep through the night. At this point, I choose sleep. So--bottles are not the devil, ladies! They can be a very good friend.

Since P was 8 weeks old, I have been exclusively pumping. My supply actually started to increase during these weeks because she had not been nursing very well. Then, last week--BOOM. It TANKED! I was used to getting 8 ounces after breastfeeding P in the morning (your optimal time) and then 5 ounces each time after that. I was pumping 7 times a day, and P was eating 7 times a day. It was a great system. I was building up my freezer stash, and had actually run out of space in the freezer. I had to outsource to my parents and in-law's freezers. I was cocky, proud, and oblivious that all of this could change. So--it tanked hard. I woke up one morning, and was only able to pump 4 ounces at my first pumping. WHAT? That was half of what I normally got. It only got worse throughout the day as I was only able to pump 2 ounces at each pumping for the rest of the day. I panicked. Then I reached for a bag of frozen milk out of my freezer.

Once I calmed down, I searched the internet frantically trying to find out what had changed. I figured out that the culprit was the fact that P had started sleeping through the night. She is now sleeping 8 straight hours at night (feel free to throw something at me virtually)! I wasn't getting up anymore at 12 to pump. My body had overcompensated for the dropping of that feeding.

What was I to do now? I had heard from several other mothers who had gone through similar issues with their little ones so, I did know what to do. Just in case you don't--here is a list:

1. Drink more water, and then drink some more. It is so so so important.
2. Don't skip meals--I was really bad about skipping breakfast in the mornings. I had gone back to work and found it hard to keep up with the demands of morning time with a baby.
3. Eat better--Leafy green vegetables are shown to help with lactation. So be like Popeye! Also, oatmeal is said to boost supply.
4. Take supplements--Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle! I swear by these. Take three Fenugreek capsules three times a day and one Blessed Thistle capsule three times a day.
5. Drink less caffeine--it's known to dehydrate you faster. Just substitute it for water until you are back to normal.
6. Pump more often and for longer periods of time. In my case I added back one pumping session to get back to 7 (so I don't have to get up in the middle of the night). Then I lengthened my pumping times from 15 to 20 minutes.

After doing all of these things, it started to come back--slowly but surely! I started to relax, but I am all too aware now that this could happen again, so I am going to try to be more cognizant of what I put in my body, and how shifts in her schedule could affect my supply.

I want to also say that in times like these--we tend to overreact. Thank god I have a level headed husband who helped to keep me sane. He kept pointing out that while the amount I was getting was significantly less than I was used to, I was still keeping up with P. In fact, I was still staying ahead of her by at least a half an ounce at my lowest point. This really helped to keep me calm. Shout out to you babe! You're the best!

I was terrified of having something else taken away from me. I already was unable to breastfeed my child the way that I wanted to. I definitely did not want to have to give her formula. I am determined to do whatever I have to do to ensure that she was getting breastmilk until she is one. In the end, I know that formula is not the devil. It is more about pride and stubbornness in my case. I want something to go my way--even if it means I have to invest more time and effort into it. However, I understand that sometimes things are beyond our control. If for some reason my supply dries up, then I will find a way to cope with it, and I will shake that bottle of formula with a smile on my face and know that it will be okay.

Have any of you had a low supply? How did you deal with it? Did you have to switch to formula?

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