I Ran Out O Milk!
I discussed before about how my opinions of breastfeeding changed in a previous post. This post is about dealing with low milk supply, especially for us working moms where pumping becomes more and more of a tedious task added on to an already very long to-do list. This is what happened to me. I learned the hard way that when breastfeeding, priorities definitely need to be set and feelings cannot get in the way.
When I went back to work, AJ was about 8 weeks old and was drinking about 4 ounces of milk each feeding. I wasn’t able to pump until around 1 or 2 o’clock which was my planning period. So, up until then, I would deal with some engorgement where my boobs filled up with milk and I felt like I was going to explode! I looked forward to pumping and would feel SO much better! I would pump around 9-12 ounces, sometimes 15 ounces just in that one pumping session!
I had plenty of milk stored up and had a nice little routine going with the milk supply in the freezer and what my husband would pull out for AJ’s feedings for the day. Soon, when AJ was about 4 months old, I was out on summer vacation. I spent the summer nursing AJ without a specific schedule, just as he had the demand to eat. This way, I could keep my milk supply flowing by nursing frequently. I would pump to keep the stored milk supply up. Everything was going smoothly.
When school started back and I was back at work, AJ had just turned 6 months and was already eating infant cereal and some baby food, but was still drinking his normal amount of milk, which was about 6 ounces each feeding. While at work, I would pump around 2:30 and once again, couldn’t wait to be relieved of all of the milk. I would pump about 8-12 ounces during that time. As AJ began to eat more solids and I grew tired from all of the demands of work and managing a home, I started to skip pumping sessions.
I went several weeks (months) without pumping at work. I would only pump in the mornings after nursing AJ (about 2-4 ounces) and at night after nursing AJ for bed (about another 2-4 ounces). AJ was drinking about 8-10 ounces while I was at work. Not pumping at work started to catch up with me. I got to the point where the engorgement didn’t happen anymore. I had actually gotten to the point where I forgot what it felt like for my boobs to even be full! I started feeling the pressures of needing to increase my milk supply, the demands of work, and all of the things that needed to be done around the house. When was I going to get time to get it all done??? From meetings to diaper changes to feedings to laundry to bills to cooking meals. When was I going to have time to pump.
Brushing off pumping caught up with me and hit me hard when AJ was around 8-9 months old. AJ’s stored supply ran low because he was drinking more than I was pumping each day, so one day my husband actually didn’t have enough milk to give him. The same day, I tried to fit in an extra pump session to add milk to the storage supply and by the time I nursed AJ for bed, I had no more milk! AJ cried and cried! Usually, I nurse AJ, burp him, and he’s fast asleep, and I ease him into the crib and quietly walk out of the room until 6 in the morning. But this time, I had to lay me sweet baby down in his crib crying all because I was slacking and RAN OUT OF MILK.
My milk supply had ran VERY low. I had to do something because I never wanted to go through that not even another day. I never wanted to feel the hurt of knowing I couldn’t nurse my baby because I had nothing left. I really wanted to just give AJ formula. It would save me the stress and keep AJ fed, but I knew breastmilk was best and didn’t want to give up so easily. After all, it was my first real problem I had with breastfeeding, and it was my fault. Part of my worry, too, was I didn’t know how AJ would react to formula after breastfeeding the past 8-9 months. I’m sure he would have been okay, but I also worried about the bond. I wondered would it cause him some sort of stress if he suddenly wasn’t nursing anymore. Also, I just don’t trust formula completely. Breastmilk has so much more for the baby and I just didn’t want to compromise that. But boy it would have made my life easier!
But parenting isn’t about making YOUR life easier. I had let my sweet little AJ down, and I didn’t want to do that again. The next day, I went to work WITH my pump bag and started back MAKING time to pump. So, I would pump in the mornings after nursing (about 2 ounces, sometimes only 1 but it’s okay), around 2:30 (about 4-6 ounces), and at night after nursing (about 2 ounces). I was pumping just enough for the next day. What helped me, though, was the 3 day break for Thanksgiving. I got the extra time at home to get ahead on some pumping and store up some extra milk. As I write this post, I am on my 2 week winter break and have been getting in some much need extra pumping. I haven’t been pumping as much as I wanted (every 2 hours), but I’ve been pumping in the mornings, in the afternoons, and the evenings after nursing. So, with the nursings through the day plus the pumping, my milk supply is on the rise! Today is actually the first day that I have felt full in a long time! It was once a horrible feeling, but now I’m so glad to feel it! That tells me that my baby will be fed and well taken care of!
Breastfeeding Milk Supply Do’s:
-Pump, Pump, Pump! Pump as often as you can. Even after nursing, pump! This will keep plenty of milk coming in. It’s better to (safer) to have more than enough milk than just enough. Just enough milk can easily become not enough milk.
-Pump AFTER nursing, not before. The purpose of pumping is to keep your milk supply flowing and to store up excess milk for when you can’t nurse. Pumping before nursing defeats the point of nursing. (Unless you pump only a little bit before nursing- I sometimes pump about an ounce before nursing just to even out a bottle)
-Schedule a time (or TWO) at work to pump in a private place with no interruptions. If you have to, talk with your supervisor about how this can be arranged.
-Use any extra time you have (weekends/days off) to fit in extra pumping sessions to keep milk supply flowing and store up extra servings of milk.
-Eat oats! Oatmeal, oatmeal cookies, oatmeal bars all contribute to increasing your milk supply. Oats help you produce more milk. I tried the lactation cookies (and even the disgusting tea), but I found that eating oatmeal and granola bars more often along with pumping and nursing regularly really helped.
Breastfeeding Milk Supply Don’ts:
-Don’t skip feedings or pumping sessions. If a session is missed for whatever reason, pump or nurse as soon as you can!
-Don’t think that your milk will always be there no matter what you do. I can go away. Don’t let that happen until you are ready for that to happen.
-Don’t give up. Don’t compromise. I RAN OUT of milk and I’m still nursing. It is possible to build your supply back up. As moms, we have so many demands and a truly never ending to-do list, but we are Super Moms! We can do it all! We are built for it!!!!
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