Welcome to week 13 of the Breastfeeding Blog Hop!
This weeks topic is one that is near (but not so dear) to me: The Low Down on Low Supply.
Another BFBH Mama requested we touch on this subject as she is having some issues with her nursling and is looking for some ideas and support!
I think if I had to choose low supply or over supply, I would choose over supply in a heartbeat.
Having been in the trenches with a baby that eats around the clock (I was pretty much in my red chair from dawn til dusk with one hand on Twitter and the other hand cradeling a nursing baby), has a great latch/ suck/ swallow but is not gaining weight or meeting the minimum output recommendations, I know the frustration. The fear that you won’t be able to do something you so desperately want to do. The all consuming feeling of helplessness as your baby pops on and off, clawing at you in frustration between crying fits because what they want just isn’t there.
Of course the last thing I ever wanted to do was supplement, and we honestly put that off for as long as we possibly could, probably longer than we should have given the stress of the situation. I refused to listen to my pediatrician and lactation consultant who wanted us to supplement after every feeding (I was pretty sure they were out to sabotage us!) so we used the dropper sparingly and we eeked by for quite awhile trying all of the things that are recommended: fenugreek, Reglan, oatmeal, teas, cookies, power pumping, nursing vacations (stay in bed and do nothing but nurse for 24 hours). Not how you expect to spend the first weeks of motherhood.
It took 3 emotionally exhausting weeks to get back to birth weight (well, close enough that they let me stop coming in for weight checks anyways).
We were able to make it to a year (by the skin of my teeth). Judah was exclusively breastfed (or bottle fed breast milk after I went to work) for the first 4 months and then we had to add in formula because I couldn’t pump enough to get through a day and my poor husband was left alone with a screaming baby and no way to feed him.
God I hope I don’t ever have to deal with that again.
So, if you think you are experiencing supply issues, ask yourself some questions:
How many wet/ dirty diapers are we getting a day? If there is sufficient output (minimum 3 dirty diapers a day), your supply is probably fine.
Is baby gaining weight? Again, if there is weight gain (aim for 1 ounce a day) your supply is probably fine.
How long are we going between feedings? Never more than 4 hours in the first few months until breastfeeding is established.
Is baby in a growth spurt? Every few weeks during the first few months there will be a few pretty predictable growth spurts where baby will want to nurse all the time and your breasts may feel like they are not keeping up. Nurse on demand and give everything a little time to regulate.
Are you eating and drinking enough? You need to stay hydrated and just as important (if not more so) you need to eat. When you are establishing a supply it is not the time to declare war on your post baby body in the form of a super restrictive diet.
Having lived through that (and reading as much about breatfeeding as I do) it’s safe to say that I have gone over every decision in detail to try and figure out what the problem was. Sadly, it seems like most information regarding supply issues is the same- try herbs XY&Z to fix it and you probably don’t actually have low supply.
What if THAT doesn’t work?
I managed to rustle up a few possible low-supply trouble-makers courtesy of the fantastic breastfeeding class I recently attended at Baby Love, an independent childbirth education center here in the Twin Cities. (Doesn’t everyone just randomly attend breastfeeding classes? Just me?)
#1- Tongue-tie: there was a question as to whether Judah had one (it was very slight) and whether it would make a difference having it clipped since he had an excellent latch and the mechanics of nursing were perfect. I wonder if I should have pressed this issue further?
#2- Old pump: I love my breast pump, but now I wonder if it was worn out. It was only used for 6 months with the twins so I assumed (wrongly?) that the motor was still perfectly fine. I was getting the same kind of output as I did with the twins when the pump was new, so I didn’t really question it. Next time I will be getting a brand new shiny pump (or better yet, hand expressing!) if I need to pump.
#3- Underlying medical issues: Thyroid problems? Something else? Why not dig a little deeper and see if there is something that needs to be looked at that might help get back on track.
Breastfeeding needs to start off on the right foot from day one. I was lucky to have my baby with me in recovery (within the first hour he was nursing) and he was only out of my room for a few hours during my 4 days stay. I knew that babies need to be fed on demand. I never went more than 2 hours between feedings mostly because I barely got 15 minutes to myself in a 2 hour period without a baby attached to me. You should not be going more than 4 hours between feedings and if baby is going more than 6 hours between feedings you probably need to get that checked out- the early weeks are not the time to be getting babies on a sleep schedule! In theory, the more you nurse, the more milk you should make.
Whatever is happening, don’t throw in the towel. See what your options are. Enlist the help of a Lactation Consultant. Do what you can to get to the bottom of the struggle. If you have to supplement, it’s more ideal to do it for a short period of time to get over a hump (like a sleepy jaundiced baby) than to be saddled with supplementing forever.
Have you dealt with low supply? How did you overcome? How do you support women who are dealing with supply issues?
The Breastfeeding Blog hop is a weekly blog hop dedicated to real breastfeeding moms discussing different topics pertaining to breastfeeding. The hop is hosted by Happiness Redefined, The Gnome’s Mom and myself. The hop is open to link up every Thursday and Friday. Topics will be announced on the Breastfeeding Blog Hop page each Tuesday as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Link up! We love to see new faces.