Monday, January 21, 2013

Supply and Demand

I did not start breastfeeding under any pretense that it would be free of challenges. I was incredibly nervous that it wouldn't "work" for me or that E would have trouble. Breastfeeding was one of the things I was most anxious about after giving birth and one of the most important things to me.

I was absolutely thrilled when breastfeeding worked right off the bat. Ellie was a champ and got her latch perfected on her own by about day 4. From then on, we had no problems. I had more than enough milk and had about 50oz in my freezer supply before I went to work.

I then became rather nonchalant about pumping. Sometimes I'd miss her feeding, and wouldn't pump. Then the amount that I'd pump dropped significantly. It would take a few pumping sessions to get a full feeding produced. And within a month or so, I had almost nothing in my freezer supply. Around Christmas, E started to show signs of a growth spurt. She seemed extra hungry and fussy. I tried to feed her whenever she wanted, but she was so frustrated. It seemed like she just wasn't getting anything. I was panicked.

The next two weeks would be the toughest we've encountered so far. I was trying so hard to build my supply up, but I was almost certain I was drying up. I would pump all day long and get absolutely nothing. Not one drop. I would try to feed her all day long and she'd scream at the top of her lungs. I did not know what to do.

I used what I had in my freezer supply to try to get her through a couple particularly rough days, but since I wasn't producing anything for the pump, I had nothing to leave for when I had to work. I was a wreck.

I contacted three lactation consultants. Two are personal friends and one was a local La Leche League member. They all calmed my nerves and said that as long as she was still producing enough wet/dirty diapers, she was not being "starved" by me and was still getting what she needed. They all told me not to supplement and that we'd get through it. E was also starting to show signs of teething, and they said that was also a factor in her fussiness.

Each woman offered similar advice, but I picked up little tidbits from all of them that I want to share and remember.  I am VERY happy to say that it looks like this is behind us and we made it through on our own, without any formula. I hope I didn't scar E in the process. But I think breastfeeding is so, so important for her in the long run. I think the two weeks of misery was worth it.

Here are some great tips:

Power pump- 10 minutes on the pump, 10 minutes off for 60 minutes
Fenugreek- I take this in herbal form and it seems to wok instantly
Oatmeal- This also works instantly for me.
Hand expression- this has worked really well to get a little bit more out of each breast once I'm done pumping with my electric pump
Manual Pump- I have a great electric pump that was recommended by my lactation consultant friend and works great but I purchased a manual pump and sometimes it works even better. Controlling the speed and varying the speed seem to really work for me and that's harder to do with the electric pump.
Feed on Demand-  Each consultant told me that my Mom's on Call schedule was a hindrance to my supply. My body was regulating to our schedule and only producing just enough. Since she had a growth spurt, I had to get my supply up and feed her more. So we threw the schedule out the window since Christmas. It has been a total bummer to get up in the night after a great stretch of E sleeping through the night, but for me, breastfeeding is more important than sleep. And I knew my baby was  hungry.

I've learned that you have to be a "psycho" breast feeding advocate for yourself. B had been extremely supportive of breastfeeding but had a very, very hard time listening to E scream and seem so hungry. He suggested formula more than once and I about bit his head off. Stepping out of myself, I don't know why I'm so crazy about not supplementing, but for me it's just one step in the wrong direction. I'd like to breastfeed for a year, so I've got a ways to go. I was so incredibly determined and knew we'd get past it, and we did. It was very, very hard to hear friends and family doubt that I was doing the right thing. I totally understand why people quit around this point. It was one of the most taxing things I had to go through. It took about two weeks and they were long and we're still working on it, but I have a small freezer supply going. I know what I did wrong and how we got to that point, so valuable lessons have been learned!


  1. You are doing GREAT!! Breastfeeding can be so rewarding and difficult. It's truly one of the most difficult things I've ever done! And I feel like no one talks about it. I could talk about it all day though :) we are in the process of weaning because frankly, I want my body back for ME. And formula isn't so bad. We starte Logan on it around six months just to make out lives easier. But you go mama and thank you for sharing!!

  2. Breast feeding can be such a challenge... And quite overwhelming!! I have countless patients who have quit within the first two weeks because it's just so hard. But way to go working through it, and thanks for sharing the tips!! :)

  3. This is really helpful to read. Breastfeeding was relatively easy for me with my first but I have heard that just like with each pregnancy, each birth, each kid, then each breastfeeding experience is not always the same either so I want to be prepared and not get nonchalant since number 2 is on the way. Thanks for sharing this. Glad y'all are getting to the other side of it! Kelly