What about lost milk?
I decided, way back when I decided to breastfeed my children, that I would want to nurse them until they were at least 6 months old. To me, that seemed like an eternity… I would probably be sick to death of nursing by then. Gosh, who wouldn’t? I think I decided this at the tender age of eleven, or maybe twelve. More recently, I found out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be breastfed until they at least 1 year old, and then put on whole milk afterwards. When I realized this, and consequently easily nursed Ronan to his 6 months, I decided it was entirely possible (and actually quite probable) to continue to breastfeed until his first birthday.
It really has been quite a commitment, since I have to pump at work, and my milk spoils awfully quickly so we can’t take chances with it. (We don’t have any saved up in the freezer – it goes bad FROZEN in about 2 weeks.) This means, when I decide that I’m done… we’re done. No stretching the milk bank out and going a little further than I’m capable of. Weaning will be a cold turkey event in our household.
Even though that is the case, I have persevered, and Ronan still enjoys his booby juice. Last week, however, I started to notice that my breasts were never quite as full feeling as they used to be right before a feeding. I thought it felt strange, and I also hadn’t been noticing whether or not I was having let-downs. If you have ever experienced a let-down (remembering that some women don’t,) you understand when I say that it is VERY unusual for me to not be aware of one happening. I realized this, and noticed that my son continued to fuss and complain, even after I has just finished nursing him. It started gradually, but it really hit home when I came in to work on Saturday, and had to pump for the first time.
For reference, I normally pump twice in a 12 hour shift, and once again as soon as I get home. I typically get between 8 and 12 ounces per pumping, with a varying amount from each side, but I would say that I average around 10 ounces per pump session. That means I can usually pump around 30 ounces in a 12 hour shift.
Saturday night, I pumped the same way I always have, and got – are you ready for it? – eight ounces. Total. For the whole shift. The whole night. 8 measly ounces. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FEED MY CHILD WITH EIGHT OUNCES?
Thankfully, for the next night, I had a small surplus of frozen milk in the freezer, and Brock was able to feed Ronan a few meals of solid food to tide him over. I guess it never really occurred to us that that was part of the problem.
I called a lactation consultant, and explained the problem to her, the symptoms that I was experiencing. I asked her if it was possible that my son was actually weaning himself, and not interested in milk anymore? She said that it was very unlikely, and suggested some methods for increasing milk supply.
So, for the next 5 days, I pumped for 10 minutes after EVERY SINGLE nursing session. That is dedication. I pushed my water intake, and started taking Alfalfa pills. I ate oatmeal for one meal every day. We cut Ronan’s solids down to NOTHING. And I prayed a little. I have to be honest, I’m not ready to wean yet. I still enjoy it, and if I can get Ronan to a year old without giving him formula, I would prefer to do so. Brock feels the same way.
I started to feel, within two days, like Ronan was more satisfied during feedings. I was feeling heavy let-downs, and hearing him gulp as he was nursing. But, since I only pump while I’m at work, I had no real, palpable evidence that things were improving.
The following Saturday, a week from discovering that my milk was drying up, I went up to the pumping room with a little trepidation. I wasn’t ready to find out it had all been in vain, and that my milk wasn’t coming back. I hooked up the pump, pulled out my phone, and ignored the goings on like I always do – you can’t get milk out if you stress about it.
15 minutes later, I looked down and realized I had pumped a full 12 ounces. Both bottles were filled above the top marker. My heart soared, and I felt the vindication of a job well done – believe me, pumping for 10 minutes after every feeding for several days is nearly enough torture to make one throw in the proverbial towel and walk away.
I’m now happy to say that my milk has not only returned, but my supply seems to be better than ever. My son has started to look chubbier and chubbier in the last couple of days, and it feels really good. I bite his chunky thighs, and I feel accomplished; job well done, Mandy. Keep that baby boy bouncing.
Yes, I know I spelled “Spilt” incorrectly. I like it better that way.