Saturday, August 20, 2011

Milk Supply Dilemma- There's Hope

First of all, thank you to everyone who has left me encouraging comments, Facebook messages, text messages, voice mails and more.  Thank you to everyone who has offered sound advice and stories of their own.  Thank you to everyone who has come over to help in very tangible ways.  And of course a big thank you to my husband who has helped so much around the house, put up with my crazy emotions the past couple of weeks, and has supported my decision to work to breastfeed.

On Wednesday we went in for an outpatient lactation consult and I left feeling hopeful and encouraged for the first time in several days.  On Tuesday, after crying for a couple hours when Phoebe would not latch and nurse at the breast I was about ready to quit- I could see myself spiraling down a bad path quickly.  This whole process has been completely and utterly exhausting both physically and emotionally, and I wasn't sure how long I could continue... But Wednesday was a new day with new hope.

At the lactation office the first thing they did was test her suck, weigh her, and then I nursed her.  (Of course she latched on well...)  She only nursed for about 10 minutes before tiring out.  (This is typical for her whenever I could get her to nurse.)  They weighed her again and through some fancy calculation told me she had taken 4ml of breast milk from me.  That is NOTHING.  She needs to be getting approximately 75ml-90ml's each feeding...

Apparently her suck is inconsistent- sometimes she sucks well and sometimes she does not. After a couple hours working with us the conclusion was that she is an ineffective, inefficient nurser who fatigues easily.  So it is what I thought- she is not stimulating my body to produce milk.  However, I have been pumping each feeding since almost the day of birth.  So the lactation specialist could not figure out why my supply was so low even with the pumping.  Well, she tested the suction on my pump and the motor of my pump was shot.  It was old and worn out and not working properly.  (It was a used pump that was given to me by a co-worker.)  Big bummer.  Yet, for me this was somewhat of an encouragement because I could pinpoint WHY my body wasn't producing enough milk.

So we came up with a plan.  (If you haven't noticed, I like plans.  I like plans and I like lists.  They help me organize my life.)  The lactation specialist said that as far as you are behind in your milk supply/production is as long as it takes to catch up.  Phoebe was 2 weeks old, so I was 2 weeks behind.  So I am working hard for the next 2 weeks to do everything I can to increase my milk supply.  If it increases, GREAT!  If not, I will feed my baby formula knowing that I have done everything I can to breastfeed and get breast milk in her.

Since Phoebe is not stimulating me, I will rely on pumping to stimulate my body and increase my milk supply.  I rented a hospital pump and am pumping every hour to two hours during the day.  And pumping every 3 hours (at her feeding time) during the night.  Yes, basically I am a slave to the pump.  When you pump your prolactin levels increase, which is one of the hormones responsible for milk production.  The more you pump, the more prolactin your body makes, the more milk your body makes.  One of my hesitations with pumping so frequently was washing all the pump parts... I hate that.  It is time consuming and unrealistic for me to wash pump parts 13 times/day.  So because breast milk is good for 5 days in the refrigerator, I am storing them in the fridge between pumping sessions and only washing them once/day.  This makes it more manageable for me.  I am of course drinking lots of water and eating well (that's a given).  I am taking Fenugreek seed capsules to help increase my milk supply and my sweet neighbor, Judi, made me lactation cookies to eat.  Yes, that's right lactation cookies.  I will try to post the recipe later.  They're actually pretty tasty.

And then in order to keep her orientation to the breast I am nursing her twice a day with the help of a SNS, or supplemental nursing system.


I hang this from a lamp behind my glider and put formula in the container.  We tape the straw to my breast so that when she is nursing, she is also getting formula.  This encourages her to keep nursing because she is getting something in return for her effort.  I am only doing this twice a day when Chris is home to help me because one it is a little complicated to rig up on my own and two it is still stressful for me to nurse her.  I get anxious about whether she will latch and suck or not.  And I do still get upset sometimes if she does not...

And assuming my milk production increases, we have an appointment with OT to have them take a look at Phoebe's suck and see if they can teach her how to suck correctly so she can properly nurse.

I am also happy to report that Phoebe weighed 6lbs 12oz at the pediatrician on Wednesday afternoon!  That's just 2oz less than her birth weight.  So she is now gaining and we don't have to go back till her 1 month appointment!

So the two weeks have begun!  Cheers!

My first visitors after I came home.  (Justin & Julie, Kristin, and Paul)
Ansley and Joey also come to visit that evening, but I forgot to take a picture!
Sara came to visit me in the hospital, but mommy can't find that picture right now.

Leah and Kyle came over to visit and bring us a warm meal one evening.  I wish I had taken a picture of Phoebe next to their little girl, Emery.  Emery is 5 months old and 2 1/2 times the size of Phoebe.  It would have been an amusing picture

1 week old: August 10th

Uncle Chris came to visit me when I was 1 week old

My first bath.  I didn't like it very much.  I am enjoying bath time more now 

Lil' mohawk


  1. I struggled sooo much with nursing Belle. I was also a slave to the pump and these microwave sterilizer bags were my sanity saver:

  2. i am a family friend of Leah Gunther's and saw your blog post off her main page...sorry if this feels stalkerish.

    Reading your post melted my heart. From one mom to another your dedication and commitment to nurse or feed your baby breast milk is admirable. I dont know you but I am so proud of you for sticking with it even this long. You are an amazing mother and never ever forget it...even when you might be frustrated because she isnt latching. Your hard work will pay off!

    You are doing awesome!

  3. JEN! Goodness you really have had such a time, I'm so sorry!! I am so thankful that you had such a great lactation consultant though and it sounds like things are really starting to turn around.

    As you know already nursing is NOT EASY sometimes, but it really is so worth it and such a wonderful thing for Phoebe! I'm proud of you for working so hard at it, and I know your milk supply will turn around in no time!


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