I didn’t actually breastfeed, but when I was exclusively pumping for Norton, I absolutely did worry about supply issues. Meg, Eudora’s future mother-in-law, has managed to breastfeed Huan for sixteen months and counting. Here’s her advice on supply issues:
Once you’ve got your latch figured out, supply issues seem to be the next obstacle to overcome. Babies go through growth spurts around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months. During these growth spurts, they will give the term “nursing on demand” a whole new meaning. You may as well make those 2-3 days at a time a write off and stay home. You will be on demand more than off.
Supply Issues and a Growth Spurt
It is very important that during these growth spurts you take this time out to build your supply. Baby will scream and cry on the breast but they aren’t starving: they’re training your body to make more milk for their growing needs. There’s no supply without demand. It can be heartbreaking hearing your little one screaming, even after they’ve nursed, but do not take this as a sign that you suddenly have supply issues! Nursing can be so incredibly stressful and cause so much self doubt. I went through it. I, like nearly every nursing mother out there, had the formula samples on standby just in case I couldn’t cut it as a nursing mother. During the 3 month growth spurt I was in tears as I could not calm our son. I would nurse him and within a minute or so he was off and screaming. I was fed up and felt like a failure, my supply issues were causing our son to go hungry. I reached for the formula samples and told my boyfriend I had to give in. I couldn’t keep up with him and I couldn’t stand to hear him crying in hunger anymore. He stopped me right there and then and calmed me down. He told me to think it through and repeated all of the above to me, which I had been telling him for weeks but had lost sight of it while in the moment. Supply issues weren’t holding us back. This was how my body would increase the supply for Huan’s needs.
Beating Supply Issues with a Pump
I had an idea the growth spurt was coming and had already been through one before. I figured I’d start pumping to beat any supply issues so we wouldn’t have to go through it again. Unfortunately, I had pumped too close to his next feed and didn’t give my body a chance to catch up. I had completely forgotten about the 2 oz bottle of breast milk in the fridge. Giving him that calmed everyone right down and put him to sleep with a happy belly. It’s important to know when to pump if you do plan to pump to beat supply issues before they start. If you need to increase your supply, pumping can be a huge asset when used correctly. The best time to pump is right after a feed so your body learns that you need to produce more milk. Don’t fret if you don’t get any milk for the first little bit. There may not be any milk left after baby is done nursing and that’s fine. Soon enough, your body will get the message to increase production if you keep up the pumping after each nursing session or even just one or 2 sessions a day. I preferred to pump after I put him down for the night and first thing in the morning when we were up for the day. I did the nighttime pump for a few reasons. One was I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and build up my night time supply and attempt to keep him full longer. The fuller the belly, the longer the sleep. Second was that in theory he would be asleep for a few hours before waking for a feed, this giving my body a chance to recuperate and produce more milk in time. I did the morning pump (after he had woken up and nursed of course) because I was finding I had a bit stored up once he started sleeping in longer intervals. I used any pumped milk I could get to get a break once in a while and have my boyfriend watch him while I grabbed a nap or something. If you do skip a feed by giving pumped milk or formula, make sure you pump to make up for it, especially in the first few months. Skipping a feed can cause supply issues, especially if it becomes a habit.
There are many ways to boost your supply. Most, if not all, are temporary unless you keep them up. You can take supplements (domperidone and fenugreek for example), power pump, and make lactation cookies. Power pumping is when you pump on each side for 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off until you’ve reached about 30 minutes on each side. This is tedious but effective. It helped me build a freezer supply large enough to take a day trip without my son at 4 months. It took me over a month to pump that stash, but it was worth it. The best ways to build up your supply and keep it up are to drink a ton of water (have water with you at every nursing session), eat lots of healthy snacks between meals, get as much rest as you can, and try to keep your stress to a minimum. If you need a break to destress, do what you can to get one. It’ll help your relationship with your baby and your health as well. I won’t ever say don’t give your baby formula. If that’s what you need to do to feed your baby, do it. As long as that baby is fed, that’s all anyone can ask of you. But if you’re trying to have a healthy and long term nursing relationship with your baby, be careful of supplementing and make sure you make up for that supplementing by pumping and pumping.
What advice do you have for moms worrying about supply issues?
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