Why I lost my milk supply when I never had a single problem nursing my 10 week old baby
As a new mom, I try not to talk too much about anything related to nursing. It’s a very sensitive topic and everyone’s experience is so different that I’m always hyper aware that anything I say could offend or hurt someone’s feelings without even realizing it.
But that changed when, I, an over-producer, who has never had a single problem in the nursing department, suddenly lost my milk supply out of nowhere…And didn’t even realize it for what might have been as long as a few days.
Now, I can’t stop thinking or talking about nursing.
Before I get into what happened, it should go without saying that I’m not an expert in this department. And that I want to be sensitive to anyone who is having issues at all related to nursing. My only intention here is to share what happened to me so that I may help someone else going through something similar, or help prevent this from happening to anyone else.
Like I said earlier I’ve never had an issue with nursing. My son, thankfully, had an easy time latching on and the pain I felt from nursing was minimal and easy to push through. Any struggles I’ve felt while breastfeeding are personal - I don’t enjoy having double XL breasts, feeling engorged, always being tied down, or not fitting into my shirts.
It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve always had a pretty simple attitude toward the question of whether I’d nurse or not: I’d aim for three months and if, for any reason, I couldn’t or didn’t want to do it anymore, then that’s okay. I don’t have anything against formula and as long as I found one that I liked, then I’d be comfortable with giving it to my baby (I keep HIPP Organic formula in my pantry as a backup in case I need it). But for the last 11 weeks I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding, only giving my son formula as needed about 4 or 5 times total.
Now that you know my nursing life story, here it goes…
Last week, we travelled with our 10 week old son for the first time on a 5 hour international flight, which translated to about a 10-12 hour travel day. It wasn’t a vacation per say; we went to visit family and attend a wedding back home.
While the first couple of days of our trip were smooth and relaxing, things started to pick up during the middle of the trip and I didn’t have much time to take care of myself the way I’m used to. In short, I was running around seeing more people than I’m used to during the day, waking up more at night to feed until my son adjusted to the time difference and his unfamiliar surroundings, and eating a lot less than I normally do.
During this time, I noticed my baby getting really fussy and agitated (normally, he’s a pretty sweet and easy kid). He is used to a pretty slow lifestyle at home with just me and my husband, but the past few days we’d been running him around the city and introducing him to friends and family, which probably left him feeling overstimulated and overtired. I figured it was nothing a few good naps and a good night’s sleep wouldn’t be able to fix. I didn’t give it much more thought.
Because I was planning to go to a wedding in a couple of days, and wouldn’t be bringing him with me, I needed to start pumping so that my parents, who were looking after him for about 24 hours, could feed him.
For the most part, I can’t stand pumping. The way I sit hurts my back and I find it intensely boring. But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy seeing how much milk comes out. It reminds me that the female body is a wild, wild thing. When I do pump, I’m almost always able to fill up two five ounce bottles, and when that happens, I see it as a nice reminder that I’m taking good care of myself.
Unfortunately, when I went to pump this time, it was a very different story.
After a very long day of running around with my family, all of us feeling tired, overwhelmed and just plain grumpy, I went to pump and almost nothing came out of me. If you’re currently pumping or have pumped before, I’m talking 0.25 ounces from each breast after 30 minutes of pumping kind of nothing.
My immediate feelings were shock and disappointment. I had never experienced anything like this before…
But before I got too upset, I collected my thoughts and figured that it could very well be the time of day that was the issue or the fact that we were cluster feeding all day. I decided not to get too worried or worked up and that I would just try again in the morning.
Fast forward 8 hours later and the same thing happened. I was only able to pump 0.5 to 1 ounce of breast milk. After 8 hours!
For someone who didn’t expect to enjoy breastfeeding and thought she would be ok to switch to formula whenever, I was completely devastated. Much to my surprise, it turns out that I didn’t feel emotionally prepared to stop nursing. I wanted to keep going. The thought of no longer having that connection with my baby, or seeing him look up at me as he fed, still brings tears to my eyes.
Seeing my milk supply dip drastically was a serious wake up call. As sad and disappointed as I felt, I was just as determined to get my supply back. I refused to accept that I could no longer nurse.
Thankfully, I did. It took about 48 hours, but it did come back…And it was as abundant as ever.
For starters, I needed to relax - both physically and mentally. I stopped running around and trying to please everyone and spent whatever time I could at home, with my family and baby. And I told myself that it will all work out the way it’s supposed to. Yes, I would try my best to increase my supply but if my plans didn’t work out, I would be ok with it and accept that my best efforts were enough. It also helped to remind myself that breast isn’t best and that a well-fed baby is all that matters.
Reminding myself of these things really helped reduce any anxiety I was having as well as alleviate some of the pressure I was putting on myself.
I also focused on my diet. I stopped skipping meals in order to move faster through the day or get other tasks done. Instead, I ate breakfast as soon as I woke up and made sure to eat enough throughout the day (3 meals and 2-3 snacks). I ate a lot of grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and dates. If it was known for increasing milk supply, I ate it.
And then I pumped. I pumped and I pumped and I pumped like there was no tomorrow. I pumped every 4-6 hours, in addition to feeding. While this was not the most enjoyable or convenient thing (it takes time and energy, and makes my breasts feel extra big because I’m demanding more milk be produced), it was incredibly satisfying to watch my milk supply increase every time I sat down to pump. After about 48 hours, I was back to filling up two 5 oz bottles again.
I don’t want to say that I am happy that any of this happened. But I am grateful for what I learned from the experience. It’s good to know that increasing one’s milk supply is possible and that you can turn an incredibly low supply into an abundant one. And that you can do this by simply going back to basics and nourishing yourself with rest, relaxation, and nutrient dense foods.
This experience also taught me that I am not ready to stop nursing. No one is more surprised about this than me. I didn’t think I would last even this long. In fact, I often reasoned with myself about when and how I would stop and that I’d be ok with it.
But like most things in life, when the choice is taken away from us, we suddenly want what we can’t have even more. I never took to breastfeeding or felt the instant connection with my baby that comes from feeding that so many mothers describe. I did it because I felt I was supposed to do it. Now, I am doing it because I want to. I finally feel that incredible feeling that so many mothers talk about, and I am so grateful for that and the opportunity to do it, period. Especially because I know that none of this is going to last forever.