Dwindling Milk Supply

When I went back to work several months postpartum, my supply dropped, and I relied on my frozen milk supply to get to 6 months.  I thought that it would stabilize after that, but unfortunately in recent weeks, my supply has dropped further.  Since I haven’t been pumping as much as WZW drinks, I knew after 6 months that we’d need to give him formula as well as breastmilk.  But my goal has been to practice what I preach to my patients and to continue to breastfeed for a year.

The good news is that WZW has been sleeping longer.  I don’t know if it’s from doing our version of the Ferber method or just his normal development, but he is stretching out his sleep at night.  He doesn’t sleep through the night every night, but he does sometimes.  And when he does wake up, it’s usually brief.

While that is a godsend for most parents dealing with chronic sleep-deprivation, it’s contributed to my milk supply declining, since previously I was breastfeeding once each night.  Plus, my work/pumping schedule often doesn’t align with my son’s schedule.  I’ll pump in the afternoon around 3:30, but these days WZW often goes to sleep in the evening, and will get up briefly to feed at some point before we go to bed, like 9:30.  But not consistently, so it’s a gamble.  It’s annoying if I pump, then shortly after he wakes up hungry.  So I’d delay pumping in order to wait to feed him.

Well that meant that I was stretching out my feeding/pumping times not just at night, but also between my afternoon work pumping session and the evening session at home.  My supply plummeted to the point that WZW would get upset if I tried to breastfeed him when he was hungry, because it wasn’t enough.  I made the mistake of trying to get him to breastfeed once in this state, and he cried and cried for like 10 minutes and wouldn’t even take the breast.  It left me in tears and wanting to give up at that point.

I had to start giving him a few ounces of formula first, then putting him on the breast.  That seemed to help.  In light of how I’ve been feeling as I mentioned in my last post- feeling like my body has been taken over by the breastfeeding, gaining weight, and just being tired- I feel like it’s so much work already.  So to not be making that much milk, it was really frustrating.  I started to wonder if I could do it for much longer.  And honestly, I had fantasies of having my life back, since it’s become such an invisible leash.

Funny aside- my husband and the nanny had typically been the ones to mix up the formula.  A couple of weeks ago was the first time I had to mix up some.  I guess my tired brain read the instructions wrong, because it wasn’t until recently that I realized I’d been putting twice the powder I was supposed to.  Whoops!  Funny thing is, WZW didn’t seem to mind his milkshakes.

I called a lactation consultant, and she recommended that I do what she called marathon pumping- breastfeeding or pumping 8 times in 24 hours over the entire weekend.  In other words, I spent last weekend pumping or feeding like every 3 hours.  At night, I spaced it to 4 hours.  But still, pretty tiring.  I think that helped salvage my supply a bit, and I’m back to being able to put WZW on the breast first, but I often will give him a few ounces of formula afterwards.  When I pump at work, I only get a grand total of 2 oz per pumping session, if that.

My friend’s mom was gracious enough to not only share a lactation cookie recipe, but to make me a batch to make sure I liked it.  They are delicious, whether you’re lactating or not!  My said friend is one I’ve known since the first grade, and also has a baby boy who is 5 weeks younger than WZW.  Here is her mom’s recipe:

Lactation Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2-4 Tbsp Brewer’s Yeast
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups steel cut oatmeal
  • 1 package dark chocolate chips
  • 1-1 1/2 cup coconut flakes

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix flaxseed meal with 4 tbsp water and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • In a mixer bowl, beat butter and sugars.
  • Add eggs and mix well.
  • Add the flaxseed meal and extract, beat well.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour, yeast, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add sifted dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture.  Mix well.
  • Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips, and coconut flakes.
  • Drop tablespoonful on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.
  • ENJOY!

I can’t say it’s increased my supply a huge amount, but I figure it can help some.  And it gives me an excuse to eat cookies.  In order to feel less guilty about eating a ton of cookies, I have made some adjustments to the recipe.  Because of the oatmeal, it’s not exactly Paleo, but I made the recipe a little more Paleo.  I substitute the regular flour with tapioca flour (tapioca starch).  And then I cut the sugar in half by using only 1 cup total.  Instead of using regular/brown sugar, I use coconut sugar.  The cookies come out more crumbly, and you have to be more careful shaping them into the flat patties before baking.  But they come out well considering.

The Brewer’s Yeast is a specialty product that can be found at a store like GNC.  It does add a certain bitter taste, but since it’s supposed to help with lactation, I add the full 4 tablespoons.  Adding less will make the cookies taste better.

I came across a breastfeeding store in my neighborhood, and noticed they sell packaged lactation cookies.  They contain the same ingredients that are supposed to promote lactation: oatmeal, coconut, flax, and Brewer’s Yeast.  The store also had various other products that are supposed to promote lactation, like supplements, teas, even fenugreek bars.  I decided to give one of the teas a try.  I just bought it, so we’ll see.  In the past, I’d gotten lazy with taking fenugreek, but now I’m doing my best to remember taking it multiple times a day.

At this point, I’m desperately trying to hold on to my milk supply.  Ultimately, the main thing I need to do is to make sure I’m diligent about breastfeeding or pumping regularly.  But lately it’s been feeling like such a chore.  Just a little while ago while I was typing, I was debating whether to wait for him to wake up or just pump.  I decided to pump since it was getting past the 4 hour mark.  Halfway through pumping, the little guy woke up.  Of course.

Sigh, the things we do for our babies.  Lately when a patient is interested in getting her tubes tied, I stress (more so than I did before) that she should try to convince her partner to get a vasectomy.  I mean really, it’s the least he can do after all that we women go through!