Yeah, I know what you're thinking...
You're thinking to yourself - Sandy, what is this? You just graduated/completed with honors Breastfeeding 101 and 102...so what are you doing taking a Breastfeeding for Dummies course???
And I would answer you...because I'm not so quick. Or maybe because I thought that I was too quick? Either way it amounts to the same thing...back to the basics for me. You see, I made the classic "new mommy" mistake that so many other women make...when I was seperated from my child for the first time, I enjoyed my freedom instead of keeping up with all the mommy stuff and staying on course. Here's how it all went down...
I started taking Jax to day care about two weeks ago. That same week, I started my birth control pills after my six week check up with my OB/GYN. Now, I knew that the bc pills might affect my milk production, and as I had been pumping for a week before sending Jax to day care (to get him used to taking the milk out of a bottle) I was completely aware of what my daily production was. I was pumping a solid 32-40 ounces each day. So when my dr warned me about the pills, I knew what to watch for because I knew where I was starting from.
Except that having all that knowledge didn't necessarily mean that I put it to good use. What did I do on my first day away from Jax? Did I continue to pump every three hours, like I had been doing the week before? No, of course I didn't. I got busy. I worked on my To Do list. Sure, I pumped some, but not religiously each three hours. I thought that it was "cool" that I could make it 4 hours between pumping sessions with no engorged feeling. Then, when 4 hours became 5 hours? Yeah, I didn't pay attention and realize that this was a bad thing.
A week later though? I was sitting up and taking notice. My milk production was down by HALF the amount that was normal for me. I blamed it all on the bc pills though, since it was to be expected, and tried to call my dr to get it all switched out to something that would work for me and not affect my milk production. Except that the nurse didn't get back to me that day. It was late the next day before I got in touch with someone and by then I was down to 1/3 of my normal production.
Yet, I still wasn't putting two and two together about my part in all of this. When the nurse called me back and told me that the dr didn't want to switch me right away and she wanted me to try these other things first, I was floored. You mean to tell me that I had a part in all of this? I got myself into this situation?
Yep, that's EXACTLY what she was saying.
And when I stepped back and took a look at things, I realized that she was right. I had let the situation get to this point by not paying attention and not staying on top of my "mommy business." Luckily for me, she was nice enough to tell me that most moms experience this when they start back to work as well, so it's a common thing and easy enough to remedy given a bit of time and patience.
So I thought that I should share my experience with you all so that you can learn from my mistakes. Don't assume that your milk will always be there. If you don't present your body with a need for milk, it stops making it. That's the natural course of events, and at least now I know how to stop my milk when I feel the need to do so. Although, in hindsight, I would have rather NOT learned about that just quite yet!
Getting your milk back is alot like getting it started in the first place. Here are the tips that my dr is having me follow and you know that I'm anal enough to have created a spreadsheet to track my progress and can see it improving each day. I'm not back to where I need to be yet, but I'm on the right track to getting there.
#1 - Get a good pump. I have the backpack Medela Symphony Advance, or something like that. Nothing is as good at getting your milk out of you as your baby is, but when it can't be your baby a good pump is vitally important. Lucky for me, I already had this step taken care of.
#2 - Once you have a good pump...USE IT! And use it often. Getting your milk to come back in is alot like getting it started. You need to pump more often than just feeding your baby. When Jax was first home from the hospital, he fed every three hours, and for those first few weeks while I was getting my milk in I would pump halfway between each of his feedings. Just remember when you're doing this that it's not about how MUCH you pump, it's about being regular with the pumping. You need to tell your body that there's a need for the milk. So pump, and pump often.
#3 - Drink plenty of water. This one is sort of obvious and goes right along with eating a well-balanced diet. I won't pretend that my diet is always well-balanced, but I do eat alot. You're burning calories producing breast milk, but your body can't produce that milk out of thin air...you have to feed the machine! Avoid caffiene and carbonated beverages, as they can also have an adverse effect on milk production. Water is best.
#4 - Try taking herbal supplements. There are several things on the market right now (all natural and completely safe for you and baby) and just doing a Google search will lead you to them all. The main two that I read about over and over were the Mother's Milk tea and Fenugreek. I had actually read about the herb Fenugreek before getting into contact with my drs office, and that's the one that they recommended me to take. It's found at any health food store (or natural supplements aisle in your grocery store) and is easy to take throughout the day. I simply take three capsules with each meal...and enjoy smelling like maple syrup. I'm not kidding about the maple syrup - it's a side effect from the herbs.
So by going back to these basic concepts and rules for the past three days, I've noticed about a 25% increase in my production. It's not where I need to be yet, but seeing the improvement gives me hope that I'll get back all the way within another week. (That's another thing that I read doing research online about this - however long it took you to get this way, expect it to take at least that long to get it back to normal.) So hopefully, by sometime next week I'll be back to producing normally...here's to keeping my fingers crossed!
In the meantime, I'm using some of my "reserve" from the freezer and supplementing with formula as well, since my "reserve" is quickly being diminished by the little guy! He's a GOOD eater! LOL!
Did you run into this problem when you started back to work? Or were you smarter than me? I hope that you were!