Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week 1 – Progress Update on "Milking the Cow"

Cute title, huh? I swear when you hook “the girls” up what feels like 14 million times a day just to pump out all excess milk and ferret it away like liquid gold…that’s sort of what it feels like. I definitely have a new respect for the dairy cows of the world!

So it’s been a week now since I spoke with my doctor and she started me on my new pumping regimen to try to increase my milk production. I would love to report that in just one week all is well in my household and I no longer have to sweat it when I pump because I’m getting enough during the day to replace what I’m sending out.

While that would make a nice, neat and happy fairy tale of a story…it wouldn’t be exactly accurate. LOL!

In truth, this is harder than getting my milk to come in right after birth. (Well, I guess most anything would be, since you don’t really have to “do” anything to get that milk in…you just have to work at stopping it if you didn’t opt for breastfeeding.) You know me, my analytical-number-crunching self has some stats for you – comparisons and what not. Here goes:

Before any of these troubles started, I was pumping between 4-5 ounces every three hours. I would go 4-5 hours at night without feeding/pumping around his sleeping schedule, so that first “take” of the morning might be closer to 6 ounces, but on average I could easily feed my son 4-5 ounces every three hours like clockwork.

By the time that I realized that I had created a monster a problem and started charting my progress with all of this I was pumping just a little over an ounce every 2-3 hours. My first pump of the morning would be closer to 3 ounces, but I could only produce a grand total of 8.5 ounces FOR THE WHOLE DAY. Wow. When you put numbers to it like that, it really smack you upside your face, huh? I went from 28-35 ounces per day down to 8.5 – yeah. I would say that making that call to my doctor was a smart move.

But let’s not focus on the negatives. I started pumping religiously (okay, maybe not those first two days but NOW it’s religiously…a girl has to make the habit again!), upped my water intake and started taking the herbal supplement Fenugreek in an attempt to increase my milk supply. After one week of doing these things, I was able to note a 21% increase in my production.

Now, before you get all crazy and start throwing your hats up in the air or doing the happy dance with me, let me give you a quantitative number: I can now pump 10.7 ounces each day.

Yeah, it doesn’t look as great now, does it? 21% sounded SO much better! I don’t know why that is.

Truthfully, I’m not super impressed with those numbers. So, I debated long and hard about calling my doctor again and seeing what else could be done. But I wondered if since it took almost two weeks to get to this point where I wasn’t producing, if I was jumping the gun a bit on expecting it to come back quicker. Instead of picking up the phone, I did what any self-respecting, smart, savvy woman of the 21st century would do…I googled it.

Using this resource, which came from a reader (THANKS!) and is a GREAT resource, I read that however long it took to get into the situation, it could take at least that long to recover from it. So I relaxed a little bit. And once on that site, I clicked on some other links and read some other parts of her site and found some other helpful tips. The one thing that I REALLY like about her site is that she explains the WHY and HOW behind it all. Like explaining how your body makes breastmilk and why it would make more…this clued me into massaging while pumping – and I can honestly say that although a little weird the first time (think doing a self-exam while holding cups onto your boobs) it really does help drain all of the milk out so that my body will get the signal to make more than it was currently making. Check out her site, you’ll love it!

One that I should have thought of if I was using half of my brain is Iron. If you’re anemic or border-line anemic (like I was during my pregnancy) your body can’t produce breastmilk. It’s like asking your body to climb Mt. Everest without any training – it just can’t happen. And with the complications that I had during Jax’s birth, my blood levels were really low when I left the hospital, if you remember. The first month of his life, I was taking 3 iron pills each day – one with each meal. After that first 30 days, I dropped down to just one pill a day with breakfast, like I did during my pregnancy. Now, a smarter person would understand without having to read it on the internet that you need to continue to take that extra supplement while you’re asking your body to do extra things like making breastmilk. That’s what a smarter person would do.

Me? Nah, as soon as that last box of pills ran out I just quit taking them. Who needs the stomach problems that go hand in hand with taking Iron? Not this mama! Yeah, maybe I jumped the gun on that one…so I stopped on my way home last night and picked up some more Iron pills. I’ll take 3 a day for a few days to get my levels built back up and then go back to just 1 each day…hopefully this will give my milk production a boost.

I also read about eating oatmeal to increase milk production. It’s not really explainable the site said, but it’s documented that it helps. And since it’s not like taking a supplement or medication that needs to be cleared by a doctor, I also grabbed some Quaker (Apple & Cinnamon – the BEST!) oatmeal to eat either for breakfast or as a mid-morning snack. Something else that I grabbed? Some Mother’s Milk tea. Again, this is something that isn’t dangerous for me to take and just contains more of what I’m already taking per my doctor’s orders. I can’t say that I enjoyed the tea, but I don’t really like flavored teas all that much – read not at all. My Mom would be SO proud of me for putting on my big girl panties and finishing the cup of tea this morning anyway…even if I wanted to hold my nose like a 5 year-old.

So we’ll see if these new things, in addition to what I was already doing continue to help my production increase. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that I see an improvement from last week to this week. I would just like to see MORE of an improvement without going off of my BC pills. Which might be inevitable…but we’ll give it the rest of this week and the weekend before I really start to worry and call my doctor.

Have you heard of any of these supplements or “old wives tales” working for other breastfeeding moms? I would love to hear some positive stories just to boost my moral a little bit more! Thanks for sharing…


Andie said...

Hi, I found you on today's Blog Hop Friday :)
I am not a fan of oatmeal, but learned to make it with applesauce instead of water or milk when I was trying to increase my supply. It helped, a little.

I have always struggled with milk production (except with my first baby) so I understand your frustrations! If I take the fenugreek religiously it helps too. There is a mother's milk capsule sold at my health store that includes other herbs as well. I hate the way fenugreek makes me smell like syrup, but it does help. I had never made the iron connection... I wonder if that was ever my problem! I also can't pump for crap :(

I have not taken this yet, and haven't read far enough into your archives to know if you've researched it, but domperidone (generic is motilum) is a drug used for stomach issues, that has the side effect of milk production. You could try that if it comes down to it, as it is claimed to be baby-safe. The Rx would be written as an off label treatment, but other countries use it for the purpose of milk production.
Hope you get things flowing!
Andie from

Anonymous said...

So glad you like Kellymom! It is a great resource, isn't it?! I am still pumping at work and my little one is almost 11 months old. To maintain my milk supply I drank lots of water, ate oatmeal or cream of wheat religiously, took in lots of extra calories (from good food sources), drank Mother's Milk Tea, and pumped at least 2-3 times during work hours. You'll see your supply go up and down as your baby goes through growth spurts, teethes, etc. I think it is great that you are so dedicated to getting your supply back up! Good luck to you!

Jesica said...

Yea! I posted my comment above as "anonymous" but now am an official follower. Love your blog!

A Mother...Again said...

@ Jesica - Hey, when I saw the comment come in from "Anonymous" I just knew that it was you when I read it! So cool that you're following now...thanks for the blog love...I'm thrilled to know that you like it so much!