Struggling with a low milk supply can be tough. It's disheartening to know that you're not making enough milk to satisfy your baby and it takes real work to bring that milk supply back up to where it needs to be. The encouraging thing is that it can be done!
Since this is exactly where I've been at the past two weeks, I decided to journal my efforts and the results of those efforts. After 8 days of supplementing 2 month old Johanna while being on a round of very strong antibiotics, this is my diary of how we've gotten back to full time nursing:
I just took my very last dose of antibiotics. It feels good to be a free woman again, lol! I'm so grateful that Johanna has made it through all of the formula/donated breastmilk as well as she has. Praise God. I'm so eager to nurse my sweet babe but won't start again until tomorrow. This last dose should be fully out of my body within about 8-10 hours and I could feed her safely at that point, though I aim to wait more like 15 hours, which is pretty conservative but I just want to be cautious. We'll see how it goes.
I've been pumping to the best of my ability during these 8 days. It's a whole lot of extra work, pumping over an hour a day when I'm already spending more than twice as long to prepare her bottles and feed them to her. I've had the odd day where I just haven't pumped as much as I wanted, and I know that my supply is definitely down. Praying that it will return quickly to get my little girl off of this formula and back onto the best milk ever. :)
Thursday, October 22
So much for my ideal of 15 hours. We were out at the doctor's office at the 13 hour mark with a very hungry baby and a mommy who needed to pump. My husband made the official decision that we'd let Johanna do the pumping, right into her hungry little tummy! It felt soooo relieving to be able to nurse her again. I'd missed it so much, and I think she did, too.
No medication this morning (whohoo!), only a heaping dose of probiotics to start replacing all that lost good bacteria. I'm also taking extra doses of the nursing herbal tea that I usually take, in hopes that it will boost my supply more quickly.
We've been a happy nursing pair all afternoon and evening, but I know that my supply is pretty low. I've let her nurse completely on demand all day. Not much of a let-down at all, so I know the milk is minimal, but she's still getting something. I was grateful to receive one last batch of donated breastmilk from a friend and gave it to her this evening before bed, to ensure her tummy was truly full for the nighttime. Hopefully things pick up a bit tomorrow.
Friday, October 23
Our first full day back at it. No need to supplement so far, as Johanna seems satisfied (as I write this in the mid-afternoon). I'm feeding on both sides, rather than only one as I usually do. I'm hoping that this will ensure that she gets enough, and that the extra stimulation will help my supply to pick up again that much more quickly. Trying to make sure that I drink plenty of fluids as well. Actually had a small let-down this afternoon, which was so encouraging! Praying things continue on this trend...
Had to give a bottle in the evening. That's not too bad for first full day. Hopeful that things will improve. We'll try again tomorrow.
Saturday, October 24
Seem to have enough milk for most of the day, but by the late afternoon, I knew things were really low again. Going to have more to drink, have some nursing tea, and I'll put her to the breast again in an hour or so. Hoping to not have to supplement again tonight. We'll see...
Later in the evening- By about 7 pm, she was really hungry so I gave her a bottle again. I could be discouraged, but I'm not allowing myself to be. After 8 days of not nursing, to only have to supplement once a day is pretty minimal. Soon, the evening bottle won't be necessary. We'll just keep at it!
Sunday, October 25
Started off the day with oatmeal, a good food for increasing milk supply. Still needing to feed on both sides at most feeds, but my let-down is increasing so I know that my milk is coming back little by little. We got through the evening tonight without a bottle (whohoo!) and instead I will give her a nice big feed when I go to bed (which I don't usually do but I think she'll need it in lieu of being supplemented). The more often I feed, the more my milk supply will increase so extra feeds aren't a big deal. We'll get back on our regular schedule soon enough. :)
Monday, October 26
Started the day off with oats again. Tried to be conscientious of keeping well hydrated all day. Was sad that by 4pm, my supply was waning again. Gave little girl a bottle around dinner time.
It's important to keep nursing like crazy, even when you know it's a dry well. Despite the fact that I had barely any milk, I still nursed Johanna 4 times between 4-8pm. Sure, I didn't have much at each of those feeds, but my body will start to pick up on those stimulation cues, "Must... make... more... milk." Knowing this, I just keep putting her to the breast as often as I can, whether there's anything there or not.
Tuesday, October 27
Felt like my supply was great this morning. Let's hope it continues all day!
Later: Made it through the evening without a bottle!!! Gave an extra feed or two, but was just so glad that I actually had some milk in the evening.
Wednesday, October 28
She didn't sleep through the night (woke at 4 am to eat), but I expected this as she didn't have as much as usual in the evening. At least she made it through that long! Yet again, oatmeal for breakfast (as I have had every morning this past week!). Drinking tea, taking nursing herbs, etc. Still doing all that good stuff! Another day without a bottle!
Thursday, October 29
Didn't get nearly enough sleep last night, due to being out on a very late double date. I know that it affected my supply. Getting adequate rest is big for ensuring a good milk supply. With it already being somewhat low, the lack of rest was just too much. By mid-afternoon I had to supplement with a bottle to let my milk build up a bit more. Fortunately, with some extra fluids, calories, protein and rest, we finished off the night well.
Friday, October 30
Another bottle-free day! We're starting to have more good days than bad days, a very good sign that things are looking up!
The last three days have been very hectic around our home, and I haven't been eating quite as sufficiently as I should be. I can tell whenever I postpone eating or don't eat enough that my milk is a little lower. When I have a good meal, it picks back up again. Consuming enough calories really does make a difference. No skimping on food for nursing mamas, ok?
Hectic days or not, with some determination on my part to keep forcing myself to drink and eat more and to just keep nursing really frequently, we made it through all day. She might wake for a night feed, but that's just fine with me. :)
Saturday, October 31
Bottle-free again! It took some extra nursing and really guzzling water around dinner time and in the early evening to make sure she had enough for the night, but we made it through. Giving her an extra late-night feed helped to ensure that she slept through the night.
Sunday, November 1
As of today, I would say that we are officially back to nursing full-time. :) Yes, I'm still struggling with a bit of a low supply in the late afternoons and evenings. I still need to be conscientious of what I eat and drink, of how much I nurse, of getting enough rest. I'm still taking supplements to encourage a healthy milk supply. It's gratifying, though, to have made it through these last 3 weeks and know that my baby girl is getting what she needs!
For those struggling with low milk supply, here are a few resources:
Herbs for the New Mama (my own recent post, which includes info on which herbs to use for milk supply, as well as links to the specific nursing tea that I am using)
Are you struggling with a low-milk supply yourself? What are some of the ways that you have found helpful to increase your supply?