Last weekend I spent my first night away from Jaxon. It was my sister-in-law’s Hen’s Night and as one of her bridesmaids it was our duty to show her a good time.
Jaxon has just hit 4 months old so while I was very nervous leaving him behind, I knew Alan would be fine looking after him. Knowing I was a phone call away was comforting as well.
I had spent the better part of 2 months loading up the freezer with breastmilk especially for this event. Having pumped between 200-250mLs extra a day to stock the freezer.
That’s why this story is so tragic!
I had prepared for the depletion of the freezer stash for the time I was away but I was not prepared for a drop in my supply!
I tried my best to use a manual Haakaa breast-pump while I was away from Jax (which is not ideal when you are out on the town!) but unfortunately the suction just wasn’t the same and my body responded by all but shutting off supply.
Having not breastfed for about 36 hours it was amazing how quickly this signaled to my body to stop producing milk.
Jax was swapping from breast to beast, but having drank from a bottle for the last day and a half, he was getting frustrated with the slow flow of the little milk that was making its way out and into his mouth.
I had to cave and we gave him his first experience of formula.
To be honest I cried as Alan fed him milk that wasn’t mine. I felt like I had failed Jax and that I had made a selfish decision to be away from him. I had impacted the milk supply that we had worked so hard to establish and while I am not opposed to feeding my baby formula (I know many mums have this as an only option and some even as a choice) I was feeling some epic mum guilt about the reason and the way it was all happening.
After a good cry and lots of cuddles from Jax and hubby I pulled myself together and decided that this was NOT going to be the end of our breastfeeding journey.
1 week on I can say that my supply is very close to what it was and having achieved this in such a short time I knew I had to pass this wisdom on, in the hopes that I help even 1 mama out there who is suffering with a drop in supply (no matter what the reason).
The first point to note and what more should stand as a warning (and a prevention method) is definitely to pump while you are away from baby.
I admit that I did not pump as much as I should have and this was a huge contributor to why my supply took a nose-dive.
If you can, try and pump every time baby is having a feed. I only managed to pump half the number of feeds due to scheduling and I suffered for it.
- Look at photos of your bubs or have a video call if possible as this can actually help release hormones similar to those released when baby is nursing with you, increasing let-down and production.
So, what about when baby is back in your arms and you have no or little milk supply? Here’s how to climb that mountain back to the top and re-ignite your breastmilk supply.
Pumping between feeds
Once I was back with Jax I was back to feeding on demand. I also decided to pump between feeds. I figured that if pumping half the amount means a drop in supply, then doubling up on demand would equal more supply? Yes, it does!
As the days went on, I went from pumping about 5mLs between feeds to 40mLs between feeds. This is when I decided to stop pumping between feeds and just going back to demand feeding only.
What do you do with all that pumped milk? I stored it all and each day I would combine it to give to Jax as his last feed of the day before breastfeeding him.
Aside from this occasion I have always had a pretty low evening/night supply so this was a good option for me to make sure Jax was getting enough milk before bed.
Milk producing foods and supplements.
When Jax was a few days old I was determined to get my milk supply well established. That same determination reared its head once again.
I remembered how I did this by introducing Oats, Flax and Almonds to my diet on a daily basis.
I was already taking my breastfeeding supplement (which is the same as my pregnancy supplement – I have been using this one since before I became pregnant and I have no complaints)
This is one of those things where everything contributes to the final product.
Assess your diet
I had to put my keto diet on hold because I knew that carbohydrates are important in the development of breast milk and my priority was my milk.
Same with if you are on a low calorie diet you need to make sure you are eating enough wholefoods to be able to run your lifestyle and produce milk. If you are stuck in too big of a caloric deficit then your milk will suffer.
Breastfeeding consumes about 500-800 calories per day so it can be really easy to accidentally not get enough food in!
Try adding these recipes to your diet to help that milk flowww.
Lots of Water
This is on every breastfeeding hack list ever. And it’s because it works. Think about it. Milk is liquid which means it clearly has some water content, if not in the stuff itself, at least in the production.
The more water, electrolytes, tea and (decaf) coffee you drink the more milk your body will be able to produce. Just note that if you are trying to up your supply you should steer clear of caffeine as this is a diuretic and will actually reduce your supply and dehydrate you in the process.
Of course, if you can’t stay away from coffee (guilty) then just make sure you are drinking an extra glass of water for every cup of coffee (on top of your daily 2-3 liters). This is what works for me. Your water requirements may differ depending on your climate and activity levels.
Nurse Nurse Nurse
Jaxon is a sneaky bugger and will comfort nurse if I’m not paying attention.
Comfort nursing is when your baby sits on your breast and doesn’t really actively suck, so no milk comes out. They are only there for comfort, not milk.
Usually Jax will do this if I am busy watching TV, on my phone or day-dreaming about my next blog post. 30 minutes can pass before I realise that he finished eating 20 minutes ago.
Yes, Jax is pretty efficient with his feeds, at least he is when my supply is up!
This past week I have taught myself to be very patient and sat back while Jax has comfort sucked after almost every feed. This combined with intermittent pumping has my nipples feeling like they did back in the beginning.
Hot tip: make sure you have stock of these Hydrogel Breast Disks!
The constant sucking sends signals to your body to make more milk and bubs gets to hang out close to you where he loves it most.
As I said before I don’t have anything against formula feeding. It was just the circumstances and that dreaded mum-guilt which seems to get me every time.
I actually wrote a whole post about Why We Need To Stop Shaming Mothers Who Formula Feed – including perspectives from over 20 women who have battled the dreaded #momguilt
In fact, this whole experience has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we now have formula as an added option for feeding while we are in Bali in a few weeks.
It also takes pressure off me to make sure there is a constant freezer stash, or milk available for when Alan watches Jax while I am at the gym 3 times a week.
I do believe that fed is best and there is no harm in substituting formula every once in a while, (as long as you pump to keep your supply up!). After all, that’s what formula is there for!
Here in Australia there is a shortage in most stores due to a certain clientele buying out certain brands and sending them to their relatives overseas. So, when it came to choosing a formula to feed Jaxon my options were not huge.
Jaxon guzzled it down (even grabbed the bottle out of my hands haha!) fed really is best!
After 7 days of working through the above steps (and getting to eat lactation cookies again!!) I have managed to get my supply pretty close to how it was. Jax is still eating from both breasts each feed where previously he was only eating one at a time as that was enough.
To be honest this doesn’t bother me but I know I have a little way to go before we are 100% back to where we started, expressing 2 extra bottles on top of 9-10 feeds a day.
All I know is we are on our way and I have made peace with the introduction of formula. I have also learned to be less harsh on myself as these things happen and it is all part of the learning process. At the end of the day, Jax is as happy as ever so I really have nothing to worry about.
Have you experienced a dip in your supply after spending time away from your baby? How did you recover? I would love to hear your tips below!