One of our readers posted this question:
“My girls are four months and are exclusively breastfeeding. I pump for the meals I miss while working. All is well for now, they’re growing and not too fussy, but I can tell the babies would like more milk than they’re getting. 4 oz. +/- 5 times a day. My mom brings the babies to me at work for lunch, so they are on the breast for all but 2 meals a day, four days a week. And I squeeze in an extra pumping session in between their breakfast and the 10:30 pump. But pumping to get milk for those 2 meals a day shows me: 1) that I struggle to get much more than 4 oz each, and 2) that the babies will happily drink 5 oz when they’re lucky to get it. Now that they’re getting bigger I’d be happier if they were getting 6 oz., but hate to disrupt the routine especially since they sleep so well at night. I considered waking up to pump, but that seems so wrong! Is there a way to boost supply without getting off our successful schedule? Will it happen on it’s own? Will food make up for the lower milk supply?”
I’m going to throw out a couple of ideas and suggestions from the HDYDI moms. However, first I’d like to remind everyone that none of us are lactation consultants, and that lactation consultants are a fabulous resource. If you’re concerned about supply or your baby’s (babies’) needs being met, talk to an LC or your pediatrician.
In general, the HDYDI moms talk about being concerned about supply issues. There’s something about that pump, and seeing how much (or how little) is coming out of it, that makes you just a bit nervous about how much milk your babies are actually getting when they breastfeed. I will share my experience—I pumped about two afternoons a week while I was at school (ugh, in the handicap bathroom stall—wouldn’t you think a school of social work could do better?!). I NEVER got as much milk out with that pump as I know my babies must get while breastfeeding. Just doing the math of how much weight they were gaining, there were times when I know they were getting at least 8 ounces from me (each) and I might have been pumping four. I would often pump twice as school to supplement their one feeding or pump an extra time or two on the weekend. It helped that my guys hated bottles, so they weren’t interested in taking much from the bottle while I was gone. (However, once I got home, they would descend on me like small, starving hyenas. It was disturbing.). At least one HDYDI mom didn’t pump enough milk at work (with three daily pumpings) but did nurse exclusively on the weekends. Other recommendations include nursing on demand when at home, so that the babies have the chance to naturally increase your milk supply during a growth spurt. At least at first, put aside the fantasy of feeding babies every three hours—in order to be able to increase your supply when they need to, they will often require eating more often. (Or, like my babies, will decide that every 1.5 hours is an appropriate feeding schedule). As they get older, they will be able to do a schedule much more easily. If you are concerned about how many ounces a baby is getting at a feeding, you can make an appointment with a lactation consultant. They will weigh the baby before and after a feeding to determine how many ounces the baby is getting.
Increasing the amount you pump
One HDYDI mom suggests pumping not only past the second let-down, but until the third. (I am in awe of her pumping skills!). She suggests not thinking about it as you pump, and definitely don’t sit there and watch the bottles fill (slowly) the entire 20 minutes or so. The hands free bra is definitely a worthy investment–you are free to do other things beside simply just looking at the bottles filling. Remember, babies are much more effective at getting milk out than the pump. Remember, if you pump in the morning, you’ll get more milk than if you pump in the evening.
Several HDYDI moms suggested supplements or foods that increase milk supply. These included Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, Red Raspberry, Brewers Yeast (containing B
vitamins) and oatmeal. Other than the oatmeal, I’d recommend checking in with the pediatrician or lactation consultant before taking them—I’m a bit paranoid about making sure whatever I’m eating is also ok for my kids to eat.
Several HDYDI moms suggested renting a hospital grade breastpump. I have to say, I was shocked when I switched from the hospital grade pump to the cute little pump n style. The pump n style is cuter (and better disguised in a little black backpack) but boy, it’s just not as effective. So slow! I still used it, but I can see the value in continuing with the hospital grade pump.
Babies get better at breastfeeding
One important thing to remember is that as the babies get older, they will eat the same amount (or more!) much more quickly than when they were smaller. Several of us remember thinking that there was no way they got enough breastmilk—we’re talking 5 minute feedings here—and yet the feedings were all that quick and the babies continued to grow well. In fact, in the case of my babies, they continued to be quite chunky. My guys don’t do the slender, super-model look. I think increase in feeding speed happened around four months for my guys.
Supply & demand
A supplementing caveat—if you want to breastfeed exclusively, whenever you supplement with formula, you should pump an extra time to make sure your body continues to make enough milk. No fun, I know. This is the reason that I continued to breastfeed through an evil bout of the stomach flu—it was actually easier and quicker to just breastfeed the baby rather than go get the pump, pump for 20 minutes, put away the milk and have my husband bottle feed the babies. Um, no thank you. However, some moms find that giving onebottle of formula a day provides a much needed break from breastfeeding. My favorite lactation consultant used to answer every breastfeeding question with a two part answer: Do you need to do this from a breastfeeding perspective? And what about from your perspective? Is it too much? Do you need a break? If you decide to use one bottle of formula a day, your body will just produce that much less milk.
In summary, breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. It’s hard. It’s draining. It’s wonderful and rewarding. It’s all those things—and it also makes us worry. There is no way to know exactly how much milk our babies are getting. Everyone deals with this uncertainty differently. My way was to let go—to assume that since my babies were growing well, they were getting enough to eat. This worked for me, because I was mostly at home and my babies got big, quickly. Moms who work have different challenges. Moms with those babies skating the lower end of the growth percentages have different challenges too. How have you made working, breastfeeding and pumping work for you and your twins?
Share with us!