Monday, July 06, 2009

How Bridget got her milk back

This is one of those posts that I'm writing mostly for the benefit of fellow nursing mothers, and also random Googlers who end up in a similar situation and search the internet for anecdotal advice. Just so you're warned.

A couple of days before we moved away from Tucson, Magdalena started sleeping through the night (she isn't anymore, but that's another story). All of a sudden, we were down to three nursing sessions a day, at roughly breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime. I was happy. Magdalena was happy.

Then I got sick. Very, very, pukey sick. I didn't eat or drink for 28 hours. By the time I was feeling well enough to notice, I realized that my milk was pretty much gone. But we were in the middle of moving and I didn't have time to think about it or deal with it. Magdalena was still nursing as normal, but she wasn't getting very much out of it.

We were so busy packing that I didn't really get a chance to rest and recover from being sick. Then we spent two days in the car driving from Tucson to Provo. During the hours in the car, I could feel my milk kind of trying to come back but since we were on a road trip, I couldn't exactly stop and nurse Magdalena at my convenience. I was alternating between getting engorged and being totally dry.

Eventually, we got moved in and settled in Provo, and it quickly became apparent that my milk had just about dried up. I panicked. How had this happened? Looking back, I realize that there wasn't any one reason. It was a combination of factors, triggered by getting sick and not eating anything but saltines for a few days, but compounded by:

-Magdalena starting to sleep through the night. My body was getting the message to produce less milk.

-Not being able to rest and recover from being sick. In fact, I was helping to pack up for a major move and it was exhausting.

-Immediately setting off on a two-day road trip where nursing times were restricted and off-schedule.

Now, you have to understand that Magdalena is 11 months old. She is not a newborn entirely dependent on my milk. Still, I was not really ready to wean her, and by the looks of her frustration while nursing on an empty breast, she was not ready to be weaned. That's the point of my sharing this story with you - if you lost your milk and you're trying to get it back, no matter how old your baby is, maybe you can learn from my experience.

Here's what I did:

-I kept nursing Magdalena, even when it seemed like nothing was coming out.

-I supplemented just a little bit with regular cow's milk (although obviously with a younger baby it would have to be formula) so that Magdalena wasn't too starving and angry when she was trying to nurse.

-I made sure to eat well, especially since getting sick and not eating was what started it all.

-Since we had moved to an unfamiliar place and Magdalena was waking up at night again, I went ahead and nursed her during the night even though it meant giving up the victory of cutting down to three nursing sessions a day. It was worth sending my body the signal to start producing (more) milk.

-FENUGREEK. This was what finally made a big difference. I read about this supplement online (for example, here) but I wasn't sure it would help me since most sources say you have to empty the breast every 2-3 hours for the pills to have an effect. But I was desperate, so I tried it. I could tell a difference within about two days, and a week later, I was sure the pills had helped.

I am still taking fenugreek because I'm not sure we're out of the woods yet, but I think we're well on our way. Maybe it's a little ridiculous to go through all this effort with a baby who is almost a year old, but with all the moving and traveling coming up I just felt like weaning was one change I didn't want to force on Magdalena.

And that's the story of how I got my milk back.


Liz Johnson said...

Fenugreek does WONDERS. I lost my milk when Connor was 2 months old (a combination of me being sick, him having RSV, my extreme fatigue and low fluid intake, etc.) and it took a while to get it back. And between taking fenugreek and drinking four (yes, four) quarts of water every day, it came back.

I'm so glad that it worked out.

The Georges said...

Good to know. And in my opinion it is too early to stop breastfeeding. I think a good time to stop is 4 yrs old:)(jk to anyone who doesn't know I'm joking).
It was so great to see you!

Mikael said...

good for you for keeping the nursing up. I kinda wish I would have nursed the twins to 12 months... but seeing that I had a trip to hawaii it was WELL WORTH IT! And I havent missed it an ounce.
Are you going to go to 2 yrs old and beyond again? I am not sure I could ever go past a year....

Jeanerbee said...

Way to go! I used Fenugreek after I got the pukey flu when Eli was a baby too... totally works! I'm glad you were able to get things worked out =)

Aimee said...

I am still nursing, and my guy is 16-months-old. I like it, and its easy. In my opinion, it says a lot that you went through all that to nurse an 11-month-old. I would have done the same with Jameson, I think. Although, now I am trying to figure out how to wean him down enough so we can arrange a sibling to join him sooner rather than later. Ha ha.

Teresa Jane said...

My milk supply has weakened ever since I started the nuva ring a week ago. My doctor warned me and gave me a backup prescription for the mini-pill in case I had problems. I hate the pill, though, and I absolutely LOVE the nuva ring. Do you think that if I take that supplement until I am done breast feeding, I will be able to keep up with the milk production? Paisley still gets her meals in, but she isn't getting as much as she used to. She was sleeping through the night, but now she isn't because she isn't getting as full. I am torn

Bridget said...

Teresa, you should try it. If you can wait until next week, I can give you the rest of my bottle since I'm about done using it. It really works.

Teresa Jane said...

Yes! I will wait


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