At about 4 months of age, I needed to pump milk for Jack so I could take Ella to the theater. I was immediately surprised when I was only able to pump 1 oz when 4 oz is the minimum requirement for a meal.
Upon some brief perusing of Google, I discovered a few things:
- It’s totally normal to not get enough milk for a full feed in one pumping session.
- Pumps are not as efficient as babies are for extracting milk. I could be reassured that my baby was getting what he needed.
- Pumps get old and the motors aren’t as strong. Considering my pump is well over 5 years old, this could be a factor.
So I was relieved to learn that what I was experiencing was normal. However, there still was a nagging feeling that things weren’t as they should be. I could tell that Jack was getting increasingly fussy and dissatisfied. This caused my fear to escalate and resulted in a call the nurses’ line.
The nurse assessed Jack over the phone and asked about his diapers output. While I haven’t paid a lot of attention to his output, this prompted me to start noticing. Over the next couple days, I was increasing in concern. Perhaps my milk supply is low and this milk pumping episode unveiled an underlying problem.
I, of course, dusted off my trusty book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” to see what it had to say. Since milk production is a reflection of supply and demand, I was going to devote myself to extra breastfeeding sessions. Formula or medication was not an option. The book comforted and reassured me that these things happen and there are solutions. I resolved to have a nursing vacation over the weekend.
Throughout the weekend, Jack became increasingly fussy. He just didn’t seem to feed for longer than 5 minutes. I considered the reassurances of people who say that babies are very efficient at getting the milk they need. However, that only seemed to reassure me for a short while. At one point, in extreme fear that I was starving my baby, I succumbed to giving him a bottle of milk I had pumped. It was so bizarre and betraying for me. A mix of feelings were stirred up as I hand delivered his breast milk that I was capable of giving him straight from the source.
I made it through the weekend and booked an appointment with the doctor. Sure enough, he was immediately concerned. Jack dropped from the 50th percentile to the 17th! While I normally don’t take these charts so seriously, it was obvious that there was a problem to be addressed. Because I’m unwilling to use formula as a replacement, I have reluctantly agreed to go on medication. I’m unsure why I have had a reduction in my milk supply.
My speculation is the soother. That damn soother that I never wanted to introduce in the beginning. Due to my husband’s advice, I hesitantly offered it and now I’m trapped. However, to be honest, it has been handy.
While I did introduce the soother after the recommended 6 weeks, I can see how Jack’s sucking needs were not solely satisfied by me. I believe that the lack of stimulation affected my hormones which then introduced my period. As a result, the onset of my period then took a hit to my supply. Now, here I am, on milk medication, with side effects I don’t care for. However, this journey has sure given me an appreciation and compassion for the struggles other women have experienced. In the end, life is happening FOR me, not to me. I believe this experience will serve me in some way even if it’s simply to connect with other women.
Note: when I am faced with the decision between sticking with breastfeeding or switching to formula, I am reminded of the difference between the two. I find the difference shocking!
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