Where the hell did my milk go?

Monkey is now 4 and a half months old, and I’d like to nurse until he’s at least 6 months old, maybe up to a full year. (My pediatrician says a good measuring stick is stopping when he’s old enough to ask for it 😉 Pumping at work hasn’t been too much of a hassle, and we’ve settled into a nighttime feeding routine that prevents engorgement while also maintaining my supply. Breastfeeding has also done amazing things for pregnancy weight loss; except for some issues caused by a persistent baby belly, I’ve made it back into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes. Soooo… continuing to breastfeed a while longer is really a no-brainer.

EXCEPT, my milk supply is suddenly (like within the last couple of days) starting to decrease. Seemingly out of nowhere. Which is kind of really freaking me out. I don’t want to start Monkey on formula if I don’t need to, and I have a while before I can start introducing cow’s milk. Above all, I’m just not ready to start weaning, so why is my body starting the process for me? I’m not exceptionally stressed, my diet hasn’t dramatically changed, and I’m still pumping/nursing on the same schedule. What’s the deal?

I think, maybe, I’ve figured out one problem. My weight loss recently hit a brick wall. In an effort to further flatten my baby belly, I’ve been running at work (which, consequently, also relieves stress) and cutting extra carbs/sweets/fats. Not a huge change in diet, but definitely enough to notice a few more pangs of hunger in the evening before we get Monkey to bed and finally eat dinner. This change, combined with increased activity, is evidently causing my boobs to go on strike:

Figure 1. Dr. O’s boobs on strike 

There are plenty of good reasons to stop breastfeeding – a more girlish figure is not one of them. So I guess I’m going to have to live with this baby belly a bit longer. I’m not giving up running – I need that too much for my sanity. Instead, I’m going back to eating whenever I’m hungry – which is, like, all the time. I’ll do what I can to make sure most of what I eat is healthy (not always easy when you’re a mommy scientist on the run). But I also won’t deny myself a quick snack just because Taco Bell is the only place to stop on the way home from work.

I’m sure there are other ideas out there for how to maintain nutritious, calorie-rich diets when breastfeeding/working/mommying. Anyone care to share???

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11 thoughts on “Where the hell did my milk go?

  1. All I know is you need 300 extra calories per day during pregnancy and 600 extra for breast-feeding! So, just eat what you want when you want. If you're running, make sure to make up for those burnt calories too.

    I tend to have lots of dairy – cheese and crackers, yogurt and granola, that kind of thing. I also have cake a lot! LOL! Apparently beer is good for milk supply, but so is oatmeal.

  2. I'm still breastfeeding (20 months and counting) and eating for the championship, and 10lbs lighter than pre-pregnancy (I also run). I've found that eating extra cheese and fish makes a big difference to milk supply. Nuts are good for on the run. And a handful of fenugreek for a week or two would help, just to get things going.
    Good luck!

  3. This could be a number of things.
    1. You may be about to have your period. Your supply will go back up after it is over.
    2. You may be anemic. You need to eat more iron: pills, red meat, oatmeal etc.
    3. At some point in nursing your breasts become less milk storage devices and more milk creation devices. This is normal. Just because they're squishy doesn't mean they're not making enough milk.
    4. If you're just going by pump output, you may need to clean out your pump. Is there cat hair on the motor membrane? The medela PISA seems to be designed for the rubber membrane to rupture every 9 months (at least the versions I and my similar baby aged colleagues had… the earlier ones were more hardy and the later ones may be as well). Do you need to replace the little white flappy things on the horn?

    Breastmilk is demand induced supply. If you switch to formula you will make less milk.

    Kellymom has a great webpage discussing these issues and more.

  4. Hell, Blogger just ate a big long comment. And I'm at work and don't have time to recreate it.

    So, in short-

    1. Try fenugreek for a quick supply boost. Take two pills w/each meal for a few days. You'll smell like maple syrup, but make more milk.

    2. I eat a lot of nuts as calorie dense but reasonably healthy snacks.

    3. Cut yourself some slack on the weight loss/exercise plan. The baby belly is partly muscle tone changes due to having stretched over a baby- so no amount of dieting is going to touch that. Your body knows what it needs to feed Monkey. Listen to it! (And enjoy the chance to pig out a bit.)

    And then I said that I personally ate like a pig, exercised very little, and still returned to my pre-pregnancy weight (and wardrobe) in about a year. I hear you on the exercising for sanity thing, but if you're going to do that and keep breastfeeding, then you need to eat lots. Really. LOTS. More than you think you do.

    I actually sort of miss the early days, when I got to eat ice cream every night. Now that Petunia is almost 18 months old, her nursing intake isn't enough to allow me to keep that up!

  5. I'm definitely making a lot less milk on one side, while the other is not so low…which leads me to believe it's not the pump. This partly (I think) has to do with which side I put Monkey on to nurse in the middle of the night. I really need to start paying more attention to that.

    For reasons I won't discuss here, I'm also pretty sure it's not my period.

    I do think I've become a little anemic lately, since that's always been an issue for me, and I've had a couple of dizzy spells this past week. Eating more of the right foods is difficult with my schedule, but I'm trying out some simple things to correct that.

    I brought a large can of mixed nuts to work this morning, and I'm going to switch to regular yogurt instead of low fat when we go to CostCo next week. I also need to pick up some granola bars – I haven't had those around here in while.

    I think I'll also start enjoying more curry to get the fenugreek in me…I was eating that stuff like nobody's business right before and after Monkey was born. Other than that, I'm not going to deny myself fattier meats and the sweet stuff anymore – back to the steak and cake diet!!!! 🙂

  6. I have also heard the fenugreek tip although I didn't try this myself. What worked well for me was drinking a LOT of water. Maybe running is making you a little dehydrated?

  7. Not too worried about dehydration. I've always been a good water drinker, and I'm even better now that I'm breastfeeding (and thirsty all the time). I have a 32-oz Nalgene that I fill up 4-5 times a day, and I drink several smaller glasses of water just after running, too! 🙂

  8. I took a bit hit in production when Coco was about 4 months old. I had increased my mileage about then, and was losing sleep to wake up early and run. I also found that eating more helped a lot. I've heard that oatmeal can help – true or not I have it pretty much every morning. I often have a morning snack (banana or yogurt) and always have an afternoon snack (peanut butter crackers, cheese and crackers, mixed nuts). Oh, and everything I eat is the full fat version!

    Coco is now 8 months old and we're still going strong. It's hard work, but totally worth it, for us and for them. She gets the best nutrition possible, and I weigh less now than I did in college!

  9. I just wrote a huge long comment that seems to have been eaten by my computer, but I don't want to fully duplicate in case it did go through—
    here's the long and short of it:

    I am dealing with the same thing right now, and it SUCKS. I just can't seem to keep up with what my son is drinking at daycare. I think your point about calories is a good one and I am going to ramp up the healthy snacks.

    One other thing I just read: to increase your supply while pumping, it is actually better to add in a few extra nursing sessions, rather than just trying to pump more. The book I was reading suggested nursing right at daycare during drop off or pick up. I am going to try that in addition to pumping more.
    I have also had luck with an herbal 'lactation tea' that I got from a local herb shop when my son was about 4 months old and my supply took its first hit.

    Good luck! And thanks for sharing this.

  10. gigirose– I did that too, always nursed at drop-off and pick-up. It helped a lot. PLUS, I got to observe the daycare ladies in action and got to know them better, which was nice. Also, if you're pumping for daycare, “reverse cycling” is important to understand in case it happens– babies may prefer the tap to the bottle, and that's ok, once they're no longer newborns they can last longer without being fed and still be happy.

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