Supply diminishing......

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-19-2013
Supply diminishing......
Fri, 04-19-2013 - 4:55pm

Hello, my name is Laura - I'm new and in need of some guidance.  I have a 14 week old son (2nd time mom) that has BF since day one.  I returned to work after 10 weeks and had to pump of course.  I nurse when he gets up around 5:30 and pump at work 3 times 9am/noon/3:30pm.  I was nursing him when I would get home from work at ~6pm and then at 9:30/10pm.  He sleeps through the night so there is no nighttime feeding.  Gradually  my 6pm feeding started to decrease in supply, my son was trying to nurse and he would be so frustrated because he was not getting what he needed.  I have since starting introducing one formula bottle at that feeding to supplement (I have decided to try to pump up to 6months so I need to supplement sooner rather than later; I only nursed my first son for 3 months so I am trying to go longer this time).  We still kept the 9:30pm/10pm feeding which was going well up until recently (last pump at 3:30pm).  I hear other moms saying pump often......if feel like if I were to start pumping at the 6pm timeslot that I won't have any for the 9pm feeding.   I am always nice and full for the morning, I pump great at the 9am time and it decreases for each subsequent pump (8-9oz, 4.5oz, 3-4oz).  I pump for 20-25minutes each time. 

I am drinking a ton of water and eating.  I tried the tea but didn't see much of a difference.  I am going to start this weekend to pump after each nursing session to see if I can spark something there but will 2 days really jump start anything?  then it'll be back to work and pumping again.   I just don't know what else I can do and is it too late to build supply back up?  Have I lost my 9/10pm feeding permanently?  How to woman pump for a year and I can't even get to 4 months........

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-21-2011
Mon, 04-22-2013 - 11:04am

Welcome Laura,

I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner.  I was having technology issues this weekend so I got a little behind.  I know sometimes when you are feeling disappointed and hopeless--a day or two is an eternity to wait for thoughts or support, or a possilbe answer.

First off, you are doing a wonderful thing.  Every bit of BM you provide to your son is a gift and a benefit.  It's not that it only helps him over a certain amount.  All of it, any of it, is good for him.  You are working really hard and you are doing great. 

The reason people say to pump often is because this is the trigger to your body that it needs to make more milk.  When a baby is directly nursing, he or she will cluster feed for feed more frequently when they need more milk.  If you pump more often, or closer together in time, this is telling your body that the baby needs more.  Your milk production is happening constantly.  You won't run out if you space the pump closer together.  You will generally have a few pumps that are lower but after a few days or maybe a week of adding a pump in, your production will increase to match.  It's how the system works optimally.

Things get a little complicated when we drop pumps or empty out less often.  By leaving the milk in, we are signalling the body that the baby doesn't need it so it should produce less.  I'm not being critical of supplementing with a bottle of formula at all.  This system needs to work for you and your family.  But the reality of the system is very simple--empty out to trigger the body to make more milk.   If you dropped the 6pm nurse to give a bottle, you told your body you need less milk, not more.  Not being critical, just analyzing.  My suggestion would be to see if you can get baby boy to nurse for maybe 10 minutes, then give the bottle to fill him up if you need to, and you pump at this point.  If your LO is already sleeping through the night, you are loosing stimulation at that point also.  Some women, me included, actually get up and pump one more time during the night when (if) my DS slept long stretches, because the milk production hormones are highest between 1-6 am.  For better or for worse, my DS kept night feeding for a long time, so this was uncommon, but some women do it routinely up to about 6 mos to keep supply up and get some extra milk stored up.

Also, it is worth while to remember that your baby will stimulate your supply better than the pump.  If you can get him back to the breast rathere than pumping once or twice, it might help stimulate your supply better than adding extra pumps on....and without having to wash as much equipment!  Wink  When my DS was little, I often found it was most helpful to try and get him to nurse every 90 minutes from the time I got home until bedtime.  Then he nursed about every 3-4 hours (ususally 2x) during the night.

If baby is fussing at the breast in the evening, it could be 1) evening fussiness that is normal for many babies up to 5-6 months of age.  2) Beginnings of a bottle (nipple) preference because he is getting a bottle during the day and it is physically easier than nursing and evenings are often a time when babies are tired and want to take the easy route.  3) Lower supply in the evening--you can try some breast compressions while he nurses to help move things faster for him and keep him happy.  I had to do this with my DS because he was a speed demon.  Here's some info that includes video of how to do the compressions.

It is really normal to have lower production in the evening and to have to feed more often at this time of day; it has to do with the hormonal cycles again.  Your pump outputs are excellent, really on the high side.  Your supply sounds really good.  I'm not sure you need to supplement to increase supply based on the numbers you are giving. (Normal range is 1-4 ounces from BOTH breasts combined per pumping session.)  If you do choose to supplement and without emptying out more, you won't get the boost you are looking for and might risk getting a clogged duct or mastitis  (becuase things are flowing enough even though there is more milk there--this is why people sometimes have problems when they wean suddenly).  If you feel like you want/need to supplement, I think people generally have the best luck with fenugreek combined with blessed thistle.  You need to take a lot of it.  When I was about 10 months in, after a very long nursing strike when my production dropped off after EPing for about 6 weeks, I supplemented with fenugreek alone and found it helpful.  I took about 2000mg 2x per day.  Here is link to a ton of information about fenugreek that you might find helpful.

To sum up after a very long post--you are doing great! This is hard work.  Don't panic--your supply sounds great!  It's normal to have less milk in the evening and less milk if you are only directly nursing your LO 2x per day.  Best thing you can do for your supply is get baby nursing more often and move more milk out of the breasts to help coax your production back.  You can also try some herbs like fenugreek and blessed thistle to help. 

Best of luck to you and your sweet baby!!  Let us know if you have more questions or if anything is unclear.