When The Well Runs Dry

breastmilkLike most new moms, I planned to nurse at least a year, and then evaluate my supply, lifestyle, and baby’s preference, to see if we should/could continue.  I am realizing now that it is not entirely up to me, and we may not even make it to the one year mark. Sadly, at almost 9.5 months, my supply is dwindling down to about 2 ounces every 4 hours; forcing me to supplement the remaining 4-5 ounces needed with formula.

Bubba doesn’t want the booby–unless it is full and about to explode. Such high standards at such a young age! This all stems from layers of nursing issues that started the second week of Bubba’s life.  After a great start nursing in the hospital and a bountiful milk supply (which arrived about 3 days postpartum) we suddenly started experiencing latch issues. I hoped  multiple visits to lactation consultants, patience, and practice would nip this issue in-the-bud…but it wasn’t that simple.

It turns out, in addition to Bubba’s shallow latch, I had an over-supply/forceful let-down, causing Bubba to nearly drown in milk, which really set him off. By 2 months old, Bubba loathed nursing–and I was starting to loathe too–we would cry together every time. It was a nightmare. Finally, a lactation consultant “solved” our problem with a nipple shield. It was a miracle! He loved it, and I started to feel like a “real” nursing-mom again. Sure, carrying the shield around and constantly sterilizing it was not ideal–plus, he would fall asleep while eating ALL THE TIME due to the extra soothing the shield would induce.  It was pretty annoying, but at least it gave me hope that one day I could remove it, and we would magically have our nursing corrected.

During this time, I realized that I could make things easier, save time, and ensure he had the right amount of food by pumping my milk into bottles. So that’s what I started to do: I nursed him until he fell asleep on me, and then I’d quietly pump the remaining milk into a bottle and wake him to feed. It was a process…but we will do anything for our children, right? Bubba never had an issue taking a bottle–in fact, he seemed to prefer it. One consultant said: “He’s smarter than the ‘average bear.’  He realizes that a bottle nipple will produce a faster, easier flow, that is controlled, and he doesn’t have to work as hard.”  I didn’t like this.  I felt like: A) I was giving up on nursing too easily, and B) Bubba was being lazy.  So I tolerated the nipple shield/pumping ordeal for about 3 months straight, and then one morning I decided to remove the shield, and like magic, he latched! I was so happy, I cried.

After that moment, I tried nursing every chance I got. Problem was, at this point he was used to fast, easy food, and even though his latch was great, he only wanted my breasts when they were very full–first thing in the morning. At least we had that. I’d nurse every morning, and sometimes at night or pre-naptime for comfort. By this time, Bubba was about 6 months old, easily switching from breast to bottle and breast milk to formula, while also eating solids without a problem, and we couldn’t be happier.  I remember thinking: Best of both worlds…I have options to nurse or not nurse, and Bubba won’t mind either way. But after a while, I realized that I wanted to breastfeed, and sort of resented the bottle.

Over the last 2 months I have noticed a significant drop in my supply. I have tried the teas, oatmeal, frequent pumping, etc., but it really doesn’t seem to make much difference, and the truth is, it’s exhausting. I have grown to rely on formula, and didn’t feel bad about it until the realization set in that my limited supply, my “well” if you will, is drying up.  It’s that old adage that you “don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” and it’s downright depressing.  I will miss our morning nursing sessions, when my hubby brings Bubba to our bed and I stroke his cheeks, watching his wandering eyes as they scan the room excitedly–ready to start his day.  I will also miss our late-night comfort or pre-nap wind-down sessions: cradling him close to me with his favorite blankie, as he quietly nurses and I stare in amazement. Heck, I’ll even miss the way it feels to breastfeed…bites and all!

I know I am lucky to have had a somewhat-steady milk supply up to this point, and I am so proud of the strides Bubba and I have made to continue breastfeeding. I look forward to nursing my next child with confidence, patience, gratitude, and making every nursing moment count.

6 comments

  1. Dani says:

    I know how you feel with the oversupply and forceful letdown!! I had the issue with both babes – it calmed down significantly between 3-4 months for both of them. It is rough… and messy. It’s like a milk shower and I went through nursing pads like it was nothing. My girlfriend also dealt with it and said she felt like a fembot from Austin Powers 😉
    Fembots unite! hahahahaaaa

    • Lauren says:

      LOL! I love that reference. There are great positioning techniques and so forth, but it was quite a challenge!

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