A few weeks ago I shared a post titled Lactation in which I shared my discovery of a diminished milk supply. As a result, I had multiple women reach out to share their suggestions, experience, and encouragement. It was heartwarming to have other mamas relate to my desire to continue nursing and help me get my supply back up. I received some really good insights and tips and am so appreciative of their selfless support. It’s no surprise, but the nursing community is a supportive one. Thank you, ladies, so very much.
Here’s a look at my toolkit to try to increase my supply:
- I upped my intake of Fenugreek to 9 capsules per day.
- I hopped on Amazon.com and purchased the Pumping Pals angled shields which are supposed to fit better, be gentler, and allow me to sit upright better while pumping.
- I contacted my clinic and rented the Medela Symphony pump. This baby retails for $1500+ and after spending nearly $300 for my current pump, I was happy to have the option to rent it. Friends and reading revealed that this pump should be more effective at extracting the milk and be gentler than my Medela Pump in Style Advanced model.
- Brewer’s yeast. I bought this originally for the lactation cookies, but now have added it to my daily oatmeal breakfast along with flax seed and wash it down with my Milk Maid tea.
- Beer. Not daily, but occasionally throughout the week I enjoy a beer or two in the evening. Leinie’s Sunset Wheat. ;~)
Working to get your supply up is work. And it takes dedication. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been as relentless as I hoped I would have been, but I am working at it and managing this new task with my daily workload. Each morning during the work week, I eat oatmeal which by itself can help with supply. I up the game by adding healthy amounts of Brewer’s yeast and flax seed. Add to that the 2-3 capsules of Fenugreek taken 3 times per day.
Most importantly though, is pumping. This is where I really failed through the first 5 months of nursing. I took for granted that I was producing and Miss Connie and I together were making it work. My travels likely also interfered and put us reliant on an organic formula in months 3 and 4 and I believe that was the start of my decline. In month 5 I felt I was low on production. My breasts felt soft and never full and Miss Connie wanted to nurse frequently and didn’t always seem satisfied. A pump revealed I only had about a half an ounce in each breast. OUCH!
So with my rented pump in hand and new shields, I attempted to pump every 2-4 hours throughout the day. I also set my alarm to wake in the wee morning hours to pump. That’s a tough one. I have to wake up, hook up to the various parts of the machine and sit upright for 20-30 minutes. I then have to put the equipment away and store the milk, all of which only wakes me further making it difficult to fall back asleep. Sleep comes just about the time Connie wakes for her night-time feeding. Back up, care for her, and try to get her back down. Back to sleep for a short while before Cody’s alarm goes off and Miss Connie awakes again. As a result, I modified my nighttime pumping. I pump in bed before going to sleep. On the nights that Connie wakes after four hours, I nurse her on one side while pumping the other. If she sleeps longer, I wake around 3 am to pump both sides. We then nurse and pump again in the early morning.
Medela Symphony vs. Pump in Style Advanced
One of the mamas who reached out suggested trying a hospital grade pump. I picked up the Symphony on October 6th. For the first two weeks, I used only that pump. I liked that it was quieter than my model and also preferred the control knobs and digital screen. Further, if I am only pumping one side, there is no need to unhook the unused tube–suction is controlled by each individual tube/membrane.
Was it extracting more than my Pump in Style (PiSA)? I wasn’t sure. On October 17th I had a bachelorette party. I couldn’t afford an interruption so I took my pump along for the fun. The Symphony is much larger and does not travel as discretely, so the PiSA was better for this purpose. I pumped on the bus and even in the restaurant bathroom. What I was able to extract seemed as much as what I got from the Symphony. Throughout that night out, I collected 7 oz. Disappointing, but did add another 3 when I got home.
Since then, I have been using both pumps. I leave my PiSA by the bed and the Symphony at my desk. Results are about the same — no noticeable difference. So it was worth experimenting, but I won’t be extending the rental for a second month. The shields are an improvement, however, and I am glad I purchased those. Pumping multiple times throughout the day leads to soreness, regardless of the pump or shield and nothing is as effective as my baby girl at extracting. Sometimes I will nurse her after pumping just to have her get any remaining milk lingering inside.
When I first started pumping at the beginning of the month, I was getting a half to one ounce from each breast. Now, depending on the amount of time between pumps, I can get 1 to 2.5 ounces. So I am seeing an improvement. With some consistency, my left breast out produces my right.
I am still working on it. Yesterday I was working away and it wasn’t until the afternoon that I realized I hadn’t yet pumped since feeding that morning! Ugh! As I type, I am again hooked to the machine. Left breast is winning the race….
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get back to seeing 3-5 ounces from a single breast during a single pump, but I’ll be keeping at it. What I do know, is providing my daughter with breast milk is very important to me and I believe she benefits profoundly from it. We have increased solid food intake with her and I provide her with as much mama milk as I can expel.
My advice to new mamas: PUMP. From day one. Incorporate it into your routine to get your supply up and keep it up. Thanks again to all those who reached out and shared their experience.