It’s been over a week since my last post but I swear I have a good excuse. Last week was hell week. Read on to see why.
I am proud to say that I have not had too many struggles when it comes to being a mommy thus far. Sure, I have been pooped on, puked on, and drooled on many times. I’ve lost many nights of sleep, only to be replaced by hindering self-doubt. None of it has been debilitating; bodily fluids can be cleaned, and sleep eventually returns.
One factor of being a new mom that I have not had much trouble with is breastfeeding (except for the first few days; you can read about that here). I was blessed with an abundance of milk, so much so that I pumped myself a decent freezer stash. That was until last week.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 5 months in I would develop a problem with feeding my child, but my worst nightmare came true when I went to nurse her and three minutes later she was pulling at me and crying. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I tried to self-express and nothing came out! I was actually horrified. Where did all my milk go?! Lucky for me I had my stash in the freezer, so I quickly warmed a bottle for her, something I have not had to do since her first few days of life. She gulped down the bottle quicker than I have ever seen. She felt satiated and I felt like the worst mom in the world.
If you have read any of my previous posts about breastfeeding, then you know that I am the last person to ever judge another woman for how she feeds her baby. Breast is not best and baby formula is not best. Fed is best. Our little babies just need to eat, so whether the nutrients come from you or from a container is irrelevant. But at that moment in time, I was my absolute worst critic. I could not figure out how I could go from having more than enough milk to having nothing. This lack of breastmilk lasted all week. I blew through my frozen milk and even had to go buy formula. I fought with my ego hard before purchasing the formula (again, I would only ever judge myself), but my kid needed to eat. I had no choice. However, after boiling water and measuring the formula into bottles, she refused to drink it. She gagged and cried. I even tried two different kinds. The poor thing just wanted mommy’s milk. Needless to say, I spent most of last week crying and feeling like a terrible mother, which was such a waste of my time and energy. After about 6 days, my milk returned from its vacation. Where did it go, you might ask? Read on.
Last month my period returned. If you have researched anything regarding breastfeeding, you will know that your cycle typically doesn’t begin again until you are close to finished, or finished your nursing journey. Of course, this is not always the case. Naturally, I would be the anomaly whose period returned three months after birthing my child, regardless of breastfeeding. Alas, this is how my life usually is. When it returned, nothing really happened, except the usual period stuff (moodiness, cramps, etc.). At least, that is what I thought. Looking back now I think my milk supply dropped a little bit, although not as drastically as this time around. Ava would pull away from me several times while eating and throw her arms in the air. I thought she was just being silly, but I think she was maybe frustrated.
After doing some thorough research, I learned that a woman’s cycle can greatly hinder her milk supply, due to the fluctuation of hormones (I am seriously so done with hormones and their control over my body). This can begin a few days prior to actually menstruating and last a few days into menstruation. For me, it began two days prior and lasted my entire period. The day I quit bleeding is the day my milk came back. Why didn’t I know this before? Had I known, I could have prepared more. I need to repeat though: most women do not get their period back so soon. However, if this happens to you, I want you to be somewhat prepared. I also want you to know that it will not be the end of the world as I thought it was, and just because your hormones are assholes does not make you a bad mother. Below is a list of how I coped with this new hurdle that will most likely be a hurdle for the remainder of my nursing journey with baby number one.
Pumping. I pumped every two hours. It was exhausting and annoying but the more I pumped, the more I encouraged my body to produce milk.
More frequent feedings. I offered my breast more, pretty much forcing my kid to cluster feed. Your milk ducts need the stimulation.
Starting Solids. Ava is now 5 months old and is developmentally ready for solids. If you are unsure if your child is ready, check with your healthcare provider. I knew Ava was ready because she pays close attention to when we eat. She also has great control of her neck and can sit up straight in her highchair. In between nursing, I fed her small amounts of iron-fortified rice cereal to help keep her full. It was a naturally good time to introduce this into her diet, and although I was nervous, it has been quite fun. So far she likes the cereal, bananas, and carrots.
Booby Bites. You are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about. I’ll clarify. Booby Bites are a snack recipe that I found when perusing Pinterest. They contain Brewers Yeast, which naturally promotes lactation. I find that they did help, and they are delicious. Who doesn’t love oats, peanut butter, and chocolate chips?
Mommy Support. My mommy support group (read more about this here) helped keep me calm. Each of the ladies offered me amazing support, encouragement, and advice. They are a priceless group of friends and I am so happy to have met each one of them. I highly recommend finding a support group in your area, or even starting one yourself! You are never alone, and when shit hits the fan and you feel crazy, you will be happy that you can reach out.
Mothers Milk Tea. One of the mom’s in my mommy support group told me about this. Not only did it help build my milk supply, but the flavour kept me calm and was very soothing. If you would like to read more about it, click here.
Formula. Although Ava did not like the powdered formula, I returned it and purchased a liquid form for next month, in case I need it. I have been adding little bits of it into her rice cereal so that she can get accustomed to the taste.
More pumping. Since my milk supply is adequate right now, I have been pumping one full bottle of milk before bed each night and freezing it. I calculated and I should have about 20 bags of milk to arm myself with by the time Aunt Flow comes around again.
Losing your milk can be an awful and scary feeling, especially when it is overnight. I am not going to bother with telling you not to worry because you will worry regardless; you are a mother after all. What I will say is that rather than focusing on self-hate like I did, focus on making sure your little one is fed and happy. The tips I have listed worked for me but may not work for you. Talking to your doctor or with a lactation consultant is never a bad idea, as I know there are medications to help with lactation, as well as different techniques. Just know that there are options and you are not a bad mother. It’s those darn hormones; we can blame them for everything in life!
Stay strong mamas <3