Milk running dry

need411April 22, 2006

I don't think I have problems with milk production, because my baby eats fine every 2 to 3 hours during the day and seems content. When I pump after a good nap, I can get 4 sometimes 5 ounces of milk, so I don't think I have problems producing enough milk. My baby AL is 6 weeks old, and like all parents, I am a sleep deprived zombie! For some reason, AL wants to feed every hour, sometimes even every 30 minutes after last feeding at nighttime. Midnight seems like a magical number because just as I get tired and want to sleep, he starts his feeding frenzy. My breasts feel empty because of his frequent feedings and don't have enough time to replenish its supply, and because of the lack of supply AL wants to keep feeding. It's a vicious cycle and I get so tired I want to cry. Last night at 4am, I got so frustrated I ended up giving formula, and he drank vigorously (signaling to me that he had been hungry even after having breastfed 20 minutes ago). After finally putting him down, he threw it all up. THen he pooped. HELP! What am I doing wrong? This isn't just a growth spurt because this has been an ongoing problem... I am soo tired and I can't understand why he feeds so frequently and why my breasts won't produce milk fast enough for his hunger at night!

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Six weeks is usually time for a big growth spurt. Babies do tend to eat constantly during that time. If that's not the problem, I wonder if YOU are getting enough to drink at night. Do you drink a huge glass of water or juice every time you sit down to feed him? When you're worn out and tired, it's easy not to drink enough.

If you're able to pump a few ounces ahead, you could try to supplement a little or have your dh do it so you can get a little more sleep one night. You might want to be cautious about doing it too much since nursing is what tells your body to produce more milk.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2006 at 7:32PM
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I second the water. You needs lots of it. Even though you cannot pump any milk doesn't mean he is not getting anything. Their suckling is very efficient. The more you supplement, the less you will produce. So you have to decide if you are willing to give up nursing should it come to that.

On the other hand, babies sometimes nurse just for the comfort. Our bodies will regulate milk supply accordingly (assuming you are getting enough fluids). So maybe he can nurse more often without throwing up.

Can you try to get used to nursing while lying on your side? Prop a pillow behind your little one to keep him on his side facing you and try it when you're not too tired. Once you get the hang of it, you can do when your half asleep. If you are not comfortable keeping him in your bed, keep a basinette right next to your bed and put him back in when he's finished. I don't even bother to burp them in the middle of the night. Use a night light or two instead of turning any lights on when he wakes up. And sleep when he sleeps during the day! I never really had to deal with sleep deprivation once I learned these tips with my second child.

I know it's tiring. I remember that so vividly. I just want to encourage you. Time is going to go by faster than you think. Try to put this time into perspective and realize this such a tiny fraction of your life in the scheme of things.

My first born is now 11 years old (sniff). I just had our sixth baby. She is almost 4 weeks old and because I now know how fast time goes, I almost can't wait until she wakes up to nurse.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 11:37PM
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I agree on getting lots to drink. Also make sure you're feeding yourself properly. You need those calories to help you produce milk.
One other suggestion. Have you tried pumping while you nurse? DH bought me a battery/electric pump by The First Years ($50 CDN at Walmart). I found it worked really well and was easy to manage while nursing. I would hook baby up to one side, and once he was going I'd start pumping on the other. You might feel like a milk cow the first few times you try this...DH called me "Joisy"...Jersy with a thick accent ;-) but it works really well. Baby stimulates the let down so pumping is easier, and once he was done on one side I'd take off the pump, let him drain the other side the rest of the way, and if he was still hungry I'd give him what I pumped in a bottle. (If not, I froze it for future use.) If you do this, you may find you're feeding a little more often for the first bit (sigh), but I quickly got so that my little one only ever needed one side to be full, so I always had lots to spare (I could have easily nursed 2 babies. ;-) As he hit growth spurts and started to drain both sides in one feed, I'd start pumping again to get production back up. It worked really well for me.

Try not to worry, you're not doing anything wrong. I clearly remember (at about 7 weeks of no sleep) sitting on the end of the bed, at 2 or 3 in the morning, bawling, because this little creature just would NOT stop crying, and all I wanted was to (have my pre-pregnancy body back and) sleep for about a month.

This too shall pass. (And a lot quicker than you may think.) My little guy is now a year old, sleeps through the night, and believe it or not, I miss the quiet snuggly times in the middle of the night, listening to his breathing and the little sucking noises.

Oh, and (as said before) sleep in the day when baby sleeps. I didn't do this, but I'm sure planning on it for next time.

Kind thoughts of full bellies and restful sleep,

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 1:47AM
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3 things:

1. Sleep, cat nap, nurse lying down.

2. Stay skin to skin with your little guy & trust yourself with him. (Lose the formula, you've got real milk, babe!) It's normal for babies to nurse a lot, and sporadically. Really!

3. Surround yourself with nursing mothers and others who remind you how absolutely wonderfully you are doing. Hook up with a La Leche League Group through the link below, you can even do this online if there are no Groups in driving distance. But if you can, get yourself into a real live mothers' discussion circle so you can feel normal and rejuvenated and the center of the universe -- which you are, in so many more ways than you know yet.

Here is a link that might be useful: La Leche League (US Group page)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 9:20PM
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Thank you all for your encouragement. My little one used to take a good 3 hour nap in the morning, from 9am or so to 12pm, having his night/daytime mixed up, and now that I am determined to nap when he naps, he won't take his one long nap of the day anymore! It seems that for some reason, his naps only last 30 minutes, longer if held, and he won't sleep long in his bassinet anymore. He cries to be held all the time, and will only nap in my arms or in the bjourn. How do I fix that? I can't bear to hear him cry it out when I lay him down, and I can't hold him forever during his naps either...

I've been pumping on and off between breastfeeding during the day to increase my milk supply, but don't know how much that has really helped because I still get the same amount when I pump each time. But no, you're right, I haven't been drinking enough. I hope all the drinking I am doing now will help produce more milk...

I am crossing my fingers and hoping that after a couple of more weeks, he will start sleeping through the night - all the literature I've been reading claim so! Until then I will get through this and grit my teeth!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 12:05AM
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"He cries to be held all the time, and will only nap in my arms or in the bjourn. How do I fix that?"

What's to fix?! This is biologically normal infant behavior! Follow his cues & and you'll both be swimming in milk. Seriously.

Nothing increases milk more quickly than staying skin-to-skin and nursing frequently & effectively. One rule of thumb is not to put a willing baby down to pick up a pump! Babies are way cuter than pumps and stimulate milk-making in ways well beyond the engineering capabilities of mere mechanical beasts.

If your son nurses frequently (every hour or so if he's interested & you're okay with it), satisfies his suckling instincts at the breast (as opposed to a piece of silicone), and falls blissfully asleep after nursing, you'll have tons of milk.

Drink to thirst but don't force yourself to drink more than you want as that's counterproductive. Just don't let yourself "feel" thirsty or you've gone too far.

As for sleeping through the night, it's not biologically normal at this age, all "training" books aside. On the other hand, it would be great to find ways you can sleep while nursing, nap by day, encourage his long sleep cycles at night, etc. It's important that you get rest, even if you are gently interrupted by some night nursing. The trick is to minimize the "interruption."

As for your math re pumping:
If you're getting the same amount each time, while adding pumping, that's an increase! And your first post indicates a lot of milk! Maybe your baby isn't crying for milk, maybe he's crying for you.

The big picture is that breastfeeding is all about the relationship between mother and child, it's not a scheme for milk production. Your son wants you, and the more he gets you, the more milk flows between you.

Consider new ways you and your son can rest and be together happily. Prolactin levels are highest at night (when mothers typically get more sleep), probably because mothers through the ages made up for lost time nursing while sleeping. Maybe a baby sling will help you feel more mobile during the day when he wants you close but you're trying to putter around.

Houseful is right that this time is fleeting -- even if it doesn't seem so at the moment. Surrendering yourself to the nursing and new ways to rest and sleep will pay you back big-time in the coming weeks and months. You won't always be this tired. For me it was tremendously helpful to surround myself with friends who were going through the same things. It normalizes everything and puts the time in perspective. Someday you'll have a lanky teenager on your hands, sweet but will he ever be this cuddly again, and smell so good?!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 6:21PM
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I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! My baby has been sleeping through the night for almost a week now... why didn't I think of this before??? I've been putting my baby to sleep with me at night in my bed, and nursing him lying down when he wakes up. It's working like magic! I don't care if people say it is the start of a bad habit (sharing the same bed), but we are finally getting the sleep we need, and he only wakes up 3 times during the night - by far better than nursing every hour and not sleeping at all! My baby looks cuter than ever and I can finally say ahhh...this is the joy of motherhood!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 6:36AM
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need411, it's just as we've suspected -- you are mothering brilliantly on your own!

The "bad habit" might be listening to others who don't know you or your baby, eh?! Not that you shouldn't share thoughts with others, just that you have to trust yourself to know which things feel right, & which things don't. It's great to get lots of tips, but sometimes things that work for another mom/baby just won't do it for you.

Glad you discovered the "magic." Hope it doesn't spoil anything to know that this "magic" is back up by scientific research! Both human milk & breastfeeding itself are sleep inducing -- for both mother and child! Glad to know you're finally getting some much needed sleep, and that you're baby's getting "cuter!"

It's only going to get better & better at this point. I'm so glad you checked back in -- I'll bet some other sleep-deprived moms will check in themselves & be inspired.

Here is a link that might be useful: James McKenna PhD / research on breastfeeding & cosleeping

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 11:56AM
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I'm so happy for you! Don't worry about the "bad habit." It's normal for babies to want to be close to mommy. I got (still get) quite a bit of criticism for letting my kids in my bed. But guess what? They all went in their own beds just fine.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 12:07AM
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One other point to remember, though I know I am late to the conversation: The more a mother sleeps or naps, the more cream she has in her milk. So in the morning, you have very creamy milk, which helps satisfy hunger well. If you do not nap or lie down during the day, as the end of the day nears, you are able to produce milk, but it will not have the hunger pang satisfying cream. It will be like non-fat milk. And it is later in the day that babies do seem to get fussy, when the cream content is much less. And that is why they get fussy then. So telling mom to rest is for a very specific advantage to her baby and her.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 2:50AM
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My little son is now 4 months old and very happy. I've been so successful at breastfeeding that my son now refuses to take the bottle period! When my hubby and I try to give him the bottle either because I'm sick or need to go out for a little bit, my little one screams his head off until I give him my breasts! As for sleeping, passing the 3 month mark was a magical #, because he sleeps so much better through the night. He still wakes up 2 to 3 times, but he doesn't sleep with me anymore. I've graduated him to the bassinet long time ago when I started feeling like I couldn't move in my bed at all in fear that I'd either wake him up or squish him. For any new moms out there who have the same problems I did with breastfeeding, check out this website, it's an awesome source:
Thanks for all your advice, I never thought I'd make it through in the beginning, and I was so close to giving up on breastfeeding.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 9:45PM
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Once you get the knack of it and understand the process and hints, it is the easiest approach to feeding a baby. Glad to hear you are doing so well and happy with your decision.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 3:11PM
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Isn't it funny how easy it is to feed them at night with them snuggled up next to you. DD 2 was sooo like that, even though sometimes I felt like the human pacifier. Now the only problem is that she is 13 months old and I am still nursing her:)


    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 12:29AM
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Hello... I had the same problem with my little girl a year ago. Basically the more he nurses, whether or not anything is there, you will begin to produce milk. Your body detects when the baby is hungry and will produce milk at the times that he nurses. You HAVE to drink a big glass of water every time after he nurses, that is the most important thing you can do. Also, try not to stress too much.. it does not help with your body with letting your milk down. I know it is frustrating at times but you are doing the best thing for your little baby, AL.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 9:27AM
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