Diary of Nursing a Low Milk Supply

Diary of Nursing a Low Milk Supply

Struggling with a low milk supply can be tough. It’s disheartening to know that you’re not making enough milk to satisfy your baby and it takes real work to bring that milk supply back up to where it needs to be. The encouraging thing is that it can be done!

Since this is exactly where I’ve been at the past two weeks, I decided to journal my efforts and the results of those efforts. After 8 days of supplementing 2 month old Johanna while being on a round of very strong antibiotics, this is my diary of how we’ve gotten back to full time nursing:

nursing-johannaWednesday, October 21

I just took my very last dose of antibiotics. It feels good to be a free woman again, lol! I’m so grateful that Johanna has made it through all of the formula/donated breastmilk as well as she has. Praise God. I’m so eager to nurse my sweet babe but won’t start again until tomorrow. This last dose should be fully out of my body within about 8-10 hours and I could feed her safely at that point, though I aim to wait more like 15 hours, which is pretty conservative but I just want to be cautious. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve been pumping to the best of my ability during these 8 days. It’s a whole lot of extra work, pumping over an hour a day when I’m already spending more than twice as long to prepare her bottles and feed them to her. I’ve had the odd day where I just haven’t pumped as much as I wanted, and I know that my supply is definitely down. Praying that it will return quickly to get my little girl off of this formula and back onto the best milk ever. 🙂

Thursday, October 22

So much for my ideal of 15 hours. We were out at the doctor’s office at the 13 hour mark with a very hungry baby and a mommy who needed to pump. My husband made the official decision that we’d let Johanna do the pumping, right into her hungry little tummy! It felt soooo relieving to be able to nurse her again. I’d missed it so much, and I think she did, too.

No medication this morning (whohoo!), only a heaping dose of probiotics to start replacing all that lost good bacteria. I’m also taking extra doses of the nursing herbal tea that I usually take, in hopes that it will boost my supply more quickly.

We’ve been a happy nursing pair all afternoon and evening, but I know that my supply is pretty low. I’ve let her nurse completely on demand all day. Not much of a let-down at all, so I know the milk is minimal, but she’s still getting something. I was grateful to receive one last batch of donated breastmilk from a friend and gave it to her this evening before bed, to ensure her tummy was truly full for the nighttime. Hopefully things pick up a bit tomorrow.

Friday, October 23

Our first full day back at it. No need to supplement so far, as Johanna seems satisfied (as I write this in the mid-afternoon). I’m feeding on both sides, rather than only one as I usually do. I’m hoping that this will ensure that she gets enough, and that the extra stimulation will help my supply to pick up again that much more quickly. Trying to make sure that I drink plenty of fluids as well. Actually had a small let-down this afternoon, which was so encouraging! Praying things continue on this trend…

Had to give a bottle in the evening. That’s not too bad for first full day. Hopeful that things will improve. We’ll try again tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24

Seem to have enough milk for most of the day, but by the late afternoon, I knew things were really low again. Going to have more to drink, have some nursing tea, and I’ll put her to the breast again in an hour or so. Hoping to not have to supplement again tonight. We’ll see…

Later in the evening- By about 7 pm, she was really hungry so I gave her a bottle again. I could be discouraged, but I’m not allowing myself to be. After 8 days of not nursing, to only have to supplement once a day is pretty minimal. Soon, the evening bottle won’t be necessary. We’ll just keep at it!

Sunday, October 25

Started off the day with oatmeal, a good food for increasing milk supply. Still needing to feed on both sides at most feeds, but my let-down is increasing so I know that my milk is coming back little by little. We got through the evening tonight without a bottle (whohoo!) and instead I will give her a nice big feed when I go to bed (which I don’t usually do but I think she’ll need it in lieu of being supplemented). The more often I feed, the more my milk supply will increase so extra feeds aren’t a big deal. We’ll get back on our regular schedule soon enough. 🙂

Monday, October 26

Started the day off with oats again. Tried to be conscientious of keeping well hydrated all day. Was sad that by 4pm, my supply was waning again. Gave little girl a bottle around dinner time.

It’s important to keep nursing like crazy, even when you know it’s a dry well. Despite the fact that I had barely any milk, I still nursed Johanna 4 times between 4-8pm. Sure, I didn’t have much at each of those feeds, but my body will start to pick up on those stimulation cues, “Must… make… more… milk.” Knowing this, I just keep putting her to the breast as often as I can, whether there’s anything there or not.

Tuesday, October 27

Felt like my supply was great this morning. Let’s hope it continues all day!

Later: Made it through the evening without a bottle!!! Gave an extra feed or two, but was just so glad that I actually had some milk in the evening.

Wednesday, October 28

She didn’t sleep through the night (woke at 4 am to eat), but I expected this as she didn’t have as much as usual in the evening. At least she made it through that long! Yet again, oatmeal for breakfast (as I have had every morning this past week!). Drinking tea, taking nursing herbs, etc. Still doing all that good stuff! Another day without a bottle!

Thursday, October 29

Didn’t get nearly enough sleep last night, due to being out on a very late double date. I know that it affected my supply. Getting adequate rest is big for ensuring a good milk supply. With it already being somewhat low, the lack of rest was just too much. By mid-afternoon I had to supplement with a bottle to let my milk build up a bit more. Fortunately, with some extra fluids, calories, protein and rest, we finished off the night well.

Friday, October 30

Another bottle-free day! We’re starting to have more good days than bad days, a very good sign that things are looking up!

The last three days have been very hectic around our home, and I haven’t been eating quite as sufficiently as I should be. I can tell whenever I postpone eating or don’t eat enough that my milk is a little lower. When I have a good meal, it picks back up again. Consuming enough calories really does make a difference. No skimping on food for nursing mamas, ok?

Hectic days or not, with some determination on my part to keep forcing myself to drink and eat more and to just keep nursing really frequently, we made it through all day. She might wake for a night feed, but that’s just fine with me. 🙂

Saturday, October 31

Bottle-free again! It took some extra nursing and really guzzling water around dinner time and in the early evening to make sure she had enough for the night, but we made it through. Giving her an extra late-night feed helped to ensure that she slept through the night.

Sunday, November 1

As of today, I would say that we are officially back to nursing full-time. 🙂 Yes, I’m still struggling with a bit of a low supply in the late afternoons and evenings. I still need to be conscientious of what I eat and drink, of how much I nurse, of getting enough rest. I’m still taking supplements to encourage a healthy milk supply. It’s gratifying, though, to have made it through these last 3 weeks and know that my baby girl is getting what she needs!

For those struggling with low milk supply, here are a few resources:

Herbs for the New Mama (my own recent post, which includes info on which herbs to use for milk supply, as well as links to the specific nursing tea that I am using)

Increasing Milk Supply: Homemade Mother’s Milk Tea

Building Milk Supply (a current topic in the new forum here at Keeper of the Home- this topic has some great replies and advice in it! Have you checked out the forum yet??? )

Are you struggling with a low-milk supply yourself? What are some of the ways that you have found helpful to increase your supply?

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  1. It’s soo nice to hear that everything is going on well. I’m so happy for you. Stephanie, what’s your normal schedulle for your nursing baby??? I remembered you when I had to pump myself today due to a fussy baby. He had reflux and my breast were engorged for the amount of milk and the milk came out like fire fighting hose! We are through an adjusting season, but i’m soo happy for you and your family. Blessings!!!!

    1. @Andrea, Andrea, I don’t have an exact “schedule”, but basically I usually nurse each time she wakes up from sleeping. So first thing in the morning, then after her first morning nap, then again around or after lunch, then in the mid-late afternoon, then after dinner, then before I put her down to bed for the night. She might not nap before every single one of those feeds now that she’s staying awake longer,but that’s approximately how her nursing goes. On average, every 3 hours, sometimes less, sometimes more. I like to establish routines, but I don’t like to truly schedule feeds, as I am always still willing to nurse my baby on demand if I think they’re hungry.

  2. That’s so wonderful. I have never made enough milk for either of my boys, despite pumping day and night, herbs, foods, etc. Now I am realizing that it was most likely hormonal.

    It’s so encouraging to see your persistence at increasing your milk supply. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Congratulations!

    I nursed for 3.5 years straight between my two boys. I’ve only had the youngest weaned for a couple of months. I made some homemade granola the other day and as I was eating it, I thought, this will be good for my milk supply. LOL. It’s funny how conditioned we get.

    You did great! I hope that this blog post is encouragement to others who are struggling with supply.

    .-= Hallee´s last blog ..Giveaway: Mary’s Originals =-.

  4. Stephanie, thank you so much for posting this! I have never struggled with low milk supply, but it is sooo encouraging to see a mama who has struggled and stuck with it. So often I see mamas just give up and say that they were just one of “those who COULDN’T breastfeed”. Thank you for showing how your determination and hard work paid off. Moms really need to see this!

    It’s amazing that Johanna sleeps through the night! My twins are 11 months old and still wake up to nurse at night…lately it’s been a few times a night. Is she eating solids yet? Or what is your secret? 😉

    1. @Sarah, I have no idea why she sleeps through the night, but I’m grateful! My other two didn’t sleep through until 9-11 months old!

      She’s exclusively breastfed, so no solids at all. I do think that part of it is being a more relaxed, third time mom. I think I’ve learned a lot more about how to set a good sleep routine (which is too big of a topic for the comments). And maybe, she’s just a sleep baby?? 🙂

  5. Thanks for this post. My 4-month-old is suddenly no longer sleeping through the night… waking up screaming for to nurse. Nothing else calms him down. I’m off to make some oatmeal for breakfast!

  6. I’m so glad that things are going better! We just came back from a week long vacation and traveling which has affected my milk supply because I did not eat enough, drink enough, or get enough rest. The next couple days I will need to watch how much I drink and eat (whole foods). I will try to get extra rest but it will be hard because we will be moving out to the country (we’re so excited)! It was nice to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this from time to time! Thanks for sharing!

  7. It sounds like you have been going through such a difficult time lately! My prayers are with you, as I know how difficult that can be for a new mama. But I’m so glad to hear things are getting better! 🙂

    I just gave birth to our fifth baby at the end of August, and after his birth I was struggling with an over-abundance of milk! I had so much milk that he couldn’t use it all and I got mastitis 3 times (something I’ve never had happen before)! It was very miserable, and after all the natural antibiotic herbs and other things I did, and suffering through several feverish nights, I found myself with a significant drop in my milk supply. Oh, no! Another problem! First I had too much and then not enough! Thankfully things are back to normal now, but I know how discouraging it can be to have to work on having just the right amount of milk for your baby. 🙂
    .-= Joy@Graceful Words´s last blog ..Faith Turned Four! =-.

  8. I am happy to hear that nursing is going good again. I thought about asking but figured it was a bit personal. I found myself wondering what I would do If I couldn’t nurse my 4 month old twins. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Interesting, thanks for sharing. I am glad that things are getting better for you.

    Both my children have woken up at night to feed, although my first was a frequent waker, and this one has woken between 4-5 am to feed ever since about 2 months old. I consider that normal though, but I know others disagree. I also know that even with the night waking, I have always had too much milk rather than too little. My babies have both been quick, gulping nursers with sometimes milk spraying out! I do have times when my milk seems less, but I don’t worry about it if a) the baby seems to be getting enough by the diaper output b) seems healthy and happy and growing. However I always feed on cue (demand feed otherwise known as) so I trust that system myself. I think that because I also often comfort nurse (busy, impulsive moving baby falling what seems like every 10 minutes around here!) so that also would likely make more milk. I guess what I am saying is that just because the baby wakes at night it doesn’t mean you are not making enough milk. There are lots of causes for night waking, needing milk is only one of them. I always start with giving milk no matter what the cause since it seems to calm the baby and then we can get to whatever else the problem is. But that is just me! I know tons of people who disagree.

    1. @Nola, Nola, I definitely agree that being hungry is not the only reason for night waking! Not at all! I just thought that it was the case with Johanna, as she normally doesn’t wake in the night since she started sleeping through. Occasionally she will still wake somewhere between 4-6am, but it’s not common.

      My other two definitely woke in the night a lot and I think that they might have been lighter sleepers (like their mom!), and may also have just gotten into the habit of night waking and nursing.

      Thanks for bringing that up, though. I wasn’t intending to communicate that lack of milk is necessarily the reason why babies wake at night. Many babies just naturally don’t sleep through the night for a long time, sufficient milk or not. I was only meaning to relate that in this instance, with this particular baby, I was pretty sure that’s why she was waking.

      1. @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home,

        Thanks for the reply Stephanie! I hope I didn’t sound upset. Just wanted to clarify.
        Its funny how babies are so different. My 2nd is much better at sleeping but I have done nothing differently parenting-wise. My first did not sleep through even once until after age 2, and she is going to be 4 and still does not sleep through 50% of the time.

  10. Way to go! It’s so great to see another nursing mom put so much value on breastfeeding. So many times I’ve seen my friends and family members give up, without really trying to solve whatever issue they’re having with nursing.

  11. Good for you, Stephanie. I know (as you do too) that you will never regret the work you’ve had to put in to getting back to nursing. It is such a precious gift that only you can give to your baby. 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  12. How do you get your baby to nurse when there is no milk? After about 2 minutes my baby is done and screaming and refuses to latch back on.

    1. @kara bagley, Johanna won’t necessarily nurse for very long when there’s no milk, either. I will just put her to the breast anyways and encourage her to nurse for the stimulation, but if she’s crying or un-latching, I just let it go and stop trying. Some babies will nurse more for the sucking and for comfort, and some babies just won’t if there’s no milk. I think it’s really up to the individual baby.

  13. I’m prego with twins (our first) so there was a lot of helpful info in here for me…trying to do all I can to prep and educate myself on nursing both of them. Thx
    .-= c´s last blog ..Guess what???? =-.

  14. Hi Stephanie! I just stumbled upon your blog and LOVE IT!!! I am the mother of twins, so I needed to constantly pump in order to produce enough milk to satisfy both my son and daughter. What I found most helpful is a product that I hope every nursing, or pumping mother gets the chance to try…its a bra that allows you to pump completely HANDS FREE…and When you are hands-free you are not constantly thinking you are pumping…so…you are more relaxed…which then usually allows you to produce more milk! It’s made by Easy Expression (www.easyexpression.com). Thanks for sharing, I look forward to your future posts!
    Twin Momma Kathleen

  15. WOW! Stephanie… I am totally impressed! Maybe one of these days (if I ever get time) I will post about how I had to nurse…. pump…. train…. help…. and use an SNS system (thanks to my wise midwife!!) to get my little special needs guy (complete with heart defect and hypotonia–weak muslces) to nurse! What a challenge!! BUT– what a blessing! God Bless!

  16. I am so glad that this all went so well for you! I must say though, even what you call ‘low supply’ sounds like a lot to me – and makes me slightly jealous, in a healthy way. 🙂 (who has struggled with 2 and a low supply both times, especially with my son) I always nursed on both sides (sometimes not with my daughter) and was every two hours through 4 months and at least once through the night until we were on some solids. Be encouraged! and keep up the diligence when it is disheartening and tiring!

  17. Stephanie!

    You’ve done such a great job getting your milk supply up. Yeah! Truthfully, I was so worried for you. My sister just did a ten day trip and her little one (older than yours) entirely forgot how to nurse and refused to try. Nursing had to be given up completely in the end (though she still pumps a little for him). So I was so worried that it would happen to you to. So glad to see the happy ending. 🙂

    From my own experience I can say that nursing often really does the trick of increasing supply. I nursed Elena often anyways because it was the only way I kept my breast infections at bay, but there were a few times (after a severe flu and after I had a medication that dried up my milk) where my milk supply was quite low. I nursed her as often as she wanted even when I didn’t have any milk (about every two hours) and it was back within no time. I know that’s not everyone’s experience, but I do think that some people aren’t as willing to nurse more often because of scheduling difficulties. It was so worth it for me though. 🙂
    .-= Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet´s last blog ..The Healthy $1 Menu: Peasant Lentil & Kale Soup =-.

  18. Hi Stephanie,

    I just found your blog and was reading through all your breastfeeding posts. Did you know that peppermint can really decrease milk supply? I saw it in your tea recipe. Two great resources on herbs and breastfeeding are Sheila Humphrey’s “The Nursing Mother’s Herbal” and the section “Herbs and Breastfeeding” on kellymom.com

    It’s so great to see your commitment to giving your babies mama’s milk!

  19. I know this is almost a year old already but if anyone stumbles across it like I did, and you are looking to increase supply, try Fenugreek (herbal supplement). I just got some from the health food store and it doubled my supply within a day or 2. Take it for at least a week but it is safe to take longer. Phase it out when you want to stop taking it so the supply doesn’t drop back down and make sure you take it with food. On an empty stomach is painful.

  20. Wow! Did I need this! I can already see that my reply will be rather lengthy as this has struck a cord for me, so I am going to pre-apologize for taking up so much space! I have a one month old little boy who was born premature and also struggles with acid reflux. I talked to a local nurse lactation consultant today and got a little hope from her suggestions, but was still wondering if I could souly breastfeed my son. I have struggled with a low milk supply in the past and was able to breastfeed my daughter for only 3 months. My son had a better latch and drawl so I was very hopeful this time around. I started pumping immediately after he was born and continued to pump on a 2 or 3 hour schedule, determined to get it down this time. But after bringing him home to deal with 2 hour feedings/pumping sessions as well as a two year old and household in need of my attention due to a 5 day stay in the NICU (still relatively short considering some other preemies), I gave in to supplementation with the recommended 22cal formula. I just didn’t see any increase in my supply, just a decrease in sleep and energy. I know some would condemn me for giving up..ever..but sometimes sanity has to come first in order to properly take care of your family. I am still trying to nurse him (as we speek) but often feel defeated as he never seems satisfied after breastfeeding (I already know i’m going to have to make him at least a 3oz bottle after an hour to 2 hour breastfeeding session). I have a receipe for Mother’s Milk Cookies given to me by the NICU that aren’t too bad and am looking into other ways of increasing my breastmilk (phenugreek, etc) so I hope those die-hards will at least give me credit for that. I would be more than willing to share the receipe for those cookies as they are also chalked full of good fiber and whole grains! My daughter even likes them and (regretably and unfortunately) she is a junk food junky! I am extremely jealous of those who can feed and store milk. Stephanie, your milk seemed to come back full force fairly quickly and I can only hope with each child my experience gets better. I appreciate the renewed hope I got from this blog! Thank you and God bless! 🙂

  21. This is such an encouragement! I have been exclusively breastfeeding my daughter since birth (she’s now 7 months old) and feel like I have a low milk supply. I read your post on solids, too, and I’m so glad to hear I’m not crazy. I’ve been nursing her almost ever 2-3 hours during the day (might be a growth spurt) lately but I want to do whatever I can to keep my supply up and not replace milk with solids as what she needs is the liquid gold. I feel like i’m nursing a lot and it is effort but so worth it to know she’s getting the good stuff. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  22. I, too, was encouraged to read your posting and all these comments. My son is 10 months old, and I have been struggling with low milk supply since he was 7 months old. Everyone seemed to think my milk was drying up, and that I should just give him formula and move on, but that just didn’t feel right to me so I did everything I could and kept persisting with nursing. My husband and I are missionaries in South Sudan, so haven’t had access to much support (let alone a good pump!), but I’ve been emailing someone from La Leche League, and I started taking fenugreek and expressing milk like crazy and nursing ALL day and several times during the night. Somewhere around 9 months I felt like my milk supply was at a good level again (at 7.5 months my supply was so low it felt like there was hardly anything in there!). I’ve struggled with how to balance nursing and solids (I appreciated your post on solids and I will definitely do things differently with my next baby–more milk longer, less fuss over solids!), and now I’m still trying to prioritize nursing until my son is around 1 year old, but he seems less interested in nursing these days during the day. He just nurses for short quick sessions and ends each session with a bite (ouch!). I want to keep nursing often because I’m afraid of my supply decreasing again, but when he bites I have to stop that session and then often he isn’t interested again for quite a while. Sorry that this is getting a bit long-winded. It’s just exciting to find an online community of like-minded nursing moms who might “get” my situation when there are very few people here who do!

  23. Hi, I know this is a really old post, but I am dealing with a similar situation. I have tried several natural remedies for curing my UTI, with little to no results, so I have started taking antibiotics. I am switching my baby temporarily to formula (10 days total), while the antibiotics are in my system. I have a couple of questions: Did you do lots of things to boost your milk supply while pumping, or just when you started back with nursing? What sort of probiotics did you take to get yourself back to normal? Did you pump at the normal intervals that you would normally feed, or less or more often? Sorry for all of the questions, I just want to do this right.:) TIA!

  24. Thank you so much for writing this blog it reads like many of my weeks nursing my now 4 month old baby boy. We had issues with weight gain from early on and had to supplement with formula. I couldn’t seem to get my supply up and called on a lactation consultant. I had some infections post delivery and perhaps that’s why so many problems. With her help some nursing tea fenugreek other herbs and small doses of domperidon we got back to 90% breast feeding . Now I’ve been hit with a bad flu and chest infection more antibiotics and feel my milk is dwindling again. Plus my little one is sick too and not feeding well which won’t help supply. So I hope when we recover I too can build it back up again with more hard work pumping and perseverance. I know exactly how you feel I get sad that I don’t have overflowing milk for my baby like so many other women I know. But reading your blog and hearing other mums struggles helps me , I’m not the only one out there 🙂 thanks

  25. Great post.
    Every mother aspires to breastfeed her baby for as long as possible. Hence, as a mother you need to avoid certain food like thyme, parsley, spearmint, peppermint, cabbage leaves, sage, oregano, black walnut, sorrel, periwinkle herb, chickweed, yarrow, lemon balm, etc. as they reduce the breast milk supply.

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