milk matters, round 2

June 19, 2014

When Annabel was 4 months old, I wrote this post about the frustration of pumping my heart out and still not getting enough.  A few weeks ago, I thought I was doing much better with round #2 — fancier pump, my own office to do it in, and better yields (sometimes).  And yet here we are.  Just shy of 4 months in, despite a sizable stash that I mentioned in the last post, I’m struggling.  I’m eating a ton, exercising pretty minimally, taking Go-Lacta/More Milk Plus/Fenugreek, and I pump 5x and feed C 4x a day.  And I’m definitely still producing a lot of milk:  15 oz pumped today over 4 sessions so far.  But it’s still.  Just.  Not.  Quite.  Enough.

even if i did build those arms from scratch

Both of my babies were (are) eaters who hang out at the top of the weight charts, and I just don’t have awesome production, especially in the afternoons/evenings.  I just had Josh give C 3 oz because he simply wouldn’t settle and seemed unsatisfied, and it hurt to do so.  Not because I’m worried about giving up precious oz, but just because I’m (*&$@# MAD that with the amount of time and energy I’m pouring into this little ‘project’, that I’m losing.

In writing that, it’s clear to me that I’ve lost sight of the true goal: feed C, enjoy the mother-baby relationship, and stay sane.  I remember the exact same thing happening with Annabel — I started to fixate on this issue to the detriment of . . . well, everything else.  I could never relax because I was always worried about the optimum duration of pumping, and stressing over the perfect timing so that I could collect maximum oz and satisfy during feeds at the breast.

I’m always anxious at work now (about fitting pumping between patients) and I’m just not very happy with the way things are going right now.  I don’t know what the answer is.  My plan was to try to do things for C as long as I did for A, which means sticking it out for 9 months of pumping.  Yet right now that seems . . . impossible, at least the way I’m doing it now.  I’m tired, REALLY tired.

I’m not ready to throw in the towel, but I’m actually considering cutting down drastically on pumping — going down to 2 pumps/day at work and that’s it — knowing that it will mean my supply will drop and supplementing will be necessary, even on weekends.  Writing that makes me feel both giddy and incredibly guilty.

let’s focus on the positive: 2 healthy beautiful babies
PS: this may seem counter to this post, but they are two different issues.  I’m willing to postpone losing those vanity lbs of leftover baby weight to keep feeding C, but I’m perhaps not willing to go completely insane with respect to the rest of my life.  Oh, and yes — my supply did increase back up when I stopped with the calorie-tracking, but it is still not quite enough, or at least it wasn’t today.


  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Oh Sarah, my heart goes out to you because I relate to this on so many levels. IF we decide to have another child, I think I’m dreading the pumping and supply woes more than anything else. I clearly remember the stress and guilt I felt about my pumping output, the number of sessions, whether I was eating enough even though I wanted to be "thin" again, the effect of running … etc etc etc. I don’t envy the position you are in.

    I remember when I reduced my pumping sessions and had to start supplementing with formula on the weekends (right around same time as you), I felt a lot of guilt initially but that came to be a sense of relief and happiness and I think that made me a better mom in the end. Ultimately, looking back I wish I had cut myself a break a little bit sooner. I would like to say I’ll be easier on myself on the potential second time around but I know that it probably won’t be that way. I also remember how much I looked forward to the three nursing sessions a day I did have, especially coming home after a day at work and having that time to snuggle and bond at the end of the day.

    No matter what you do, ultimately you have to make the best decision for your own mental health in order to be the best version of yourself as a parent, wife, doctor and friend. I’m thinking about you and your sweet family!

    Also, A and C are so adorable and I loved the side by side comparison picture you posted yesterday. Such happy kiddos, and that’s the most important thing!

    • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      And I’m also really impressed that you have an over 300 oz surplus! When I went back to work after Griffin, I think I had about 30-40 oz in the freezer (that’s probably an overestimate, to be honest!) and I think I peaked at 90 oz. So technically you have made 300+ oz more than he needed!!

  • Reply Mtbakergirl March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    From my experience I am a lot more gentle with my daughter than I am with myself.
    Would it help to think about what advice would you give future Annabel if she was in your shoes?

  • Reply Ana March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Oh Sarah, yes I’ve been there. I just was NOT a good pumper and I spent so much time & energy eking out every last ounce. Pumping f-ing sucks, its not how it was meant to be, and while it does give us the option of continuing to bf after going back to work, the idea that if you try hard enough you "should" be able to pump enough using this ridiculous machine to meet all your baby’s needs is…harmful. I remember being told, and reading, that I just had to try x, y, z (some of those things being absolutely detrimental to quality of life, like getting up and pumping in the middle of the night, or taking drugs with ominous-sounding side effect profiles, or worse—denying the baby milk during the day so he would reverse cycle and BF more at night). Like if I REALLY wanted it, I would do all those things because a "good mother" would do all those things. In the end, I figured a little formula supplementation was the better way to go.

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam March 10, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    @Sarah – I’m not sure there’s anything magical about 6 months on a liquid diet. We had big eaters, and I started all of them on rice cereal between 4.5-5 months. It helped fill their tummies up. I think at 6 months they would have been miserable no matter how much milk I was producing, because they needed something more. Unless you have a specific reason not to, couldn’t C start getting cereal in the next month or so? Between that and the freezer stash, even if you only pumped 2x at work and not at home, you’d do fine well past 6 months.

  • Reply Allison March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    First off, you are doing awesome. I for one cannot imagine pumping that many times a day on top of everything else you have going on. I say–cut yourself some slack! As you showed with A, nursing doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. It just seems to be the easiest on your sanity to maybe cut back on the pumping and supplement if needed. My experience with my first was a little different t–he absolutely refused a bottle. I work part time, but still this created lots of issues for us over the first year. Going back, i can see the situation caused a ton of stress for me (like having to drive across town to come home and nurse over lunch and basically having no time to eat except in the car) and there are things I wish I had done differently to cut myself a break. I think we all set our standards to be impossibly high and can sacrifice our sanity as a result . (However , I know this is easier said than done–and I’m just hoping I can remember this when my 2nd is born in a few months!)

  • Reply Old granny March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Reducing your stress over supply by reducing one pump session at a time might actually help. Further the baby that quits breast milk with ANY left over in the freezer actually did not win anything…for baby or mom. It honestly is ok to use up the stash!!!
    YOU ARE BEING A TERRIFIC STRONG DEDICATED MOMMY … try for a giggling one too. Giggling and laughing and being joyous are really key for parenting.

  • Reply Colleen March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I commented on your previous posts about this but since then, my daughter started daycare and I’m completely unable to keep up with her and had to start supplementing with formula. I still struggle with the guilt of this, but overall, I think I’m sooooo much happier! It’s amazing how liberating it is to not worry what will happen if I don’t produce enough and to not feel like I need to "ration" her feeds. And I think my daughter is much happier too because she’s not hungry all day. I have to admit that I thought about reverse cycling her, but since we started supplementing, she started sleeping a 6+ hour stretch at night and it’s heavenly! I’ve instead deciding to focus on that she’s still getting a lot of breast milk and the small amount of formula she’s getting is worth a sane mommy! I hope you find peace!

    Oh, and does this mean that you didn’t see any remarkable results with the golacta? I hadn’t bought it but was still debating trying to see if it would help.

  • Reply Angie March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Please don’t be so hard on yourself. We only have one and I had such issues with the latch at first and was devastated. Finally things worked out and I just made my goal into 3 month increments. We made it to around 8 and had enough to get to about 9. Now, as we talk about possibly adding a second I don’t think I’ll be as hard on myself. As a teacher I had set times to pump and it was difficult to wait almost 5 hours to recess and then lunch was an hour and 40 minutes later. I set up a good stash the first 3 months when I was off and when we came back from Christmas vacation my husband left the freezer door open and over 70 bags were destroyed. I cried so much. Try to focus on the bonding time with C. Hang in there! Mommy guilt starts so early.

  • Reply Anne March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I think the comment I read most here is "calm yourself/give yourself some slack/enjoy/don’t over stress, etc." I think you have to listen to those words, it’s important to be a happy mother/girlfriend/friend and life is too short. Go for half formula half breastmilk it will be perfect and man, just relaxed 🙂 My boyfriend only drank formula and he is never sick and is so intelligent haha.

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