Oversupply and Undersupply

I was one of those lucky women whose milk came in quickly ( 3 days after birth). And I made the correct amount right from the start. The first two weeks I was just engorged enough to meet Jack’s demands during those first few growth spurts but not be leaking all the time. Then I somehow got it in my head I needed to accumulate a massive freezer stash as soon as possible. So I started to pump whenever I could. I also took fenugreek everyday for 2 weeks to boost my supply. By the time Jack was a month old I had over 100 ounces frozen. I was so proud, my baby could eat for several days!

His first milk coma. I should have know if
he was happy, I was making enough milk.

Around this time I got my first clogged duct—and man did it hurt. A few days later I got another. Then another. I also noticed Jack’s diapers where green and frothy. He also started to cough/choke and pull off my breast when my letdown started. I asked my lactation consultant, she said I likely had a strong letdown caused by an oversupply. I told her I was pumping a lot and she said that was really unnecessary. Unless I planned on being away from him often, I didn’t need more than a few bottles worth stashed.

My freezer stash again. I am considering
donating some of it now.

I looked up on La Leche’s website how to correct an oversupply. I stopped taking the fenugreek and right away I stopped getting insanely engorged. Then I didn’t need to pump during the day at all. I only pumped for relief if Jack slept through the night. And when he woke up to nurse at night, I pumped the other side after to keep it from leaking and waking me up. It was painful at first and I got two more clogged duct during the process. Jack’s also stopped choking and his diapers went back to normal. I felt silly for thinking I needed to make so much extra milk everyday. It only caused Jack and I problems.

Then my milk stabilized around 12 weeks postpartum. Many moms mistake this for their milk drying up. Your body figured out how much milk to make for your baby, so you no longer get engorged and will leak a lot less. I knew this was coming and welcomed the relief. I only woke up 1 or 2 times a week to pump at night.
I had just nursed him and he was still giving me the milk face.
About this time I also went back on birth control. I know that exclusively breast feeding can be a very effect form of birth control when done correctly, but I didn’t want to take that chance. Jack is the best surprise of my life, but I am so not ready for any more. I selected Mirena, which the doctor told me repeatedly has little to no chance of interfering with my milk supply. At first there were no issues, so I didn’t think twice about it. Then Jack hit the 4 month sleep regression. He woke every hour to two hours at night, demanding milk. I had plenty so it was not an issue at the start. He was nurse for 5 minutes then would easily go back to sleep. About a week into the sleep regression is when my Mirena took full affect and I noticed right away Jack was nursing for 20 minutes or more. And he getting frustrated. Sometime he even demanded the other side as well. This also started to happen during the day. One day I pumped to make a bottle so I could go out for a bit and hardly anything came out. I mean I spent 30 minutes barely getting 1 ounces from both sides. No wonder Jack was getting frustrated! I know pumping is not a good indication of total output because your baby is better at removing milk, but I always responded well to pumping. Something was wrong.
I realized that it had to be the Mirena, since nothing else changed. I talked to my lactation consultant again. She brought up the whole “most mom mistake stabilization for a loss of supply” thing, despite me telling her I knew the difference. So she weighed him before and after a feeding session right there at the office to show me he was getting enough. Jack nursed for 20 minutes and barely got 1.5 ounces. She said that he will need to nurse more often if that is all he getting. And eventually I might need to supplement with formula if it interferes with his weight gain. She really did not want that to happen though, she urged me to just keep at it.

I asked my local La Leche League for help. A couple moms also experienced a dip in supply when returning to birth control. One mom said that it’s because it signals your body to start having menstrual cycle hormones again. Those interfere with the hormones for milk production. She suggested I take the Mirena out if it becomes a major issue. I didn’t want to take it out, but I also did not want my milk to dry up. I want to nurse Jack until at least two-years-old, and no stupid little medical device was going to prevent me from reaching my goal.

I was going back to work in 2 weeks and did not want to use up my freezer stash. I knew that if I turned to the stash I would be demanding less of my breasts, causing them to make even less. This would only make the problem worse. So I pulled out all the stops. The lactation consultant told me to go back on fenugreek. I could up to 4 pills 3 times a day if I needed. I ordered a two-pack of the big bottles off of Amazon Mom. I also made lactation cookies (check out my food blog for the recipe) and devoured of them all. I also ate oatmeal with a big scoop of brewer’s yeast (also got off of Amazon Mom) for breakfast every morning. I drank Mother’s Milk Tea and a ton of water daily too. I also let Jack nurse all he wanted. I even let him stay latch for 5-10 minutes once he fell asleep for a nap to increase the demand on my body. I also pumped every chance I got.

It took 12 days of being vigilant, but it worked! One night I got up to pump at 3 AM and got my normal 3-4 ounces. Jack stopped fussing at my breast during the day and fell asleep easily again at night (though he still woke up often because of the sleep regression). I cut back on the marathon nursing sessions and only make lactation cookies when I want a treat. I am still taking the fenugreek to keep my supply from dipping again. I scaled back though, only 2 pills 2 times a day.

It came just in time too, the next day I started back at work. The milk I pumped that night became his bottles for my first evening back. It’s been 4 weeks now and my supply is back to normal. I stabilized again and don’t get engorged often at all. I never had to touch my freezer stash (I am actually considering donating my stash now) and I didn’t need to supplement with formula either. Stubbornness paid off big time!

How cute is the romper I got in Napa?

I shared this story because I couldn’t find another one like it. I am not judging anyone who chooses to give formula or needs to supplement at all. Always do what’s best for you and your baby. But I hear from friends and other moms who didn’t get the support and information they needed to push through breastfeeding hurdles. Breastfeeding is not always easy and does not always come naturally. It’s work and takes a commitment. It is possible to succeed, don’t discouraged! If your baby is gaining weight and making enough dirt/wet diapers, don’t worry about needing to supplement. Your body is amazing and can fix the issue if you let it. I have fixed an oversupply and undersupply in the span of 4 months now. Get help and seek out support like I did.

Here are resources I used:
How Does Milk Production Work, KellyMom
Fenugreek Seeds For Increasing Milk Supply, KellyMom
Oversupply, La Leche League
Engorgement, La Leche League
Brestfeeding and Fertility, KellyMom
Increasing Low Milk Supply, KellyMom
Is Baby Getting Enough Milk?, Kellymom

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