Low Milk Supply....or not?

I have never met a single mother who hasn't at one time or another wondered whether she was making enough milk for her child. I thought it with my first baby. I recall vividly laying on our sofa nursing my sweet little boy and crying, on the phone with anyone who would listen as I explained his 45 minute nursing sessions, 15 minute nap, and then the rooting for another meal. Certainly I wasn't making enough milk for this little boob-leech precious bundle.

"How are his diapers?" Fine. 6-8 wet; 3-5 seedy, yellow stools.

"How is his weight?" Fine. Back to birth weight by 2 weeks and steady gain after.

"Then you're fine."

What? Certainly these chicks on the other end of the phone didn't mean to imply that I was actually, well, making enough milk for my baby?

I pumped. I never got more than an ounce. If that. Oh my, this child would definitely starve.

"Why are you pumping?" asked the pediatrician, when I casually mentioned that perhaps she should force me to give some sort of supplement since my precious one was, after all, starving.

Why was I pumping? Isn't that what you're SUPPOSED to do? I bought a Medela Pump In Style because, well, I'm a sucker who does what she sees anyone else do that's what all pregnant moms do.

Suspicious, I picked up a flyer in that same pediatricians office and found myself at a La Leche League meeting, where I learned all I needed to know about mothering. About supply and demand. Unlimited and unscheduled feedings. That co-sleeping was not just OK, but they reinforced what I knew in my heart -- that it was better for both of us. Everyone oohed and aahed over my little newborn and told me I was doing well.

That group of granola-esque mamas saved my sanity and my little Tucker's life. He has only been sick a couple of times in his 12 year existence and I can proudly boast that the little fellow has only been on one antibiotic ever.

And he is brilliant. Really.

My second boy? Honestly I never contemplated milk supply. I tandem nursed Tucker and Griffin for over a year -- including all night, every night  -- and perhaps I was too sleep deprived and semi-conscious to wonder.


My body made enough milk to sustain a newborn (a chunky one at that) and a rambunctious toddler (who was never a fan of the solids, save for pizza) and I spent a blissful 3 years in nursing oblivion.

Then came my third, finger sucking, never good at the breast daughter. Plugged ducts and an actual low supply proved that underwires really were overrated and Fenugreek really did made one's skin smell like maple syrup. Oatmeal became my constant companion. I was hydrated for perhaps the first time in my life. Now I knew what a low supply was.

The latch that I knew was never quite right.

The constant look of hunger in her little face.

The drinking at the breast and then repeated bursts of rapid sucking in a frustrated attempt to get another letdown.

The slow weight gain. 

The one stool every 6-7 days.

I was able to get my supply up enough to keep her nursing for 18 months. I'd have given anything to keep her at my breast. She was (and still is) an independent gal with a mind of her own. So I take what I can get and treasure the memories (even the memories of her and I spending late nights on the sofa so as not to wake anyone, watching marathons of "Dog the Bounty Hunter". Don't ask.)

I've come to realize, not only in my own personal experience but also my professional, that our bodies are made to produce enough milk for the child (or children) we are currently nursing. No more, no less. Just enough.

In our society where more is more and the practice of hoarding is now a reality show, I talk to moms every day who are anxious because they aren't able to nurse full time and get a freezer stash going fast enough.

Really, it isn't normal to produce so much that you have a roly-poly baby and 87 bags of frozen milk in the deep freeze. 

Herbs and prescription meds to increase supply should be your last resort. Actually, I wouldn't suggest them unless there is a weight issue with baby. I have moms who start Fenugreek as soon as their milk comes in. They want more, more, MORE milk now.

It isn't natural.

We as a society need to embrace the concept of moderation, of slowing down, of letting nature take it's course. By all means, intervene when there is a problem, but for the vast majority of moms, there isn't an actual problem, only a perceived problem.

Bottom line? Just nurse your baby. Snuggle -- a lot. Take warm baths together and sleep right next to each other. Let him or her nurse all.night.long. (That is truly when they get their best nursing in!) Eat well. Drink to thirst. Eat oats.

I venture to say that if you do what you know in your heart is the right thing to do, you will be just fine. God gave us that marvelous thing called "mother's intuition" for a reason, and He made babies to know precisely what to do in order to not only survive, but thrive.

*Remind yourself of this next time a marathon nursing session has you contemplating cutting off your breast and leaving it in the bed while you go to the bathroom.

So. Forget the freezer stash.

You need room for more ice cream, anyway.