THE PERFECT STORM THAT SCREWED MY MILK SUPPLY
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
A lot of things can affect your milk supply. It's one of the reasons it's so difficult to increase it - every woman is different and will respond differently to variables. For one woman, stress may have no effect but for another, it can be a killer. The same goes for sleep, calories, illness, and hydration. The list goes on. People often ask me what I did to increase my supply from 25 ounces per day to 40. I can give a laundry list of answers but it's impossible to tell which of these things (if any) were actually effective. And someone else may try every single thing I did and not have the same results. It's a crap shoot.
This past week, my supply took a huge hit. It dropped to numbers that I haven't seen in months. Completely distraught, I spent hours trying to figure out what I did wrong and how I could fix it. A dangerous game for the psyche of a new mom. Ultimately, I decided that there had been a perfect storm of multiple variables that all played a part. Some of it was within my control but a lot of it wasn't.
Storm Number 1: DIET. I've been really down about my post-baby body lately. Avi is almost 8 months old and I was sure I'd be back to my old size and shape by now. I didn't gain that much weight when I was pregnant and people kept telling me 'you're all belly!' Turns out that none of that mattered and I have a closet full of beautiful clothes that don't fit me. Getting dressed in the morning has become depressing. I decided that what I needed was a diet with hard and fast rules. Eat this, don't eat that. I decided on South Beach. South Beach has 2 phases, the first of which is incredibly strict. Basically no carbs at all - including fruit and certain vegetables. Generally speaking, this is not my philosophy of a healthy diet, but I'd been feeling desperate.
Storm Number 2: STRESS. This was one of the most stressful weeks I've had in a long time, both personally and professionally. On the work front, this is the busiest time of the year. We have groups of people visiting from abroad, important meetings about budgets, two different conferences that happened concurrently, and my administrative assistant is out on maternity leave. On the personal front, Jared's grandmother has been ill and is not doing well. We decided that the most important thing for Jared to do was fly home so that he could be with his family. While he was gone and I was parenting solo - Avi got sick and had three days straight of fever.
Storm Number 3: ILLNESS. By Sunday, my body had had enough. I woke up feeling terrible. My heart rate was up to 100bpm and fluctuated between that and 120bpm for over an hour (my resting heart rate is about 65bpm). I laid in bed and could feel my heart thumping in my chest. I tried to get up and was too dizzy and light headed to walk. Jared brought my pump to the bed and after over 30 minutes of pumping, I got half of what I typically get. My head was pounding so hard, I almost didn't care. I spent the rest of the day in bed, hydrating and eating healthy carbs to try to get my blood sugar up. Thankfully, Jared was amazing and took care of everything around the house.
I think it's clear to me that these three things played into each other. I couldn't control the things that were stressing me, but they were most likely exacerbated by a diet that wasn't sustaining me nutritionally. And my illness on Sunday was most certainly caused by a combination of the diet and stress (and some good ol' lack of sleep). I did some googling and learned that no, it's not safe to be in Phase 1 of South Beach while nursing. It's simply not enough calories and nutrition to sustain a nursing mom.
Luckily, after spending most of Sunday lying down and eating carbs, my supply started to increase. My last pump of the day wasn't bad and my Monday total was right back on track. It's amazing to me that after a week of steady decline, a few changes like a healthy diet and a day of rest could make such a fast and positive change. A reminder that in order to take care of others, we must take care of ourselves.
My personal pumping journey has inspired me to become a Lactation Counselor and Pumping Expert so that I could help other moms have successful and positive experiences in pumping. Click here to learn more.