Too Little Too Late?
December 18, 2009 11:18 PM   Subscribe

Breastfeeding Filter: When is the breastfeeding window of opportunity over for good?

So I had a baby three weeks ago, tried breastfeeding for a couple of days and then had some complications and got very sick (infection and severe anemia). I was hospitalized and nothing happened on the breastfeeding front for almost two weeks and the baby went on formula and did very well. I was pretty much given up on as far as lactation specialists and breastfeeding was concerned. I tried pumping a couple of times and nothing. I was told that this can happen when anemic and sick, etc.

So, now at three weeks post delivery, it seem like my milk finally came in...a little. I can pump out a few tablespoons a day with a manual pump--the only breastfeeding supply I have since I wasn't expecting to be doing this. The kid will latch on for a few minutes at a time but doesn't get much this way. All my chances to see lactation specialists are over now (in regards to insurance coverage.) So basically now I pump a few tablespoons out and pour it in to a bottle with formula and allow the baby to latch on for a few minutes before he gets his bottle. He eats up to four ounces or more at a time, every three hours or so.

So, question: Is there any point to this? Do I have a shot at breastfeeding him or did the window close for me and now I am just running on exhaust at the tail end of my "milk comes in" window? It is time consuming and tiring to do both bottle/breast/pump like this. Is there a point to this or is it too little too late to matter that much.

I'm not a crazed "kid needs to be breastfed at all cost" person, however, I'll put in the time and work if it is advantageous and might improve. I'm ok with doing part formula/part breastfeeding too. Just trying to choose the best course of action (Greatest benefit to baby without killing mom with extra work).
posted by Bueller to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From my experience, it's not too late. If you're able to get a little milk out, you more than likely can increase that amount. Make sure that you pump frequently (like, every 2-3 hours), even if you aren't pumping very much. If you nurse your baby, pump right afterwards. Also, if at all possible, try double pumping (as I was told this can increase your prolactin). Some other tricks that helped me increase my milk supply: eating lots of oatmeal, drinking lots of water, and getting as much sleep as possible. Also, massaging the breasts before nursing/pumping also seems to help sometimes. But...definitely pump frequently!! I think that was the number one thing that did it for me. Hope this is helpful! Best of luck, and congrats on your little one! milk supply increased over the course of several days. So don't give up if you don't see immediate results!
posted by I_love_the_rain at 11:28 PM on December 18, 2009

It is absolutely not too late! If at all possible, I highly recommend you see a lactation consultant though, because you need good advice to help you here. Does the hospital you delivered at have lactation consultants you can see? Are there any sliding scale type LCs in your area? LLL is another possible avenue, but I don't personally have experience with them to know if they are well-suited to your situation - they will help you for free though!

The fact that your baby will latch on is great, that's the biggest hurdle in some ways. Keep encouraging him to nurse, as it will help you get your milk supply up and keep his interest up too. The more you stimulate your breasts the more milk you are telling your body to make, whether its nursing or pumping. Ideally (if you had all the time in the world hah) you would latch baby on and get him to nurse a little, and then follow it up by pumping, every 2-3 hours. A double electric pump is going to be a necessity I think, saves time and sanity, much more efficient than trying to use a manual pump.

Some online resources that will help you greatly:

Check those resources and google for ways to increase milk supply. Nursing/pumping frequently is the most crucial step, on top of that you can try eating oatmeal or whole grains, taking herbal supplements or teas, or even try some domperidone at the extreme end.

Another avenue - talk to your OB, if you think he/she is breastfeeding knowledgeable. I know not all are, but worth considering. Good luck!
posted by Joh at 11:57 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just memailed you the details for the organisation that helped me out a lot when I started breastfeeding, but it is not too late! Try pumping one side while bub is on the other. Stay warm! Oats, flax seed, brewers yeast, fennel and blessed thistle are sometimes helpful. There are drugs you can take as well. Feed bub every time they're hungry even if it's only for a few minutes. The more milk you remove from your breasts, the more you'll make.

It took three weeks or so for my milk to truly 'come in' as well - before that it was still colostrum/transitional. Everything settled once that happened, but if I'm cold/dehydrated I start getting problems again (and if it's hot, I leak all over the place).
posted by geek anachronism at 12:12 AM on December 19, 2009

Fenugreek is known to increase milk.
posted by hortense at 12:31 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll second the fenugreek suggestion if you can stomach it--buy a small quantity at first, because it made me vomit. My doctors also suggested that I drink dark beer. It may or may not have helped with the milk, but it certainly made things more bearable for me!

I'd suggest nursing first for as long as the child will let you, then bottle-feeding them until they're full. I didn't pump for the same reasons you give--it's exhausting, a pain in the ass, and I got basically nothing from it.

My milk didn't come in for a good few weeks after I had my daughter, but by the time she was a few months old, we stopped using bottles altogether. Be prepared for this to take a long time, and for the possibility that you may not be able to produce enough milk to sustain your child without a supplement.
posted by MeghanC at 1:20 AM on December 19, 2009

While they are often whack-jobs with regard to a lot of parenting issues, I found a lot of good advice on the breastfeeding forums. Basically, putting your baby to the breast as frequently as possible, always before offering a bottle, and pumping in between, can be good ways to increase production.

I never tried fenugreek, but oatmeal - at least 1.5 standard servings in the morning - plus Mother's Milk tea helped me to increase my milk supply at different points.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 1:34 AM on December 19, 2009

Fenugreek and a drug called domperidone will REALLY increase your supply. Domperidone is not prescribed for lactation but works a treat. You can google it. I had a breast reduction and was told I would NEVER EVER EVER breastfeed. BabyTaff is now one and still happily breastfed. But I'm still on 2 capsules of fenugreek three times a day and take one tablet of Domperidone three times a day.

I started on the Domperidone taking two tablets three times a day and cut down. It will make an enormous difference. Other folk say that porridge/oats will also. But I'm lazy and went with the drugs. And demand creates supply. So the more your baby feeds, the more your boobs will create.

The suggestion to get your supply really going is to take to your bed for two full days. No visitors, no cleaning, no cooking, no washing. And have your baby pretty much in your arms feeding, or in the cot sleeping the whole time. And all you do is feed the baby, eat, drink and sleep. Oh, and go to the bathroom... because you'll be drinking heaps of fluid to help make the milk. (No caffeine though...) Your body needs to rest to make milk also.

I know a fair bit about this because of my reduction. I'm happy to answer any questions you like. But the fact that you can get ANYTHING out means you're going to be able to do this without too much trouble. It will be a pain for a couple of weeks, but absolutely doable.

But... the drugs and constant, constant, constant feeding is the trick. And the rest. (If for some silly american insurance reason you can't get the drugs, take the fenugreek or fennel seeds in the worst case scenario.) Kellymom is a great website.

Congratulations by the way. Babies are the nicest things in the whole universe. Yay for you.
posted by taff at 2:14 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is an Australian hospital information site about the motilium/domperidone. The link is cached but here ya go anyway..

click here
posted by taff at 2:18 AM on December 19, 2009

My local LC is free. Probably a LLL LC would be too. I'd just pay for one myself.

Yogi Mother's Milk tea helps my supply but this situation screams 'professional required'.
posted by k8t at 4:26 AM on December 19, 2009

I'm on my phone (and breastfeeding) right now but google 'kitty maxwell' 'santa barbara' - she's an LC that will give free advice on the phone. She's also super practical, cool and non-judgemental.
posted by k8t at 4:31 AM on December 19, 2009

Contact La Leche League. They are free, and are mothers who have been in every possible breastfeeding situation, and they will help you. There used to be local chapters everywhere. I hope they are still around, my youngest is 29:-)

Hexatron's Wife
posted by hexatron at 5:16 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Can you rent a hospital-grade pump? It will be a lot more effective and easier on you than a manual one. Also, if you start having latching difficulties, try out a nipple shield.
posted by chiababe at 5:58 AM on December 19, 2009

Seconding getting a hospital-grade pump. Medela is the brand most easily obtained in the US, and you can rent them at pretty much any stand-alone pharmacy. The difference between the hospital-grade and the manual pumps is amazing. I was only ever able to get a few tablespoons with a manual pump but was able to eventually get ounces and ounces with a Medela.
posted by cooker girl at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2009

I believe the keyword for what you're looking for is "relactation", and yes, it does seem like many women have done this with some degree of success. This page, from the Dr. Jack Newman breastfeeding clinic, is directed primarily at adoptive mothers, but it has advice that seems applicable to your situation, as well.
posted by Bardolph at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2009

I would just second the recommendation to see a lactation consultant in your area. You'll have to pay, but they aren't that expensive and if it is helpful (and I think it can be), then you'll save that much and more on formula. Good luck.
posted by krudiger at 7:19 AM on December 19, 2009

All that pumping that folks above are (rightly) recommending probably sounds exhausting. In a similar situation, my LC had me pumping every 3 hours on a very gentle setting and only for 10 minutes at a time (I rented a hospital grade Medela and did both sides at once) -- but she had me take a break every night from pumping for six hours -- rest is very important. I was so relieved when she prescribed that break! It made the whole situation much more bearable.

I also took fenugreek and goat's rue, both of which worked so well that I ended up with oversupply and had to correct for it later. Memail me if you want me to look up the dosage I was on!
posted by xo at 9:11 AM on December 19, 2009

It's not at all too late. Start nursing the baby; nursing is the very best lactation stimulant. I loved nursing my baby, and encourage you to give it a shot.

A friend was able to start some lactation w/out pregnancy, with meds, fenugreek, fennel, yogi tea, and dedication. Your hormones are still very much active, so you are likely to be able to start nursing. Good luck, and congratulations on the new baby.
posted by theora55 at 10:29 AM on December 19, 2009

First, call La Leche League. They are still around, they are free, and they will probably be very, very helpful.

Second, give up the pump -- put the baby to breast. A baby is way better at getting milk out of a boob than even the best pump, and is also way better at stimulating your prolactin circuits.

If you want to get started before you call someone in, this is what I'd do: Make yourself a little "nest" in your bed with a water bottle, a bunch of energy bars, and a cooler with formula, and spend 16 (or ideally 24) hours putting the baby to breast every hour. Top the kid up with formula on his regular schedule. It is exhausting and sucky, but doing it even once will help an AWFUL lot in terms of establishing a supply.

My milk dried up due to dehydration and illness when my baby was 4 months old. (Not for long; I had norovirus and just could not keep fluids down at all.) After I was able to keep fluids down again, I did something like this, and my milk came back within 72 hours. The situations are analogous, not parallel, but I really think this will help a lot.
posted by KathrynT at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2009

Definitely not necessarily too late. I have a friend who's breastfed all three of her adopted children, so I've seen first-hand that babies can learn to nurse even after a rocky start.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:25 AM on December 19, 2009

Absolutely NOT too late.

Couple of things:

1. Nthing domperidone

2. Try goats rue - you can order these herbs in liquid form if your local health food store doesnt carry it

3 LA LECHE LEAGUE - this is a must. If you can't afford lactation consultants, you contact these ladies. You will find tons of support
posted by zia at 1:14 PM on December 19, 2009

Be careful with the domperidone if you go that route. Taper yourself off it gradually or you may suffer some pretty dire side effects as I did. Visual disturbances, headaches, all sorts of weirdness. If you're in the US you may have to either go to a compounding pharmacy or acquire it from out of the country. Reglan is another galactagogue to try and it is prescribable in the US.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2009

It is not too late, but if you child is doing fine on formula this far there is no harm in keeping him on it.
posted by BobbyDigital at 4:03 PM on December 19, 2009

I nearly died from a serious illness when my baby was 6 weeks old. I was in ICU for days, then a regular room for a week. They brought me an electric pump a few days before I left the hospital, but I still wasn't getting more than a few drops when I got home. While my baby had been taking a bottle from my husband, mother, and friend while I was in the hospital, when I got home, he refused a bottle from anyone, me included, or even if I left the room. He wanted only to breastfeed, and he would scream and cry. My friend who's a certified lactation consultant with her own practice told me that in order to increase my milk supply, I needed to go to bed with my baby and let him nurse more or less continuously. I didn't follow her advice for a couple of days because I thought it was good enough to sit in a recliner, holding my baby most of the time, letting him nurse a lot.

But after a couple of days of almost no increase in my milk supply (and a very fussy baby), I finally took her advice and went to bed with him. I lay in bed for several days, except to eat, shower, and use the bathroom. He lay next to me and was on the breast almost continuously, even when he was sleeping. I slept more, too, than I had been sleeping in the recliner in the living room. Between him suckling almost continuously and me getting more rest (both are critical to milk supply), within a few days, my milk supply was almost up to normal; a few days more than that and it was up to normal.

One advantage for me was that I had already been nursing for 6 weeks and had established a milk supply. Still, since you still have some milk, that's an advantage you have. The fact that your baby will still latch on is another huge advantage -- some babies wouldn't be at this point.

To confirm previous advice: Definitely nurse the baby first, then pump afterward - your baby will nurse longer if he's getting some milk. Make sure you're relaxed before you nurse -- your milk will let down better. An electric pump will be much more effective at increasing your milk supply than a manual pump. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Don't use a nipple shield! That causes breastfeeding problems for some babies. Do contact LLL for support and information, and if you don't "click" with the first leader you contact, try another. Some are really good and some aren't so helpful.
posted by onemorething at 6:35 PM on December 19, 2009

Congrats on the birth of your son!

It's not too late. Take brewer's yeast and drink a bottle of beer in the evening. Contact your local La Leche League, as many other posters have stated. If there is no local organization, google to find the one nearest you.

Your baby's sucking will stimulate lactation better than a pump, so relax, cut down on the formula, let him latch on and let nature aid you. The greatest benefit for both the baby and for you, is to take the time to establish breast-feeding! Congrats on the birth of your son!

My four children grew up robustly healthy, and like many other LLL moms, I'm convinced it's due in great part to the many months I breast-fed them.
posted by ragtimepiano at 12:49 AM on December 20, 2009

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