She Says… It’s Not Poison

Owen is a great nurser. In general, he eats exactly when he should and what he should and doesn’t stray too far from a normal schedule. But our breastfeeding experience is/was far from easy. As I said in an earlier post, I’m using nipple shields due to flat nipples and latching problems. Since I started using the shields, everything improved tenfold. Owen was finally eating well with little to no pain on my end.

Now we’re reaching another hurdle — pumping and bottles. A few weeks ago I posted about pumping. Since then, despite my best efforts of pumping more often, taking Fenugreek, eating oatmeal every morning, and trying to get rest and drink water, I can’t seem to pump more than 1 oz. Ever. The one time that we gave Owen a bottle (last Saturday night), I pumped in my “off” time, thinking I would get ounces and ounces more than usual. Nope! 1 1/2 ounces.

Currently I’m pumping right after a feeding. Obviously this is one reason why my amount is so low (since he just drank about 70% of what was there, theoretically). But since Owen takes about 45-50 minutes to eat, and eats every 2 hours, if I wait for a half hour after he eats, there will only be about half an hour for my milk to refill before our next feeding! So logically it seems like pumping more often, right after feedings makes more sense. But clearly I’m not seeing an increase with that theory, so maybe I should try waiting 30 minutes after a feeding, like many websites suggest.

I have found that the best time for me to pump is at night, since I know Owen’s going to go longer than his normal 2 hour stretch. Last night he slept for 6 ours straight!!! I couldn’t believe it. Recently he’s been doing a 4 hour stretch, then a 3 hour stretch, then back to 2 hour stretches. In any case, I find that pumping after our nighttime feedings is best because there is the longest amount of time before he wakes up again. When I try pumping in the morning (which is when a lot of other women find is the best time to pump), he seems squirmy and frustrated and starving at our next feeding. I guess I could supplement with the milk I just pumped at this point, but isn’t the purpose of all this pumping to put milk away so we can make a 3 1/2 oz bottle for a nighttime feeding? And someday have enough to put lots away for when I go back to work?

We’re going to try another bottle again tonight with some of the milk I’ve frozen so far. And maybe when I pump at that point I’ll probably have more there to pump out. But other than that, what’s a low milk producer to do? One option would be to supplement that nighttime bottle with formula. Although the idea of introducing formula after all this work makes me feel defeated, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not poison! That way I could still pump at that time, and then put that milk away for later. Someday I would like to NOT have to pump continuously throughout the day. It is so hard to find the time, and it stresses me out!

Has anyone else done this kind of supplementation just in one bottle at night? What are the downsides? I figure Owen is still getting all the benefits of breastmilk 95% of the time, and I would still pump at that point, so he’ll get the milk eventually. Thoughts? Suggestions?


28 responses to “She Says… It’s Not Poison

  1. I wouldn’t stress about this – do what is best for you! Remember if he’s getting breastmilk for the majority of his meals a little formula is ok. And if it makes life better for you, then it in turn makes life better for him!

    But I will say one thing, I remember when I first started pumping I only got an ounce or two but now I get much more. So I wouldn’t give up yet. Right now I feed my daughter (who is 3 1/2 months) between 6:30-7:30 and then put her to bed for the night (she sometimes eats in the middle of the night and sometimes doesn’t), but anyways I pump right before I go to bed and get anywhere from 5-12+ ounces! It’s great. But it took me time to get there and it also helps b/c it’s a couple hours after she last eats from me.

    Hope that helps, and remember a little formula is totally ok!

  2. My baby wouldn’t take formula AT ALL. Even mixed w/ breastmilk. So, coincidentally, I’ve been nursing for almost 11 months…sort of accidentally. On the flip side, Owen could like formula SO MUCH that he won’t nurse anymore. Not trying to scare you off, but that’s happened to several of my friends. I can’t pump much either. I am able to pump the MOST after the first morning feeding (not like a 3AM feeding…a reasonable time of the morning feeding). You’ll feel a LOT better about the middle of the nights in the coming weeks and months when he stretches it farther and farther. I can totally relate to you, though, because it literally takes me days to pump enough for one bottle (good thing I’m a stay-at-home mom!) and then it’s gone in five minutes. Keep pumping! My good friend who is a breastfeeding consultant swears that that’s the best way. (And drink LOTS of water!) PS – Pumps aren’t as good at getting all the milk as a baby. I was thrown off by this, too. My husband bottle fed J one day while I was pumping and he ATE five ounces while I pumped two…and I was totally full. It just isn’t as effective as a baby.

  3. talked about it a bit here and there- see her site for some info. I know at first it was hard for her to get enough milk, but over time she worked it out!

  4. A few suggestions… one, try warming up the girls with a heating pad for a few minutes before you pump. it really does help get more milk out. (Or, pump right after showering). Two, try and get a second letdown – after the first letdown, when the milk slows to a trickle, turn up the speed of the pump again (or press the letdown button if you have the medela) and see if you can get another round going, I used to get another 1-2 oz from that. You also will get more if you wait even half an hour after feeding, and as you do get more, your body will then make more in turn.

    My boys were on a three hour schedule from quite early on, so I would pump about an hour after they nursed. You had said that Owen didn’t need to eat nearly as frequently when you were on your drive, maybe over the next few days stretch those two hours out to 2.5 (or three if you can get there), that will give you more recharge time as well.

  5. Pumping was, in my experience, THE WORST. You almost never get the kind of volume that the baby can get, directly.

    A few thoughts, for whatever they’re worth:
    1. Soon, he’ll become a more efficient nurser and it won’t take quite so long. If you practice taking him off the breast as soon as you notice he’s not swallowing anymore, he’ll get the picture that nursing is for eating, not just hanging out. My friend was a stickler for that, and by 2-3 months, her twins each nursed no more than 10-15 minutes at a time, and got even faster as they got older.
    2. Another good friend of mine supplemented with a bottle of formula once a day, right around late afternoon. She simply could not mentally/physically/emotionally handle the clusterfeeding that went on at that time. She would give him a bottle of formula, pump, and all was well.

    Definitely cut yourself some slack, he’s still so young. I wasn’t able to pump more than 1.5oz at that age, either, and I was trying to nurse twins! And as long as you put in a pumping session when you give him the bottle, your supply should be alright. And don’t forget to stay super hydrated and well-fed!

  6. I go to a lactation clinic every week and we talk a lot about pumping. The consultant says its totally normal to only get 1 ounce when you pump and then just store it away, stock piling all the 1 ounces until you have enough to give to your baby. I have A LOT of milk so I don’t really have this problem – I can pump 8 ounces about three hours after my daughter goes to bed knowing she won’t be up to eat again for another three hours. But I think your situation is much more common.

    Have you tried a hands-free bra so you can massage your breasts while you pump? I do this while my daughter eats too. You can get out another ounce that way. If you don’t want to buy a hands-free pumping bra you can just get an old sports bra (even if it doesn’t really “fit” anymore) and cut small holes at the nipples. Then you just put the suction cup part of the pumping apparatus through there. It’s great to have your hands free while you pump.

    Remember, whatever happens your son is going to be alright. I know breastfeeding is a stressful things for mothers (we’ve had a VERY rough time of it) but it doesn’t have to be. We just make it that way. I’m trying to be better about not feeling so stressed about it, and accepting what comes. We shall see.

    Good luck!

  7. I seriously had NO idea that breastfeeding/pumping was so involved until my friends and family started having babies!

  8. Kate,
    In my experience, pumping is far and away the worst part about having an infant. Here are my thoughts:

    –Stress inhibits milk production. I found that the more I stressed about getting enough milk, the less I produced, and it was a nasty cycle. In fact, when my friend bought formula in case she needed to supplement during a dry spell, the sheer comfort that it was an option eased her stress so much that her production went right back to where it needed to be.

    –Night pumping worked for me, too. In fact, I did it well past the point when L was sleeping through the night in order to build up a freezer store for when I returned to work.

    –Getting an ounce at this point is pretty expected, at least from what our pediatrician told me. As Owen eats more and your supply goes up, you will most likely be able to pump more, but it still may not reflect the amount that Owen gets while nursing.

    –Owen’s bottle does not necessarily have to be the full 3-4 ozs. We would sometimes give L a 2 oz. bottle if that’s all I had in order to make sure she took a bottle consistently. Once she started sleeping, I would pump during the day for her feeding bottle and at night for some milk to store away for a rainy day. 🙂

    –Someone warned me about doing a bottle instead of a night-feeding, and I’m going to pass it on, only because you seem open to information and confident enough to disregard what doesn’t work for you. IF THIS DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU, PLEASE DISREGARD IT: while the baby is still feeding through the night, not nursing him and having someone else give him a bottle may cause your milk production to drop due to the supply-and-demand nature of breastfeeding. If you’re pumping enough outside of the dropped feeding, it may not be an issue, but in my experience, stimulation from the pump did not replace the needed milk production stimulation that nursing did, and my supply dropped. Pumping became something I did beyond L’s necessary feedings, when she was sleeping, after a feeding, etc., especially during the first few weeks. That’s how I made it work for me, but this obviously isn’t how it works for everyone.

    –Do what is best for you. If formula at night is what’s best for you, go for it. You’re right: it’s not poison. What is detrimental to a child’s well-being is a overstressed, exhausted, overwhelmed mama, and if supplementing with formula eases your stress, it’s what you need.

  9. While your son is still so young, don’t worry about pumping so much and just focus on him!! Pumping became much more productive and efficient once I had nursing down and was more experienced. I can remember when I first started nursing that I never felt like I would ever go a day without breast pads in – well you eventually do b/c your body starts to self regulate based on your baby!

    Keep reminding yourself that you are producing exactly what he needs!!! Truly – you are, and that is enough!

    If it were me I wouldn’t supplement… i think it leads to a cycle of supplementing which will decrease your milk supply b/c your baby no longer needs that feeding from you so your body won’t produce it. Everyone feels differently on this topic and you should definitely do what is best for you and your son!

  10. Try to stay away from the formula! Even if it’s not poison it’s definitely not beneficial and it seems like he’s getting the milk he needs at this point. Once you’re working you’ll be pumping out all day without him feeding so you should have plenty for him.

    Don’t feel defeated! You’re doing amazing. You’re such an inspiration:)

  11. Someone said it above – and I know it to be true with me – stress seems to inhibit my production. And you sound stressed out by all of this – I know I would be. By the sounds of it, you’re pumping/nursing constantly!

    Perhaps take a day or two off pumping, relax, drink water, sleep, go for walks, play with dog and baby…and then go back to the pumping routine. I have to do that every once in a while or I notice I quickly start producing less when I pump.

    You’re doing great, and you’re absolutely right – formula is not poison, and if it is the answer right now, then so be it.

  12. My pediatrician said it best, when at about 5-6 weeks I called her in tears because I was feeding my daughter almost constantly (it felt), pumping what little I could and I was beginning to feel defeated. She, quite literally, told me to take a deep breath and simply do what I felt was best. If I needed to add in one bottle of formula then so be it, no it is not poison (she reminded me of this), and no it is not the end of the world. Most especially if you are still breastfeeding your son 95% of the time. We would do 1 bottle a day, that was it and I still fed and pumped the rest of the time.

    When I returned to work I had these grand notions that I’d be able to pump all that I needed for my daughter the next day, but for me that just never was the case. I had bad milk production on one side and I never got the same amount pumping as I would feeding my daughter. But I still kept trying, and we would supplement as we needed to.

    Like many others have said try not to stress, although I know it’s so hard not to do when there is so much information, so many questions and you are simply trying to do what’s best for your child. So as my pediatrician said to me, take a deep breath, and then you and Benjamin simply decide what is best for Owen. Maybe a bottle a day is it, maybe it’s not. But still be proud of the fact that you are breastfeeding him and are still able to pump some (even if it may seem like so little now).

  13. More NICU advice… I haven’t done the baby thing firsthand yet 😉

    a.) Stay hydrated! I’m sure you’re drinking lots of water, but just a reminder.

    b.) Ask your doctor for a low dose of Reglan. This will not be a new request for your OB-GYN and if you’ve seen her recently, her nurses should just be able to call the prescription to your local pharmacy without having to make you go to the doctor first.

    c.) Try breastfeeding 20 minutes on each side. After about 45 minutes, chances are he’s not getting more milk, and it’s just wearing you both out.

    Good luck!

  14. Don’t feel bad if you have to supplement with formula. Many women don’t produce enough milk to nourish their baby, and that’s okay. That’s why there’s formula. As long as your baby is fed and isn’t hungry all the time, you’re doing what’s best for your baby. It may be too soon to tell what your pumping production will/can be, but stay in tune with your baby’s feelings. Is he more fussy than usual? Is he losing weight? Is he not gaining weight?

  15. Hi Kate-
    My advice is the same as others-
    If he is eating more than 15-20 minutes on each side, he is probably done! Now my baby is 8 weeks and he is always done in 30 minutes, mostly because I gradually changed how he eats! I also stretched out the time between feedings. In the morning he can go 3 hours, and afternoon I do 2 and a half. Again, do it gradually, making sure he naps an hour to an hour and a half before you want him to eat. That way he will sleep (hopefully) until you want him to eat again! 🙂

  16. I agree with the girls who say to try anything you can make him a more efficient eater (somehow!). Use their suggestions because I’m certainly don’t have any suggestions; I just know that everytime I read on here about how Owen takes 50 minutes to eat, I cringe; my baby is done in 8 minutes flat almost always. I wait 2 hours and then pump one breast, then he eats at about the 3rd hour during the day starting on the other breast.

  17. Is he weighing enough? I agree with a few of the other women who have said you may want to “take charge” of the feeding times. Coax him into being a more efficient nurser. My baby nursed longer when he was first born but once he got the hang of it it was much quicker. Make sure he’s not falling asleep!

  18. I’m just going to throw in a few more cents to the novel I wrote above. Just like all mothers are different in terms of breastfeeding and how it all works, all babies are different. I don’t think that there’s a whole lot you can do to make a baby eat faster or more efficiently… these early weeks are all about them and I’m not sure that cognitively, they’re able to be taught a whole lot other than what is instinctual to them. Owen’s doing great, you’re doing great!!!

  19. I obviously don’t have any experience with this yet, but I just wanted to tell you how much I admire you sticking with it!!

  20. A bottle of formula a day won’t hurt him, actually it might help a little (formula has vitamin D and it will take some pressure off you). Just keep in mind that drinking from a bottle is a LOT easier for Owen and he might drink more than he can handle. Make sure you have a slow-flow nipple and take often burp breaks. Baby vomit is no fun 🙂

    I’m transitioning my baby (3months old) to formula and breastmilk and it’s been fine. I don’t know why I was so anti-formula, it’s not so bad after all (except for the smell and the staining)

    Good luck and don’t lose too much sleep trying to pump, remember that you need to take care of you too!

  21. Wow, I was in your shoes exactly with my son. He took nearly an hour to eat each time and then a 2 hour break. I was never able to pump anything extra- ever. I ended up having to supplement a little with formula. It worked out well. Then, when I went back to work everything failed and eventually my supply dried up completely (even though I was pumping all the time). I had to go all formula- I didn’t like it but you know he’s 3 now and just fine!

  22. I agree with Laurie – stressing about not getting enough milk when you’re pumping will make you get LESS milk. Doing something you enjoy while pumping (reading, surfing, talking on the phone) with a hands-free bra can actually help your supply. You actually DO forget that you’re pumping. It happened to me!

    Also, even one bottle of formula a day can sabotage your supply. This also happened to me.

    My advice to you is to persevere until baby is 7 weeks old. That is when it gets easier for most moms… just make THAT your goal and once you’re there, you’ll be well on your way and probably bf and/or pump until 6 months or 12 months or beyond!

    Good luck!

  23. One thing that helped me get all of the milk out when I was pumping was to put pressure where my breast meets my armpit as I was pumping. Not a lot of pressure to where you’re hurting yourself, but just enough to get more milk out. I was able to get another ounce out this way. Good luck! You’re doing an amazing job taking care of Owen, and he’s lucky to have you as a mom!

  24. It’s like you’re me a few weeks ahead! lol I will have the luxury of being able to breastfeed at home for longer, but of all the challenges i worried about having with breastfeeding, I just never anticipated that pumping would be one of them! I was always so aloof about it saying “I’ll just pump” and it completely caught me off guard how much easier it is said than done! Here we are both equipped with the super duper Madella Pump In Style that everyone recommended and we’re both having the same problem! Hun, you’re doing your best and doing EVERYTHING right and you’re not getting enough stored milk for when it’s time to go back to work and supplementing is what you have to do, then don’t feel badly! The biggest disappointment is that you don’t get a longer mat leave and that’s not your fault! You’re really not left with much choice and you’re right, no it’s not poison 😉

  25. I’ve been thinking about you since you posted this. I’ve already commented and then commented again, but one more time won’t hurt, right? You’ve obviously gotten a LOT of information from all of us mamas. We each have/had our own way of doing things and what worked for us. We all have LOTS of advice to give. I’m so guilty of handing it out freely that I don’t stop to think sometimes. You have to do what’s best for YOU. What works for you may not work for anyone else. What worked for us may not work for you. I felt a little helpless in the first few weeks but what I came to realize is that I DID know what I was doing, even if what I was doing was exhausting! Feed that baby whatever way makes you both happy. You’re doing great!

  26. I hope that you’re able to feed Owen the way that you want to, but please do not worry about formula! There are so many choices of formula out there that if you need to supplement your supply or switch entirely, you’ll find the one that suits Owen best (and your insurance might even cover it, like ours does).

    I had to laugh at the commenter who said that “formula isn’t beneficial”. So now apparently nutritious vitamins aren’t beneficial for babies? Good grief. Formula is NOT poison, not by a long shot. It’s a perfectly acceptable and nutritious form of sustenance. My boy is healthy as can be, sleeps through the night (starting at 6.5 wks), and is growing like a weed – making me even more confident that formula was the right choice for our family. That, and the fact that my hubby and I were both formula-fed and are very healthy people.

    Do what you can – at the end of the day, as long as Owen is meeting his milestones that’s all that matters.

  27. I gave my 5 mth old baby formula for the first time last night…my kegs are getting dry! Up until now she has only had breast milk–she has survived thus far 🙂

    My golden rule–do what you need to do, and first and foremost FEED THE BABY! 🙂

  28. try “mother’s milk” tea from
    It has more in it than just Fenugreek. I have been drinking it and it has increased my milk supply.
    Fenugreek alone is okay but blessed thistle is what really stimulates more milk production.

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