supply + demand

Confession #1:  The first week I was attempting to breastfeed, I was secretly hoping that the doctor would say I need to supplement with formula because I was getting so incredibly frustrated and I thought my life would be much easier if I could just give her a bottle.  However, I am thankful that MacKenna has been such a good little eater and after we got through our initial difficulties, breastfeeding became a breeze and one of my favorite parts of the day.  I wouldn’t trade those feedings for anything since sometimes that’s the only time I get to spend with her!

Confession #2:  I hate pumping!  But, here’s the problem.  I hate pumping and yet I want to continue breastfeeding MacKenna until she’s at least 6 months old.  That means I still have 3 months left of pumping 3 to 4 times a day.  And let me tell you, it is a serious pain in the butt boob.  It doesn’t hurt, but having to go lock myself in a closet for a half hour in the middle of my workday isn’t exactly “productive” on my part.  Well, except that I’m providing nourishment for my darling daughter.


I’ve at least mastered pumping while driving.  Yes, you heard me right.  I have an electric/battery powered pump so that this is possible.  While it’s also a pain in the butt boob, it actually saves me some time since I’m multitasking.  And, don’t worry, I cover up as much as I can, although it makes me nervous when a bus full of kids pulls up next to me.

I used to be pumping 2 times a day but recently had to up my pumping time to 3 and sometimes 4 times a day.  That means one time at work in the middle of the day, to + from work, and sometimes before I go to bed.  I feel like I am literally attached to that thing all day long.

The reason I had to increase my pumping time was because my little piggy daughter eats 15 ounces a day, while I’m only producing 10 (sometimes more, sometimes less).  I had 90-ish ounces stored up before I went back to work, but we’ve quickly made our way through that stash and now I’m only ahead by about 3 days.  I have nothing stored up at home if I need to go out without her for a long period of time.  What I have frozen is all at the babysitter’s house.  (Thank goodness she lives close and said we can stop by anytime to pick up some milk if we need to.)

When I found out that she had eaten almost everything I had pumped + saved up, my heart sank.  I’m so determined to breastfeed her and want to avoid giving her formula for as long as possible, but I’m coming to realize that we are getting closer and closer to having to supplement with formula.  So, I’ve come up with a few plans on how to avoid supplementing at least for a little while longer, along with a few alternative plans.

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Plan A:  I’ve recently stocked up on Mother’s Milk tea and fenugreek capsules in an attempt to increase my milk supply.  So far, I’ve been drinking 2 cups of Mother’s Milk tea each day for the past week and have noticed a little bit of an increase just from that alone.  I just started taking fenugreek (I bought mine from Vitacost for $10 for 360 capsules, which will last me about 60 days – it’s the best deal I’ve found on them yet!), so I’m hoping that will help a little bit more.  I’m not sure how much it will help, but it doesn’t hurt to try.  Hopefully I’ll start pumping 15 ounces a day – and MacKenna keeps eating 15 ounces a day, although I think that’s doubtful.

Plan B:  Supplement with formula 1 bottle a day.  I pump enough each day for 2 bottles, so I would really only need to supplement with 1 bottle a day for right now.  I would still have to keep pumping so I could continue breastfeeding her when I am home.  I’m starting to get more comfortable with this idea, although it’s not my ideal situation.  I just have to remember that I’ll still get that time with her even though we are giving her some formula too.  And she would only get formula during the week since I’m home on the weekends for the most part.  Hopefully this would also help avoid early weaning.

Plan C:  Supplement all bottles with formula and breastfeed at home.  This is my last resort since I know that I will dry up pretty quick if I’m not pumping during the day.  I don’t think it will come to this, but I have to lay it out there as an option just so I can wrap my mind around it.

I’m starting with Plan A, obviously, until that just isn’t possible anymore.  We’re taking it week by week instead of looking far ahead at that 6 month mark.  I’m hoping we can make it that far, but right now, the most logical thing is to get through each week before needing to supplement.  I think my biggest issue with formula is that it just costs so dang much!  Luckily, I have a stash from my OB/GYN that will get us by for awhile.

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Experienced mamas:  when did you start having to supplement?  Any other working moms dealing with this same problem?  What did you do when you realized you might not be able to breastfeed as long as you wanted?

  • Kim

    I went through the same thing with my little girl. She was a big eater and when I went back to work I quickly realized I was not going to be able to keep up with how much she was eating. I continued to pump 3 times a day at work and I also would sometimes pump before bed or I would wake up early and pump before she woke up. Sometimes in the morning I would pump one side while she was eating from the other to get a little extra. But eventually I did start having to give her a bottle of formula a couple times a week.
    Since then I have tried to relax and not make myself miserable worrying about it. I just gave her an much breastmilk as I possibly could and continued to nurse whenever we were home together. As a working mommy there is a lot to worry about and getting too stressed out just makes you crazy and I feel like it makes it harder to just enjoy your sweet little baby, so it is not worth it.
    Now she is 9 1/2 months old and she still nurses, though she is beginning to do it less since she is eating a lot of solid foods. I still pump, but only once or twice a day, and I plan to be done with pumping when she turns one.
    You are doing great! Keep it up!

    • Kristen

      I think actually writing all that down helped me a little bit and calmed me down about the fact that we just might have to supplement. Right now, I’m just barely keeping up, but it’s working so far. 1 bottle of formula a day isn’t that terrible, it’s just not ideal. I love nursing her so I just hope to be able to do it as long as I can – I think I’m just worried about early weaning more than anything, but she’s so easy going that I think she’ll take whatever I give her!

  • Hugs! It’s so hard. How much fenugreek are you taking? Just want to make sure you know you can take 2-4 capsules 3x day. I usually start with 3 and if you don’t see an improvement, go to 4 capsules. You’ll know you’re taking enough when you start to smell like maple syrup. Really. Your sweat and urine. It can work wonders and if you can catch up to her recent grOwth spurt, it’ll get easier for a bit again.
    I stay home or worked part time so never had to supplement but I watched and helped my sister go back full time after my nephew and it was hard! She did it but it was hard.
    Hang in there!
    Jamie recently posted..Why Run in a Costume

    • Kristen

      I just started taking it yesterday, and I am trying to take 2 capsules 3x a day. I just have to remember to take it! 1-2 cups of tea a day has really helped – I’ve actually noticed a difference in the afternoon when I pump – I definitely get a lot more!

  • I have no solutions for you, as I’m just in the first few weeks of bfeeding, but just remember that she will be eating solid foods in the next few months, so hopefully you won’t have the pressure to produce/pump so much for too much longer. Also, my doctor tole me she pumps to and from work too! So, you’re not the only one out there doing that in the car.

    • Kristen

      I hope BFing is going well for you! I’m glad I’m not the only one on the highway pumping!

  • I love your blog!

    Feeling your pain. My almost 9 mth old is a big eater too and prefers a bottle during the day (I work from home luckily) and nurses only at night. I’ve been a slave to my pump for months, at least 3 times per day. I pump 24+ oz a day for her, as she doesn’t take solids very well. I had to start supplementing 1 bottle of formula before bed, which actually seems to help her sleep longer. She’s my second, my first was an awesome nurser (and solid eater), and I made it a whole year nursing. I’ve learned every baby is different!! I’m determined to keep her on BM as much as possible until she’s 1, even if I’m a slave to my pump. Pumping is my blog-reading time :-). Good luck!

    On another note, your running pace so early post baby is awesome!

    • Kristen

      Thank you! I definitely feel like a slave to the pump! I don’t want to supplement before bed because that would be one less time I’d get to feed her and I’m not OK with that! I’m hoping that even if I do have to supplement, we can keep breastfeeding until 6 months and maybe up to a year. And nursing her is my blog reading time! Pumping is my book reading time!

  • Kelly

    Oh boy, where to begin. Even though I’m a third time mom, when my precious 12 week old Delilah was born, I was determined to breastfeed her, something I felt I had failed at with my 6 yo ds and 7 yo dd, having to supplement with both of them. I attributed those “failtures” to being young, immature, bad diet, and the list goes on. This time, I was going to get it right. I was so convinced that the older, smarter, healthier me would be able to do it. I tried everything I could think of – beer, fenugreek, oatmeal, mother’s milk tea, pumping after and between feedings. And she was still hungry. I felt so guilty when I gave her the first bottle, and continued to do so with every bottle for weeks, even though I was still breastfeeding a lot. My EBF friends would constantly tell me about how every bottle I gave her decreased my supply, and as much as called me a bad mother. What I’ve come to realize is this – my baby is a big eater and must have great metabolism. She’s growing right on target, and I can be sure that if I didn’t supplement, she wouldn’t be (my older daughter failed to regain her birth weight after 6 weeks of EBF. She was SKINNY and it was scary). I always always always nurse her first, and will supplement with formula after if she is still hungry, which is more often than not. At 12 weeks, she will put away as much as 20 oz of formula a day IN ADDITION TO breast milk. I could feel really guilty about the fact that I can’t manage to produce over 40 oz of breastmilk a day, but that’s silly, especially when compared to the guilt I would feel if I let my daughter cry of hunger after she had emptied me and still wasn’t satisfied. Despite how we sometimes make ourselves feel, formula is not an evil witch’s brew, and it will not hurt our babies. My beautiful angel still nurses like a champ and loves that time, but she loves her bottles too, and I know that supplementing is the absolute healthiest decision I could make for her. So please, no matter what decision you make, know that you’re doing what is best for MacKenna and that’s what really matters in the end 🙂

    • Kristen

      No, I agree, it’s definitely not evil! I think my biggest fear with supplementing is that she won’t want to breastfeed anymore and I love that time with her! I was a bottle fed baby because my mom had trouble with breastfeeding and didn’t have the support of lactation consultants like we do now. I’m not to the point yet where I absolutely need to supplement, but I know that we’re getting closer each day.

  • Heather

    I had a really hard time with my supply when I had my son. He was in the NICU for 10 days very early on, which left me to exclusively pump for almost 2 weeks. I second the poster that said you want to load up on Fenugreek until you smell like maple syrup. Oatmeal also helps, I noticed quite a difference when I started eating a large bowl for breakfast every morning. Finally, when you’re pumping, be sure to pump for a good 5 minutes after you’re completely drained. It tells your body that there is more demand than supply and should trigger more milk production.

    That being said, it’s TOTALLY ok to supplement with formula. The most important thing is a happy momma. If the pump is making you miserable or taking time away from the baby, etc. then it’s better to stop. You and MacKenna will be better off if you aren’t stressed and unhappy.

    It sounds like you’ve got a system going, though, so I really hope you can keep it going as long as you want to! I always treated my pump times (at work) as “me” time with a nice large glass of iced water and a good book/magazine. Helped me relax, which also helps with let-down!

    Good luck – this mom thing isn’t always easy!

    • Kristen

      It is definitely my “me” time at work! I sit and read a book and have absolutely no distractions! It’s wonderful! I just hate the pumping aspect of it! I think I actually hate having to pump in the car, but it’s pretty much the only time I have during the day.

      I will have to load up on oatmeal on the weekends because I just don’t have time to eat it in the mornings without waking up at 3:30 AM! Ha! It’s not making me miserable, it’s just a pain! But, I am definitely getting more comfortable with the thought of having to supplement.

  • Melissa

    I read this post while pumping at work! I’m with you- I hate pumping, but am determined to give as much breastmilk as I can for as long as I can. I was never able to fully keep up with demand and used formula a little bit here and there after a month, and when my son started daycare at 12 weeks he started getting about half formula and half breastmilk at daycare. I nurse at home and I love it too! Initially I planned to stop altogether at 6 months but now that he is close to 4 months I think I might keep going a bit longer. Question- is it a known fact that you will “dry up” if you don’t pump at work and then nurse at home? I ask because I’ve considered a similar plan- using formula only at daycare, not pumping, and then nursing at home. I am confused about it- it makes sense, but then again doesn’t supply tend to match up to demand? So if your baby is still “demanding” in the morning and evening your milk production would just adjust?

    • Kristen

      I don’t know if you’ll just “dry up” by not pumping during the day. I certainly didn’t dry up with M started feeding less at night, so I don’t know, but I’m not willing to take my chances!

  • Jen

    I’m reading this while pumping at work!

    A couple of things…your baby should only need about the number of oz that you’re away from her. So, if she’s at the sitter for 10 hours, she should only need about 10-11 oz. Hopefully, the sitter isn’t feeding her to keep her quiet. She’ll be overfed then. Babies only need about 19-24 oz total/24 hours for the first 6 months of their lives and it won’t change for those 6 mo. Then, they’ll start getting solids along with the same amount of breastmilk.

    I’m away from my baby for 10 hours. My husband gives her 9-10 oz during the day but he has to REALLY work to make sure she’s happy the rest of the time. We don’t use a pacifier so sometimes she’ll cry a bit but that’s ok. Babies cry. I pump 2 times a day for about 40 minutes to make sure I get 9-10 oz for the next day. If your baby is overfed during the day, she won’t nurse as much with you. I have a small supply in the freezer but we haven’t used any of it yet. Maybe you need to work with your sitter a bit…

    It sounds like you’re producing plenty! It’s just being used up too fast!

    Just my thoughts… Good luck!

    • Kristen

      Hm, I’ve never heard that before. I honestly don’t think she’s over feeding her because she never spits up for her and will cry if the bottle is taken away from her too early. I do feed her one less time than I normally would (while I was home I would feed her at 6:30-9:30-12:30-3:00-5:30-8:00, but we’ve since dropped the 5:30 feeding and she does just fine). MacKenna isn’t a very fussy baby either, so I’m not sure she would feed her just to keep her quiet since I don’t think she fusses much. I pump for almost 90 minutes a day and only get 10-12 ounces, so I definitely think it’s me. I don’t have a lot to begin with – I don’t leak and I hardly ever feel uncomfortably full, so I know I just don’t have a lot of milk. She’s also only gained about a pound this past month, when she had been gaining about 2 pounds per month the 1st 2 months of her life. So, I think we’re on the right track.

      • Jen

        How much is in each bottle? At first, my husband was giving her 4 bottles with 2-3 oz in them. She fussed after the 2oz bottles but not the 3. So, he scaled it back. he gives her 3 bottles with 3 oz. Our Dr. even recommended 2 bottles of 4-5 oz so she’s fed fewer times. We are thinking about switching to that because it would make my husband’s day easier. Once the baby is 2-3 months, they can handle more food at once.

        I pump 80 min and get 9-10 oz so it sounds like we’re at about the same level. We’re both athletic women without a lot of body fat so maybe that’s just what we’re supposed to produce. My baby only gained about 1 lb this past month but the Dr didn’t seem concerned. She’s a little baby (25%) but my husband and I aren’t big people so it makes sense. As long as your baby isn’t “dropping off the curve” of the scale, she’s perfectly healthy.

        Do you have a lactation consultant who could help you? We were so frazzled at the beginning that we had to hire one. She really helped us by reassuring us that she’s getting enough. She also showed my husband how to give her a bottle so she doesn’t just gulp it down. That might be a problem too. If she only takes 10 minutes to drink the bottle, she’ll get hungry again right away.

        I hope this helps…

        • Kristen

          We started with 3 ounce bottles and that didn’t seem to satisfy her (this is coming from the babysitter), so we bumped it up to 4-5 ounces. I really think she only needs about 4 ounces each bottle (she only had 4 a few nights ago, and was just fine), but she is 3 months so this might be about right. She takes 3 5 ounce bottles a day most days, sometimes she only eats 2x, but it’s mostly 3 depending on how much she sleeps (she takes LONG naps – like 3-4 hours… I usually wake her up if she hasn’t eaten in 3 when I’m home, but the babysitter doesn’t do this). She’s also a small baby (20-25%) since my hubs and I are both small also (I actually had to look while I was reading your comment to make sure I wasn’t reading something I wrote!). It usually takes her about 20 minutes to finish a 4-5 ounce bottle, which seems about right to me since she takes about 20-30 minutes to nurse.

  • Marie

    I love your blog!! I have no breastfeeding experience, but am 26 weeks pregnant and looking ahead to my breastfeeding days. 🙂 I, too, will be back at work after 3months and my tentative goal right now would be to breastfeed exclusively for 6months (i realize that’s naive of me to say now, but a girl’s got to have goals!)
    I have been doing some reading on way to inc breastmilk – oatmeal, Fenugreek (take lots! as others have said), tea, etc. and I’ve come across one other- nutritional yeast. Not sure if this is “proven” in the literature, but worth a shot!! And if you’re looking for a recipe – Oh She Glows has a great vegan cheeze recipe using nutritional yeast, you might want to try it out. I’ve made this recipe – love it!- so would be interested to see if it improves your milk production. Good luck!! and thanks for all the wonderful tips on your blog!

    • Kristen

      It’s always good to have goals! My main goal was just to be able to breastfeed, period. But, now that we’ve mastered it, I want to go as long as I can, up to a year. I NEVER thought I’d be like that, but I love it so much! It’s an amazing bonding experience!

      I’ve never heard of nutritional yeast doing that! I’ve made some of OSG’s recipes – including a mac n’ cheeze recently, so I actually have nutritional yeast on hand! It’s not my favorite, but maybe I’ll start making 1 recipe a week with it! I think it’s probably like fenugreek, etc. where you have to take a lot to notice a significant increase!

      Good luck with your pregnancy!

  • Jen

    Me again – Sorry if I keep bugging you but I feel the same way – that we have really similar lifestyles/issues. I’m a teacher too! And a runner! My baby is only 2 months old so all my info may not apply to us in a month.

    Just a couple more things…my lactation consultant encouraged me to have a picture of Alya (my baby) to help with milk production. ALso, she said to visualize my milk flowing out of my breasts while I’m pumping. She also said to have something that smelled like Ayla – that might help the milk flow even better.

  • Agreed, don’t give up the bedtime nursing. That was the last one I dropped when weaning my first baby. It was best for me to use this one as my supplement feeding this time around but I never would have done it if I thought she was losing bonding time. You’re doing everything right, keep it up!

    On another note, do you feel the need to pump/nurse before you workout? I always do… I hate running with that full feeling, even with two sports bras on!

    • I sound like a know-it-all telling you you’re doing it right. What I meant was your attitude and determination is awesome!

  • Christie

    I’m not a mom (yet! – I’m due Monday!) but I heard a lot about oatmeal helping with your supply. I know you mentioned you make smoothies in the morning — have you ever tried adding raw oats to your smoothies? I used to do that to add some fiber to them and it does change the taste/texture a bit but it also made them a little more filling.

  • Brenda

    Last week I started pumping the other side while my son takes his morning feeding, then when he switches sides, the pump goes to the one he was just on. I’ve been able to get 3 extra oz. this way each day. My little guy often glares at the pump while he eats; I feel like I am feeding twins, but it works. Also, I would ask your pediatrician how much MacKenna should be eating during your work day. My baby whose 14 weeks only eats about 10 oz. during the day while I am at work, but he eats a ton at night. Like, he’s attached to me for at least 2 hours of the evening. Good luck!

    • Jen

      That’s exactly how my baby is. About 10 oz while I’m away and constant nursing at night. Basically, from 4-9, she’s attached to me like glue! I usually get about an hour in during the evening so I can workout. Thankfully, my husband cooks us dinner! 🙂

  • I hear ya on hating being chained to a pump! Babies are so much faster, not to mention cuter! I have 3 month old twins & I work 4 ten hour days (+1 hr commute round trip). I pump 4 times a day (every 3 hrs) & when I’m home, I just nurse them.

    I pump when I’m driving and then at the locker room at work. I keep my kindle in my bag so I have something to do while pumping. Highly recommend it!

    To boost my supply, I started pumping an extra time per day during the twins’ longest nap. Then I would pump the side I wasn’t feeding a baby on. I’m about 20 oz ahead of the boys currently… which is 4 bottles. I keep a can of formula on-hand just in case and told myself early on that if they need a little formula, then they need a little formula and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

    Babies are much more efficient at producing milk – so try the pumping the side you’re not feeding on trick. She’ll do the rest.

    She is so stinkin’ adorable! You’re doing a great job!!
    Megan recently posted..January 17-23

  • Thanks for being so honest about this. I know that this is something we will face after the baby is born in July and I go back to teaching come October. My friend has to pump at school and I know it’s been tough. However, I think you are handling this really well. All your plans make sense and I’m sure it will work out. It sounds like you have done all your research!
    Carlee recently posted..Bumpdate: Week 15

  • Oh my goodness this brings back memories from not that long ago. Like you I wanted my baby to be strictly breastfed too. When I returned to work when he was just shy of 3 months my supply decreased drastically. I ended up pumping at work (ughh dreaded that) 4x a day. I think he was 5-6mo when I had to supplement one bottle a day for formula. As he got older and drank more I ended up supplementing 2 bottles a day and continued to breastfeed as much as possible. I was determined to not give up even though there were several times when I wanted to. It’s hard to set aside time to pump at work and then have to do it all over again when you get home. I remember waking up to feed him in the night and stay up to pump after he was done to help increase my supply. I made 11 months pumping and then one day the milk was completely gone. Just do your best, its hard to keep up with pumping because they end up eating more as they get older and if you have to supplement thats okay.

    P.S. can’t believe you pump in the car! I never thought of that but will keep that in mind lol cause I have baby #2 on the way.
    Heidi from BundlesOfHugs recently posted..No Words Sunday: Coffee and a walk

    • Kristen

      Right now, I’m shooting for week to week. I really want to make it to 6 months, but if I don’t, such is life. She’ll get as much breastmilk as she can, and supplement what I can’t provide.

  • ariel

    Hi! I’m new to your site and started following you recently since I am a preggo runner – (though not really running at 32 weeks along). I am also looking to bf, and do so as long as possible. Really interested in hearing your follow up and what works – and am super nervous about pumping (though I will have to w/ only 10 wks off from work)!

    do you have any book suggestions you used to prepare?

    little baby girl is due 3/25/12! 🙂


    • Kristen

      Good luck with your little girl! I didn’t read any books on BFing besides What to Expect the First Year – there’s a chapter on it, but I honestly don’t think a book can tell you what breastfeeding is going to be like. It sounds so easy, but it’s definitely not. It takes work. I was lucky to be in the hospital for 5 days and had help from the nurses, otherwise I think I might have given up. Maybe reading a LLL book would be helpful though!

  • Leanne

    Im so glad you are talking about your concerns and supply issues. I had the same problems and tried everything and finally I’m taking a prescription to help my supply. We have to supplement about a bottle a day or every other day. I’m determined to nurse until she is one, so I’m attached to the pump, drinking the tea, taking the supplements and prescription! Keep up the hard and wonderful work!

    • Kristen

      Right now, I’m not necessarily having issues, I just can’t keep up with what she is taking! The fenugreek and tea have seemed to help a little!

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