The Six Month
A lot of pumping moms talk about the "six
month slump" as if there were something magical going on at that
age that will make it impossible for you to ever pump enough
milk. Nonsense. But, there are a lot of converging factors that
conspire to make it more difficult.
Increased intake: By the time your baby is six months
old, he's reached just about maximal breastmilk intake. He's
more active, scooting around, sitting up, exploring his world,
and may be needing more fuel. Once you start solids, he'll get a
lot of calories that way, but until then, he needs a lot of
Increased stress: You may have let yourself off the
hook your first few months back at work, but now that your baby
is "older", you may be putting some pressure on yourself to take
on more responsibilities. Maybe you're getting more concerned
about taking care of housework, maybe you're being asked to do
more at work, but in my experience, the added work really starts
to pile up around this time. And we don't baby ourselves the way
we did when we had a newborn.
Hormonal changes: For a lot of pumping moms, the
stimulation of the pump isn't quite enough to keep you from
ovulating and having periods anymore. These hormonal changes
sometimes cause a little supply dip right before your period.
What to do
The most important thing to realize if you find yourself in a
six-month slump is that it's only temporary! This does not mean
that breastfeeding is over for you, only that you have to give
it a little extra attention for a couple of weeks - then you
should be right back to normal.
Baby's intake: if your baby is close to six months old
or very interested in food, you can try starting some cereal or
other foods - the trick is to have your care provider give all
of them. I know, it's fun to play with the spoon and see your
baby covered in pureed carrots, but if you let your care
provider do all of the solid food feedings, you'll need to pump
less. If you continue to exclusively nurse while you are
together with your baby, your supply will get a tremendous boost
from all the extra stimulation. Of course, your baby still needs
breastmilk during the day - but you may be able to get away with
a little less if other nutritious foods are added to her diet.
Your stress: You may feel swamped at work and at home,
but take a minute to see what you have control over. Are there
assignments or extra shifts at work that you could turn down? Is
there someone who can help you with the work you're staying late
to finish? Can you reduce your hours by even ten percent? How
about at home... can you afford to have someone clean your house
- even every other week or once a month is a big help. Are there
friends who can pitch in and provide a couple of dinners a
month? Do you have family nearby who can help with household
jobs? Of course, grandmothers would prefer to have you leave the
baby with them and have you go out for the evening - not
realizing that this adds even more pumping to your already
hectic schedule. The most helpful thing they can do is come over
and make you dinner or fold your laundry so that you can sit and
relax with your baby one evening a week instead of bustling
around the kitchen.
Hormonal changes: If your period is indeed returning,
just know that the effect on your milk supply is temporary. Most
women see a supply dip for only 2 or 3 days before their flow
starts, and after that it bounces right back up. If you can add
in an extra pumping session during this time to get enough milk,
you'll see that your supply rebounds quite nicely within days.
Be careful about supplementing from your
freezer stash - as this can cause
your milk supply to decrease just when you need it most.
Some moms find that calcium
supplementation helps with this supply dip as well.