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The Six Month Slump

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.

What's going on?

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 mama's milk

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 about it?

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.


Copyrightę 2005 Kirsten Berggren. All Rights Reserved.