I promise everyone this will be the only post I write that more than tangentially refers to breast-feeding. There are some hard-core mommy blogs out there that talk at length about boobs and milk and babies and all sorts of stuff you might not normally think appropriate to share with any of your relatives except your mother or a close auntie perhaps. This is not one of those blogs. I try not to do the awkward over-share thing here.
BUT, and this is a big but, while I was spending the past week FREAKING OUT over the havoc jet lag was wreaking on my baby, and thus, my life, I could find NOTHING on the internet about what I was going through. Is there anything in the world more terrifying than googling the cr*p out of something that’s happening to you and coming up with zero matching search results? Is there?
Because in this day and age you could probably google “monkey stuck in my toilet clutching a tube of mascara” and you’d get a hit. At least for a funny YouTube video or something.
But when I searched for “jet lag lost milk supply” and about 16 other similar word combinations, I got zilch. Nothing. Just recommendations to “stay hydrated” while flying.
So consider this post a public service announcement. A way of ensuring that if some other poor woman sometime in the future brings her 7 week old half-way around the world and suddenly finds her milk supply drying up faster than the Gobi desert and her baby totally uninterested in eating, she’ll at least know that it’s happened to someone else, and that it does GET BETTER.
And if you are not some woman from the future freaking out over your baby and your milk supply, you might want to consider skipping this post. I promise we’ll be back to our regular China programming shortly. Oh, who am I kidding. We’ll be back to our regular cute baby pictures programming shortly. I swear I’ll write something about China again soon…like before we leave in 6 months…at least definitely before we get to India next year and I start getting all “relevant” and “interesting” again.
Anyways. Dudes, you’ve been warned. You probably want to read no further.
Before we left for China, I was totally blessed to never have to worry about making enough milk for Will. I was lucky. I probably could have fed 8 babies with the amount I was producing. It was totally not uncommon for me to pump off an extra 5 oz from each side after feeding Will because I just felt like going for a run and didn’t want to deal with the extra weight.
Which is to say that while it occurred to me that perhaps we should buy a can of formula for emergencies before going to the land of poisonous, melamine-spiked baby formula, at 7 weeks my supply just seemed too secure to bother and I quickly dismissed that idea in favor of just stock-piling a ton of pumped milk as soon as we landed. TEMPTING FATE WE WERE.
We landed on a Thursday night at 11:30pm after 30 hours of travelling. Chris worked the entire next day plus a reception until 9pm while Will and I just sort of wandered around the house in a daze, dozing a little when we could. He was latching on ever 2 hours or so, out of both hunger and comfort so I had no idea what was coming.
I woke up Saturday morning to a, shall we say, “deflated” left side and decided I should probably do some extra pumping on that side to even things out.
By Saturday night, I was deflated on the right side as well. By Sunday, I was down to squeezing just an ounce or two TOTAL into a bottle after 30 minutes straight of pumping. I was counting the tiny drops of milk as they fell into the bottle, remembering how many ounces of milk I’d poured down the drain just the week before because I didn’t need them. How wasteful I was!
Cue total panic. Will wasn’t fussy, but he was also sleeping a lot-except at 2am at which point he was wide awake until 6, but that’s besides the point. Every time he nursed, he’d end the session asleep.
It didn’t seem like he was getting enough but it also didn’t seem like he wanted more. He was totally disinterested in sucking down anymore than I was providing but the problem was I knew I wasn’t providing enough. MY baby is a little glutton who likes to eat until there are streams of milk running down his chin. What had happened to him? And worse, was my supply gone for good? Would it come back whenever his appetite did?
It was a big WTF, pulling my hair out sort of 5 day nightmare.
And, as I mentioned, Google was NOT helping. There was nothing there to tell me what to do, when things might get better, nothing at all about jet lagged little babies. Probably because there aren’t that many people crazy enough to do it, but still. I was hoping for some reassurance that I wasn’t a) totally out of milk for good; and b) the worst mom ever for inflicting a 12 time-zone change on my baby.
Armed with absolutely no clue what to do, I started pumping every 2 hours around the clock, morning and night. I got all crazy-mama, telling every mom I met here about my problem hoping for (and getting) reassurance. I started obsessively requesting weight checks from the nurses’ unit.
I remembered reading that flaxseeds and oatmeal are good for supply so I started pouring flaxseeds onto my morning oatmeal like water. Chris read that low Vitamin D affects your thyroid which affects supply so I started taking Vitamin D chews everyday.
I put off exercising, I drank gallons of water and ate as much as I could. I even tried positive self-talk and imagining pumping bottles full of the good stuff.
Oh and I also stressed. way. the. flock. out.
And worse, nothing worked. Pumping did nothing to increase my supply, nothing at all. Even though I still seemed to be producing enough to satisfy Will’s highly diminished appetite, the fact that my supply had dropped so fast and so dramatically scared us both.
Breast is best but at least if your milk supply nose-dives in the States you know that you’ve got only 1,000 different formula options available. Your baby isn’t going to starve. Here, the safest formula is likely at least 3 weeks away by mail or 3 hours away by plane. A totally terrifying realization to have while one is up in the middle of the night a jet-lagged and stress-crazed mess.
I felt like I was walking around in a bad dream. And my baby just kept hanging on, not fussing but not eating much either.
On Tuesday night I finally broke down and cried. I was a my wit’s end and, what’s more, I sort of had the sense that I needed to have some sort of stress-releasing meltdown.
Sure enough, my supply was a little better the next morning. Not great, but better.
And then, grasping at straws, I thought: what if we could get Will to sleep through the night, just once. Just once in his tiny little life, would that somehow fix things? Would that get him to stop falling asleep while nursing at least?
So Wednesday, after he slept much of the afternoon again, we put him down in a double-stuffed cloth diaper around 9pm.
Will is a cuddly little baby and generally has a hard time sleeping anywhere that isn’t directly on top of me or Chris. At night its the worst. We keep his crib right next to our bed but after an initial 2-3 hours of time in his crib, it becomes a struggle to keep him in there and asleep for the rest of the night. Part of it is a comfort thing I think and part of it is the fact that he seems to reflux after about 4am. We’re working on it. ANYWAYS.
Wednesday night I decided I would do whatever it took to keep the boy sleeping soundly all night even if it meant sitting awake holding him all night.
Which is what I did. He woke up once to nurse and I woke him up once to nurse 4 hours later. He got a diaper change at the 8 hour mark when I felt like I could finally risk it without him waking up too much.
Homeboy slept from essentially 2:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday until 6am on Thursday morning.
And on Thursday morning it was like I had a new baby. He took normal (for him) naps. He ate with a renewed appetite and gusto, wailing for boob at least every 2 hours. He pooped and peed more in one day than he has since he was a few days old. I had to change about 15 diapers and 4 outfits. It was like his system was flushing itself out, like it had somehow found a re-set button.
And my supply FINALLY responded. What pumping every 2 hours for 5 days straight couldn’t do, apparently my hungry boy could. I woke up on Friday morning to some seriously supply. Almost exactly 1 week after we landed in China. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to feel that kind of pain in the chest-al region as I was on that morning.
So, that’s what happened. That’s the havoc that jet lag can wreak on your body and your baby’s body. Whoever says babies can’t get jetlag LIES. They do and worse, SO DO YOUR BOOBS.
And I honestly think that nothing I did, not the pumping or the Vitamin D, or even the stress-relieving cry fest did anything to help get the supply back up. I think it was just riding it out and getting homeboy back on his “normal” schedule.
So here we are. One week later. We’ve got over 30 bags of hard-won pumped milk in the freezer. We’ve got a baby who still refuses to sleep at night for more than 15 minutes outside of my arms* but that’s ok HE’S EATING. We’ll fight the sleep-training battle another day.
Now we know. Now YOU know. Maybe your situation will be different, maybe it won’t.
We know to maybe expect something similar when we had back to the States in 6.5 months. Or not, maybe he’ll be ok. One thing is for sure though: we’re having the next baby on home leave. That or becoming accountants who never leave America AGAIN.
I’m kidding. Mostly. 🙂
*Update! I don’t want to jinx our progress or anything but let’s just say that until 4am when all bets are totally off and I’m back to defacto baby mattress, Will has upped his time at night outside of my arms to a number of hours that is less than 4 and more than 2. Hooray!