I almost never get sick, so it was quite a bummer when I was hit with the stomach flu on Sunday night. It was the kind of stomach flu where I was up all night while my body cleaned itself out. Needless to say I didn’t get any sleep and going to work on Monday was just not an option. I had zero energy-I could barely lift Jude to feed him in the morning so Dustin and I decided that Dustin would take Jude to daycare and I would just stay home by myself to recuperate.
I knew from reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeedingthat it was completely safe to continue breastfeeding during my sickness, in fact, by continuing to nurse, Jude will be getting all my fabulous antibodies which might keep him from coming down with the stomach flu himself. My plan was just to continue pumping while I was home resting and all would be as normal. As soon as the boys left for the day I pumped at about the same time as I usually do, and I pumped about 6 ounces, which is normal. I slept the rest of the morning and I woke up around lunch time which is when I usually pump again. Now, I had been drinking tons of water, but I could only make myself choke down a handful of pretzels and a whole wheat bagel, which is probably why when I went to pump I got…nothing. This totally freaked me out because while I have learned that the female body is capable of some pretty amazing things, I just wasn’t sure that I could bounce back from nothing all the way back to the 20-25 ounces Jude needed a day.
So many thoughts started going through my head including:
- I’m not ready to be done nursing!! I have at least five months to go!
- Maybe I should have kept Jude home to nurse today
- How much milk do I have in my freezer?
- What am I going to do when Jude is hungry during the middle of the night and I can’t just nurse him?
- Would Jude even drink formula? He has never had any and is suspicious of all new flavors
- As bummed as I would be, it would be nice not to need to pump at work….
- What am I thinking! I’m not ready to give up yet-what can I do to increase my supply?
Anyway, I went back to The Womanly Art of Breastfeedingand found exactly two sentences about my dilemma. It basically said that it is normal for my milk to decrease slightly during my illness, but it would come back once I was better. I found this comforting, although I didn’t think that dropping down to nothing when I should be getting 6 ounces was a little more than a small decrease. When Jude got home, I tried nursing him and then I pumped again before bed and eeked out one more ounce.
I needed to figure out what to do next, so I thought about all that I have found to be true about nursing: Nursing is supply and demand. The baby is much more efficient than a pump. My body does adjust the amount of milk it produces in response to growth spurts in the baby, but it often takes a day or two for my body to make this change. With all this in mind I decided that as long as I felt up to it, I would keep Jude home with me on Tuesday, and the plan would be to nurse him all day. I figured that it would be okay if he was just getting a little bit of milk at a time because we could keep nursing as often as he wanted to.
Thankfully, I woke up the next morning still feeling under the weather, but I was definitely feeling well enough to keep the baby home and commence with my plan. It was a difficult day-Tuesday happened to also be the day that Jude’s first really bad cold was at it’s worse, and his first tooth just emerged, so he was not a super happy nursing baby, but we persevered. At the end of the day I pumped for the first time all day, and again, I only could pump about an ounce. However, throughout the day Jude had stopped feedings on his own, and he seemed to have a full belly before bed, so I assumed we were getting somewhere. I decided that since I still wasn’t back to 100% that we would stay home on Wednesday as well. I was just afraid that if the next day I had to nurse all day wasn’t until Saturday that it might be too late. Wednesday was actually the hardest day of the three. Between his stuffy nose, and what I assume was frustration that it was taking longer to get his food, Jude was not a happy eater-in fact he ended up in tears almost every time I tried to feed him. Till the end of the day I was down right discouraged, but I decided that I had done the best that I could do. I just could not take any more time off work, and whatever happened with my milk supply would happen. Before I went to bed I had two prayer requests: that Jude’s cold would clear up and that my milk supply would be restored.
Jude ate around 3 AM, which is usual, and he nursed a little more around 5:30, which again is usual. It was then time to pump for the first time this morning, and you could not believe my relief when I was able to pump 6 ounces. I pumped again at lunch and pumped 5 ounces. At the end of the day I was able to pump 3 more ounces. PRAISE GOD. It is an ounce or two shy of what I had been pumping, but it is certainly sufficient for what he needed at daycare. The baby nursed again before bed, and for the first time didn’t fight me.
I am so thankful that my milk came back so quickly and completely, and I am again left in awe of these amazing bodies that God gave us, which are so uniquely created to care for our babies. I know that to some it may seem crazy that I put myself through all of that just to be able keep nursing for a few more months, and maybe it is crazy. However, when I was holding him while he was nursing before bed this evening, I was reminded that I am just not ready to give up that sweet time, especially since we have made it this far. And now I know what to expect if/when I get sick in the future, which I hope isn’t anytime soon! =)