My 5-month-old daughter recently had a stomach virus; she lost her appetite, and in response I pumped and stored the milk. I think I noticed my supply starting to decrease then (I work 3 days a week and typically pump 3 times during those days).
As soon as she was better and ready to nurse again, I came down with a sinus infection (a week ago) and watched my output drop from 14 oz. a workday to 9. In addition, my daughter was becoming increasingly irritable while nursing, acting like she was still hungry. In desperation, I gave her some organic formula and she sucked it down and wanted more.
Well, she is currently getting 2 bottles of formula a day to make up for my lack of production and nursing a lot during the night (my nipples are sore all over again). This morning, I got my first period since I got pregnant. What is going on? What should I do?
Friends and family have told me that since she is so close to eating solids, I should either introduce them now or supplement with formula, while continuing to nurse her however much I can. Is our "exclusive" relationship over?
FWIW, it's very rarely an actual drop in supply, and it's almost never a problem that can't be resolved. First of all, a drop in pumping output is very common at this age-- it doesn't mean you're not making enough anymore. It means you're not pumping enough. A pump is less efficient than baby, and pumps wear out with time and regular use. You might begin by replacing all of the soft parts of your pump, to be sure you're getting the maximum suction from whatever pump you're using. You may have to add a pumping session or two into your day for a short time, to increase your output.
Another common thing that happens at this age is baby demands more-- baby is growing, and is hungry as a result. You will notice baby is impatient at the breast, and wants to feed more frequently, and seems aggravated. This is baby's way of increasing your supply-- baby is cranky with the flow, so baby wants to nurse more often. The increased nursing stimulates your supply, and in a week or two, the supply has caught up with the demand. This is a normal process, and if you roll with it, and increase feeding frequency with baby's demand, it will all work itself out.
Adding in formula is likely to reduce your supply even further. Reduced demand will often bring the menstrual cycle back on. So that may all be related.
Also, once my cycles started again, I always noticed a dip in supply. My DS in particular used to complain BITTERLY about the supply, when I had my period, and he'd stay up half the night nursing away trying to feel satisfied. But a few days later, things would even out again.
So I would urge you to be conservative with the formula, if you can't or don't want to give it up all together. This is very likely a temporary situation that can be worked out with patience!
9 oz is my regular output on a workday (also 3 times pumping). My period returned at 3 months or so, I went back to work at ~4.5 months. Right before my period my pump-output goes down to ~7oz a day, but goes up again at the end of my period. It is normal (at least for me). I supplement when she is at daycare with frozen milk, that I pumped when I was still on leave. And I pump extra at night and weekend to keep supply up. I would try to stop or minimize the formula, if I were you. It is true you can supplement with formula without much extra effect when you already started with solids. But the amount of solids is very small at first and they constipate easily at that time, formula will make that even worse.