Spoiler alert! If you are grossed out by the idea of breastfeeding and breast milk, this post is soooo NOT for you. Feel free to kick rocks and reconvene on my next blog post. But for the rest of you mothers out there who are struggling to breastfeed or pump for as long as possible, I hope I can offer some advice on what my process has been like.
Probably the most important thing I have learned about trying to increase your milk supply, is that every woman is different. Some of the tips I have read have really not worked for me at all, and some have worked great. I should start off by saying that I had no issues with milk supply with my first two children. With my second child I had an abundance of milk and was able to stash a vast amount in the freezer. So imagine my disappointment when baby numero tres rolls around and I am pumping out a measly 2 oz every 3-4 hours. I mean, it was that bad. One thing I have decided is that starting off with a good plan from the get-go is majorly important. My most successful bout of breastfeeding / pumping was a direct result of pumping the rest of my milk after every feeding when my second was a newborn. A lot of women produce more with their additional children and it can be more than your tiny newborn can take. Instead of letting your body produce less, since the baby needs less, keep pumping and producing and build up a stock that will have you running out and buying a chest freezer.
But what do you do when life has gotten in the way and your milk supply dwindles? This is especially exasperating when you have gone back to work and you have to try to pump to keep your supply up but have to schedule it during breaks, simultaneously cram food in, and clean parts. In my personal experience, I cannot pump often enough to mimic how often I would be feeding my baby if I were at home all day. I am comfortable supplementing with formula to ensure that she never gets hungry and she also benefits from the vitamins and nutrients that formula is chock full of (and that my diet is probably lacking). However, at the very least I wanted to keep it about 50/50 and that meant upping my production. Keep in mind that I am not an official lactation consultant but here is what worked best for me.:
- The number one most important aspect of milk production is staying hydrated. For some this may be a given but I hate drinking water. I don't know what it is but I just can't stand it. The best reminder is chugging a jug of water each time I pump. And for a soda replacement, I discovered these ICE drinks that actually taste great and just like soda but are really flavored, sparkling water. Slamming Gatorade is also a reasonable choice if you are getting sick of plain water. Every time I am intentional about my H2O intake, I always see an increase in milk.
- Many people swear by oatmeal increasing milk supply and although I am not sure that this is backed by scientific evidence, it does seem to work. If for no other reason than the fact that you are increasing your calorie intake and eating more is definitely going to boost milk production. Between balancing work and the kids I have been having a really hard time eating and drinking water often enough throughout the day. So what meals I can fit in should be chock full of good stuff for you and baby. Oatmeal works perfectly for this. Quick and effective.
- Fenugreek and Brewers Yeast.
- I did not see a noticeable increase after Fenugreek alone. I took it both in pill form and tried to drink the Mother's Milk tea. I really could not muster the strength to make it through the whole mug but if you are a tea person, the tea might be a good option for you. I did experience the side effect of smelling like maple syrup which is supposed to be a sign that it is working but, like I said, no noticeable increase. I know that other people swear by it so I would not count it out as an option.
- I did notice an increase in milk supply after the Brewers Yeast pills. I am not a beer drinker but supposedly a glass of beer also gives a similar physical response. You can also get it in powdered form and make oatmeal lactation cookies! This recipe from Jessica Merchant is actually really yummy. Grab your jug of water and a couple of cookies to drink / eat with every pumping session.
4. Pump often!
- I have personally been aiming to pump every four hours. If I don't have the time to pump or breastfeed, I try and stimulate a let down response just to trick my body into thinking that a baby needs to be fed that regularly. You can also "power pump" or cluster feed if you can manage to take a kind of nursing vacation with your baby. Basically you just pump on and off for an hour giving yourself 5-10 minutes breaks. Clear up your Netflix queue or catch up on some reading so you aren't just miserably staring at a wall during this process.
Now you have the tips but what about the must haves to make this process even easier?
- Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breastpump with Backpack
- Covered Goods Nursing cover: (Best nursing cover on the planet. Thin, breathable, full coverage)
- Pump 2 Nurse: Bags for refrigerating breast pump parts between pump sessions. (Who has time to clean at work?)
- Lilypadz reusable nursing pad
- Lansinoh milk storage bags
- Medela vehicle lighter adaptor for pumping on the road
- Lansinoh manual breast pump
- Nursing bras
I really would not have been able to work and breastfeed successfully without the above products and hopefully some mothers out there will find these products as helpful as I have.
Happy pumping =)