When I was pregnant with my first daughter, breastfeeding wasn’t a top item on my priority list. My mom didn’t breastfeed me nor did I have any friends who had gone through it already, so it seemed like quite a mountain to climb. After researching the costs of formula though, I was convinced to give it a try. I went into my journey thinking if it didn’t work, I would be okay with it. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. It was a love/hate relationship (mostly love) but I was attached. From those first few days of success, I started educating myself on everything from how to increase breastmilk supply to how to treat plugged milk ducts. I wanted to ensure my success was uninterrupted. At the time, I worked 30 hours a week outside the home and often had to rely on pumping, so I read every book and article about increasing my milk supply.
With my first baby, I never had to take the advice I learned, but three years later when I had twins, I was faced with multiple obstacles including their prematurity. We are past those days now but, if anything, it made me an expert on how to increase breastmilk supply, so I will try to bring that expertise to you. First, before worrying about low milk supply, it is important to know the true signs of low supply. So many women (like myself with my firstborn) worry about milk supply because of many normal and natural things over the course of a nursing journey. These play tricks on our minds and cause us to try things like supplementing or pumping. This cycle causes stress and worry and ultimately leads to a decrease in milk supply instead. If you do in fact need ways to increase your breastmilk supply, here are some of the best tips I’ve gathered from my own reading as well as the advice of many professionals I’ve asked along the way on how to increase breastmilk:
How To Increase Breastmilk Supply
Contact your local La Leche League to have a certified lactation consultant check your child’s latch. I had a few reservations with this at first because of the modesty I felt about a stranger seeing or handling my breasts. The second time around, the modesty wasn’t as much of a problem as my arrogance. I knew how to breastfeed. I’d done it successfully for 15 months. Turns out I was wrong. My identical twins both had lip ties and tongue ties preventing them from getting a proper latch and I missed it. My journey with them was hell, but once the proper latch was established, things improved and felt much more natural.
Take a nursing vacation. No, I don’t mean a break from nursing. A break will inevitably do the opposite of what you want. A nursing vacation means your baby is by your side 99 percent of the day. Nurse your child on demand around the clock. Take a short shower for a few minutes apart, but wear your baby on your bare chest, cuddle on the couch together, and keep him in a co-sleeper right next to you all night, and every time he wants to suckle, offer the breast.
Every time you nurse outside of your normal “schedule” it sends a message to your brain that you need more milk. When you let your baby suckle after draining your breast, it sends that same message. Nurse on both sides and often to increase your milk supply.
|Mom’s chest is best|
Avoid all alternatives to breastfeeding. Do not offer a bottle, pacifier, formula, water or juice if possible. To increase your milk supply, none or as little of these as possible should be used as a replacement for your boobs. As a working mom, I found this difficult to do as I had to be away from my daughter 8 hours a day. To keep my supply established, I was very clear with my pumping needs when I returned from my maternity leave. I pumped every 2 ½ to 3 hours for 10-15 minutes each time just like my little one would have been nursing. Yes, this caused some stress in the workplace, but I had a very supportive boss. I would encourage everyone to have this discussion with their employers ahead of time so there are no surprises. I was nervous about this conversation because my manager was a man, but he impressed me greatly with his consideration for my needs and priorities.
Consider pumping IN ADDITION to nursing. Offering the advice of pumping seems counterintuitive, but when used WITH nursing, it can be beneficial. Do not use pumping to determine how much milk you are making. Your body responds a thousand times more to a baby than a pump. Only pump to replace a baby’s feeding when you are physically separated from each other. You should never have to pump your own milk and feed it to your child. Many moms will do this at the advice of an uninformed pediatrician or because of concerns that the milk they pumped will get wasted. Freeze it. Save it. Or even consider donating it. Pumping itself won’t increase milk supply unless the brain-breast communication cycle is understood. Also, if you don’t have a pump, contact your insurance company. Under the new healthcare affordability act, all plans will offer breastfeeding support.
Fill your body with the proper nutrition. There are many natural remedies to help the body out. One of my favorite solutions was to combine many of these ingredients into one delicious cookie. What new mom doesn’t want to eat cookies every day? Drmomma.org explains the benefits of each ingredient and how it increases milk supply. Most can be found in the health food aisle of your local grocery store. (We also ordered them from Amazon and had them shipped right to our doorstep so we didn’t even have to leave the house.) Ensuring proper hydration is also important, but don’t drown yourself in water. Drink to curb thirst. You should be getting about half your body weight in ounces of fluids each day. You’ll get the best benefits if these fluids are water, but milk and healthy juices are also okay.
Breastfeeding is not always easy. Sometimes the hate part of the love/hate relationship is stronger, and many moms feel too much stress or exhaustion to continue. Support systems can break down and some people may pressure moms to stop nursing for their own well-being rather than offering the advice moms need. Doctors are quick to offer formula as a safe alternative. No mom is a bad mom for not breastfeeding. BUT if it is your choice to breastfeed and it doesn’t go as planned, the guilt runs high. I hope if breastfeeding is your choice that these tips for how to increase breastmilk will come in handy.
What advice would you give on how to increase breastmilk supply?