Breastfeeding is hard. It’s no joke, and for 96% of us, it’s more difficult than we ever dreamed it would be. Add in any sort of external complication (health issues with mom or baby, premature birth, etc.) and it’s damn near impossible.
My breastfeeding journey was hell, but I stuck it out and did everything in my power to make it work. I’m happy that my daughter now nurses like a champ and all of the trials and tribulations were so worth it to get to where we are today. So many of my friends and family members either don’t have the support, or knowledge, to make it successful for their families, and a big culprit seems to be that women can’t produce enough milk.
To that I say, Amen sisters! I dealt with health issues that prohibited my child from sucking, let alone sucking efficiently, which made my supply drop down low and took so much work to get back up again. If I hadn’t had a lactation consultant keeping me going with advice, along with the support of my family, I’m not sure I could have done it. Some women can work to increase their supply and it improves in 2-3 days, others after a week. For me it took two full weeks to get where I needed to be for my baby.
Outside of finding an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to coach you, I’ve put together some tips that my friends and I have tried and found to help increase milk supply. Every mama is different, and what works for one might not work for the next, but in the spirit of sharing to support each other, here you go!
1. Constant nursing
As often as you can. For us, it was every 60-90 minutes during the day and we tried to stretch it to every 2-3 hours at night if the baby would let me go that long 🙂 Because this is so time consuming, I limited it to 20 minutes a side for a total of 40 minutes. This timing isn’t too far fetched if the baby is clusterfeeding (which might be likely if he/she is unable to get enough to eat on the breast if the supply is low.)
2. Pump for 10 minutes after every single nursing session.
All of them. Every session. Even in middle of the night. Sometimes I would pump for 15 minutes if I was positive that the nursing session was lackluster. If my baby still seemed hungry (which she always was because she wasn’t an efficient nurser), I put it in a bottle and fed it right back to her. (Others could also do this, or put it in formula, OR start building a freezer repository!)
The key to the pumping is to pump for TWO MINUTES longer than when you stop flowing. Your IBCLC can offer more advice here.
3. Drink water CONSTANTLY
You’ll probably be thirsty anyways, but even if not, you need to drink a ton. Even now, months later and in a great place with breastfeeding, I produce so much more on days I’m really pounding the water. Probably the best thing you can do outside of nursing as much as possible.
4. Foods that help
I made overnight oatmeal
and added brewers yeast to it (none of the processed stuff- has so much added crap it defeats the purpose), lactation smoothies
and lactation energy bites
. My hubby still makes me oatmeal that I eat every morning, and he also makes my lactation bites that I still eat 4x a day! I also made lactation cookies
as a treat here and there. It’s a great way to enlist help of those around you to make some of this stuff you can graze on continuously.
5. Foods that don’t help
- Peppermint. Who the heck knew? Stay away from it in every form.
- Menthol. Not only is this bad for your supply, but can be bad for baby, so watch any cough drops or other things that might contain it
6. Ways baby can help – tummy time!
As soon as the cord falls off, start putting that darling on his/her belly for small bouts of tummy time. This will strengthen the neck and facial muscles, which will help their ability to suck. The better/more efficiently your baby can suck, the quicker your supply will go up.
7. Power Pumping
Pump for 20 minutes
Relax for 10 minutes
Pump for 10 minutes
Relax for 10 minutes
Pump for 10 minutes
If you can do this a few times a day, over the course of a few days (preferably at the same time), you should see a lift.
Hang in there, mama. You got this.