7 ways to increase milk supply
I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed my daughter right from the get-go. Even though I gave birth via c-section I nursed her straight away when they gave her to me an hour after she was born. I breastfed her until she was 7 months old. I would have wanted to continue nursing, but my daughter kind of lost interest and my milk supply ran out eventually.
Breastfeeding wasn’t all smooth sailing for me though: I had some supply issues when my babe was about three weeks old. In the evenings my supply would be too low, and my daughter would get really cranky about that. Here’s 7 tips on how I managed to increase my supply!
1. Pump before nursing. This is something my lactation consultant (bless her heart) taught me. It requires a hell of a lot of discipline, but will yield some serious results. I promise. 20 minutes before nursing, make sure to extract some (I would try to extract 100cc’s in total) of your milk.
This works because milk is produced on a supply-and-demand-basis. When a feeding session ends while there is still milk left, your boobs get a signal telling them to produce less milk. It also works the other way around: if babe tries to drink from empty boobs the boobs be like: “we gotta get more milk up in here!” Hooray for mother nature! If you do this a couple of times, the supply and demand system is triggered and you will increase milk supply. Because your babe can extract more milk from your breasts than a pump can, it’s more practical to pump before nursing.
Pssst… Stay tuned for next weeks post: Breastpumps that don’t suck!
2. Left and right. Give babe both sides! If babe is full after one side, pump the other side afterwards. If you notice babe is always full after one side, you can try pumping during a feed, to save some time.
3. Keep babe awake. When your babe falls asleep while drinking (mine did that all the time), gently squeeze your baby’s hand or switch from one boob to the other when babe tends to fall asleep. Or, when you feel like babe is “comfort nursing” (calming and soothing itself rather than actually drinking), try breast compression. If your baby keeps falling asleep halfway through a feed he might be missing out on the so-called “hindmilk” with a higher fat-content than the foremilk that comes in later earlier into a feeding. The hindmilk can help babies gain weight and last longer between feedings. If your baby won’t drink anymore, and you feel like there is still milk left, try pumping the remaining milk.
4. Lactation consultant. Get a lactation consultant to help out asap! She (yes I did check whether it was actually a woman, no offence to any male lactation consultant) will come over to your house and watch while you nurse/pump to ensure that you’re doing it right and to help achieve an increase in your milk supply. I know it sounds weird to have someone watch while you’re nursing or pumping, but they’ve (most likely) seen a boob or two before, so don’t sweat it. My lactation consultant gave me the reassurance I needed to continue exclusive breastfeeding. TIP: Check with your health insurance provider if they pay for (part of) the lactation consultants fee (mine did!).
5. Sleeeeep: You might recognize this: in the mornings I would have so much milk that my entire bed would be soaked (nursing pads had either shifted or given in hours ago), whereas at the end of the day I was running on empty. Sleep really does help your body heal and magically fills up the milk supply. I know, you’re already catching all the zzz’s you can, and afternoon naps might not be an option with one or more toddlers running around, but this one had to be in the list, because it is a really effective milk-increaser!
5. Don’t worry. Many new moms worry about their milk supply, when in fact nothing is wrong. As long as your baby is alert, active, and regularly filling and wetting diapers, and gaining weight your supply is likely fine. Remember, it can take a few days after delivery (especially with a scheduled c-section) for your milk to come in. Meanwhile, your breasts will (probably) produce colostrum. What this first stage of breast milk lacks in volume it makes up for in nutrients. It’s packed with antibodies and immunoglobulins, which protects newborns as they come into a world of bacteria and viruses, and also has a laxative effect that helps them expel the tarry first stools called meconium.
6. No nipple shields. Although these can be a useful (and sometimes necessary) tool in some cases, they can reduce the stimulation to your nipple or interfere with milk transfer, which can interfere with the supply-demand cycle. So if possible, try to avoid the shields or opt for a “Contact Shield” like this one that allows for more skin to skin contact. In my experience skin to skin contact was the easiest way to increase milk supply: as soon as boobs feel baby in their proximity the milk glands start producing milk.
7. Oats. I might have used my milk supply as an excuses to eat a lot of cookies with anise/oatmeal in them. While there is no scientific evidence to support the claim what about oats causes a spike in milk production, most woman notice an increase in milk supply after including oats in their diet (check out this mom’s well documented experiment for instance). Although it didn’t do much for me, everybody is different, so it still might be worth having a cookie or two. Here’s a recipe for some delicious lactation cookies (they taste a lot better than they sound).
And those are the things that actually worked for me. If you’re interesting in more information about breastfeeding: check out these 12 cool facts about breastfeeding!