Breastfeeding is no walk in the park! I feel like when I was pregnant, everyone warned me about the horror of labor but between getting pregnant, morning sickness, not being able to walk then all the postpartum and breastfeeding fun that comes after birth, labor and delivery was the easiest part! (If you missed my labor story, you can read it HERE). For today’s post, I want to give you a list of all the breastfeeding tips and tricks I’ve been given to help increase your milk supply.
Before I get started, I want to clarify that I am speaking to you from mom to mom, not as your medical professional or lactation consultant. Please seek their expert opinions before trying anything recommended on this list of things I have tried to help increase my supply as well as recommendations given by my readers via Instagram.
Quick little background on pumping/breastfeeding because I get this question a lot- as soon as my milk came in a few days after having my baby, I way overproduced. I’m talking a good 12-16 oz just from pumping in the morning. I couldn’t always nurse in the mornings because I was too full for a good latch, so I would pump and he’d eat from bottles most morning and night. We always did bottles at night starting I think 2-3 weeks old to make sure he went to bed on a full stomach and it was a game changer! He went from waking up every 1-2 hours to every 3-4. It was magical! Anyways, because we went into quarantine a little over a month after having him and my husband was home a lot, I pumped about 3 times a day and had more than enough to feed him bottles plus build up my freezer collection. I would end up bagging 20-35oz a week for several weeks and honestly was googling ways to decrease milk supply and continued to drag out pumping times in order to signal we needed to slow down the milk factory lol! I didn’t really have a pumping schedule, but I knew I needed my sleep. My husband would feed him bottles during the night until he started sleeping the night consistently around 11-12 weeks old (ilysm SNOO!). I would stay up as late as I could, at least midnight, pump then would wake up with him around 6am, feed him with a bottle and then pump. It worked for me but I had to do it slowly so it’s a process if you’re trying to skip night pumps and of course risking losing your supply if you’re only making just enough. Anyways, looking back I so wish I pumped more and tried to build my freezer supply more than I did while I could. Storing 20oz a week sounds like a lot, but that’s barely a days worth of milk especially during a growth spurt. I wish I knew your supply starts to regulate based on baby’s needs around 3-4 months so a drop in supply may just mean your body is regulating to make just enough for baby. It would have at least given me a timeline, so I wouldn’t purposefully slow down milk production and just use it to my advantage of building up my freezer supply. I honestly thought that would overproduce until I decided I was done breastfeeding and would wean on my own. Again… things no one tells you. I did notice my first drop when he was about 3 months old but I blamed the stress of going back to work and trying to figure out what the best option was. Thinking about working in the ER during a pandemic with a newborn at home kept me up a night or two that’s for sure. I was still overproducing for a few weeks even after that drop and just noticed I wasn’t storing as much in the freezer, but I had plenty for the day and some so I was nowhere near worried. Back up to a few days ago and a stressful situation became even more stressful and completely dried out my milk supply. I mean, I went from pumping 10-12oz consistently every morning for weeks to 2-4oz in just one day. I was completely dried out. I couldn’t believe it and it made me even more sad and stressed out. I went into panic mode, wiped out my freezer supply and now I have an empty freezer and a baby who won’t take the only formula I had as backup from before he was born. I had asked you all for milk supply tips and tricks before I went into panic mode in hopes to just maintain my supply and because it seemed to be the number one question in my DMs since I gave birth. I was already using a few things just for maintenance every few days or so since my first drop, but little did I know a few days later I’d be over here researching everything on the list desperate to get my supply up. I’ve been working out consistently for 6+ weeks, haven’t changed my diet, drinking at least a liter of water a day as well as smoothies/protein shakes, so my sudden drop was unfortunately related to stress. And yes, I know a fed baby is best and in the end our babies are happy as long as they have a full tummy no matter what kind of milk they’re drinking. But, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to swallow when it happens so fast and unexpectedly. I’m right there with you mamas supplementing or fully feeding with formula because we’re headed in that direction too! And I’m right there with you mamas trying absolutely everything possible to build up your supply and hang on to BF as long as you can because that’s where we are now. Our babies will love us either way 🙂
OK! Now here’s what you came here for! I’ll list everything that was recommended and let you know what I’ve tried. I honestly think there’s not just “one thing” that will help, but good news you can try almost all of these simultaneously. Hope they help!
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR BREAST MILK SUPPLY
LACTATION CONSULT: Seek the help of a professional! Most insurances cover lactation consults and they can give you a personalized plan to help increase your supply. I met with one in the delivery room and it was more of a “Hi, oh he’s latching? That’s good. Keep it up. Bye” so I’m going to schedule a call with one to hopefully tell me something that may help.
SUPPLY & DEMAND: It’s no coincidence 80% of the responses were to have baby feed more/pump more often. Both send signals to the brain to stimulate prolactin which is a hormone that basically tells your body to make more milk. More stimulation=more prolactin=more milk. Seems easy enough but when you’re running low, it sure does feel like you’re a slave to your pump, so hang in there. Also, many of you suggested that baby vs pump was more successful even if they weren’t eating, just being comforted or finishing off a pumping session. Lastly, always either nurse or pump every 2-3 hours- this includes nighttime…oh, boy!
POWER PUMP: Speaking of pumping, I’ve been power pumping which is essentially pumping a ton to tell your brain it needs to step up its milk-making game. Basically you pump for 20 minutes, break for 10, pump for 10, break for 10, pump for 10. I honestly just started to do this for a good 1-2 hours straight a few times a day. You can also pump for 15 minutes after your baby nurses. Apparently if you do this a couple times a day for a few days to a week you should notice a huge increase. Don’t forget your nipple cream after all this (TMI?!) But you’ll thank me later. I use this one. I’ve also been recommended this one by a few of you as well. I’ve been doing this for a few days and I feel like it’s helped, but I’ll give it more time. Nowhere near where I was before, but definitely some progress. ********I shared my breastfeeding necessities in my NEWBORN MUST-HAVES post and included my breast pump which I love because I can just stick it in my pocket and do almost anything while wearing it with this pumping bra. Also! Make sure you change your pump supplies every I think they say 3 months. I ordered my pump from here with my insurance and they called me to send me a new set, but I kept it to the side for a while until I read how it made such a difference for some people’s supply. I noticed a HUGE difference in the suction power with the new supplies even though my other ones seemed like they were still in perfect condition. I didn’t know it was “a thing” to change breast pump parts until they called me, but hoping it’ll be more efficient.
STAY HYDRATED: Breast milk is more than 80% water, so making sure you drink plenty of water is SO important. This was the second most suggested tip! I actually noticed a difference with this at the beginning when I didn’t pay attention to how much I drank, so now I always make sure to drink at least 2L of water a day plus a smoothie. If you have a hard time drinking that much water try infusing it with fruit/mint/lemons etc, eat lots of fruits/veggies, drink smoothies or eat soups (just make sure soups aren’t loaded with salt so you don’t dry yourself out even more. Try something like this to help you drink more water.
INCREASE CALORIE INTAKE: You burn at least 500 calories a day breastfeeding, so make sure you find time to eat meals, not just snacks here and there.
FOODS: Galactagogues are found in certain foods and helps promote milk production. Top galactagogues are whole grains, oatmeal, fennel, ginger, chickpeas, garlic, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, nuts/seeds. Fenugreek and Brewer’s yeast (major ingredient in lactation cookies) are biggies, I’ll talk a little more about those below. Someone else said pizza lol!! I’m in for that! I also just ordered these brownies one of you girls suggested.
DON’T STRESS: Tell me something I don’t know lol! But really! Being a mom is so hard already, try to take time for yourself and ignore the outside noise. Obviously easier said than done.
AVOID: tight fitting clothes, exercise-although I’ve been working out for 6+ weeks and have maintained my supply. I think it’s more the not rehydrating after a good sweat session or refueling the calories you lose more than the activity itself. Your menses can also through you in for a loop. Of course, not really something you can avoid, but some said their milk dipped and then came back up after their cycle ended. Also birth controls can play a role in milk supply decrease in some. There’s also certain foods that can decrease supply so look into those as well.
BELOW ARE A FEW OF THE TOP SUGGESTIONS. I LIVED OFF OF THE LACTATION COOKIES AND BODY ARMOUR DRINKS AND FEEL LIKE THEY REALLY HELPED. I ALSO TOOK THE LEGENDAIRY MILK LACTATION SUPPORT PILLS.