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Thursday, January 4, 2018

increasing milk supply

Pumping is no joke. It's not for the faint at heart apparently. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done as a mom, or probably the hardest thing. Nursing, breastfeeding, pumping, making milk, being a cow, whatever you call it, it's HARD.

This past year I had a lot of health issues after my final C-section, which led to me bleeding a lot aka draining all the energy I possibly had with a third, new baby around and nursing. It meant I had to go on a double dose of a birth control pill, aka something you are not supposed to do when nursing as far as wanting to keep up your supply (it's fine for baby, but tanks the supply). It sucked, but was necessary for my health. Because of this, I worked diligently to find things to potentially increase my supply.

The biggest things I found to increase milk production were not able to be purchased: staying calm, decreasing stress, and increasing my overall health with extra water, getting rest, exercise and ME time as often as possible.  These are so important.

Those are the hardest things to do when you're already worrying about feeding your child, producing enough, pumping in a work office (ug), etc. BUT so important and really the biggest factors in increasing your supply.

I can't say for sure which of these things actually worked the best or produced the most results for me because I was in a desperate state of health issues and meds that I tried them all... but they are worth a shot if you need a boost.

A few tips for increasing your breastmilk supply:

  • Almonds- Not sure why, but they work, so I added them to my breakfast in the morning or as a snack with cranberries or raisins mid-morning before another pump session. They are overall healthy for you so a good easy thing to add. I kept the individual packets in my purse, work bag, desk at work, and car. They are easy and filling go-to snacks for pumping mommas.
  • Mother's Milk Tea- An easy way to start your morning is with a cup of tea, it's relaxing and refreshing, and hopefully helps improve the milk. 
  • Pump longer- When you think you're done, when the milk is slowing down, pump another 5 minutes or so and usually you will get a second burst of milk. It teaches your breasts you are not done, you need more. 
  • Frequent pumping- Don't go more than 3 hours without pumping during your work day. That's so difficult, but make it happen, schedule it, you're allowed.
  • Hands-Free and distractions- For me, continuing to work helped me not stress about how much time the pumping at work was taking. Continuing to email, check voicemails, write papers, etc. while pumping kept me up with what I needed to do at work, did not interfere with my job per se, so I never felt guilty shutting the door, which meant I was not stressed about missing work stuff, aka was able to produce what I needed at work. A hands-free Medela nursing bra is PERFECT. I cannot believe I never knew about this when I first pumped for a year with my first child. You need two of these- one for work, one for home. 
  • Baby faces- Have pictures of baby in your office, on your desk, on your phone, around you. Scroll Insta if you need to get started to feel that fuzzy warm feeling of loving baby and then your body responds with producing more milk.
  • EAT- You NEED calories to keep up with what you burn while pumping/nursing, and to keep the milk coming. It's a necessity. NO dieting, no trying to lose all that weight ASAP. You can be healthy, eat fruits and veggies, and still build up the calories necessary to produce milk. But dieting and over-exercising are NOT helpful with producing milk. It can wait. You are OK just how you are. Your baby needs you, and so let go of that guilt you're feeling about changing your body size and EAT. Eat small meals, snack throughout your day, but keep it coming. Veggie sticks and hummus, carrots and ranch dressing, cheese and pepperoni, celery and peanut butter, granola bars etc. were my go-to favorites. 
  • More water, and even more- You NEED to drink, lots. When I woke up I'd drink a huge glass of water before I even started pumping. I'd drink another glass while getting dressed for work. I would have another water bottle in the car ride on the way to work during my commute. That way once I got into my busy day, if for whatever busy work reason I forgot to drink as much, I knew I was hydrated and ready for that first morning work pump session. Buy a bigger water bottle. If you rarely re-fill it, then pack two water bottles for work. For me, I would pack one Vitamin Water bottle every day for work and drink it mid-day when I knew my production was decreasing, naturally. I love these drinks, and while it cost more than regular water, I found it really helped me stay healthy and full of nutrients I needed to produce more milk. 

  • Lactation bites were a wonderful thing! I found this recipe and fell in love. SO easy to make. So delicious. Great source of protein so just one of these would keep me held over until lunch. I'd eat it first thing when I got to work around 8:30ish before my pump session and it was a delicious treat, that also worked to help me out with milk. (picture above, recipe below). I would make one batch and it'd last me at least a month, eating 1-2 a day. They hold over great in a ziplock bag in the fridge, or you can freeze them I'm sure.

Happy pumping and nursing, moms! Do what you can, and then forget the rest. Realize it's OK if you decide that none of this is for you. Accept your production for what it is. If you try a few things and it works, great! It's a big job. Commend yourself for your efforts today. I'm proud of you!

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