Increasing Your Breast Milk Supply
Breastfeeding Is A Full Time Job
Ask any veteran mom, and they will tell you breastfeeding is hard work. It’s a full time job. It requires a commitment to sleepless nights, sore boobs, and avoiding many foods that you may love. Even still knowing that you are giving your baby the healthiest start possible to life often makes up for these inconveniences. The biggest challenge many moms face is maintaining a healthy milk supply. According to the CDC In 2011 79% of newborns were breastfed however by the age of 6 months that number decreased to 49%. A decrease in mom's milk production was the biggest single factor for that decrease. All too often, mom’s milk supply decreases as time goes by while baby’s appetite increases. Luckily many times this decrease in milk production is completely avoidable.
The First Few Days
One of the first things to remember, is it takes time for your milk to come in. You can expect it to take about 3-4 days. Immediately following delivery however, your body will produce colostrum a super nutrient rich substance that’s filled with antibodies and other important things your baby needs in her first few days. Experts suggest nursing within an hour or so after delivery to begin to stimulate milk production, and take advantage of baby’s natural alert state following delivery. Colostrum is all that baby needs the first few days of life. Unfortunately, this super nutrient rich substance is thin and often times baby will want to eat every 1-3 hours during these first few days. This is perfectly normal, and while it can be exhausting for mom this constant round the clock feeding schedule will ensure your milk supply comes in strong.
When your milk does come in, again about 3-4 days after delivery you will notice your breasts become very firm and possibly sore. Make sure you are nursing baby often when your milk first comes in as this will ensure a strong supply. I also suggest short power pumping sessions or hand expressing any left-over milk after each feeding. The goal is to completely empty your breasts so that you are signaling to your body to ramp up production.
Note- A short power pumping session means a 10 minute or so session of pumping just after feeding baby to ensure you completely empty your breasts.
Don't Skip Feedings
Don’t skip feedings, this is especially critical in the first few weeks while establishing your milk supply. So often times, mom gets exhausted and while baby still requires feedings pretty much around the clock it can be so tempting to hand your partner a bottle and let them handle that 3 am feeding for once. This is aright once in a while, but it has the potential to decrease your milk supply. A good practice might be to allow your partner to do the feeding, and you do at least a quick pump to ensure your body continues to produce enough milk to sustain your little one. If at any time you have to skip a feeding pump as soon as possible. Your body is a miraculous wonder the more baby eats the more your body will naturally produce, but the opposite is also true. If you miss feedings your body will naturally assume that baby needs less and respond accordingly.
Add A Pumping Schedule
In the early days and weeks of breastfeeding it is likely that your body will produce more milk than baby needs.This oversupply of milk will begin to decrease over time and settle as your body recognizes how much baby needs. Utilize this oversupply and ensure that you pump after feeding sessions to completely empty your breasts. It’s also a good idea to create a pumping schedule maybe try pumping about an hour or so after baby eats. You can do this a few times a day just to help stock your freezer with milk and keep your milk supply steady
Cluster feedings, and power pumping sessions are another great way to boost your breast milk supply quickly. There is nothing that can empty your breasts as effectively as baby. Many moms will sit with baby and their pump, and nurse then pump every half hour to hour for several hours. Doing this for 2-3 days will increase your supply quickly. Doing this every couple of weeks will supercharge production and help keep your supply strong. Drink plenty of water during these sessions.
Give Your Body What It Needs
Get plenty of rest, fluids, and nutrients. While breastfeeding it is important not to go on any strict diets or reduce calories too low. This is not a time to really diet, more a time to make healthy eating choices. Your body needs more calories since you are literally feeding yourself and your baby. Snack often and add lots of protein to your diet. It’s also important to get plenty of fluids. Many moms get busy and often just don’t consume the amount of fluids they need. Nothing, and I mean nothing will tank your supply faster than dehydration.
Choose Your Pump Wisely
A double electric pump is your best option as it will express the most milk and do so quicker than any other method other than your baby that is. If you are pumping daily choose a pump that is recommended for daily use. Quality is very important when it comes to choosing your pump do your research, and check reviews. Ensure that you have the correct size flanges, if they are too big or too small pumping will be uncomfortable. Keep the parts clean and change them often. If you notice that your milk supply starts to decrease, or you are not getting as much from your pumping sessions, check your pump to ensure nothing needs to be replaced. Even the best of pumps are rarely capable of fully emptying your breasts, therefore after each session you should also hand express any remaining milk.
Keep At It
Your milk supply will naturally fluctuate over time, it will increase and decrease, this fluctuation is normal. Your baby will also go through spurts where it seems like he wants to eat constantly. This is also natural and needed to boost your supply. Baby will begin over time to take more milk at each feeding, and go longer between nursing. These round the clock feeding spurts are actually a signal that your body needs to produce more milk for each feeding, and you can rest assured that this is temporary and your little one will settle in. Breastfeeding is a wonderful bonding experience for both mom and baby, and gives your little one the healthiest start possible so hang in there during the difficult times.
The CDC- Breastfeding Report Card