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My breastfeeding journey is not what I expected it to be. I had always dreamed that I would be nursing my baby and loving it! But after surgery on my left breast in 2013 left me with a seriously leaky boob and the emotional ups and downs I experienced after Bebé T was born, nursing was the first thing to go in a long list of things I’d said I would definitely do.
My supply has had its ups and downs too. In the beginning, I had a bit of an oversupply and then it dipped. I worked hard to get it back up and now that I’m almost at 6 months, it feels like it is dropping again. At the moment, I pump on average (average over the last 30-days) about 1288 ml per day. My highest day was 1560 ml and my lowest day was 1005 ml. But it hasn’t always been this way. I started tracking and logging my pumping amounts back in July and back then I was getting anywhere between 600 – 900 ml per day.
The following are the steps that I have taken to increase and maintain my supply. however, the first thing I would mention, especially for those brand new mamas (week 1- 5 ish) is that you should not expect to be achieving results like mine until you are about 4 months in. You don’t need it, so your body isn’t going to be making it. Your levels increase as your baby grows older.
- You’ve heard it before. Breastmilk is based on supply and demand so you need to keep demanding it. When I decided to move to exclusive pumping (week 2/3) I made it a point to pump every single time that my baby fed. This meant that I was pumping anywhere between 10 – 12 times a day, around the clock. And I was pumping for a while, about 30 – 45 minutes each time. So pretty much, I was pumping all day. It was exhausting. I now have a more manageable schedule that I follow that doesn’t revolve around Bebé’s feeding habits. You can find this schedule in my Instagram posts, HERE. Breastfeeding is a commitment and it’s pretty much all you are going to be doing, so you have to mentally prepare yourself for it. The first 15 weeks are crucial and you can’t mess them up. After those 15 weeks, your supply has pretty much been established so you can start playing around with how long you go between pumps.
- I took Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle like it was the only nourishment I needed. I would take 2 fenugreeks and 1 blessed thistle about 4 times a day. I started taking these around week 5 and I found that once I started, my supply increased a lot. I still take 1 – 2 capsules of fenugreek every 1 – 2 days and 4 times a day when I feel like my supply is dropping. I used the following brands of Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle.
- I drank more water than I ever thought humanly possible. At one point is was drinking over 4000ml a day, that’s about 17 cups because someone told me you should drink your body weight in ounces. I did find that the more water I drank the more milk I would produce the next day and vice versa.
- I drank 2 – 3 large glasses of Mother’s Milk or MilkmaidTea per day. This doesn’t taste that great, to begin with, but when you are drinking so much of it, you get used to it. I still drink a glass or two per week.
- I had a large bowl of oatmeal 1 – 2 times a day and still do. The key to the oatmeal is that it needs to be as natural as possible: high-quality steel cut oats. It can’t be prepackaged or instant oatmeal. I also add in flaxseed, hemp seeds, and chia seeds to increase the protein content. I add either cinnamon or honey to taste and use almond or regular milk.
- I prioritized my middle of the night pumps. This sounds unfortunate, but the truth is that you have the most amount of milk at night, so use it to your advantage, especially if your baby is sleeping longer stretches through the night. In the beginning, I was pumping every 2 hours, but at about 3 months I went to every three hours and now I’m pumping 2x throughout the night. This doesn’t include the pump I do before bed and the pump I do when I wake up though!
- I made sure I had the right equipment. The wrong size flange or old membranes can seriously impede your output. Stressing about washing and drying can also cause harm. Get the right parts and get a few sets.
- I tried to sleep as much as possible. This often meant taking naps with my babe as much as I could because I was pumping at night.
- As much as I wanted to, I didn’t work out and I didn’t reduce my calorie intake. Both of these can reduce your milk supply. You need all the water and nutrients your body can get to produce milk for your baby.
- I try not to stress about it too much. On those days where I’m lower than average, I definitely worry, but I take comfort in knowing that there is always a back-up, either my freezer stash or formula. My baby is never going to go hungry.