A few weeks ago, a FTM (First Time Mom) requested for a detailed post on how I have managed to build and maintain a high breast milk supply to exclusively breastfeed both my kids for months, even when I returned to work after maternity leave – when J was a little over 6 weeks old and when CJ was 3 months old.
But I hesitated in preparing this post.
Truthfully, I don’t advocate much about breastfeeding because the decision to nurse (or not to) your baby can be a very sensitive issue – especially when it is a challenge for a mother. It works out for some mamas and babies – and not for others.
Also, there is a ton of breastfeeding tips out there from people who are advocates on EBF (Exclusive Breast Feeding) and they are more than eager to help. And yet, on the other side, you have some folks who think that breastfeeding “just isn’t worth the trouble.”
Personally, I’m not team #breastIsBest; I understand that breast milk is an irreplaceable nutrition for your baby as it provides natural antibodies that help your baby resist illnesses, is usually more easily digested than formula and may apparently raise your child’s intelligence – and for all these reasons I breastfed both my kids even while going back to a full-time job.
However, I’m more #FedIsBest and this is my take on Breastfeeding: Do what you want. If you want to, and are able to nurse (and keep nursing while you’re working), go for it. If it’s adding too much stress to your life, think about stopping. Formula will be an added expense, but it’s a small price for your sanity.
Your baby will be fine, either way.
However, if you (the emphasis being YOU, not your mother, not your husband, not your mother-in-law, not your fellow mommy friends, not judgy strangers on the worldwide web, but YOU) have decided that breastfeeding is best for you and your baby, then here are 9 tips that could help you maintain a good milk supply in the long run:
(Little disclaimer before you read these tips: I’m not a “breast feeding” expert, not a “baby expert” either, and definitely not a lactation consultant. If you feel like you need expert advice or assistance, please stop reading and contact your OB/GYN or a qualified lactation consultant, because the information contained in this post is completely based on personal experience and extensive research. Enjoy)
- Patience; BF is a learned art, as much as it is a natural act
I wish more people were honest that BF can be hard, it’s not always this natural, easy, organic thing that’s a breeze. New moms like us tend to get discouraged so quickly because we think we aren’t doing something right because it turns out to be, initially, difficult.
From personal experience, not all women know how to or are able to (instinctively) breastfeed. As a first time mom, I thought that breastfeeding would could come to me and baby naturally and effortlessly.
How wrong I was!
Breastfeeding, for me; as a first time mom, required a lot of patience, observation and work! It took me a while to get my first son J to latch properly, and to do so I had to use a nipple shield the first few times. Wasn’t exactly the vision I’d had of breastfeeding my newborn.
But it got better each day. He subsequently got to latch without the nipple shield. And as time passed, breastfeeding became easier. I’ll say if you can make it through the first month, you can probably make it past month two, and so on!
Unfortunately, a lot of new moms like me get caught up in preparing for labor / child birth and don’t realize that same effort should be put into preparing for breastfeeding.
So, just like you research on your birth plan, also prepare for breastfeeding; read online resources, buy a good breastfeeding book and watch a breastfeeding video or watch someone in person. If you can afford it, use a lactation consultant if one is available to you at the hospital or just simply ask your mid wife to help you.
2. Be sure you get the right latch
This is so important at the very beginning because babies form habits fast. Getting your baby comfortably latched to the breast is a major key (*inDJKhaled’s voice lol*) to successful and enjoyable breastfeeding.
Getting the right latch is about getting the lower part of the breast and areola into baby’s mouth so that the nipple hits their high palette, which stimulates sucking.
To get the right latch, you may need to experiment with different breastfeeding positions. When I birthed my first son vaginally, (you can read my birth story here), I could use both the breast crawl and the Cross-Cradle positions. But with birthing my second son via C-section (birth story here), I mainly used the sideline position; which you can do lying down in bed – because of the post partum recovery pain.
If your baby doesn’t latch right, you could end up with cracked nipples which in turn could cause you pain and discourage you from further breastfeeding. But keep in mind that despite finding the right latch, you could still experience some tenderness from time to time, turns out that is perfectly normal. However, if your soreness persists, you should contact your OB/GYN.
You can get some helpful instructional tips from medela at http://www.medelabreastfeedingus.com/tips-and-solutions/27/latching-the-baby-onto-the-breast
3. A healthy Balanced Diet
This is actually the time you are literally “eating for two” – you’ll need more calories when breastfeeding than while pregnant – even more if you’re exercising. But don’t go overboard; three well-balanced meals a day plus healthful snacks should cover it. (You can read here for tips on healthy post-partum weight loss)
Make sure you’re eating enough nutritious food to produce sufficient breast milk; so plenty of leafy greens, good fats (avocado, chia seeds, eggs, salmon), fresh veggies in a range of colours, protein (to keep you full without packing on the carbs), nuts and seeds.
4. Supply responds to Demand…
If you’re wondering how to increase milk supply, know that the more your baby feeds, the more milk your breasts will be signalled to make. So, nurse, nurse, nurse.
Being able to breastfeed your baby from your breasts is optimal for your breast milk supply, and nothing is going to help your supply like your baby suckling directly on the breast.
If possible nurse skin-to-skin; which would help your body produce oxytocin, which is involved with milk production. Skin to skin time could also encourage your baby to latch more often.
A baby with a healthy suck milks your breast much more efficiently than any pump.
5. And Pump, pump, pump
I found that creating a pumping schedule immediately was helpful in boosting my milk supply because it “tricked” my body into producing more milk even when my baby wasn’t hungry. Pumps are great to help regulate or increase milk supply.
Please note that the amount of milk that you can pump is not an accurate measure of your milk supply. Some women who have abundant milk supplies are unable to get any milk when they pump.
However, the fact that I could literally *see* milk coming out of my breast —as a first-time mom and “breast feeder”, this gave me some peace of mind that things were working as they should.
I also liked having a bit of milk in the freezer so that The Hubs could do night feeds, and I could leave the house when I needed to, and subsequently return to work while still my baby was still exclusively fed on breast milk.
My pumping schedule in the first few days and weeks was to pump every 2 hours, like clockwork, even at night – after or before every feed. I know this sounds like a lot of pumping but sometimes women see a decrease in their milk supply because their baby is not emptying their breasts. After baby nurses, try pumping for 10 to 20 minutes.
Subsequently, I started pumping for only 3 hours a day, by the time I went back to work, I would only pump 3 or 4 times a day.
To urgently boost your milk supply, you can try a trick called – “60 minutes power pumping”: pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, and rest for 10 minutes and then pump for 10 minutes. This session basically mimics your baby cluster feeding.
(You can read here for my opinion on an electric medela breast pump)
6. Use breastfeeding tools:
I’ll do a more detailed post on the best tools for smooth breastfeeding – from my experience. Here are some of my favorites:
- the classic boppy pillow ( I didn’t really use it with my first son, and had listed it here on this post about 13 things I could have absolutely done without – but it’s been a life saver with my second son; imagine that! Lol) ,
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Cream. This stuff is a wonder cream for sore nipples, creating a healing “moisture seal” in-between feedings; its non-toxic, clinically tested, non-irritating, and lanolin-free – so I usually don’t wash off before nursing.
- Nursing Pads. Nursing mamas tend to leak. Using these pads, you prevent the embarrassing wet ring-around-the-nipple phenomenon.
- Breast pump; manual or electrical or both.
- Nursing Bra
- Nipple shield
7. Stay hydrated
Breast milk is 87 percent water, so your body will suffer if you’re not drinking plenty of water – which could result in constipation, and even the dreaded haemorrhoids.
If you drink A LOT of water throughout the day, it can help to help boost your milk production. And when you don’t drink enough water, your energy level also suffers.
8. Think happy, relaxing thoughts
My mother-in-law taught me this when I had my first son lol. I know, it sounds silly. But I find that it’s especially important to relax while pumping or nursing – to maximize milk production.
So whenever I’m tensing up while breastfeeding, I consciously work at relaxing so that the experience is not only more enjoyable but also successful for both of us. Instead of looking at my phone, I often pray for CJ as he’s lying there.
9. Try supplements, teas or specifics foods
You may want to try specific foods like Oatmeal which is said to increase a mother’s milk supply. You can add some flax seed or honey for an extra boost!
You could also try supplements or teas, I haven’t used any tablets / supplements but with both kids I’ve used the “Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid tea” per day; it has fenugreek and a variety of other herbs that help with milk production.
I also tried Mother’s Milk – both TEAS have been fantastic, and I always get excellent reviews from moms I recommend them to.
I hardly needed the boost from the teas but anytime I felt my supply was low, I’ll make a cup of the tea a few times a day for a few days; always with honey because the taste is horrible – to say the least, but it’s worth seeing if it works for you.
A few other supplements that you might want to consider are fennel, fenugreek, domperidone, and Milky Mama.
P.S: monitor the increase in your milk supply, because you can (as I did) end up struggling with over production of milk, engorgement or clogged milk ducts.
After my experience with breastfeeding both kids, I’d have to say the best tip I can give is this – keep in mind that BF could be HARD, but if you have decided to and are able to, then “stick with it”, because over time it gets so much easier.
The breastfeeding tips and tricks above really helped me (and has helped other moms who have adopted them) to build a greater output in breast milk production over time, and I hope it helps some new mamas out there who need encouragement. Breastfeeding is not always easy, and knowing this you can have a more realistic and therefore more attainable expectation.
so, what tips do you have for breast feeding moms? what have you tried? what worked, and what didn’t work? Are you having any problems with breastfeeding your LO?
Love & Light,