From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to provide my baby boy with my own milk. But from the very beginning, it was quite a challenge. Establishing my milk supply was tricky and preventing it from dipping was incredibly hard. On top of that, hearing that so many of the mommas around me were producing insane amounts of milk and without much effort, made it even harder sometimes to stick with my goal. I barely had enough milk to get through the week and these mommas had enough stockpiled to feed their baby and all the babies on their block for months!
Somehow I managed to stay committed and in the process, tried many things to improve my production. For all the mommas out there that can relate, I wanted to share what worked for me.
If you’re not ready to give up breastfeeding or pumping just yet but your supply is waning, try these six tips first.
1. Up the H20
This is so important!! Drinking plenty of water is a direct way to increase your milk supply. The Mayo Clinic recommends that lactating women consume 3.1 liters (about 13 cups) of fluids a day. Make sure that you drink water throughout the day but especially the times when you are breastfeeding or pumping.
It was surprising to me how effective water was even though it’s so obvious why. There is a proven correlation between staying hydrated and one’s milk supply. It’s hard to not get caught up in the day and forget to drink enough, so it’s important to keep track and make sure you’re getting the recommended amount.
I make sure to grab a tall glass of water every time I sit down to pump. One of my friends who is a nurse told me that it’s ok to substitute other beverages on occasion if you get bored with drinking only water. She recommended drinking fresh juices as a healthy alternative. I love water so this wasn’t an issue for me.
2. Find some fenugreek
Fenugreek is a galactagogue. This basically means that it acts as a stimulant, directly affecting a woman’s milk glands so she produces more milk. Fenugreek can be taken in several forms. I tried each of the following.
a. Drinking a tea made of fenugreek. Fenugreek seeds are soaked in water overnight. This water is then boiled for several minutes and then strained to remove seeds, leaving you with a fenugreek tea. I drank this every morning for the first four months.
c. Taking whole fenugreek seeds. I took roughly ½ tablespoon of whole fenugreek seeds directly by swallowing them with water.
I noticed an increase in my milk supply with each of these methods, usually within a 48 hour period; however, taking the fenugreek directly provided the best results for me. I noticed a huge increase almost immediately after taking the fenugreek this way. It usually took less than one day to see a noticeable difference. For me, the least effective was the tea. Not to mention, it wasn’t the most tasty beverage to consume either!
You can purchase whole fenugreek seeds and capsules at health food stores and Indian/Middle Eastern food markets.
Side effects are rare, but women who are allergic to peanuts or chickpeas should avoid fenugreek. If you have any concerns, you should consult your doctor or healthcare provider.
3. Roll out the oats
The lactation consultant I met with told me that oatmeal is rich in iron and there’s a direct link between iron intake and an increase in milk production. Oats are also known to be a lactogenic food or one that increases milk supply. When eaten regularly, it is thought to increase a woman’s milk supply. It totally did for me. An added bonus? Oatmeal is a terrific source of fiber and folic acid which is another awesome benefit especially for mommas.
Once I learned the benefits of oatmeal, I indulged in a big bowl of instant oatmeal (Quaker Oats) for lunch almost everyday for approximately 3 months (stay tuned for my own momma’s very own recipe in a future post). If somehow I skipped it for lunch, then I munched on a few oatmeal cookies instead. Trader Joe’s has these great oatmeal chocolate chips cookies in snack size bags – less than 100 calories per serving too! Oh and I did I mention I never had oatmeal before I became a mom…never. I’m a total oatmeal lover now!
There are no major side effects with oatmeal, but women with sensitive digestive systems may want to consult their physician or healthcare provider before adding oatmeal into their diet.
4. Get more z’s
I know it’s hard to get sleep especially as a new mom. Everyone tells you to sleep when the baby does. We all know this is easier said than done but truthfully, sleep is so essential to production. I noticed that the more sleep I was able get – even short 20 minute power naps here and there, really helped to bump up my volumes.
5. Find your zen
When I pumped, I really tried to maintain a calm, relaxed, peaceful state of mind. I breathed deeply, meditated and let my mind wander into places of happiness. I do believe your mental state has power over your physical state.
Another thing that really helped me initially to stay calm and relaxed was to focus on a picture of my baby while I pumped. Listening to good music was beneficial too. I tried not to focus on how much I was producing or not producing. I refrained from looking down and calculating my volumes as I pumped. This only adds stress into the mix and that is the one thing you have to, NEED to avoid. Stress makes it almost impossible for your body’s letdown reflex to kick in. Keeping your body nice and relaxed using whatever method(s) work for you, definitely helps with achieving a good let down or three.
6. Pump (or breastfeed) away!
The way it was explained to me in my Breastfeeding Basics class, was that a woman’s body creates breast milk due to a very basic “supply and demand” logic. Basically, the more you pump/breastfeed your baby, the more milk your body will produce. You breastfeed/pump out your supply causes a demand in your body. Your body wants to replace what was lost and so you produce more. Initially, I was pumping every 1 1/2 – 2 hours just to establish my supply. Over time, the gap between pumps increased. But that initial routine really worked and was necessary to get everything going. A lot of my breastfeeding friends pumped a solid 10-15 minutes after each breast-feeding session, to help increase their milk supply even more.
So there you have it. Six ways that helped me and are still helping me to keep my supply up. I’m not sure how long I will continue pumping – there is no right or wrong timeframe, you just have to do what works for you – but for now, I plan to stay a hydrated, relaxed, fenugreek takin’, oatmeal lovin’, power nappin’ pumping momma. 😉
Mommas, have you tried any of these methods to help improve your milk supply? What worked the best for you? Did you try anything else?