As most of you know Penelope and I were gifted with the breastfeeding equivalent of the perfect storm.
It took us five months to be able to get Penelope to latch on and nurse. And it was and is only comfort nursing, but I am extremely grateful for that. By the time she was 10 months old and and gotten as efficient as she ever would, she was getting about 1-3 ounces directly from me, mostly at night, when she nursed in her sleep.
She is 27 months now and my milk is all but dried up now (I can still hand express a few drops, but it ain’t feeding a small village anymore that is for sure), but she still loves her nuh-nuhs.
I get asked a lot by readers, about what they can do to increase their milk supply. It is not a quick answer, so a full post is the way to go.
Before I launch into how I increased my milk supply I want to make a couple of points. A lot of women think they have low milk supply when they really don’t. Please check out these sites here and here for more information about how to tell if your supply is truly low.
So while I appreciate those posts, because new mothers do tend to overreact, protecting your supply is very serious business. If you get lazy and non chalant about it, your supply will drop. So not only was I trying to increase my supply in the beginning, later, I was diligently, protecting my supply.
Very few women can not make enough milk. But it does happen and should be treated as real issue and given respect. I can’t tell you how many times I mentally poo-poo mother’s I worked with that said they didn’t make enough milk. But let me tell you, our breastfeeding experience humbled my a*$ and now when I a mother says that to me, I know it’s true.
On a good point, it is totally possible to increase your supply. Even if you think you have tried everything. If you are making even one little, itty bitty drop of milk, it can be increased.
I don’t want to tell you this to brag, but only to inspire, but I went from having to have a couple of women donate milk to me, because I was not able to pump more than what Penelope was drinking and had no back up, to filling an entire 7 cubic foot deep freezer of milk and being able to donate to several babies myself.
In the end, I pumped till Penelope was a little over 18 months old. I pumped for a total of 1550 hours, which is a full 65 days.
I pumped over 15 thousand ounces, that is over 120 gallons.
So my friends, anything is possible.
When I first started pumping I was pumping half ounce each breast each time I pumped. By the time I was pumping 4 times a day, I was pumping 18 ounces in one sitting the first pump of the day and 12 ounces at each additional pump session.
Here is what I suggest to increase your supply. These are all things I personally did and the results I saw from them. And since I was pumping, I could track my results very accurately. If you are nursing and pumping, the pump is not accurate, but if you are an exclusive pumper, you body gets trained very quickly into thinking that the pump is the baby, so me tracking my output from pumping was reliable. And all this is extra stuff, it should be a given, that you are resting, drinking fluids, doing lots of skin to skin with your baby, following your babies cues and feeding them on demand.
I could probably ace the IBCLC exam after everything I have learned through this journey, but alas I am not a breastfeeding professional. It is always best to seek out an IBCLC when you are having breastfeeding problems.
- Lactuca Virosa. This is a homeopathic remedy that works really good. Way better than Mother’s Milk tea. It was the first remedy I tried and saw increase within 24 hours. This alone gave me an additional ounce each breast.
- Mother’s Milk tea and pills. I took a pill or drank a glass of tea at least once a day, I think it was probably two the three times a day in the very beginning. I always taking this in conjunction with other things, so I don’t know how well it performs on its own, but I sort of viewed it as my baseline standard. As long as I was pumping or nursing, I would drink that tea.
- Sprouted Fenugreek. Lots of women take fenugreek herbs, but don’t see a big increase or having trouble digesting it. I experimented with sprouting it and eating it with meals and salads and saw a big increase. I saw an increase of 1.5 ounces the very next time I pumped. Blessed Thistle, and alphalfa are other herbs to try as well.
- Domperidone. Or as I affectionally call it, DomP. This is a prescription drug I highly, highly recommend. If you have tried everything, and can afford it, this is your big guns. It is not FDA approved for increasing milk supply, but let me tell you it works. I took this for several months in the beginning. I probably didn’t need to take it, but I was such a nervous wreck that Penelope would some how have an enormous spike in her intake and I wouldn’t be able to keep up. It was normal, irrational, new mother fear. You can get a prescription from an open minded Dr and get at a local, compounding pharmacy or you can buyt it online.
- Good Nutrition. The better I ate, the better my supply and fattier my milk was. If your iron is low, this can effect your supply. So eating red meat, prunes, spinach and cooking with a cast iron skillet are all good ways to increase your iron stores. Also, stay hydrated, it takes liquid to make liquid.
- Oatmeal. There is not any scientific evidence about oatmeal increasing milk supply, but it is an old wives tale. Some think it works because it increases iron stores. I did see an increase when I started eating oatmeal for breakfast. I would eat it with blueberries and a side of bacon. I used packaged/instant at first and then started soaking my oatmeal overnight in water and a little whey to make them easier to digest. You can also get oatmeal in some yummy lacation cookies, these cookies also have brewer’s yeast which is also known to help.
- Sleep. A couple of nights, before Penelope started nursing at 5 months, my husband would do an entire night shift and I would sleep upstairs to get some rest. I figured well, I better take advantage of this whole bottle thing and get some rest. It literally happened all of three times, but boy was my milk supply better the next day! And I wasn’t pumping in the middle of the night anymore by this point, so it’s not like it was just an increase from being extra full from not pumping. With rest, your body has more energy to make more milk, period.
- Pump like Crazy. That was the golden advice given to me in the first week of Penelope’s life. I still think back to the day my friend dropped off the book Making More Milk, a recipe for Lactation Cookies and handwritten note that said just that. She said the receptors for making milk in your brain are made within the first two weeks of your baby’s life. The more you pump in those early weeks, the better chance you have at protecting your supply for the long haul. Increase your pump session time. I found that for me, the standard 15 to 20 minutes of double pumping, was not enough. I started pumping 3o to 40 minutes, and later over an hour as I dropped pumps, to keep my total time pumping even. This worked for me, in part because I have larger boobs and I needed that time to fully empty and thus send the messages to my brain to make more milk.
Once last note, if I had to do it all over again, I would have pumped less. Even if it meant having to supplement with a bit of homemade formula. I look back and think about all those hours I pumped and how much life I missed out on, and how bitter it made me while I was in the middle of it. I would have been easier on myself and given myself more of a break. I would have not tried to be so damn perfect.
So if at the end of the day, if you have done everything you could, or as much as you can and or as much as you are willing, be kind to yourself. Any amount of breast milk is a gift to your child.
If you have any questions or any other tips on how to increase milk supply leave me a comment below!