When I was pregnant, one of my biggest post-birth fears was, Will I be able to breastfeed? I worried about it constantly. I’d planned to take a breastfeeding class during the two weeks I had off from work before the baby came. Well, James decided to come two days after I left work, so that class never happened. Talk about unprepared.
James was born. The nurse there said, “Did you know you have a flat nipple and an inverted nipple?” Why, no. No, I did not know that. My fears seemed to be coming true. But, she helped me get him to latch. It wasn’t easy, but he did it. I thought, for a moment, it would be easy from there on out. I was wrong.
I got home, and James didn’t want to latch. He fought it. I used a nipple shield, I used a sugary-syrup the doctor gave me to entice him, I tried different holds, but nothing worked. My baby wasn’t latching long enough to get enough calories. He lost almost a pound. So, I gave him a bottle of formula. And you know what? He perked up. He did so much better. Then, my mom went out and bought me a breast pump (because I have the best mom in the entire universe). And I started pumping as often as my baby should breastfeed–every two to three hours for at least 30 minutes. I started giving him a bottle of breastmilk when he was hungry instead of offering him my breast and he ate and ate and ate and was soon above birth weight. What an amazing feeling.
But did you know that if you are an exclusive pumper, your supply is harder to keep up? Your breast pump can’t make the same demands on your body as your baby’s mouth, and your hormones generally don’t react the same as they would if your baby were latched, so now I have this new worry–will I produce enough milk? Will my body be able to keep this up for at least a year?
Well, I’m 3+ months in and still going strong, but I have had some struggles with supply. Here are some tips for other moms that have helped me keep or bring my supply up!
1. Drink LOTS of water. All day. Every day. Drink, drink, drink.
2. Oatmeal in the morning makes for a supply boost at night! (Real oatmeal only.)
3. Fenugreek! If I take two capsules at breakfast and two at dinner, I maintain a supply that allows for me to have a freezer stash.
4. Ginger ale! Every night that I have a ginger ale with dinner, my supply is up like gangbusters by morning (or whenever James wakes up and decides it’s time to eat and pump).
5. Lactation cookies and a lactation smoothie. These haven’t helped me as much, but other people swear by them. I’ve read that carrots, raw almonds, sesame seeds, and some other foods also work.
6. Pick the right pump. I have a Medela Pump In Style Advanced, and use a hands free pumping bra. I also have a Harmony Breastpump which is manual, for those times it’s just not convenient to have the double electric pump (even though my double electric has a battery pack and is therefore portable!)
7. Once you have the right pump, the right size flange is vital. I used a flange that was too small for about a month, and it HURT. Once I found the right size, pumping wasn’t something I dreaded anymore.
8. Try to keep your stress level down. The more stressed you are, the lower your supply will be.
9. You might get your period back, especially if you’re pumping exclusively. Your ovulation cycle and your period can affect your supply. Mine goes way down while I’m ovulation and while I’m on my period, but don’t stress. If you keep drinking water and stay on your routine, it’ll come back up. If you worry (like me), you can pump extra sessions or for longer (I pump for up to an hour during my period) to tell your body to produce more. There are also other tips to maintain supply if you’re on your period.
10. Remember, if you for some reason don’t produce enough to exclusively breastfeed (whether it’s directly from the breast or pumped), and you have to give your child formula, that’s OK! Your main goal as a momma is to feed your baby. As long as you’re doing that, you’re doing the best thing you can do!
So take it easy, mommas, and enjoy your time with your babies, no matter how you feed them.