How I Increased My Milk Supply WITHOUT Using the Pump!
With my first baby, I did everything I was told to do with regards to feeding. I wanted to enjoy breastfeeding, but my son was a thin baby, growing in every direction and meeting all milestones, but was just a skinny dude. Spoiler Alert: Fast-forward almost 3 years and he is a long, lean dude who, given our family genetics, will probably always be long and lean.
I was told to nurse, supplement with either expressed breast milk or formula, set him down, pump and repeat multiple times a day. This is on top of the crazy elimination diet (see my post about this here) and all of the things recommended to increase my milk supply.
When I got to have my second sweet baby, I was determined to do it differently. I was going to be more empowered, informed and staunch so I could enjoy the breastfeeding relationship without any of the heartache. I was convinced that my first go at breastfeeding was rocky because of all of the interruption. It never made sense to me that in order to breastfeed, one must interrupt breastfeeding. Jack Newman of the International Breastfeeding Center says "Mothers and babies learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding." His words are simple, brilliant and true.
My second baby was showing signs of being a long and lean dude, as well. I decided to work hard to increase my supply so I could fulfill on my desire to enjoy this to the fullest.
I did a few things that I found vey effective, at the guidance of my sweet friends who were cheering me on and encouraging me along the way.
1. HYDRATION - I doubled my hydration. I worked my way up to drinking an ounce per pound of body weight, but drinking no less than one gallon of water a day. The more I hydrated, the easier it became to stay hydrated. I brewed herbal tea and lactation support tea. I'm not convinced the lactation support tea worked wonders, but it was tasty nonetheless.
2. DIET - I let my body guide what I wanted to eat and I listened to it. If I needed carbs, I ate fruit or some toast from a really great piece of bread that fit into what my body was currently needing. I added good, strong fats like avocados, fish, sesame oil (or another high quality oil) and some omegas. I felt my body needed the added lubrication since it was prioritizing breastmilk production.
3. REST - I know this is an extremely tough one to accomplish, but I stole rest wherever I could. I took my time nursing in a comfortable position, maybe even dozing off. Check out Nancy Morbacher's Natural Breastfeeding Positions if side-lying doesn't work for you or if you want a different position that allows both of you to get really comfortable for the long haul. Even if I didn't actually get to sleep or nap, at least I wasn't up and running a mile a minute every moment of the day.
4. NURSED MORE OFTEN - Breastfeeding experts swing wildly in both directions on this one. Some say a mother must nurse ___ minutes on each side ___ times a day. Others say a mother should nurse on demand, at baby's request, and help baby be more effective for each feed. I definitely side with the latter, but I chose to add in an extra session every once in awhile just until we got into a really in-synced groove. I set a timer for 1.5 hours from the beginning of the feed. Once the timer went off, I guaged baby's cues. If he was cueing and ready to eat, we went for it. If he absolutely wasn't ready to eat, I didn't force it by any means. If he showed cues earlier than 1.5 hours, we started our session early and reset the clock. This helped me get to know his schedule a little better and was way easier than trying to track and log his feedings.
5. LATCH - This was a very high priority for me. I learned that when the latch is poor, the milk transfer is slow and we could run into marathon feedings (different from cluster feedings, where baby is going through a growth spurt and nurses frequently). I checked out some vidoes on latch and my positioning (this was my favorite. It made all the difference for us.) and worked that latch until it was pain-free, enjoyable and producing those big gulps of milk.
6. POWER NURSING - This was the clincher. I power nurse every so often just to keep things steady. I think this is the most under utilized tool a mom has in her tool belt. I don't know why it isn't more widely used and mentioned. The beauty of power nursing is that you can do it anytime, regardless of baby's hunger level. It only requires baby to latch. I power nursed by latching baby on one side, initiating a letdown, switching sides, initiating a letdown, then switching back and forth for as many times as he or I could tolerate. Obviously, we would stop before either one of us got frustrated, but this was my most effective tool that works for me. If you're a person who doesn't feel your letdown, you'll know you're letting down when baby's suck pattern changes to an elongated gulp and your breasts may possibly swell or change firmness for a moment.
7. BELIEVING I AM ENOUGH - Nothing in the world, no medication, tips, techniques or supplies would help me increase my supply without this. The entire breastfeeding relationship demands that a mother believes she is enough for her baby. We have taught women that only the lucky ones get to nurse "successfully." We have taught them that whenever we run into an issue with breastfeeding, the solution is to bring in a fix - Pumps, donor milk, formula, etc... Of course I believe these things are necessary in some cases, but they should not be the norm, unless a mother chooses this of her own will and power. We have failed mothers by telling them they are powerless to care for their baby in the way they want. A parent has the right to determine what's best for their baby rather than be left with options that steal their power and leave them feeling like a failure.
P.S. I especially love this picture. This is not a picture of any of my babies, but my youngest boy sucks his fingers kind of like this and I love staring at him finding comfort and joy everywhere, including his own fingers.
I'd love to hear what worked for you or how your feeding relationship went. Email, call, text, comment or connect with me on our social media channels.