(If things like breastmilk, nursing, and nipples aren’t your thing, feel free to stop back in tomorrow for a not baby-related post – no hard feelings!)
That’s a direct quote, by the way, from my sister, as we were discussing breastfeeding.
If you’re new here, my sister and I had babies 13 days apart (super cool, right?!), so we’ve spent some time chatting about our boys’ growth, the pains of getting little sleep, and, of course, breastfeeding.
Connor on left, Henry on right 🙂
You guys, she could not have said it better. This shit is hard.
For some women, it isn’t hard. For some women, it comes really easy. It’s natural. It’s painless. It’s beautiful. But for A LOT of women, it is SO HARD.
For me, it’s hard.
And here’s food for thought – 60-some years ago, there wasn’t a career of ‘Lactation Consultant’ (La Leche League was founded in 1956). That’s not to say there wasn’t a need, but it likely wasn’t a topic that was discussed enough for women to know that it’s normal to have trouble breastfeeding. There are still people who don’t know that such a thing as a lactation consultant exists. It does, and here’s why:
Breastfeeding is not always easy!
They made a career for people to help women who have trouble breastfeeding. That says something, right??
We have made the decision to exclusively pump for Henry.
We took Henry in at his two week appointment to meet with my lactation consultant. Turns out he has a high palette (the nipple needs to hit the roof of the baby’s mouth to start the suckling reflex) and he has a lazy suck…he just doesn’t want to work hard for his milk. Apparently, this is typical behavior in boys and requires some ‘training’. (My LC suggested using a pacifier (one you can stick your finger in) and try to initiate the suckling reflex with the paci, then gently pulling the paci out of his mouth to strengthen his suck.)
For my own sanity, I’m exclusively pumping. I’m doing this for as long as I can stand it. We’re also supplementing with formula a little bit, when we need to. This is the best decision for me and our family. It is what works for us.
Right now, I’m producing about an ounce or so of breastmilk an hour (so 24-28 ounces) each day. I don’t know what is normal, because everything I read says something different. Some says that 24 ounces a day is great, others say it should be 30 or 36. That being said, I do a number of things to keep my supply up.
Before you start doing too much to increase your supply, read this article from KellyMom.com that goes over the topic and challenges if you actually aren’t producing enough, and talk to your doctor or lactation consultant about your concerns.
Here are 10 different things to try to increase your supply*:
1. Fenugreek – I buy my Fenugreek at Whole Foods (although I found some at Kroger** in the organic section and got that yesterday, so hopefully it works the same!). The bottle says to take 2 capsules 3 times a day. I take 3 capsules 3 times a day per my lactation consultants suggestion. I remember with Brooke, I eventually took 4 3 times a day until I decided to call it quits.
One thing I did not know about Fenugreek until recently is that you have to follow this regimen for about a week before you’ll see results, so it isn’t an overnight solution. The same goes for a lot of the suggestions in this list.
**I have been taking the Kroger Fenugreek for the past few days and already have noticed an increase in my supply…I don’t know why it’s different than the Whole Foods, but I’m digging it.
2. Power Pumping – This is a technique that is suggested quite often to increase supply in pumping moms because it mimics a baby who cluster feeds during a growth spurt. The idea is to pump several times in an hour – so start with 10 or 15 minutes on the pump, rest for 10, pump for 10, rest for 10, pump for 10. Once or twice a day for several days should be all you need for your body to recognize the need to produce more milk.
3. Ovaltine (malted) – Malt is lactogenic, meaning it promotes lactation. I try to drink 2-3 8 ounce glasses of malted ovaltine a day. And it tastes good!
4. Brewers yeast – Brewers yeast is also lactogenic. When I take brewers yeast, I take 2 tablespoons in the morning, usually in the form of a smoothie with almond milk, peanut butter, banana, and whey protein. The other ingredients mask the taste of the brewers yeast (because it doesn’t taste good). You can also make lactation cookies using yeast as an ingredient (there are tons of recipes online) or mix it in OJ (I tried this and couldn’t stomach it). I do notice an increase when I take brewers yeast.
5. Prescription supply increasers – Prescriptions like Reglan, Domperidone, and others can be prescribed to you through your OBGYN if you are having trouble with your supply. This is a great read on these prescriptions and how they work.
6. Steel cut oatmeal – Eating steel cut oats for breakfast is another easy, and delicious, way to increase your supply. Prepare as directed and eat whenever you want. This one is pretty simple 🙂
7. Balanced diet – Lean proteins, fruits, vegetables – the quintessential balanced diet. And being sure to eat ENOUGH. Each ounce of breastmilk produced burns about 20 calories. So look at how much you produce, times each ounce by 20, and that is how much extra you should eat to keep up with your supply. (for me, 24 ounces a day is 480 calories extra). I have a hard time with this one, especially because I’m not one who loses weight from breastfeeding but I am trying not to think about that right now.
8. WATER – Lots and lots of water. I always make sure I have my Camelbak or Nalgene filled up and with me at all times, and I try to get at least 64oz a day, if not more.
9. Skin-to-skin time – Even if you aren’t nursing, skin-to-skin time with baby helps to stimulate prolactin (the hormone that produces milk). This is a good read (especially at the very end) that talks about prolactin, plus the benefits of skin-to-skin for both vaginal births and c-section births.
10. Early AM emptying – The highest volume of milk is typically produced in the early morning hours. Sleeping through or skipping these pumping times can cause a decrease in supply. My schedule is just to pump after Henry eats, so when he wakes up at 2, 3, or 4 in the morning, that is when I’ll pump, and sure enough, I yield more milk in those pumps than I do any other time during the day.
*I am not a medical professional. These tips are from my own personal experiences and research. Please talk to your doctor or LC if you are having trouble!
Also, if you are pumping, you don’t have to clean your pump parts after each pump with soap and water. Simply rinse them well with water and store them in the refrigerator until your next pumping session. Wash the parts with soap and water once a day (I wash mine before bed so they are clean for the middle of the night pump session).
I take a small cooler with an ice pack to bed with me as well to store the pump parts after I use them, plus the milk I pump in the middle of the night. This means I don’t need to trek to the kitchen to store everything in the fridge.
One final note.
I had a friend the other day say to me that because she couldn’t nurse and had a c-section, it was almost like she wasn’t a mother. This sucks. It sucks that not only that a friend feels that way, but that society has sort of made this a thing. That we are made to think that c-sections aren’t normal and feeding from a bottle isn’t normal. That you are less of a mother if you don’t have a vaginal birth or can’t/don’t nurse or do things a certain way.
I hope, for the sake of all mom’s after me, that this changes. What makes us mothers has nothing to do with the way we bring our babies into the world or how we nourish them, but that we DID bring them into the world and we DO nourish them. And love them. And snuggle them. And raise them exactly how we need to. We do what we need to do to keep our babies happy and healthy and THAT is what makes us mothers. The fact that we do all of that, not HOW we do all of that.