Photo by Tara McMullen
Mothers who choose to breastfeed need to be aware of their own diet and health more than ever. In order to stimulate breast milk production, it is necessary to stay as healthy as possible.
It’s a common for many mothers to expect that after the hard work of labor and delivery, she will have a moment to reclaim her body as her own and heal from the trauma of childbirth. In reality that doesn’t happen. If you choose to breastfeed, at least in my case, I was shocked to feel even less control over my body. Instead, my caffeine intake was more restricted; I had to be careful of what I ate in case it would upset the baby’s stomach (which led to crying and then not sleeping); and my dreams of having a glass of wine? Well, those were quickly smashed to shreds upon reading up on breastfeeding and alcohol.
This isn’t to scare a person away from breastfeeding, but it is to offer a word of cautionary realism – breastfeeding is still something that relies solely on the nutrition of the mother, so therefore, your role as the provider does not diminish in the least now that the baby is in the world.
With all of this being said, keeping your supply up is one thing that every lactation consultant stressed. Now, I don’t claim to have any official training in lactation (or biology to be perfectly honest), but I have breastfed long enough to learn some tricks of the trade.
1. Breastfeed on demand. This was hard to get used to, but I literally nursed that kid whenever he wanted (or I ran out of ways to try to get him to stop crying and/or get him to sleep). This got my supply up real quick. Once I went back to work, I could literally watch my supply decrease as the week went on. Monday would be strong, but by Friday I was noticing a real dip in supply. This was all due to the fact that I wasn’t nursing on demand. Weekends therefore served as an opportunity to reestablish my supply.
2. Drink so much water that you use the bathroom as much as you did when you were 9 months pregnant. I know it’s not sexy, but you must drink more water than is humanly possible in order to encourage breast milk production. I would literally fill up a 3 liter gallon of water and down it after each nursing session. All of the liquids I ingested were being used to produce breast milk, so I was voraciously thirsty. My doctor also told me that my anger and frustration that I was feeling towards my husband or dog or grocery store bagger was most likely due to dehydration. Once I made a real commitment to drinking water, not only did my supply increase, my mood did as well.
3. Eat oatmeal. I had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast each morning and I swear to you, this made all the difference in the world. There are tons of explanations for why oatmeal may stimulate breast milk, but for me, it was such a hearty meal and made me feel awake and satisfied (even when I was running on 2 hours of sleep), that I felt I could go on another day. I put oatmeal in everything I could because I was convinced it helped my supply.
4. A lactation consultant told me that Brewer’s yeast is a well-known galactagogue (breastfeeding stimulant). I found a recipe for some cookies that included this wonder powder and sure enough, my supply increased. The cookie recipe also included oatmeal, so it was a double whammy for my supply.
5. There are a variety of breast milk supply increasing teas. I found these to be hit or miss and never really saw an uptick in my supply, and they were not always the most pleasantly flavored. There are plenty of herbs that have been linked to increasing your supply and sometimes the best way to get these herbs into your system is through tea.
6. Surround yourself with supportive people. I have an incredibly supportive husband who encouraged me all the way through, but did everything he could to help me keep up my supply – from encouraging me to nurse whenever possible to filling up my water jug, he was probably one of the main contributing factors to my breastfeeding success. Also, I attended a breastfeeding group with new moms at the hospital and it was such a relief to a) get out of the house in those early weeks, b) see other nursing moms and c) be able to ask any and all questions regarding supply.
7. Pamper yourself. This is the most important factor in increasing your supply. It’s fascinating to see the correlation between how you are feeling and the amount of breast milk you can create – it’s definitely a gauge of your well-being. If you see your supply start to plummet, most likely there is something going on in your health that needs to be addressed. Whether that be sleep, eating more nourishing food (unfortunately, Chinese take out might not make the cut), or putting the baby down and taking a walk by yourself – your body will let you know when something is off. Listen to your body and do things that make you feel good. When you feel good, your body will respond by producing all that is necessary to nourish your child.
I’m breastfeeding but feel I’m not producing enough. I pump between feelings as best I can, eat flax seed, Brewers yeast and oats, drink milkmaid tea, and a ridiculous amount of water daily. Any tips or thoughts?! Or any ideas on why I might not be producing a lot?!
Has anyone rented a hospital grade breast pump? I have a medela in style but my milk production is decreasing (my LO is eating more during the day than I can pump). Does it work more effectively than the double electric medela? Also, what is the typical cost?
Any other breastfeeding moms out there have significant differences in milk productions when pumping? For example: I just pumped and my left breast produced almost 5 oz when my right only produced 2 oz. I’ve tried all the tips to get my right breast to produce more milk but I remember it was like this with my first child too. Just wondering if anybody else has this issue?