The best parts of my days (and nights) with Nolan are when I get to sit down and nurse him. For us it’s a bonding experience in the midst of our crazy household and it’s where he would like to spend his entire life if I let him- this boy loves to eat and he has a cute little double chin to show for it. Breastfeeding is one of the best gifts you can give your baby but it’s particularly HARD in the beginning. There’s pain and exhaustion involved and I think it can be easy to give up without support. I found that even though this wasn’t my first rodeo I needed support from my lactation consultants to overcome some challenges I was having. With my first two babies I always worried I wasn’t producing enough milk and also struggled with figuring out a good pumping regimen to try and boost my supply. It seemed like whenever I thought it was a good time to pump, the baby would wake up and want to eat. The worst was when I just finished pumping and the baby woke up wanting to eat, and my body hadn’t had enough time to fill up yet. Now, I realize that a pump cannot empty a breast like a baby and that your breast is never entirely empty, but believe me- you get an angry newborn when you try to feed them on a breast that has just been pumped. This time around I wanted to make sure I was producing plenty of milk from the beginning and with my lactation consultant’s help we mapped out a solid nursing and pumping schedule for me to follow.
This is what I did…….First, I let Nolan drive the train the first week of life. I let him nurse on demand around the clock to let him tell my body how much milk it needed to make. People say to make sure your baby eats every 3 hours and thankfully I didn’t have much of a problem with him sleeping too too long, but I would never wake a sleeping baby this time around. They sleep when they want and they eat when they’re hungry. And the tricky part to that is figuring out when to pump with a baby that doesn’t abide by a schedule. At one week postpartum I dusted off my breast pump and started pumping after each nursing session in an attempt to increase my supply. This way you pump after the baby has eaten. The key was to pump for about 5 minutes after you’ve pumped yourself dry to tell your body it needs to start making more milk. Any milk that I pumped in a day I fed right back to Nolan in a bottle that very day. I only pumped during the day (not with nighttime feedings) and did this routine for two solid weeks, till Nolan was 3 weeks old. This was a huge commitment because it takes time to stand there and pump with your kids running around and also to clean and dry all your pump pieces, but it was totally worth it because I saw my supply increase to the point that Nolan didn’t need to have the extra milk I pumped anymore because he was full from nursing. At 3 weeks postpartum I cut the pumping down to once a day just to build a reserve of frozen milk.
In addition to drinking an insane amount of water all day long I added Fenugreek supplements to my regimen at the advice of my lactation consultant.
I really believe the Fenugreek made a difference in my supply because I pumped around the clock with my first baby- even in the wee hours of the morning, and I hardly pumped at all with Elena. With both babies I was never able to pump as much milk at a time as I am now. I also feel totally full whenever Nolan wants to eat and I hear him gulping. This was exactly the outcome I was looking for and it’s nice to just enjoy feeding Nolan and not worry about it. Plus, that nice supply I’m building in the freezer is going to come in handy when Dave and I finally get out of the house and go out one night!
One more thing you can do to boost your supply is to eat foods that promote milk production. Your diet alone is not likely to boost your supply in a way that you would truly see a difference but it’s more like the wind at your sails in addition to keeping hydrated in conjuction with a good nursing/pumping regimen. A good resource of milk producing foods can be found here for your reference. I like this article because it touches on foods that can hinder milk production as well. I incorporated lots of oats in my diet and had these cranberry oat cups for a quick snack.
They’re super easy to make and taste great if you freeze them and pop them in the microwave. You can add some sugar if you want them a little sweeter and substitute the cranberries for raisins, blueberries, or even chocolate chips. Breastfeeding burns calories and you’ll find that you’re hungry often- it’s nice to have a healthy snack on hand instead of going for the coffee cake or candy.
Breastfeeding came natural to me but that doesn’t mean it was easy. It was a painful challenge with each baby and took some strategizing and help from my lactation consultants to fall into a healthy rhythm and get to a place where it was all about bonding and feeding my baby. The more I read and talk to other mothers, they say the same. My hope is to help you by giving you some of these tips before you give up, because it’s really one of the best gifts you can give your baby.