I did a ton of research on breastfeeding before my baby was born.
I prepared myself as much as I could.
All the different positions to hold her in. What hunger signs (before crying) looked like. I learned the actual mechanics behind breastfeeding. Meaning, how does my body know what to do, and what exactly is going on in there?
I learned about things such as mastitis and preventative measures. My goal was to be as prepared as possible to tackle breastfeeding head on and be successful.
Despite all of my research and preparing there were still plenty of times I felt like I had no clue what I was doing or what I should do next. We went through difficult times and I almost gave up. But I buckled down, and used all available resources to make breastfeeding work.
I have collected the best ways to boost and maintain my breast milk supply, and I want to share what I learned with you.
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In the beginning of my baby’s life I felt like I was doing very well.
My baby’s latch was always strong and she never had a problem with seeming unsatisfied. Her weight gain was on par, and I was pumping and freezing my extra milk. This was all until she was about two months old.
We went through our first “nursing strike”.
This is the term used to describe a time when the baby for one reason or another refused to nurse. I didn’t really understand what was going at first. When I would offer her breast and she would begin to scream and pull her head away from me. It was obvious she was hungry because when I eventually did get her to latch she would eat fine, but the act of getting her to feed was a circus (and not the fun kind). This behavior, however, quickly escalated.
There was a streak of about three days when she just would not breastfeed.
I had stored breast milk from earlier days so we gave her that in a bottle. Cue the feeling of defeat.
This was saddening and confusing because it seemed too early for her to “self-wean”. During this time my supply began to take a huge hit. My once over abundant supply quickly dwindled.
I was trying to pump as much as I could, but it wasn’t the same as the physical act of breastfeeding. I even bought a new pump (which was a good idea as it did help), but I was still disappointed in the decrease.
I highly recommend it for its’ efficiency, low cost and amazing results.
My breasts have always been asymmetrical. The left breast produces about a quarter of what the right breast does. In the worst of times, my left breast got down to producing about 10ml a session. That’s it! I was convinced I was going to have to start supplementing.
That is when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and put my game face on to fix the issue.
How I fixed it
I started feeding her in a quiet room with little that would distract her. I realized that she was becoming interested in the world around her and that is why she would not want to breastfeed. It was such a relief that she started to feed again, but it took a lot of time and perseverance.
I also started only breastfeeding her and not giving her expressed milk in the bottle (or limiting it to one bottle per day).
This was the key factor. I got used to giving her expressed milk regularly because, well, it was easy and convenient. I did not have to always think about where I would be or if my shirt was breastfeeding compatible. Offering too many bottles greatly decreased my breastmilk supply.
My diet had been compromised.
I greatly underestimated how little time I would have to do anything after having a baby, let alone, get groceries and make meals. The turning point for me was when I started to notice my hair was actually thinning in the front of my head. I literally was balding.
It almost looked as though I decided to shave those parts of my head. I have taken vitamins all along so I didn’t need to supplement anything more in that respect, but I knew my diet of Raisin Bran and crackers wasn’t going to cut it.
I like to use this analogy:
If you have a water well, you can draw your water from that for quite some time, but if there is a drought the well will eventually dry up. The same for your breast milk supply.
You can draw nutrients from your body stores for quite some time, but unless you are putting the right nutrients into your body the reserves will eventually dry up. Put good in to get good out.
I began with oatmeal. I eat oatmeal every single morning.
To jazz it up I add some fresh fruit. Oatmeal has properties that promote milk supply like crazy. If you haven’t been eating oatmeal already, get on it!
I also found these Thomas brand english muffins which are oatmeal and cinnamon. Not only are they delicious, but much like the oatmeal they do a great deal for your supply.
The last thing I found is Life cereal oatmeal squares.
So now I have three foods that all have rolled oats and other key nutrients which boost milk supply. Try these foods out, please, before you buy into the gimmicky cookies, smoothies, and other things for sale out there. I have seen them. They are over priced, and honestly you can easily get the milk boosting ingredients and make your own cookies for half the price (if cookies are what you want).
We got back into the habit of breastfeeding as much as possible.
I offered her the breast whenever I thought she may eat. This really rekindled our breastfeeding relationship and allowed us to continue the journey. Now, it feels odd to offer her the bottle!
I saved my breastmilk supply simply by:
- focusing on our time during feeds
- making it a quiet environment
- not always giving expressed milk for convenience
Remember to ensure you are eating a well balanced diet.
These things have made all the difference.
If you feel like your supply is going down like mine did, look at the big picture of what you may be doing that is impeding your ability to make milk. It could be stress or poor diet. Or it could be offering too many bottles, like I was.
Our bodies were made to do this. Just remember that. You got this!
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