There was no question about it, I was to feed my new baby breastmilk. Didn't need to be convinced on it being the very best start I could give her growing body. Three months after delivery, I sat in the dark at around 5 in the morning, having realized that very plan was in jeopardy. I was no longer producing as much on one side and almost nothing on the other. I felt a deep sense of disappointment, I had been supplementing with formula as my supply diminished in the weeks prior and even that needed a generous serving of acceptance on my part. I was facing the possibility of giving up breastfeeding my girl in all it's entirety.
It's a painful experience, one I never really understood as it wasn't an issue when my older child was a baby. I can now relate to the anxiety mixed with a sense of defeat felt by mothers who really want to make breastfeeding work but are forced to reduce or stop completely.
While living through the frustration, It may fee as though the slow down is irreversible but Im here to tell you that it is!
If you are here, I want to congratulate you on your little blessing and give you a virtual pat on the back for your efforts to keep breastfeeding.
Without further ado, let me share with you some tips on how a dwindling supply ended up becoming a surplus for me. I hope you find them helpful!
Breastmilk is 90% water. Enough said about that.
I am terrible with hydration and had to revert to alarm reminders to have a glass of water every other hour or so even if I'm not thirsty.
Hydrate like you milk depends on it!
Ladies, supply and demand is real and not just in economics but in Milkonomics too. (I just had to pull that pun) Some few weeks after breastfeeding with a newborn is established, the lactation town gets a new boss. Demand.
That means milk is no longer produced at randomly large amounts causing engorged and painful breasts. Simply put, you start making just a much as baby happens to be consuming. This is key!
So if you are looking to work on your freezer stash for 'rainy' or rather dry seasons, or you are struggling with regular supply to feed your baby, empty both breasts as often as you can.
My baby decided to help her parents out by sleeping through the night rather early. While that gave me much needed longer stretch of shut eye, it negatively affected my milk supply since 9pm-6am sleep meant she didn't latch on as frequently as she used to, an occurrence that told my brain to tell my Mammary glands to produce less milk. Let's just say as soon as I knew about this feedback mechanism, I proceeded to trick my brain into helping my cause. I would set an alarm and pump at least once during the night.
Until we arrived at a supply rate that covered feedings and allowed me to start building my freezer stash, I also let her to latch whenever she wanted during the day as well.
The first few days on this process will be frustrating if your are dealing with very little output because unlike the instant gratification we are used to, this one takes time to deliver. Let your baby do the work and/or invest in a good breast pump. Give it a couple of days and you and your baby will be rewarded!
Eat well and rest up
I'd label this no-brainer #2 but I also know rest and self-care is hard to come by when dealing with a baby and the rest of life hasn't eased it's grip. Even while staying at home full time and getting mom's help in the beginning, I skipped meals and was sleep deprived most days. Do your best to nap around you and your baby's schedule and use stress-relief techniques whatever that means for you. Stress is a foe to both production and let down of your precious milk.
Well, so is hunger.
Our bodies will attempt to tap into our stored forms of energy for lactation. Hence why breastfeeding is associated with weight-loss through increasing metabolism. Don't push it though, it is recommended we consume only a coupe of hundreds worth of calories more than we would if not lactating. For a good supply of nutritious milk, we need to give our bodies raw material to work with and the energy for them to do the work. I've found out on mom forums and incorporated into my diet everything from lentil soup with a good amount of garlic to oatmeal with chia and hemp seeds to good old vegetables as part of a balanced and nutritious meal choice. High in protein, Omega 3 fats and rich in vitamin-foods are our friends.
On top of regular meals, I've made it a habit to snack frequently. A handful of Almonds, a fruit, a good oatmeal based cookie are some of my go-to's. I started keeping some in my car for when I am on the go. That was I am able to get the energy I need and stay clear of the drive-thru when hunger strikes!
I spent many waking hours reading forums and blogs to find a supplement that magically increased my supply. Truth is, while some products do make a difference, they don't work for everybody and let's face it, do not come cheap!
Fenugreek is boss!
The go-to guy for most moms is Fenugreek or Abish in Amharic. I consumed that in a drink form while my mom was around to help make it and then transitioned to a supplement pill when reality knocked at my door after she left. Fenugreek works on sweat and sweat-like glands which Mammary glands happen to be. This also explains the scent it graces the body with, to put it lightly. I enjoyed how good it made my skin look and feel and yes it did work to increase my supply too. It just meant more frequent showers!
I would say to take note if baby ends up with more gas than usual though, as that was the case for me when I drank Abish. Thankfully me and my baby didn't have a problem with the pills and I still take two capsules everyday with my multivitamins!
Lactation tea and cookies
'Mother's Milk' tea has been my go-to drink lately. It has a collection of herbs known to aid lactation and it works! A few cups of that everyday has done wonders to my supply. I order a bunch at a time on Amazon. It's as easy as leaving it in a cup of hot water and drinking it after it cools down.
Similarly, there's a wide variety of lactation cookies on the market (mix to bake yourself or some are already baked). If you would like, you can find recipes to do it yourself. A favorite of mine is an oatmeal chocolate chip goodness you can find here.
It makes about a 16 cookies I snack on guilt-free and all to myself thanks to the word 'lactation' throwing everyone in my family off. Let's just say I don't go out of my way to challenge their wrong assumptions.
I encourage you to do more reading online, watch youtube videos and research what worked for other moms, what lactation specialists have to say about it. If there's something that you swear by or heard someone else use, share with me in the comment section.
Fast forward to now,