Melissa Parsons, MD
Your Milk Supply - Things You Must Know
How do you make enough milk to feed your babe? How can you increase your milk supply? What can affect your milk supply? And other questions answered in the post on what I learned trying to breastfeed my babe! This first post is things I LEARNED about my milk supply! Stay tuned for the second post on things I tried to INCREASE my supply and my FAVORITE resources!
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Once I started breastfeeding, I started researching EVERYTHING about increasing my milk supply. I know I can’t be the only mama out there who was CONSUMED with making sure I made plenty of milk for my little babe. I wanted to make sure I had a freezer stocked with milk. And, remember, I started pumping while in the hospital and struggled to transition to the breast, so pumping was required for me to feed my babe. Pumping makes the number of ounces of milk you’re making PAINFULLY obvious. When you breastfeed, you really don’t know how much milk you’re making - can make it more stressful at times because you aren’t sure of how much milk your babe is getting, but also can be less stressful as you’re not constantly counting ounces. Depends on who you are as a human!
Some things I learned about my milk supply:
My milk supply was VERY dependent on the number of calories I ate. This is NOT true for everyone. But to make milk, you need additional calories. The CDC recommends an additional 450-500 calories per day on top of the amount of calories needed daily prior to pregnancy. For me, if I cut back my calories at all, I watched my milk supply plummet. My husband kept a stash of double-stuffed oreos in the freezer (my favorite treat) and would force me to eat them if I didn’t eat enough during the day. I would NOT recommend this way of doing it. I would highly recommend adding additional healthy food to your diet daily. I made some healthier “treats” that were easy for me to snack on between meals but also served to increase my milk supply by being stacked with galactagogues (keep reading for more info…). I KNOW that so many of us want to get our bodies back. We want to fit in our old clothes again. If your goal is to feed your babe breastmilk, you may have to adjust your expectations. You WILL fit back into your clothes. But it may take a little longer. You may not be able to do it by cutting calories. My husband repeatedly reminded me I spent YEARS trying to make this miracle babe, I worked my butt off to breastfeed him. I needed to focus on feeding him, and my body could wait. He was right. The weight did fall away over time.
Drinking plenty of water was another crucial point. Everyone says to have water around when you breastfeed. You MUST have water next to you. I would start feeding P and become overwhelmingly parched, like I had just been dropped off in a desert and hadn’t had a drink of water in three-hundred and sixty-four days. It was CRAZY how my body could react. When you breastfeed, oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is an AMAZING hormone. It causes the release of milk to our babes. It causes uterine cramping (so don’t be surprised if you get cramping or pain when breastfeeding in the first month postpartum). It causes emotional bonding between you and your babe. It causes relaxation - you may feel REALLY sleepy while breastfeeding, that’s normal! AND it causes THIRST. It’s our body’s way of reminding us to drink plenty of fluids to keep making milk. So don’t sit down to nurse without a bottle of water near you. Stay hydrated mama!
Your milk supply doesn’t regulate until sometime around two months (six to twelve weeks). So what you do early in your postpartum period matters! Before I had P, I thought I wouldn’t be pumping until I went back to work. I didn’t order my pumps until I was in the hospital. I also didn’t order any pumping bras. That was a MISTAKE friends. I wanted to be sure I could make milk and breastfeed prior to spending the money. Do yourself a favor - buy at least ONE pumping/nursing bra (I recommend this one) and order your pump free with your healthcare insurance PRIOR to delivering your babe. I wish I had! Anyway, in the beginning you want to feed your baby as often as they are hungry. Lactation is NOT supply and demand. It’s actually a DEMAND and SUPPLY process. So the more demand for milk your body has, the more it will supply milk. Your body is trying to make the perfect amount of milk for your babe. Not MORE and not LESS. (Learn more about this with the Milkology course - I HIGHLY recommend it!) If you are trying to fill a freezer with milk, you want to convince your body that your babe needs MORE. CAVEAT: there is a fine line here. If you convince your body you need wayyyy more milk than your baby needs, you may overproduce, which shouldn’t be your goals either. What I found worked well was to nurse first thing in the morning, when our body typically makes more milk, and then immediately after nursing, I would pump. Sometimes I would “power pump” first thing (see below). By pumping immediately after feeding, I told my body there was more DEMAND and to increase the supply of milk. I also ensured that I would have enough time to make more milk for the next time my babe was hungry.
What the heck is power-pumping? Power-pumping is basically a strategy of pumping that mimics cluster-feeding in order to convince your body that you need more milk. You’re increasing the DEMAND in order to increase SUPPLY of milk. There are many formulas of how much time etc that you can use. I typically did the following: pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes. I did this once a day, most often in the morning immediately following my first nursing session with P. If you want to learn more about power pumping, I HIGHLY recommend taking this online course by Milkology - The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class! Medical school didn’t teach me nearly as much on breastfeeding a babe as this class.
Hope these tidbits help! Stay tuned for next week's post on the things I DID TRY to increase my milk supply.
❤️ & ☕️ & 🌈,