8 ways I increased my milk supply naturally
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When I was pregnant with my first baby I thought I new exactly what to expect as far as nursing went. I had taken the classes, I read the books and I was prepared. Then the baby decided to make his debut early and after laboring for 16 hours I had an emergency c-section. All of my carefully laid out plans were thrown out the window. Now after having major surgery for the first time, I was supposed to hold and nurse this screaming, wrinkly little baby? He didn't know what to do, I forgot everything I learned, and we were a mess.
Since then I have had two more babies and successfully nursed them all. Each nursing experience was unique as I had different challenges with each baby in our individual nursing journeys. With my first baby I was blessed to stay home for the first year. We were able to exclusively nurse for the first six months and then we slowly weaned until he was around 15 months old. Then with the second baby I had to go back to work when he was 8 weeks old and I had the challenge of pumping at work and nursing at home. With the third baby I was blessed again to be home but this time, I had two other children to take care of, the oldest was in school, so this brought along a whole new set of challenges.
The following information is not to be considered as medical advice and does not replace the advice of a medical professional and/or a lactation consultant. If you feel that you are not producing enough milk to the point that your baby is not thriving, I urge you to contact your baby's pediatrician. I am just sharing my personal opinions and what worked for me.
Here are a list of the 8 things that I did with all three of my babies to increase my milk supply.
1 - Nurse on demand. Nothing helps to produce more milk quite like supply and demand. The more you let baby nurse, the more milk your body will produce. Did I feel like my nipples were going to fall off the first few weeks? You bet! Did it get easier with each baby? Nope! But my endurance increased with each one and I new we would eventually fall into a groove together and it would get easier.
2 - Get plenty of rest. This makes me laugh even as I type it but try to rest. I know, you have a new baby, and possibly other children to take care of, but you have to try to rest as much as you can, especially the first few weeks after birth. This ties in with my next point...
3 - Ask for help. This was a really hard thing for me to do with my first baby because I had this silly expectation that I could do it all. The cleaning, the cooking, the shopping, and taking care of a new baby. It was a difficult day when I had to admit I couldn't do it all by myself and I had to ask for help. But I found out it made my husband, mom and friends so happy to help me. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And take the help while you can get it.
4 - Tame your stress levels. This kind of goes along with number three but along with asking for help, you may need to let a few things go for awhile. Not everything needs to be taken care of immediately and you don't have to say yes to all social outings. Stress messes with your milk let-down. In the words of Elsa from Frozen, "let it go." Ugh! Now I have that song stuck in my head!
5 - Drink lots of water. You don't have to go crazy with the water but my doctor said the rule of thumb is if your urine is close to clear, you're good. I tried to make sure that I drank a glass of water or a cup of juice every time I sat down to nurse. It was a great way for both the baby and I to quench our thirst at the same time.
6 - Aim for an extra 300-500 extra calories a day. My milk supply went down fairly quickly after I went back to work because I was so busy at work I wasn't eating or drinking enough. Increasing my food and water intake make a difference in the quantity and quality of my milk supply.
7 - Get a good pump if you will be returning to work and would like to continue to give your baby breast milk. I loved my Medela Pump In Style because it was a double pump (pump both sides at the same time), it comes with a convenient carrying bag, a cooler to store the pumped milk in, storage bottles, a power cord and a battery pack for on the go pumping. I also used this pump at home if my husband was giving my baby a bottle of breastmilk or when I was trying to increase my milk supply by pumping in between nursings. (That was a ton of fun! To be read with sarcasm.)
8 - I used Basil and Fennel essential oils. Basil acts as a stimulant in this case and Fennel helps to increase the milk supply. You could also use some Clary Sage to help jump start milk production, increase your milk supply and help with balancing hormones. In a 10mL roller bottle I added 10 drops of each oil and filled the rest of the bottle with fractionated coconut oil. I would roll this oil directly onto my breasts (not the nipple area) after each feeding and it only took a few days for my milk supply to increase. (Caution - Clary Sage can bring on contractions when used while pregnant, so only use this oil AFTER you've given birth.)
Nursing is an act of sacrifice. You give of your body for months on end to grow a baby and then you give of your body to feed and nourish this little human being. Nursing holds so many health benefits for your baby and for yourself. If you are struggling with nursing today, I urge you to keep trying. Speak to your doctor, the baby's pediatrician or a lactation consultant. Try what I have tried and see if it will work for you. But know that it is ok to bottle feed as well. I had to do this with my last two babies after my milk supply was dried up due to severe sickness. Remember, fed is best. Listen to your gut and follow your instincts. You've got this mama! :)
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