Creating a solid supply is something we all hope for, and I am sharing what worked for me. Please remember the age-old saying, “There are many different routes to the same destination”, so feel free to see which tips resonate best with you and your lifestyle.
Breastfeeding could be considered a job within itself. Between washing pump parts, being chained to your Boppy pillow and precious bundle all hours of the day and night, and having to take care of your tender leaking breasts, there is no doubt it is another thing to add to your already mounting plate.
Having enough milk is a constant worry that plagues most first-time moms, and especially working moms. Establishing your milk supply is SUPER important as it sets the stage for the rest of your time breastfeeding. It is really difficult (although NOT impossible) to amp up an already established supply, so why not start off with a bang?
Here is what has helped me establish a steady and abundant supply:
1. Lactation consultant visits
While attending a breastfeeding class during my first pregnancy, the teacher recommended having a lactation consultant come visit me daily while in the hospital.
I remember thinking every day seemed like overkill, but my mom-to-be self was WRONG.
It is standard for a consultant to visit you once during your stay, so I had to speak up and make my wishes known. I wrote it in my birth plan, and I also told my labor and delivery nurse. I figured why not?
When the consultant came they watched me nurse, gave me tips on positioning my baby, and checked my newborn’s latch. You may think one visit is enough, but that’s only if you have a perfect nursing baby, which is rare. Your baby may be doing great one day, and then not so great the next. So, as much as you would like to think you don’t need another “free service” from the hospital, think again, and utilize the crap out of this. I did this with both of my children, and we went on to have a beautiful nursing bond because we got their latch right from the start.
2. Rent a hospital-grade pump
People look at me like I’m crazy when I say this because you just bought like a $400 breast pump, right? You will thank me later I promise. A hospital-grade pump is SUPER strong and seriously the closest machine your going to get to your baby. It is NOT expensive to rent one. Maybe $40 a month, which one month is all you will need it for anyways. My NICU nurse recommended this to me because I was having a hard time getting my supply going since I couldn’t hold my son until he was four days old. So, yes, rent the d*mn pump. Pharmacies typically carry them. The hospital grade pump I rented was the Medela Symphony.
3. Pain management recommendations
We all know the pain is seriously intense when you first start nursing, making it really hard to endure those early nursing and pumping sessions. There are a few things you can do that drastically help the pain, so take some tips from a seasoned momma.
Medela Tender Care Hydrogel Pads are UH-MAZING. Keep them in your fridge and plop those puppies on your nipples after each nursing session. HALLELUJAH…they are like soothing ice packs for your tatas.
I also highly recommend a sleep bra and to wear nipple pads at ALL times. Most of us think nipple pads are just for leaking, but I think they work as shields from all the rubbing and friction that occurs due to your bra too. They work as band-aids for your extra sore nipples, and I wear mine day and night. I wear either Dappi Organic or Bamboobies. They are both soft as hell.
I have a couple of nipple balms I use and HIGHLY recommend. The first is a non-prescription balm called Motherlove Nipple Balm. It is made here in Fort Collins, but Target and our local Whole Foods carry it. It is also available on Amazon here. The second product I highly recommend and literally wouldn’t have made it through nursing without is a prescription called, Newman’s Nipple Balm. My lactation consultant recommended this when I couldn’t rid the soreness on my right side. IT IS A MIRACLE IN A BOTTLE. Unfortunately, it is only available from a compound pharmacy. There is only one pharmacy in all of Fort Collins that was able to fill it, so just be aware of that little fact! Intimidated it’s prescription-only? Don’t be! Just ask your doctor (either OBGYN or PCP) to fill it for you, and I highly promise they will! Side note…I have heard Lanolin works extremely well, I just happen to be allergic to it.
4. Become an open buffet, Avoid pacifiers this early on
Feed your newborn every freaking chance you get. Do they need to be comforted? Offer the boob. Are they hungry? Offer the boob. Do they seem restless? Offer the boob. You get the idea.
Don’t start a pacifier yet AT ALL. Let your boobs do the soothing for now. This will ensure you aren’t missing any feeding cues and will seriously rev up your supply. Remember, every time your newborn nurses your body says “Oh ok, I need to make this much milk again”.
Neither of my children would take a pacifier for any length of time. My daughter flat out despises the thing, and my son took it in the NICU and for a short time afterwards, but lost interest quickly. Introducing pacifiers too early will cause you to not only miss your little one’s feeding cues as discussed earlier, but you also run the risk of nipple confusion. So, for now, wait on the paci, and make your nipples the paci for the time being. It is both developmentally appropriate and beneficial for revving up your supply to use your breasts to comfort your child. (Side note: If you are so miserably sore you can’t be a human paci, obviously don’t do this and do what you need to, as your nipples healing is the number one priority.)
5. A small touch on bottles
If you have to use bottles this early (My son was bottle fed in his early days in the NICU), every single time your baby gets a bottle you really want to be pumping around the same time. You want your body to think your nursing your baby around the same time they are receiving a bottle. This will ensure you are drained and then full again by the next time your bundle is ready to nurse.
6. Sneak in an extra pump
This is where the anal part of my personality shines bright, and I know this isn’t necessarily something everyone should do, but in the off-chance you are as obsessed and anal as I was with my supply…
I pumped every single night (maybe missed 3 nights total) until my son was seven months old around 2am. Why would I do this other than being a neurotic first-time mother? For one, I hardly made enough milk, and I was always looking for ways to build up a reserve. But mainly to take full advantage of the surge in milk production at that hour. This was how I tricked my body into making a few more ounces than I would have. I used this milk for the next day if I hadn’t pumped enough at work the day before, or if I didn’t need it for the next day’s supply I’d freeze it.
7. Easier said than done, but relax
Luckily, your hormones kinda force you to relax once you see your precious baby, but for those pumping at work relaxing is key. I know I had a tough time compartmentalizing between the hustle and bustle of work and winding my mind down enough to pump.
My husband had noticed that it wasn’t hard for me at all to let down my milk when I could see Barrett across the room, so he thought a few printed pictures would help me at work. I carried around photos of my son in my pump bag forever. I pulled them out every time I pumped, which allowed me to feel pure joy every time I looked at his smiling face.
There you have it. My confessions (advice) of creating a solid milk supply from someone who didn’t naturally produce milk to feed a village. I was d*mn determined, and a bit obsessed, but hey it worked.