Struggling with and Increasing Milk Supply
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We know there are a lot of benefits to breastfeeding for both Mom and Baby, but for some women there may be struggles. Although I am very pro-breastfeeding, I have been obliged to supplement with all 3 children.
My oldest was in the NICU for a week, and fed formula the whole time, which feel really hindered my milk production, and though I pumped until she was a year old, I could never quite catch up with her appetite.
With my son, I thought I would “get ahead” by pumping between feedings, but then he would inevitably need to eat as soon as I pumped and often ended up needing a bottle, including formula.
I attempted to get back on track by going back to exclusively nursing, on demand and my son ended up losing a little weight instead of gaining between his 4 and 6 month checkups. His pediatrician then told me I needed to feed him completely with bottles, though I could nurse for “comfort and bonding” if I chose. I got discouraged and quit altogether.
Even with baby number 3, after what I thought was a better start, I was told at her 2 week check-up I need to supplement because she was almost a lb below birth weight, which she should have gained back by 2 weeks.
So now I nurse throughout the day and give a bottle at night, since I have to give one anyway. And this is less disruptive to our nursing routine than having bottles in the middle of the day.
Low supply is one of several obstacles to successful breastfeeding, along with lack of support as I mentioned in my post on the benefits of breastfeeding. But there are a few things you can do to help increase milk supply.
1. Feed on demand. You will commonly hear this touted as the number one way of increasing milk supply, and with good reason. The more your baby nurses, the more your body responds to the appetite of your baby.
2. Drink lots of water. Your body needs water, fat and protein for milk production. If your liquid intake is insufficient, there is less liquid your body can use for making milk.
3. Rest and try not to stress too much. I know, easier said than done, right? But stress levels can affect milk supply as can fatigue.
4. Certain foods are thought to increase milk supply, including oatmeal, flax seed, brewer’s yeast, alfalfa, spinach, carrots, lentils, asparagus, brown rice and garlic. The first 3 are present in most lactation cookie recipes.
5. Herbal teas and supplements. There are a host of herbs know for increasing supply, and these can be taken in herb form as hot tea. I take fenugreek and blessed thistle (not milk thistle). Other helpful herbs are fennel, red raspberry and coriander seed.
I hope these suggestions help if you are struggling with a low milk supply. If anyone has any other tips I’d love to hear them!