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When I first started exclusively pumping I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t something I originally planned to do so I had no clue how to increase breast milk supply. My supply was so low I had to supplement with formula in order to keep my baby girl fed. Due to the negative effects on my baby’s stomach and skin, I didn’t want to continue feeding her formula, although it was significantly easier.
For the sake of my maternal experience and the overall health of my little one, I needed to increase my milk supply fast! After plenty of research (and an amazing lactation consultant), I adopted a few life changing methods that made it possible to switch from formula to breast milk in less than two weeks. Since sharing is caring, I put together a list of the 11 things that contributed to my abundant milk supply and positively impacted my exclusive pumping journey.
We don’t know how it works, or why it works….it just works. I was already an oatmeal lover before the birth of my baby girl, so it wasn’t difficult to add back into my postpartum diet. Some women say the type of oatmeal matters when trying to increase breat milk supply, and some say it doesn’t. From my own experience, I can tell you that rolled oats were the only type of oats that worked for me. Check out my favorite brand of oatmeal here. I tried eating steel cut oats, which I preferred before my pregnancy, but did not see an increase in milk supply. After switching to rolled oats twice a day, I started noticing an increase in my milk output within a week.
2. Manage Stress
Adjusting to life with a newborn, running on little to no sleep and managing your emotions with raging hormones is a lot. Add all of that to worrying about your milk supply and if you will be able to feed your baby or not. Talk about stress! If there is one thing that I learned through my exclusive pumping journey, it is to never underestimate the affect stress can have on the body. We carry everything in our bodies, and excessive worry and/or stress can present itself as low milk supply or result in a low milk supply. When I let go of expectations and made some changes to manage my stress, I was able to take a step back, accept the way things were, and realize that I was doing the best I could. As soon as I got my stress under control, my milk supply gradually increased.
I tried to put myself on a diet when I returned home from birthing my baby girl. Yeah, I was that woman. I was full of unrealistic expectations and I really didn’t know any better at that time. Being a gluten intolerant vegetarian already limits my diet, so when I tried to further restrict myself, it showed in my low milk supply. It was when I started to actually eat full, hearty meals and periodic snacks throughout the day that I led to changes and an increase in breast milk supply. Not only was my milk supply increasing, but the pounds were shedding and I was losing weight fast! I had no idea that pumping burned a significant amount of calories. It’s a win-win solution!
If I had to choose one side effect of pumping that stood out to me the most, it’s that it made me thirsty as hell! I was already accustomed to drinking a gallon of water a day, but the first two weeks after bringing baby girl home, I slacked big time. It wasn’t until my lactation consultant asked me about my water intake that I actually realized how much I was not drinking. Getting back to the habit of drinking a minimum of a gallon of water a day has been so beneficial during my exclusive pumping journey. Not only am I hydrated, my skin and my body feels amazing as well. I made a commitment to drink 2-3 cups of water before each pumping session, and if I didn’t know any better I’d say the water just turned into milk.
I know it can be daunting keeping track how much water you drink throughout the day, especially with a newborn. Even if it is important to increase breast milk supply. Don’t worry mama, I have the perfect suggestion. Get yourself one of these and thank me later.
5. Stay warm
This tip is for those middle of the night and early morning pumping sessions. Pumping takes a lot of energy and it can be hard to do when a majority of your energy is being used to warm your body. I noticed my milk output would be lower when I was cold or not bundled up during those cold hours of the day. When I started to keep a heavy robe in my pumping corner it made all the difference. I was much more comfortable, and my milk supply didn’t suffer.
6. Keep schedule
I learned this the hard way. When I finally got an abundant milk supply, I became too relaxed and would periodically stray from my schedule due to me being thrown off my game. I slacked while outside of the house, to get more sleep, or to get a little bit of relief. It scared the hell out of me when my supply dipped significantly. When I started to take my schedule more seriously and kept it consistent, my supply went back to normal and even increased!
7. The Right Breast Pump
I had my fair share of trial and error with breast pumps. I had to learn what pump worked best for my exclusive pumping journey and my milk output; as it turns out, I need more than one to increase breast milk supply. Having the wrong breast pump can have you thinking you aren’t producing enough milk when in reality, your body is more than able. Not catching this problem in time can also negatively impact your milk supply, making you work harder to increase and maintain it. In the end, I resulted to using a hospital grade pump as my main pump in order to maintain my sanity and my supply. No regrets!
If you are trying to increase your milk supply, get hip to the wonders that are galactagogues. Galactagogue are foods and herbs that aid in stimulating milk production for lactating mamas. Here are a few common ones that helped me along my exclusive pumping journey:
- Fennel, Dill, Cumin Seeds, Anise Seeds
- Flax Seed
- Dark Leafy Greens (alfalfa, spinach, Kale)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brewer’s Yeast
Many galactagogues can be taken in the form of teas, powders, supplements, or whole foods. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating delicious recipes, smoothies and snacks.
9. Power pumping
This is one of those things that no mama wants to do, but definitely should! If you aren’t familiar with power pumping it is also known as cluster pumping and is done to mimic cluster feeding. The overall point is to trick your body into producing more milk by emptying more frequently. It may seem like a hassle when you are pumping every 2-3 hours, but the good news is, you don’t have to do it every day, it is mainly done when there is a temporary dip in your supply.
10. Hand expressing
Hand expression is when you produce milk output by compressing your breast with your hands; similar to using a manual pump. When my lactation consultant instructed me to hand express to increase my milk supply, I had no idea that it increase breast milk supply and it would give me an extra 1-1.5 oz per session. This method tricks the breast into making more milk by mimicking the suckling of baby and demanding more milk. This is also something you don’t have to permanently incorporate into your pumping routine. By hand expressing 2-5 minutes after my pumping session, I seen positive results within a week.
11. Skin to Skin Contact
Last but not least, skin to skin can aid in increasing breast milk supply. Skin to Skin contact with your baby encourages your body to release Oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates the ejection of milk. This is also the reason why skin to skin is so important immediately after childbirth (the golden hour). Even though I was told to continue skin to skin contact after leaving the birthing center, it was very hard to do with little time to myself and little to no sleep. When I decided to prioritize my goals of exclusively feeding my baby girl breast milk, it became easier to fit it into our day to day schedule. I love cuddling with my sweet baby girl, and the benefit of it all makes it sweeter.
That’s it! The 11 things that increased my milk supply while exclusively pumping. I hope this list adds value to your exclusive pumping journey and helps you crush your pumping goals. Please feel free to share your experiences or add your own tips in the comments below!
***I am not a lactation consultant. Any and every-thing in this post is based on my personal experiences with exclusive pumping and the advice I received from my own personal lactation consultant.