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Breastfeeding! Oh, the wonderful world of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is certainly on the rise in today’s society, which is awesome! The last CDC Report Card that was printed in 2016 stated that currently 81.1% of all infants born that year were at one point either breastfed or receiving breast milk. That is crazy high!
Breast milk has valuable benefits and has been shown in countless studies to be more beneficial over formula use. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants until 6 months of age. After 6 months, solid food should be introduced, and breastfeeding should be continued in combination until after the child’s first birthday. After this milestone, mom and baby may continue to breastfeed as long as both mutually desire.
Breastfeeding provides a defensive effect against respiratory illnesses (including bronchitis, viral illness, and pneumonia), ear infections, GI bugs, and allergies including eczema, atopic dermatitis and asthma. It has been shown to decrease SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by approximately 15-30 percent, and also reduces the chances of obesity throughout life.
You can see how powerful breast milk is for our babies! Well, what’s the one thing wrong with this picture? IT’S FREAKING HARD!
PSSST…GUYS! Before ya read on…If you seriously are on the pumping/breastfeeding struggle bus (like I was FOR WAY LONGER THAN I SHOULD’VE BEEN), check out this Online Breastfeeding Class by Milkology! It’s super cheap (Only $19), and it’s seriously jammed packed with everything you’ve ever wanted to know about breastfeeding/pumping!
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently posted about crossing my 1 year mark of nursing my sweet babe. I will say, it has been a journey! I struggled with low milk supply throughout my entire nursing experience, and needless to say, I was stressed out from the beginning. I just obsessed over it CONSTANTLY.
I’ve taken care of so many breastfeeding mommas in their first few breastfeeding hours, newbies and vets. And, even though I KNEW breastfeeding was difficult, I had no idea how much it takes over your life until I actually went through it myself. It’s a full-time job in the beginning, and it takes SO much out of you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Is it worth it? For me, absolutely.
Did my son get formula? You’re damn right he did, and I’m not ashamed to admit that in the least. I had low milk supply issues from the beginning. He lost a little too much weight, and it was necessary as per his pediatrician, that I give him formula to help him regain some of his lost weight. After introducing this formula in his first few days of life, I ended up supplementing about one to two 4oz bottles of formula per day for almost his entire life, up until we recently started whole milk.
And, even though I say I’m not shy about admitting that, I beat myself up over it. I was angry at myself for not just nursing him more in the beginning, because maybe my milk supply would have been better. I felt guilty. Maybe I should have tried harder? Maybe I should have pumped longer? I envied other moms with over-supply issues, wishing I knew what it felt like to be super engorged and pump 6-8 oz at a time, every time.
I tried SO MANY THINGS to get my milk supply up, and I’m happy to share with you EVERY SINGLE ONE I TRIED if you’re on the low-supply train, like I was. Some worked, some not so much, some worked for a short time, others fell completely flat.
Alright, let’s start with some basics.
Also, I’ve rated all of these techniques from 0-10.
Zero being a complete waste of my time, ten being the best thing I tried. 😊
WATER (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 5)
I can’t tell you how much freaking water I drank over the past year to try and get my supply up. Truth is, if you’re dehydrated, you’re not going to be making an abundance of milk. I definitely saw an increase on days I was running to the bathroom more.
GATORADE (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 4)
So, the theory behind gatorade is that, in order for your body to be making milk, your electrolytes must be in check. Someone whose electrolyte balance is out of whack (like someone dehydrated for example), isn’t going to have a super awesome milk supply. By pumping extra electrolytes and water into your system, your body is able to get back to a normal state, and start making lots of milk again. Well, if you don’t really have an electrolyte imbalance to begin with, then simply chugging Gatorade isn’t going to do your milk ducts much good. Scored a little lower than water, just because I felt water did the same thing, and frankly Gatorade is chocked full of sugar!
PROTEIN (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 2)
This is another one that isn’t going to do you much good if you already eat enough protein! At least it didn’t for me. There is a little bit of confusion out there, but from what I’ve gathered, breastfeeding moms actually need approximately 65-75 grams of protein per day. Breastfeeding moms use quite a bit more energy making milk. Protein is the building block of your entire body, along with adequate carbohydrate intake. So the theory is, maybe moms with low supply issues have inadequate protein stores, thus require more burgers and steaks. Or protein shakes, which is what I did. I did feel a bit more energetic, but did it help my milk supply? Nah, not so much.
JUST DRINKING PLAIN OLD MILK (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 0)
Ok, I admit I totally had this thought. If I need to make more milk, why don’t just drink more milk right?? Nah, doesn’t really work.
BREWERS YEAST (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 6)
This one I’ll give a fighting chance, because I do believe my milk went up a bit after eating a ton of brewer’s yeast. You can bake lactation cookies, make smoothies, or mix it into another type of food. I will say, it does have a pretty strong taste, so cover it well. The cookies were my favorite, by far. It didn’t impact my milk supply for the long run, though. As soon as I stopped my consumption, I did see a drop. Also, according to my husband it was just an excuse to eat 5 cookies a day 😊 Brewer’s Yeast is somewhat hard to come by. I snagged mine from a health food store, but you can also order it from Amazon.
OATMEAL (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 4)
This one is so popular! Oatmeal is a galactagogue, and has been recommended by lactation consultants throughout the world as one of the best ways to increase your milk supply. EAT A TON OF IT, they say. I do think it helped increase my milk a bit, but the amount I had to intake was crazy! For me, it didn’t prove to be substantially beneficial, so it doesn’t get a great score. I have heard wonders though, and it may work for you. Truth is, I ate so much darn oatmeal over the past year, I’ve gotten pretty sick of it, and I think my relationship with oatmeal has been permanently affected. #ripquakers
COCONUT OIL (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 5)
There’s a lot of soluble fat in coconut oil, and guess what breast milk is made up of? LOTS OF FAT. That’s the idea behind this one. Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it straight out of the tub. I used it more as a replacement to butter or other oils that I cook/bake with.
CHIA SEEDS (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 0)
This one I was really excited about. Chia seeds have been growing in popularity over the past decade, whether it’s adding them in smoothies, cookies, or when baking bread. They have an expanding effect, so dieters like them because they help you to feel fuller longer. They are also thought to increase your breast milk, as they are an excellent source of nutrients. For me, personally, they fell flat.
LACTATION COOKIES (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 5)
I tried a few different recipes, and this one was by far my favorite. Lactation cookies are basically a combination of a few of the foods I’ve already described (mainly oatmeal and brewers yeast). They are also very yummy, and let’s be honest you need a few cookies for breakfast after you’ve been up all night cluster feeding a newborn!
AVOCADO (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 3)
I LOVE AVOCADOS, so I was really excited when I heard that they may increase your milk supply! Going off of the thought that avocados are full of “good fats”, they can be beneficial to some nursing moms struggling with low supply, because as I said before breast milk = fat. For me, I maybe saw a slight increase, but not enough to write home about.
SWEET POTATOES (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 9)
ONE THAT ACTUALLY KINDA WORKED! I know, you’re probably wondering WHAT? Well, sweet potatoes fall into that galactagogues food family, and for me this one was far more beneficial than oatmeal! I LOVE sweet potatoes (almost as much as I love avocados), so I was more than thrilled when I saw the difference. At first I thought it was in my head, but I will say, the nights I ate sweet potatoes for dinner, I woke up the next morning feeling much more engorged! YAY SWEET POTATOES!
BEER (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 10)
I know, I know, alcohol and breastfeeding? Well, quite frankly, yes! This one worked for me as well. I went to a few weddings over the past year, and the mornings I woke up after consuming a few beers the night before, I was more engorged than ever!! I actually pumped my all time record of 10 oz in the morning after drinking beer the previous night. The thought behind this is that there are polysaccharides in barley (which is used to make beer) that seem to excite prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for mamas making more milk! Dark beer is more beneficial, but I consumed light beer, and noticed the change. Also, for mamas who are not so keen on alcohol consumption, non-alcoholic beers will do the same trick. Drink up!
*Additional disclaimer* I’m not condoning or suggesting alcoholism here. Even though this one worked GREAT for me, alcohol is best in moderation. Please check with your health care provider before consuming alcohol while breastfeeding. (Or just drink O’douls 😊)
MILKMAKERS COOKIES (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 2)
These cookies can be found on Amazon, at Baby’s R Us, Buy Buy Baby, you name it. They are everywhere! I tried these, just because they looked delicious, and they are all organic! The first ingredient is organic oats. They are pretty tasty, but did they help my milk supply? I’m not convinced.
BOOBIE BARS (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 8)
I saw these on an episode of Shark Tank! I love that show. I ate these Boobie Bars when my son was around 2-3 months old, and I saw a significant increase in my milk production! I felt much more engorged in about 24 hours! Judging by the ingredients list, they don’t have anything too magical in them, and nothing that I hadn’t tried before, so I’m really stumped as to why they worked so great for me! The only downside is, they are a bit pricey. Super yummy though! My personal favorite was the oatmeal chocolate chip.
MOTHER’S MILK TEA (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 3)
This lactation tea is also very popular, and is marketed as a surefire way to increase your milk supply. You can buy many different brands, but the one I tried was by TRADITIONAL MEDICINALS. It may have helped to increase my milk supply, but I’m not entirely sure because I was doing a lot of other things at the same time. Some women claim you actually have to drink gallons of this stuff to see a difference. I would drink a cup or two a day with my breakfast. Some say they don’t like the taste (it kind of tastes like licorice), but I actually didn’t mind it. I mixed a little bit of creamer into my tea after brewing, and I thought that combination was very yummy!
MOVING ON TO HERBS
*CHECK WITH YOUR PROVIDER BEFORE TAKING ANY OF THESE HERBS, NOT SUITABLE FOR ALL WOMEN*
FENUGREEK (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 0)
There’s a big hype behind fenugreek. It’s totally the most popular herb that Lactation Consultants claim to increase your milk supply. It has worked wonders for many women. Truth is, YOU HAVE TO TAKE A TON! 2-4 capsules a day, 3 times a day to be exact. That’s a lot of pills!
What I have been told is to start out with 2 capsules, twice a day, and slowly increase your dosage until, get this, you start smelling like maple syrup! WHAT? Well, once you start to reek of this delicious odor, you have enough fenugreek in your system to make a difference in your milk supply. In fact, if you get to this point, and your milk supply isn’t affected, discontinue use because fenugreek will not work for you. In some cases, women actually experience a decrease in milk supply (uh, no good!). It didn’t work for me, but it may for you!
MALUNGGAY (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 5)
Another herbal supplement that was recommended to me by a lactation consultant, malunggay. I do think it helped my milk supply, but only temporarily. It gave me a boost initially when I started taking it, but I saw a decrease after a few weeks, while I was still taking the herb.
GOAT’S RUE (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 0)
I was so excited about this one, but it did nothing to increase my milk. Goat’s rue works differently than other supplements by stimulating the growth of breast tissue, and it’s great for women who have had breast surgery or did not experience an increase of breast growth during pregnancy.
LACTIFUL (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 8)
Not many women have heard of this powerful supplement. In fact, I came across it by accident, but I’m glad I did! This is an awesome company. Their claim is that their product will increase your milk supply in 14 days, or your money back! Pretty good deal! It’s fairly expensive for a month’s supply, but if you think about it, that’s what you would spend on formula and bottles!
Like fenugreek, you have to take A TON of pills every day (15). Along with the pills you buy, they also provide you with personalized customer service and a little booklet you can read about increasing your milk supply. They recommend along with taking the pills you also follow one of four of their step-by-step plans for maximum effectiveness. There’s a plan for exclusive pumpers, supplementers, working mamas, and exclusive breastfeeders. I followed the working mama’s plan, because at the time I had already gone back to work. For two weeks I followed every step and took all my pills.
I did see an increase in my milk supply, but not enough to keep spending the money every month, so ultimately I ended up returning the product. Their customer service was so awesome. They told me I could keep my little booklet, and they didn’t even make me return my excess pills, they just refunded my money. Even though I didn’t have maximum success, I totally recommend this product to every milky mama who is able to spend the money! The money back guarantee is sooo worth it. Here’s the link 🙂
PUMPING AFTER EVERY FEED (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 6)
In order for your body to make more milk, you’ve got to tell it to! Pumping for 20-30 minutes after every breastfeeding session is a great way to stimulate breast milk production, and really it should be THE FIRST thing you try before any herbal supplements. It’s a lot of work, but I promise it WILL make a difference. For me, it did but only for a short time. Once I stopped pumping after every feeding, my milk production went back down.
BREAST COMPRESSIONS WHILE PUMPING/BREASTFEEDING (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 9)
Breast compression is a gentle way of massaging your breasts while emptying them to stimulate your glands to release more milk. I did this so much in the first few weeks that it became habit to me, and I would practice it every time I either pumped or breastfed my son. Really, it’s not that hard, and it doesn’t take that much more effort than what you’re already doing pumping/breastfeeding. Basically what you do is form a “C” shape around your breast, and just squeeze as baby is latched on or as you are pumping. If you pump, you will notice your milk comes out much faster as you are doing this technique. This is GREAT, and totally recommended to all mamas. Here’s a short Youtube video explaining the technique in more detail:
POWER PUMPING (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 9)
Power pumping is exactly what it sounds like, POWERFUL! Power pumping is something I used to do almost every night after my little one went to sleep. Some women do it throughout the day as well, but I found it most beneficial (and most time worthy) after I had put him to bed. It also gave me an excuse to sit on the couch and watch Netflix for an hour 😊 Power pumping goes like this: pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 more minutes, rest for 10 minutes, then pump for a final 10 minutes. The total time should be 1 hour. This is mimicking a newborn’s “cluster feed” and is a GREAT way to not only increase your milk supply, but give you a little extra freezer stash. DO THIS!
CHANGING YOUR PUMP PARTS (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 9)
Sometimes pump parts get old, sometimes pumps need new batteries. Truth is, if you are noticing all of a sudden you aren’t pumping milk like you used to, it may be time to replace your parts. Most Medela parts can be bought from Target or Amazon.
PUMPING ON THE OTHER SIDE WHILE FEEDING (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 5)
This one sounds great in theory, and I think it helps many mamas. I scored it a bit low only because my boy was always a two-sided boob man. When I pumped on the other side while he was nursing, he would get mad because when he switched there wasn’t very much left for him! It’s also a lot of work, and the cohesiveness of having a breast pump hooked up to you while you nurse is extremely difficult. At least that is how I felt. I know some mamas are pros though, and if you make it work for you, you go girl!
LOOKING AT VIDEOS OF YOUR BABY WHILE YOU PUMP (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 5)
I did this anyway as soon as I went back to work because I missed my little one so much! Truth is, if you are looking at pictures/videos of your baby while you pump, your body may release a bit more oxytocin, which can help with let-down and milk production. I’ve also heard of mamas bringing an item of clothing that smells like baby to work, and smelling it while they pump. Same thought process.
CHANGING YOUR BRA (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 7)
I had a few bras that I realized were a bit too tight, and I believe they were impeding my milk supply. I got rid of them and also switched to ones with no underwire, and saw an increase in my milk. Too much pressure on your milk glands from an improperly fit bra can totally have an effect on your production. So, make sure you get some bras that are comfy and fit! These are my favorites.
FREEMIES (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 10)
If you’ve read my post on my Freemie Collection Cups, you’ll know that I am lover of this product! These get a 10 out of 10 for helping to increase my milk supply, and for ease of use! Seriously, if you have an electric breast pump, YOU NEED THESE! They will change your life. More on these here.
TORTURE DEVICE (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 5)
Ha, so it’s not really a torture device but it sure looks like one! These pump straps are sold on Amazon, and they are thought to help increase your milk supply because you can effectively do breast compressions while you pump, unlike a standard hands-free bra. They take a few minutes to set up, but they were pretty effective for me. The only reason they scored a bit low is once I found my freemies, I didn’t use them anymore. If you are interested, though, you can check them out here.
AND FINALLY, TAKE A NURSING VACATION (HELPFULNESS SCORE: 8)
A nursing vacation is basically a mini vacation that you spend with your baby in your bed! I did one over a weekend when he was really little, and it was so nice! Lots of skin-to-skin and cuddles. LOTS OF OXYTOCIN RELEASE, which helps your supply! Nursed my little one probably 20 times that day!
That’s everything I tried. Literally! As you can see, breastfeeding changes your life completely. Wait, actually HAVING A BABY changes your life completely 😊 But, definitely for the better.
One thing I will say…a resource that I found uber helpful was Kellymom.com. This website is dedicated to providing the most beneficial, up-to-date information on breastfeeding and parenting. They are pro-breast milk for sure, but they are certainly not in your face about it. LOVE THIS WEBSITE, and I’ve learned so much from them.
Also helpful, if you’re looking for a free resource related to motherhood, baby care, and all-around mom STUFF…check out thinkbaby.org! I LOVE their blog! The ladies who run this site are as passionate as I am about providing mama education, and I think that’s just swell 🙂
*UPDATE* I found a SUPER awesome Breastfeeding Handbook worth investigating if you want to stay organized and need some extra pointers with breastfeeding/pumping! Trina and Alli from Mom Smart Not Hard have put a TON of work into this amazing resource, and they’ve included SO MUCH INFO! There’s a 25+ page handbook inside, along with 3 printable trackers to keep you organized through those first few weeks of newborn life! Snag your copy here, trust me, it’s so awesome and helpful! 🙂
Are there any techniques that you tried that I haven’t listed? I want to know! Leave me a comment!
Happy Milk Makin’! 🙂
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