Saturday, June 30, 2012

Top 10 ways to increase your milk supply

Many moms believe their supply is too low. This is usually due to the fact that you cannot tell how much milk you're making unless you pump and, when you do pump, you get far less milk than your baby will does when he or she nurses. Here is a common scenario: baby doesn't sleep well one night, mom thinks maybe he's hungry and starts to worry about her supply, she pulls out the old pump and only gets an ounce from each breast (partly due to the inefficiency of the pump and partly due to her stress about her supply), mom freaks out and self diagnoses as having a low supply. I've seen this happen to my friends a million times (ok, not a million, maybe ten, I don't have that many friends...) Anyway, my point is that the mom in the above scenario likely does not have a low supply, her baby was probably just having a rough night. Bringing your supply up too high can be a pain (literally, your boobs will hurt!) and can even be dangerous for you baby as he can choke on your milk when it starts coming out harder and faster than before. Oversupply can also lead to clogged ducts, engorged breasts that are difficult for baby to latch on to and even tummy problems in your baby, caused by him consuming too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk. My point is, don't try to increase your milk supply unless you think your baby really needs it.

Some ways to tell that your supply may be low include baby fussing at the breast after a couple minutes of eating, frequent eating (every hour) all day long, little to no weight gain (your doctor will tell you if it's a problem, don't bother weighing your baby yourself) and, most importantly, too few wet/dirty diapers. See this link for a chart of how many wet/dirty diapers you should expect.

After reading this, if you still think your milk supply is too low, there are several things you can do to bring it up. Of course, every body is different and certain things work better for some people than others. You also may not want to take medication or herbal supplements - that's ok, there are lots of other methods!

Top Ten Ways to Increase Your Supply

  • Eat oatmeal. Not instant, not "quick oats" just good, old fashioned oatmeal. If you eat a big ole bowl of it once or twice a day, you will soon see an increase in your milk supply. To keep from getting sick of eating oatmeal, try spicing it up with some cinnamon, or adding dry fruit before cooking. Also, beware that you will probably have frequent, smelly gas (fun!)
  • Drink beer. Of course, you don't want to nurse your baby while under the influence of alcohol, but drinking 1-2 beers a day (preferably after baby is in bed for the night) can help your supply.
  • Take brewer's yeast capsules. Brewer's yeast is the ingredient in beer that helps your supply, so if you don't want the alcohol, or don't like the taste of beer, go buy some brewer's yeast in capsule form. They sell these at many pharmacies and stores like Walmart and Target. 
  • Pump, pump, pump! After your baby nurses, pump until both breasts are empty. Then "dry pump" for 5 minutes on each side. You can also do what's called a "power pump" - pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes. You can repeat this for up to an hour. 
  • Take Fenugreek herbal supplements. You will need to take many of these pills a day and they can be pricey, but they do work for most people. You can find them at most health food stores. 
  • Drink Mother's Milk tea. This is also an herbal supplement and can be found at most health food stores and some maternity shops. 
  • Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for Domperidone. This is a drug intended for relief of irritable bowel syndrome, but has the nice side effect of drastically increasing your milk supply. In Canada, many OB's prescribe it for low milk supply but the American FDA has not approved it for this use, so it can be more difficult to find a doctor in the US who will prescribe it. A common side effect is that you will smell like maple syrup... All. The. Time. While this drug works very well, especially for moms with seriously supply issues, there has been some new research which questions the safety of it. Please do lots of research and talk to your doctor before considering this medication. 
  • Keep the baby on the breast as much as possible. As long as he's not upset about it, try to get your baby to nurse as much as you can. All day long is good! If you have an awesome hubby like I do, have him take care of everything else (including older children) and take a "nursing vacation". Bring some books, your phone, and some good movies into your bedroom and relax all day with your baby, letting him nurse as much as possible. 
  • Stay hydrated. Water is THE key component in breastmilk. Without water, your body cannot make milk. It is not uncommon for nursing mothers to drink upwards of 20 glasses of water a day. So drink, drink, drink. And when you think you can't possibly take another sip of water, drink another glass! Water is great for your metabolism, hair, nails and lots of other things too, so it can't hurt to drink a whole boatload of it!
  • Eat your heart out! Your body needs calories and fat to manufacture breastmilk. So eat A LOT. Of course, it's a good idea to stick to mainly nutritious foods, but the main point is just to eat! Also, try to spread out your eating, don't just eat three meals a day. Remember you aren't pregnant anymore, but you're still eating for two. 
So there you have it. My list of supply enhancers. Try one, try em all. Go for it! Feel free to comment and let me know what you tried and how it worked for you. Oh, and one more thing, DON'T STRESS ABOUT IT! I know that is much, much easier said than done, but stress will deplete your supply. Choose which techniques you're going to use and just do them, don't think about it, don't count your ounces, just relax and enjoy nursing your precious baby. Before you know it he will be an acne covered teenager, eating you our of house and home. Enjoy this while it lasts :)

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