I am very proud to have made it one year as a breastfeeding mama! Throughout that time I experienced several dips in milk production, so I thought I would share some tips to increase milk supply. There will be no wives tales here!
My dips in milk supply were always around milestones for Aiden (such as when he slept through the night and started eating solid foods) or if I went on a business trip and just didn’t have the time to pump as often. I never had a huge issue getting my supply back until about six months. At that point, I worked with a lactation consultant who was able to help me regain my supply. Really the only thing that is truly effective in producing more milk is pumping or nursing more. When you empty the breast it sends a signal to your brain to make more milk. The more often you empty the faster you will fill back up.
When I experienced dips I would always add extra pumping sessions. I usually added two power pumps (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off for 50-60 minutes) in the car on the way to and from work. I would also pump right before bed for about 30 minutes, and I would even wake up around 2 am to get an extra 15-minute pumping session in. For more information on this check out my post on Pumping Tips for the Working Mom: Buiding Your Milk Stash.
Speaking of pumps, did you know that there are several types of pumps and that they can make a difference in increasing milk supply? I was fortunate that my insurance covered a hospital grade pump. Unfortunately, I did not do my research before getting my pump and ended up with a Pump in Style personal pump instead of a hospital grade pump (ie; Medela Symphony). Don’t get me wrong, I am really happy that I have the Pump in Style and I would have needed it anyway because of my pumping at work situation, but the hospital grade pumps are much more effective at producing milk.
The good news is you can rent hospital grade pumps fairly easily. For long term rentals, you can go through your hospital or a company like Brump. For short term, you can actually rent a hospital grade pump at Babies R’ Us. If you do go through Babies R’ Us, do yourself a favor and check Amazon before you buy the pump accessories they may be a lot less expensive!
Renting a hospital grade pump is how I always recovered my supply.
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Another thing to check if your supply drops is that your current pump is functioning properly. A lactation consultant can check the pressure or you can bring your pump to a Babies R’ Us to get tested. Also, make sure you are changing the membranes. Breast pumps are designed for a year or so of typical use (15-20 pumping sessions per week) so if you have a used pump or it was used with a previous child that could be part of the problem.
There are things you can do in conjunction with extra nursing or pumping that can help with milk production.
Supplements like Fenugreek, Milk Thistle, and brewers yeast can help increase milk production. It’s important to note; however, that you can’t just drink one cup of Mother’s Milk Tea and think it will make a huge difference. It takes quite a lot of these supplements to make a true difference in productions. You should also watch out for lactation cookies or bars. Although they taste delicious they are jam packed with sugar so it’s best to eat those in moderation. For a healthier snack, I would make protein snack balls. Recipe included below. The Honest Company makes a good lactation supplement which includes Fenugreek, Fennel, Organic Milk Thistle, and some other botanicals. The other thing about supplements is that you can reach a limit to how well they will work – once you reach that limit they won’t help you produce more milk and they can actually make you (and your baby) gassy.
Another way to help produce more milk is to drink plenty of water. There is a rumor that drinking Gatorade will magically increase milk supply, but there is no research to support this and Gatorade is loaded with a ton of sugar so it’s not ideal to be drinking a lot of it. I love this motivational water bottle from Etsy to remind me to drink water. Eating plenty of protein, green leafy vegetables, and oatmeal can help. I would add brewers yeast and flaxseed to my oatmeal every morning.
You can use essential oils to help with milk production. Basil oil and fennel oil are most commonly used for milk production. You can mix two drops of each with two tablespoons of coconut oil and rub it on the breast avoiding the nipple 3-5 times a day or after every feeding. If you are interested in purchasing oils let me know and I can help!
If nothing is working there is also the option of prescription medication. There are a few options on the market; however, the one that is approved for use in the US crosses the blood/brain barrier and could cause serious depression and suicidal thoughts in women who are already at risk for postpartum depression. The other is not approved for use in the US but some doctors will prescribe it (it just might not be covered by insurance). In either case, this would be a last resort and you should talk to a lactation consultant and doctor more about this option. If you get to this point you may want to consider if breastfeeding is still a priority and if it’s worth going this far.
Breastfeeding is hard and can be stressful, but guess what? Stress can tank your milk supply. The best thing to do if you think your milk supply is slipping is not freak out. If adding some extra pumping or nursing sessions doesn’t help in a week or so reach out to a lactation consultant (you can often get free support from your local hospital) and ask them to help.
Have you experienced dips in milk production? What did you do to help bring it back, or did you decide not to continue?
Lactation Protein Ball Recipe
1 cup dry oatmeal (rolled oats)
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup raw honey
1 scoop of protein powder (I use Maximum Nutrition Prenatal Whey)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp brewers yeast
- Mix all the ingredients together. Make sure everything is mixed really well to help form the balls.
- Chill the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour — however, the longer it’s chilled the better the balls bind.
- Rolls the mixture into balls about 1 in. in diameter.
- Store in the refrigerator.