Along with the 250 babies that are born each minute, is a mom wondering if she's making the right decisions. Co-sleep or crib sleep? Which parenting style to adopt? What age to give solid foods?
One of the most significant decisions new moms face is the decision to breastfeed or bottle feed their baby. Overall, many pediatricians will agree that breast milk is best, even when pumping. But even pumping can face challenges.
How do you know you're producing enough? And is there a way to increase milk supply when pumping?
Don't let your worries about breast milk stop you from pumping. Let's explore how you can make the most of pumping for your baby.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Again, ask any pediatrician, and they will agree: breast milk is best for your baby, even when the baby doesn't directly breastfeed. The benefits of breast milk are numerous:
- Complete nutrition for your baby, as it changes to meet your babies needs
- The risk of diseases is lowered for both you and baby, as well as certain types of cancers
- Boost IQ
- Breastfeeding burns many calories to help lose some of that baby weight
- With breastfeeding, there's no worry of running out for milk. Your body makes what your baby needs
- Full of antibodies that help fight infections
As you can see, breast milk is the ideal choice, one that has an interest in both you and your baby.
Where Does Breast Milk Come From?
Your body has a fantastic ability to make food for your baby, although you may not be entirely clear on how it all works. Once you understand how breast milk is created, you can take steps to increase production.
The making of breast milk begins during the first few months of pregnancy as your body prepares to create a baby. Estrogen and progesterone start growing breast tissue, which is the cause for an increase in breast tenderness and swelling.
Milk comes from the fat, proteins, and sugars in your blood supply. The hormone prolactin is responsible for initiating the production of breastmilk. Once this hormone signals to the body, breast milk is made!
Increase Milk Supply When Pumping
For some women, pumping is their choice to feed their baby for a variety of reasons. If you have chosen to pump, that's wonderful! Your baby is still getting the nutrition they need.
But what happens when you feel your supply dwindling? Don't give up! Many mamas go through this, and it's often just a matter of tweaking a few things, but it can take time and patience.
If you're exclusively pumping and want to know how to increase your breast milk, try following these steps.
1. Check Your Equipment
One of the most important things when pumping is making sure you have a high-quality pump. However, no one pump is right for everyone. The best breast pumps to consider are the hospital grade pumps, as they produce the most powerful suction.
Hospital-grade pumps are usually available for rent in hospitals or other locations and are sometimes partially covered by insurance. If you're not interested in renting a pump, a high-quality pump could be a significant investment, because while they're not as powerful as hospital pumps, they outdo single hand or manual pumps especially if you're exclusively pumping.
The parts you choose work best when they fit correctly. Parts like nipple shields, tubing, and others need to fit well and comfortable, so you're able to pump well. If you find your parts are awkward or incorrect, looking into changing what's not working.
2. Pump Often
Your body only makes milk to meet the demand. If you're not pumping enough, you're telling your body that you don't need more milk, so to counter this, pumping often is encouraged. A newborn will nurse anywhere from every 2-3 hours, so aim to pump around this time as well.
A double pump works best if you're exclusively pumping. Be sure as you pump to empty breasts completely to signal your body to increase milk production. Try squeezing each breast close to the end of your pumping session to ensure all the milk is drained.
A good pumping session should take anywhere from 10-15 minutes, sometimes less if you're pumping both sides, or possibly more.
3. Try Supplements
Many supplements or galactagogues, like fenugreek, claim to build up your milk supply. A galactagogue is any food or supplement that's geared towards making breast milk. Other supplements and herbs are helpful like garlic, ginger, milk thistle, and dandelion, to name a few.
Be sure to inquire about these supplements with your OB/GYN or physician before incorporating them into your diet.
4. Eat Milk-Making Foods
A breastfeeding mom's diet is an essential part of increasing breast milk production. Eating a variety of foods like fresh fruits and vegetables is important, but there are certain foods that are known to help your body create more milk.
Foods like brewer's yeast, oatmeal, dark leafy greens, nuts, and more can also help boost your supply. Sometimes it's tough to get all your nutritional needs, especially as a new mom. Breastfeeding moms will often opt for convenient lactation bars to easily fill all the gaps.
Calorie intake is also something to keep in mind. You burn anywhere from 450-500 calories alone breastfeeding, so choose high-quality foods that meet those requirements.
Don't forget to drink water! Your body needs water to make breast milk, so make sure you keep your glass full. 13 cups of water are preferred for breastfeeding moms.
5. Get Comfortable
Not only will you be pumping for close to a half hour, but being uncomfortable during pumping can actually hinder your ability to empty your breasts.
Sitting in a comfortable, supportive position, with your feet up, and a glass of water beside you will set you up for success. Leaning over allows gravity to pull milk forward to make sure all the milk is removed.
It's also so important to relax! Try to refrain from checking email, social media, or taking phone calls and focus on being in the moment. Being anxious about not producing enough breast milk can have the opposite effect, so take a breather.
6. Find a Lactation Consultant
There's never any shame in asking for help. Breastfeeding can be difficult to navigate, and many new moms seek advice. A lactation consultant specializes in assisting mothers who are having challenges breastfeeding and pumping.
They can asses your situation and make recommendations, such as checking your pump or making sure your baby is suckling correctly. If you're concerned that your baby isn't gaining weight or growing properly, always reach out to their pediatrician for guidance.
7. Think About Your Baby
Learning to relax is essential when you pump, but thinking about your baby could also be beneficial. When a mom is at home, they're able to respond quickly to a babies cries. But when you're far away, a letdown doesn't happen as quickly.
Bring a photo of your baby with you and have it out as you begin to pump. It may sound odd, but igniting hormones like oxytocin can certainly help.
8. Focus On Your Journey
All moms choose different ways to feed their babies, and it's easy to get sucked into the trap of comparison. Rest assured that you've chosen this method to supply your little one because you believed it was best.
Once you start comparing yourself to other moms, you'll lose sight of why you made your decision in the first place. The best thing you can do is continue doing what you are doing (especially if it's working!) and focus on that.
Should I Take Medication?
There are a few medications available to increase milk supply. However, you should only discuss the possibility of these with your physician. One reason for the low amount is that the hormone prolactin is insufficient. These medications increase prolactin so your body can make breast milk.
Considering medication should be a last resort, only after you've exhausted every alternative. This is because medications have many side effects such as:
- increased depression
- dry mouth
Also, not every woman who takes it will experience an increased supply. Be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning any medications, and try natural solutions first.
Pumping: Don't Give Up!
Pumping moms should be commended. Breastfeeding takes dedication, but pumping exclusively is just as hard if not harder! You can increase milk supply when pumping and even though it takes perseverance, it's completely worth it!
We love breastfeeding mamas and are here to help! The whole reason we started Milkful was to help moms make the most of breastfeeding!