This post is part of the series Pumping Mamas
In the introductory post, I shared our struggle with breastfeeding and low supply. I became a pumping Mama through necessity, and it has been a struggle at times. With my second son, my supply plummeted and nearly dried up. I was able to significantly increase my milk supply over time and with diligence and hard work by following seven simple steps.
Today I am going to share with you the first four steps, which all have to do with caring for your health.
Yes, Mama, I know it can be very hard to tend to your own needs when you have a new baby, possibly older children, and everything else in your hectic life. I understand! I made the mistake of not taking care of me, and it nearly cost me my milk supply.
Don’t let it happen to you.
So let’s dive right in to the first four steps towards increasing your milk supply.
1. Drink lots of water.
Proper hydration is a key component in milk production. As a busy mom, it is easy to think you are drinking enough fluids when you actually are not. If you live in a hot or dry climate, it is even more important to make sure you are drinking enough.
Some women I have spoken with swear by beverages like Gatorade or Powerade. Personally, those types of drinks mess me up and wreck havoc on my blood sugar. So I prefer just plain ol’ water.
If you are drinking a lot but it still does not seem to be enough, make sure that the water you are drinking has electrolytes, the minerals your body needs to function. (Read more about electrolytes.)
Personally, I did not notice a measurable increase in my milk output after adjusting my water intake, but I felt better. It was a step in the right direction!
2. Eat enough calories a day.
A new baby can completely change your daily routine and if you are hyper-focused on the baby’s needs, it can be easy to forget your own. (Guilty as charged!) Make sure you are eating enough calories a day.
Yes, I know, post-baby bodies may be pudgy and loose. You may not look like those celebrity moms who are teeny-tiny again a month after childbirth. You may have gained more weight during pregnancy than you are comfortable with. Your clothes might not fit. You may look in the mirror and want to cry. The struggle is real and it is okay!
Your body took nine or so months to make a human being. This is absolutely amazing! You are absolutely amazing!
If you want to breastfeed your precious little baby, now is not the time to be trying crash diets, restricting calories, or excessive exercise. Your body is in recovery mode after pregnancy and childbirth and your body requires extra nourishment to be able to make liquid gold for your baby.
Eat enough calories a day, but also try to make healthy choices. A well-balanced diet will help your body make the best milk possible for baby. If you are worried you are loosing too much weight (it happens!) or you are not eating enough calories, try adding a healthy fat like avocados or nuts into your diet.
Breastfeeding, whether pumping or from the tap, can make you extra hungry so keep healthy snacks on hand. I know I reach for protein-packed snacks all the time… nuts, hummus, etc.
Within about five days of regulating my own diet, I had increased my daily milk output by 1-2 oz.
3. Get more sleep.
Alright, it is time to get real, Mamas. Sleep. It is almost a dirty word. Who has time to sleep? Baby needs tending, perhaps older children need attention too, and then there are meals to be made, dishes to be washed, a house to clean, and don’t forget about the laundry or grocery shopping!
Perhaps you have a part-time or full-time job to do, too. So you have resigned yourself to barely getting any shut-eye. You might even mumble half-heartedly: Sleep, who needs it?
YOU DO, Mama!
As I learned the hard way, it is not about having the time but making the time.
Two to three hours of sleep on a regular basis is not enough sleep. Your body needs sleep and your mind does, too. If you are one of those Mamas who has gone days or even weeks without proper sleep, you need to make a change today. Seven to eight hours are ideal but try for five to six to start with.
Do whatever you can to get that extra sleep. Ignore the dishes and the dirty living room carpet so you can nap when the baby is napping. Ask your husband to watch the baby in the evenings for an hour or so. Have your mom, sister, best friend, church member come over for a bit.
Turn off that television and computer. Put away the tablet and the cellphone. Blue light from these popular electronics interferes with your body’s ability to fall asleep.
Still not sleepy? Mind won’t shut off? Go for a walk, sit outside in the fresh air, or grab an old-fashion book. (Yes, one you actually have to hold and turn pages!)
When I finally began to sleep more than 3 hours a night (around five and a half weeks post-partum), not only did I feel better but I also saw a slight increase in my daily milk production.
4. Relieve as much stress as possible.
Ah, stress. My nemesis!
I have discovered with baby #2 that I do not deal with stress as efficiently as I thought. We had a ton of outside stressors hit us after our son was born, and the fact that I nearly lost my milk supply was not helping. Anyone else relate?
I had to go back to the basics when it came to dealing with stress properly. Fortunately, I was already addressing a key factor when I began to get adequate sleep. With being more rested, I was able to handle stressful situations more effectively without feeling overwhelming or having an emotional meltdown.
I also had to determine stressors and either fix the situation or decide to just let it go. It is not easy but you will feel much better if you properly manage your stress.
During the time I was working on my stress management, my supply was slowly increasing. So while I cannot give a certain amount that my milk supply increased, addressing and relieving my unnecessary stress did help.
These first four steps are all about getting your own health back in focus. While the gains in actual milk output are often not dramatically large, you need to make sure you are hydrated, eating enough calories, sleeping enough, and properly managing stress.
In the next post, I’ll go into my three secret weapons that really sent my milk production into overdrive!
Pump on, Mama!
Continue reading this series:
Steps 5-7: My secret weapons for increasing milk production