Breastfeeding — you either love it or you don't. But some moms who want to breastfeed face the unexpected hurdle of a low milk supply. I am one of those moms.
My first child was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic condition, at just 6 days old. The emotional stress of the news really affected me, and as a result, I never had the abundance of milk I had imagined I would. My sister had told me stories of shooting her babies in the eyes with milk when they unlatched. That never happened for me (not with my first baby anyway).
Sometimes I felt like I was running on empty, but we made it through six months of exclusive nursing and over a year of total nursing. Luckily, there are easy ways to boost your supply.
1. Try Fenugreek
This herb has long been used by nursing moms to increase their milk production. You can purchase pills, which are the most potent form of fenugreek. They usually increase your supply within 24-72 hours and are readily available at drugstores.
Mother's Milk Tea contains fenugreek and tastes almost like black licorice. Just make sure to brew it correctly or the taste is just too strong. Mamatini is a new favorite of mine. The ginger and lemon flavored bottled drink is convenient and surprisingly refreshing. It tastes much better than it smells.
I can say with confidence that fenugreek does work; however, you should always check with your doctor before taking any supplement as there are some side effects. It has been found to aggravate asthma symptoms and lower blood glucose levels in some women with diabetes.
2. Nurse Often
One of the best ways to increase your milk supply is to nurse often. Don't put yourself on a schedule. Nurse frequently and whenever your baby wants to. Don't expect a newborn to nurse every 2-3 hours like you've heard. My second child nursed constantly — about every hour. Breastfeeding on demand can be tough at first, but use the time to relax and bond with your baby.
3. Cluster Feed
Newborns especially like to cluster feed and this is what works to get your milk to initially come in. Cluster feeding is when your baby nurses often in a short period. Your body will respond, but it may take a few days for the milk to really start flowing. It took 4-5 days for me with each child.
4. Pump at Night
The longer your child nurses at night, the better your supply will be. If your child sleeps well at an early age, like my first did, you can wake up to pump once or twice during the night and then first thing in the morning. This will help to keep your supply up.
5. Breast Compression
While nursing your baby, you should gently massage your breasts to stimulate the glands and help the milk move. The more milk that lets down at each feeding the better, as your body will work to keep up with the demand.
6. Drink Water
Your doctor will tell you to drink a glass of water every time you sit down to nurse. This is good advice. Staying hydrated is important to milk production, just as it is important to your overall health. You should also eat healthy and avoid dieting while nursing. Remember, your baby is eating what you're eating.
If you are having a hard time and are worried about your milk supply, there are resources to help you. La Leche League is a great source for nursing moms because all of the consultants are nursing moms. You can find plenty of support and help from them.