After Brielle was born and we ended up at Mott's Children Hospital for her unexpected heart surgery, my milk supply really suffered. The combination of the major stress I was feeling and the fact that I wasn't able to nurse her for an entire week really made my supply just tank! Then, when she was in recovery, she had to have bottles for the first few days so that the doctors could monitor her food intake. When we got home, she went on a nursing strike because she just wanted to ease and quickness of a bottle!
The thought that I may not be able to breastfeed Brielle was devastating. But, I was determined to do everything I could to try to nurse her as long as possible. So, I did some research and spoke to a few highly regarded lactation consultants and discovered some ways to increase my breast milk supply.
#1. First of all: RELAX! Stress is the #1 killer of breastmilk. When you go to nurse your baby, try to relax--- go to a quiet room to feed your baby, darken the lights, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, listen to calming music. Whatever helps you relax is good for you and baby and your milk!
#2. Skin to Skin contact is so important. This is sometimes hard if you're not at home or you are entertaining lots of visitors after baby comes home from the hospital. If you have to, go to a private area so that you can have some skin to skin time with baby.
#3. Nurse frequently and pump when you can. Milk supply is all about demand. The more baby eats, the more your body gets the clues that milk needs to be provided. This is hard in the beginning when your baby is so sleepy and instantly falls asleep at the breast. Undress him or her, tickle your baby, put a cold washcloth on his or her toes or head-- whatever it takes to wake baby up!
Pumping is SO hard when you don't have extra help. I used to wish for my magical fairy nanny to appear so that I could have some extra help to take care of Brielle so that I could go and pump. When you're already trying to hard to nurse and it takes so long, who has time to pump? If you can squeeze in at least 1-2 pumpings in a day, that will help. I usually pump in the evening when Brielle is already asleep to store up some extra milk and keep up my supply.
If you don't have to offer a bottle, DON'T! I have found that, especially in the first weeks, the baby can get really confused. Even the slowest flow nipple will flow quicker than your milk will let down, and a hungry baby can soon learn that he or she prefers the instant gratification of the bottle. Nurse on demand during the first few weeks and months.
#4. Fenugreek is an herb that can help boost milk supply. You can search for Fenugreek dosage amounts online. You should be able to find this at CVS, Meijer, Amazon, or GNC.
#5. Mother's Milk Tea is another herbal option that can help boost your supply, but you may have to drink a lot of it to see a difference. You can purchase it at Whole Foods or Target. It tastes a bit like black licorice.
#6. Gaia Lacation Support is another herbal option that can help. I found this one worked better than the Fenugreek or Tea. You can order it on Amazon Gaia Herbs Lactation Support, 120 Liquid Phyto-Capsules
#7. Brewer's Yeast or Beer. I know some women who swear that drinking a beer at night increases their supply. Make sure to "pump and dump "or drink the beer when you know it will leave your system before baby will need to nurse again. You can also purchase Brewer's Yeast and take that directly.
#8. Oatmeal is also said to increase breast milk. I would try to eat a packet of oatmeal twice a day. I did see some increase this way, although I'm not sure if instant oatmeal works as well as non-instant or steel cut oats. You can also make oatmeal cookies. There are lots of recipes on Pinterest for oatmeal cookies that help milk supply.
#9. Prescription Drugs: There are two drugs that treat reflux that, as a side effect, increase milk supply. You can call your OBGYN to see about getting a script. The first is called Reglan and it is available by prescription. However, this drug has some scary side effects, so although I got a script for it and filled it, I never took the medicine. The other is called Domperidone and it's a compound drug, so you'll have to have it filled at a compound pharmacy. You can also order it from inhousepharmacy.biz. You may need to take this for a few weeks to see great results, although I did see some improvement after just 24-48 hours. Also, some women report having to stay on the drug in order to keep the supply up. I haven't tried stopping the drug yet, so I can't attest to whether your supply will stay increased if you stop the medication.
So, after trying ALL of the above (except the Reglan), I found that the only things that worked for me were taking the Domperidone and Gaia Lactation Support and pumping. I'm happy to say that at 3 months old, Brielle is still nursing. After taking Domperidone, we've even been able to cut back on the bottles we were giving her to supplement my supply.
Breastfeeding is definitely hard work, as you nursing mothers know. For me, it was worth it, as I really wanted to be able to breastfeed. However, if you are so stressed out and emotionally drained from trying to nurse, don't feel like you have to suffer through it. Do whatever is best for you and your baby!