Monday, May 14, 2012

Increasing Milk Supply From an Exclusive Pumping Point of View

Several of the same ‘tricks’ used for increasing your supply while breastfeeding will apply to exclusive pumping.  Below are the tricks that have worked to me, arranged in order by what was most effective, at top.  It usually takes at least 24-72 hours to notice the effects of some of these, so be patient with yourself and trust your body.  Always give it at least three days to judge whether or not something works for you.  Increased supply is usually re-established through maintenance after using these boosting methods for at least three weeks.

  1. Increase the frequency and duration of pumps.  Recently, I did a ‘regular’ pump day where I did eight pumps and made 855ml (almost 29oz).  The following day, I did ten pumps and made 1005ml (almost 34oz).  The day after, I went back to eight pumps and made 880ml (29.76oz).  So there’s quite a difference when I manage to get some extra pumps in.  I’ve noticed that increasing pumping alone is the most significant factor in increasing my supply.  I can do all of the other items below, but if I’m not pumping more often or for longer, there’s not much difference in my supply.  All of the tricks below support having a better chance of having milk available when pumps are increased.
  2. Increase intake of water.  Its been almost six months after my son’s birth when I’m writing this, and I’m still using that great big sippy jug that the hospital gave to me.  I refill it at least three times per day, usually about five times when I’m working to boost my supply.  My water intake is usually the first factor I consider if it seems like I’m having a day where I’m not pumping as much.  Many sources say to drink 64oz of water per day.  That would be the same as the non-lactating recommendation of six to eight glasses of water per day.  So, I tend to drink at least 90oz per day.
  3. Eat more oatmeal.  I thought about adding this under ‘Increase calories’ (below) but I think that the effect that eating more oatmeal has on my supply is significant enough to deserve its own entry.  I eat oatmeal just about every morning for breakfast and make lactation cookie bars to snack on through out the day.  Many say that instant oatmeal is not as effective as steel cut or whole oats; I’ve not tried instant oatmeal to compare for myself.
  4. Supplements.  Fenugreek is the most popular choice, followed by Blessed Thistle and then Milk Thistle.  These can be taken either as a supplement in capsule form or by drinking a Mother’s Milk type tea.
  5. Increase calories.  I tend to feel hungrier when I am boosting my supply, so snacking more often isn’t hard to do... especially with lactation cookie bars available!  Some women have reported a boost in supply after eating fast food and that’s been attributed to the huge surge of calories in those meals.  I can attest to much the same, though increasing my calories through eating more oatmeal usually gets me better results than a run up to McDonald’s (and is likely much healthier for myself and my baby).  Some sources say to eat more protein and calcium.  When I’ve eaten more protein and calcium based foods, I haven’t had a noticeable increase in supply.  Nor have I found documentation to support this.  I have eaten more complex carbohydrates, however, and noticed a supply increase.  Scientific documentation also supports this as the main component in human breastmilk, after water, is complex carbs.
  6. Breast compression and massage while pumping.  I usually pump with a hands free bustier, but will spend the last five to ten minutes of my pump compressing and massaging.  I almost always yield an additional 10-20ml per pump whenever I do this.
  7. Get more rest.  I always make more milk when I’ve been sleeping, napping, or even snoozing.  Many attribute that effect to increased hormones while sleeping.  I think it may be a combination of that and being fully relaxed while resting.
  8. Relaxation.  If I’m stressing over boosting my supply, it always seems to work against me.  It seems like I get fewer let downs while pumping.  So, I try to stay relaxed and avoid stress in general on days when I’m trying to boost my supply.  At the pump, I’ll often meditate-- thinking about my son and all of the ways that I adore him.  Sometimes I’ll imagine milk bursting from me.  On days when I’m having a bad pumping day, I’ll at least distract myself by reading books and online topics that I find enjoyable.
  9. Nipple stimulation.  When my son was able to latch, on days when I was short on supply, I’d let him latch and comfort nurse and I noticed increases in my pumps.
  10. Skin to skin contact.  I nap every day with my son and in the afternoon when my pumps typically slack, I instead notice a much better pump after that nap.
  11. Dark brewed beer.  While I enjoyed having a dark brewed beer each night while I was initially trying to establish my supply, when I stopped having it, I didn’t have a noticeable decrease in my supply.

Tricks that I haven’t tried

  1. Reglan.  Reglan is prescribed in the US to mothers who have supply issues and have exhausted all other options (tricks listed above).  The prescription can usually be obtained from the mother’s OBGYN.  I’ve not tried Reglan because the tricks I’ve used have been sufficient for meeting my hungry son’s needs.  However, I likely would shy away from prescribed Reglan in the first place because one of the side effects of Reglan reported is depression which should be a consideration for mothers who suffered from post partum depression.
  2. Domperidone.  Domperidone (or more commonly called ‘Dom’) is prescribed in the UK to mothers who have supply issues.  It is not FDA approved in the US for lactation though many mothers in the US are able to obtain domperidone online.  Many mothers who have tried dom swear by it’s ability to increase milk supply by as much as 100%.
  3. Supplemental Nursing Systems (SNS).  SNS is recommended when having latching issues, nipple confusion, or supply issues when starting breastfeeding.  It uses a small tube attached at the nipple so that the baby can nurse, give the mother nipple stimulation, at the breast while obtaining needed nutrition.  Many mothers have reported mixed results with more success than not.

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