There are tons of tips and tricks you read on line and hear from friends that you try to increase your milk supply. I too have heard all of these and I am going to explain my modifications and what has helped me. I am not saying this will for sure work for you, but hey, who knows it could help increase your supply.
I have already written a blog about my pumping schedule (go check it out if you haven’t already!) and this is really important. Breast milk supply boils down to supply and demand. I find that the max time between pumping sessions should be 5 hours. I usually don’t pump any sooner than 3 hours since the last session. Keeping up with the schedule, yes the 3am session as well, has helped me a lot. I tried cutting out the 3am session and my milk supply decreased so I had to add it back in.
During the day I try to drink as much water as I can, this seems to help with my supply as well. When I say as much as I can, I mean maybe a gallon if not more. For example, I worked a 8 hour shift last night and I drank 2 of the 1L size waters and one of the BodyArmor vitamin water drinks during that shift. I always drink at least 4-5 glasses of water a meal. I am always refilling my cup. I find using a straw will help you drink more water, well at least for me it does.
During the day I also make sure I get enough calories, I do not count calories, but I do make sure I eat all 3 meals and snacks. This is not hard because I am always STARVING. For breakfast I will usually have some eggs, or pancakes. Lunch is usually a sandwich and fruit, something along those lines. And dinner is whatever I feel like making, chicken quesadillas, chicken, tacos, chili, whatever I’m in the mood for. I’m not sure if this has a huge effect but I do snack on fruit all day. Like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. I do not eat ANY fish. Again, not sure if this is a factor. I don’t hardly eat any read meat, mostly just chicken, vegetables (green peppers, onions, broccoli) and fruit.
I don’t eat much pasta either. As for drinks, I don’t drink any alcohol, no caffeine, and no milk. I occasionally drink juices, like the one I mentioned above, but usually I am strictly water.
The pump I use is called Medela In Style Advanced. This is a double electric pump. I have heard of people only pumping one side at a time, but for me I have always pumped both sides at the same time. I start off on the lowest setting until the milk starts flowing and I gradually increase the suction over the 15 minutes until its about 3/4 strength. I have used this pump from day one and I love it. The suction is great and it has a setting where is sucks fast and then slows down after a minute, this helps get your milk flowing faster. I wear a 34E and I use the 24mm size flange and this has worked well for me.
The most important thing that I can say about increasing your supply in my opinion is stress level. I always make sure I am comfortable (either in bed or on the couch) warm, and stress free when I pump. Stress levels have a big factor on my supply. If I sit there and wonder how much milk is in the bottles, or if Nova is fussing, or I think about all the things I need to get done that day I WILL pump lower amounts. I get the most milk in the morning and in the middle of the night because half of the time I am falling asleep and the alarm on my phone wakes me up! Being this relaxed and stress free really has a big effect for me. Being warm also does too. I read in a few places that heat will help your milk flow, I wrap myself up in a blanket and sometimes even heat up my rice pack and place it on my chest and this helps as well. Especially if I have a clogged duct.
After I finish pumping I hand express whatever I can into the bottles. There is usually still some in there even after it is done flowing so squeezing it out helps you get more, and also triggers your body to make more. Sometimes I can get up to an ounce more.
While at work, I always look at pictures and videos of Nova while I’m pumping. I didn’t do this intentionally, it started just because I missed her when I came back to work, but I did notice I get a good few more ounces when I do watch videos and pictures of her. This also helps pass time when pumping and keeping stress levels down because you are in a way distracted.
I always pump for 15 minutes, even if I have already got 10oz and there is no more milk flowing, I don’t ever cut it short. Now if I do still have milk flowing, I do increase the time by 5 minute intervals. For example at minute 15 if I’m still flowing I pump until 20 minutes. If I am still flowing at 20 I pump until 25, but if it stops at 21, I don’t stop. I still finish out the 5 minutes. Hope this makes sense.
While pumping I massage my boobs. I either will just rub them, or more specifically I massage down toward the nipple. This really makes the milk shoot out. Also, before starting if you stimulate your nipples first the milk will start flowing faster. For example, (sorry this may be gross) I pick the dried milk off the nipple and usually milk will start coming out on its own.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP. This will do more for your milk supply and your sanity than you know. When I was working full time 40 hours per week, and having college classes, 18 credit hours, and taking care of a newborn my milk supply TANKED. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of your baby. Get a night off and catch up on sleep, eat a really good meal, and relax. It will benefit you baby in the long run because you will be less stressed. This helps milk supply and SANITY.
More on comfort, use a pumping bra. These can get a bit pricy so I bought a 5$ sports bra and cur off the nipples. This works great and it helps you to sit back and relax, be careful thou when that milk starts going I have overflown the bottles on multiple occasions.
I really hope at least one of the tips helps one of the mamas reading this, that’s what will make the time I spent typing this up all worth it! If you have anything you would like to add that helps your milk supply you can add it to the comments below or you can send me a message on the contact page and I will add it for you, with credit to you or anonymously. Pumping is such a hard, uphill battle and anything we can do to help each other and support one another is very important to me. If I were to pick one thing from this, that is most important, I would say that relaxing and taking care of you is the best way to increase your supply. You are sustaining another humans life, you need to be at 100% to do that.