Your Breasts are Milk Factories Not Warehouses
How Pumping Moms Can Increase Their Breast Milk Supply
Even before your baby arrives your body has started to produce breast milk. This early milk, known as colostrum, will be your baby’s first superfood. After colostrum, our bodies create what is called transitional milk. This is what people refer to when they talk about your milk coming in. This and your mature breast milk are based on supply and demand. This means that our breasts are not warehouses that store an abundance of milk, but rather they will continually produce breast milk just like a factory continually produces goods.
Not all factories run at full steam, all of the time. We might need to send a certain signal to our body that it’s time to make milk, make more milk, or even make less. And there are a few ways that we can try to send these signals. We’ll discuss them below. But first, let’s remember that every mom and every baby is different. One mom may respond to something that doesn’t work for another. The key is to keep trying and to seek the care and guidance of a professional. In this case, we highly recommend a consultation with an IBCLC that has experience with pumping.
How to Increase Your Milk Supply in the Early Days
Before you deliver your baby, speak with your OB and your pediatrician about your breastfeeding goals. Establishing the importance of breastfeeding for your family ahead of time with these professionals will help them to offer helpful information and advice. For example, if they know you really want to breastfeed your baby, and you need to encourage your milk to come in, they may be able to prescribe or suggest renting a hospital pump. Without this knowledge they may suggest supplementing with formula.
Feed or Pump From Birth
It doesn’t matter whether you are nursing or pumping. In either case, you want to hit the ground running. This means after the golden hour, you start working to establish your milk supply. For many moms this means biological nursing. If you know that nursing might be a challenge, that you prefer or need to pump, or if your baby has come early, ask for a hospital grade pump and a lactation consult.
Establish a Routine
When life is a blur, routines can be challenging to implement, but if you can do it you’ll reap the benefits. Having a routine means you are less likely to miss a pump session. Missing pump sessions can have a negative impact on your ability to boost or increase your breast milk supply. Try setting alarms on your phone so that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you’ll decrease your chances of missing a pump session.
Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
If you are not eating healthy and wholesome foods, or taking a vitamin, you are not giving your body the tools it needs to produce more milk. Grocery shopping with a newborn might be the last thing you want to tackle in a day so try setting up an online order for your vitamins or your groceries. Meal delivery kits or prepared meal delivery can also help ensure that you have healthy food on hand.
Over the Course of Your Breastfeeding Journey
Things will change over the course of your baby’s life. The amount of milk they need will change as they grow, and you may make decisions to pump more or less over this period as well. The important thing is to give yourself grace and go with the flow. If your demand for milk increases over time, or if you decide to exclusively pump, you can try a few things to encourage your body to produce more milk.
When babies need to consume more milk, they do something called cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is an increase in the number of feedings over a short period of time. Cluster feeding not only gives the baby more milk but it also signals to the mom’s body that it’s time to make more milk. Moms can mimic this feeding schedule with a pump by power pumping. We offer an entire post on this here.
Pumping After Feedings
This can be done early on or at any stage when more milk is needed. After you biologically nurse the baby, try using a pump for about fifteen minutes. This will help to empty more milk out of your breasts. Do not stop pumping simply because the milk stopped flowing. Pumping for a few extra minutes is a strong signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk.
Pumping Between Feedings
Pumping between feedings can be a great way to signal to your body that you need to make a bit more milk, and also have some milk in reserve. In order to make the most of this type of pump session and not impact your baby’s feeding schedule first feed your baby. Then, wait about thirty minutes. This window should give your body enough time to produce more milk. Waiting any longer might also negatively impact your baby’s next feeding session. This between feedings pump is just that, between feedings rather than in place of a feeding.