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When I returned to work 12 weeks post-partum, I had a small reserve of breast milk in the freezer in case of emergency. I hadn’t placed any sort of priority on pumping & building a stash while on maternity leave. I was too busy playing with my little munchkin to think about something like…going back to work. Even though it was going to happen, I didn’t want to think about it.
Back to Work – Back to Reality
We had gotten into this comfortable routine, and I would pump if a nap happened to go extra long, or I knew that I’d be away from her for a feeding. I am also one of the fortunate moms who has a baby that wakes maybe once during the night – and when sleep is at a premium, I was taking all I could get! I didn’t get up in the night to get a pumped bottle, I didn’t pump extra in the morning after she fed. We just did our thing and 12 weeks flew by.
Then off I trotted at the 12 week mark and began my routine of pumping at work regularly when my little one was probably having a bottle at daycare. My employer is wonderful and had rolling shades installed on my office windows so I am able to pump at my desk whenever I need to. I had read articles on what to pack in my pump bag, I had bought a new bag specifically for all these new ‘accessories’ I’d be carrying around, and figured there was no place I’d be more comfortable in my office than my very own desk, so what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, I learned first hand how emotional breast feeding and milk production is – how distractions or stress can have a dramatic and fast impact on your supply. On Monday, with my new routine, I was able to easily get enough ounces for her for the following day. This was easy peasy. However, as the week continued, and responsibilities and To-Do’s lined up one after another in my planner, the volume of milk I was getting during each session slowly started to back down. By the end of the week, I was lucky if I was going to get half a bottle’s worth of milk.
Panic Sets In
I quickly realized how precious those mere 48 ounces I had so casually pumped & put away ‘for a rainy day’ were. Also, I feared how quickly they could be consumed in the event that my supply started to decrease. I got to work, researching some of the most effective ways to boost my supply – and fast. Below are the strategies I implemented to go from 2.5-3 ounces per pumping session to almost 6 oz each time! That’s double the amount, people! That’s also HALF the number of times I’d have to otherwise pump. I was able to turn this ship around in a week. With a little dedication and attention, you can be set to get back to work and still provide for your little one. So, without further adieu…
How To Quickly and Easily Increase Your Milk Supply
Set a Schedule
We all have smartphones with the capability of setting multiple alarms. Plan out your day, aiming to pump every 2.5-3 hrs and set an alarm for each of these times. It’s easy to get distracted with phone calls or get engrossed in a spreadsheet and lose track of time. Having your phone remind you what time it is is just one less thing YOU have to worry about. And stick to it.
You wouldn’t fudge and extra 15 minutes before going into a meeting with a colleague, would you? Putting off your time by 15 minutes here and 20 there may result in your day catching up with you and missing a scheduled pump session in its entirety.
Also, keep in mind this 2.5-3hr timetable also needs to be implemented during the night. Your goal is to continually empty your breasts to tell your body to continue making more milk, as our body handles breastfeeding on a supply and demand basis. The more the demand (pumping sessions), the greater the supply. This is what the alarm on my phone looks like:
Oy. Water. I have a love/hate relationship with water at this point. When I hit the 30 week mark of my pregnancy, I started to retain water like CRAZY. The solution? Drink water. The most important element in breast milk production? Water.
It comprises a whopping 88% of that liquid gold. It is so incredibly important to make sure you are staying hydrated. So do what you’ve gotta do – get a cute cup, a fun straw, set another reminder/alarm on your phone. Whatever it takes to encourage you to keep drinking! You’ve just got to do it. How can you expect your body to make ounces and ounces of milk without feeding it the fuel that it needs for that production? At this point, I’ve been drinking in excess of 96oz of water a day for the last 7 months. That’s a lot of water…and it will continue throughout the rest of my breast feeding journey. Like I said, it’s a love/hate relationship at this point.
Drink Some Tea
Remember when I said that milk-making is very emotional? Set a relaxing mood with having a nice cup of tea. Mother’s Milk Tea has a little bit of a licorice taste to it, but tastes great with a little honey added to it. The ingredients in this tea are known to support lactation and it can help relax and put you in the right mindset when it comes time to pump. It can be a little nerve wracking pumping at work, not in the comfort of your own home. Even though the door is locked, there’s still a level of fear someone may walk in on you in not the most flattering of circumstances. So any little thing you can do to help make you comfortable and relaxed is going to help you reach your goal – getting the most milk you can!
Eat a Milk-Making Diet
There are many foods out there that are easily incorporated into a diet. Oats, Flax Seed, Spinach, Garlic, Almonds…just to name a few. I snagged this great recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip lactation cookies that I make literally every week and a half. They’re delicious and it’s a great excuse to give my husband when he gives me a look of ‘another cookie?’ Babe. I NEED these to feed our child! I have about two a day and the only ‘odd’ ingredient would be the Brewer’s Yeast which – thank you Amazon – you can find here and have it delivered right to your door! Kinda like Christmas!I have an apple with an ounce of almonds as a morning snack & baby carrots with hummus as an afternoon snack. You can also make a great morning smoothie with some flax seed, spinach and a mix of fruits and almond milk! Little changes to your diet to include these supportive foods will have a big impact on the amount of milk you’re able to extract during each pumping session.
These capsules are another way to encourage your
body to boost its supply. I would be careful in taking 2 capsules 3 times a day (the max dosage) right off the bat, as you don’t want to end up dealing with oversupply. I started taking one capsule 2 times a day and that, for me, was enough to boost without going overboard. However, now that my supply is strong enough to provide what we need for our little girl, I’ve stopped taking it. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s just another supplement, one more thing to remember and it’s the easiest for me to eliminate from my routine.
During your pumping sessions, there are also a few things you can do to make the most out of that date with your pump. After all, as a mom, time is precious, and we want to make the most out of it!
Here are some suggestions:
Invest in a good pump! The Spectra & Medela models are undoubtedly the two most popular hospital grade options around, both with a solid fan base. I, personally, went with the Spectra S1 model. The Spectras are quieter than the Medela options and the S1 model has a built in, rechargeable battery while the S2 must be plugged in. To me, it was worth spending an extra $70 that my insurance wouldn’t cover to allow me the freedom of not needing to be right next to an electrical outlet when it came time to pump.
Massage your breasts while your pumping. Babies use a complex system of positive and negative suction when feeding to get the most out of your breasts. Electric breast pumps only use negative suction, so by massaging your breasts, paying particular attention to certain areas that feel ‘fuller’ than others, you can encourage more milk to be collected. Remember, the body works on a supply and demand scenario, so the more milk you are able to extract during each pumping session, the more your body will believe you must make in order to satisfy your little one.
Your pump isn’t one size fits all. Take time in trying out the different shield sizes, paying attention so that your nipples do not rub on the neck of the shield. This will tell you you need to go up in size. A stronger vacuum level also will not result in more milk being collected. If you’re uncomfortable, it will affect your success in pumping, so try a few different levels out until you find the one that feels effective, but you’re still comfortable – relatively speaking. And know that this may change from day to day, depending on how long it has been since the last time you pumped, how your child nursed earlier that day or the day before. You will need to always be evaluating the settings and adjusting so they’re the right levels (vacuum and cycle speed) for you.
Pump for the right length of time. Plan for around 20 minutes per breast per session to adequately drain the breasts of milk. I always pump from both sides simultaneously (both the Spectra and Medela models allow for this). This can have anywhere from 2-4 letdowns in that timeframe – always aim for multiple letdowns! When I initially began pumping, I’d stop at the 15 minute mark. This was a huge mistake for me because as soon as I began pumping for 20 minutes, I learned I would have a third let down at around 16 minutes! To think – all those times I was cheating myself of a few additional ounces of milk had I only stuck with it for a few more minutes!
I truly hope these tips help you make the most of your time. I know how important it is for me to provide enough nourishment for my little one. I understand the pressure that comes along with that! Now that I’ve gotten into a routine and am supplying enough – feeding her and pumping for her makes me feel proud to have the dedication to see this through. I wish you all the best on your breastfeeding journey.