I recently packed up my pump for storage after seventeen successful months breastfeeding my youngest. It a long seventeen months, but I was determined to make it.
We decided due to my son’s eczema that we would exclusively breastfeed for his first six months in order to minimize the chance he will have allergies later in life. This meant keeping a big supply of milk throughout those six months and beyond. Although we introduced non-homogenized dairy at twelve months, it was only to supplement as my supply dropped. My son is a big boy and a great eater. I needed about 30 ounces of milk a day before he started weaning off onto more solid foods. That’s a ton of milk! I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t as easy as I remembered it being five years earlier with my first son.
I was able to nurse for the first three months, with only a little pumping. If I ever felt full and the baby had just eaten, I would pump to try to store some milk in the freezer. After three months, I felt that my supply was decreasing (right when I started working out!) and so I started pumping during the day, bottle feeding him breast milk and then nursing at night. We continued this way until around ten months when he refused to nurse at night and began only taking a bottle. Not bad, if you ask me!
I am the type of girl to stress out about this type of thing. When I am responsible for the sole source of nourishment for this little creature and the only thing keeping him alive- well besides air- it kind of was my top priority. That’s a lot of responsibility! Thankfully there were a lot of things that I found which worked, and which did not work, along the way.
- You must be determined to keep going, no matter how hard it seems or how tired of it you may get. I think almost everyone has moments where it feels difficult. No one likes having to leave a social gathering to sit in a room alone for 20 minutes. There were many nights when baby was screaming and hungry and I had no milk and needed to make him a bottle. There were times when I was so sick of hours upon hours of pumping that I wanted to quit. (Sometimes I felt like I was pumping my zest for life right out of my body.) But I didn’t quit. You really have to set your mind that you are going to do it and stick to it.
- Nurse as long as you can. After bottle feeding my first son and now nursing my second, I can tell you the bond you will experience from nursing is beyond words! Also, once baby gets used to a bottle he will be less likely to nurse because the bottle provides milk immediately, while nursing takes a bit more work. There is no turning back once they become accustomed to the bottle. It is so much easier to just nurse rather than prepare a bottle, heat it up and do an million dishes with a newborn baby around. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
- Drink a ton of water. Then drink some more! I was drinking almost 100 ounces of water a day to keep my milk supply up. Be sure to drink water while you are pumping. My milk would let down two or three times per pump session if I would drink some water while pumping. Try it out!
- Stay away from parsley and raw apple cider vinegar. These two seemed to stop my milk production dead in its tracks!
- Eat a TON of protein. You need it to keep your supply up. Experts recommend around 70 grams of protein per day. Early on, I found that I would be incredibly hungry and snack without getting satiated because I was choosing quick and easy things like granola bars. I was not getting the protein my body was craving. Once I began making extra meat or fish at dinner to have on hand for snacking the following day, I finally found my balance. This would also keep me from eating a whole jar of almond butter in three days which was a step in the right direction for weight loss!
- If you are going to be working out or training hard, schedule in a nap for yourself. I would exhaust myself and end up with no milk and a very hungry and angry baby! Sleep is a magical thing for breastfeeding. After a nap, I would wake up with a lot of milk.
- Sleep! I said this above but it is so important it needs its own category. SLEEP as much as you can. So many of us are stubborn and decide to catch up on house work while the baby is sleeping. If you want a great milk supply, however, make sure you are getting as close to eight hours of sleep as you can.
- Pump every three hours if you can. If you are pumping during the day and not nursing, try for at least every four hours. The more frequently you pump, the more milk you will make. Then you can fill up your freezer with stored milk for the times when you don’t seem to have enough for your hungry baby. I froze the extra in GLASS Ball Canning Jars and then would thaw them in the fridge for the next day. Babies don’t need the exposure to plastics if you can avoid it – they release xenoestrogens into food and drinks, especially when heated, which are major hormone disrupters. Over time, they can cause feminization in males. No thank you!
- Due to the xenoestrogen issue I describe above, we decided to go with these glass Dr. Brown’s bottles. I LOVE THEM. We had six 8 ounce bottles and four 4 ounce bottles. I bought just two of these silicone covers in the 8 ounce size to protect them from breaking. In 18 months, I have only broken two of the ten we bought and that was because I knocked them over when they were attached to my pump. THAT’S RIGHT, they are AMAZING because you can pump right into them if you are using the Ameda or Medela pumps. One less bottle to wash!
- I recently used the Ameda Purely Yours pump. I have mixed feelings about it. It was nice that it can run on batteries so I was able to pump in the car on road trips. I had some problems with the silicone diaphragms though, which enable the sucking action. If the diaphragm becomes wet, it will not release and then you have no suction. If your production is low with this pump, watch the silicone bag and make sure it is releasing. I would uncap the top of the hand piece and then recap it to resume suction. It seems like some days I needed to do this 100 times, frustrating.
- Another trouble shooting suggestion with the Ameda pump – if it is not sucking properly, check the little white valve. One time I had a ripped valve and so it was not sucking properly. Word to the wise – have an extra set on hand as a back up. If you ask for one in the hospital, your insurance should cover it!
These are just some tips that helped me in my experience. I know that everyone’s situation and body is different. I know there are mothers who just cannot produce milk, along with mothers who produce too much milk. As mothers, we are always doing the best that we can for our little ones given our situations, and I have respect for every mother that simply loves their child. That is the most important thing, after all!
Do you have a breastfeeding story to share? Let me know in the comments below!
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