In 2017, I gave birth to our son and knew that I wanted to breastfeed but didn’t know much about what it would require. By my second or third day in the hospital after delivering, my milk came in and I had to learn fast. I set small goals along the way: make it through 1 month, shoot for 3, try for 6, go for 9, what the hell – let’s breastfeed the whole year! And it was during that year that I learned the things I’m about to share.
But first, let’s acknowledge the obvious: we’re all different. Our walks to motherhood are different and so are our bodies. I’m fortune to naturally produce milk at a high rate but I also make LOTS of sacrifices to aide my production. Those tips, tricks, and self-disciple tools are where we level the playing field. Now that I’m breastfeeding our second child, I’m remembering how challenging this process is and I’m excited to help as many mommas as I can.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lactation consultant; just a 2x momma who was able to produce over 100oz in less than 1 week after giving birth (both times, see photos below). I want you to do what works best for your baby, your body, and your lifestyle but with an honest awareness that you don’t get the reward without doing the work. Our goal is to do our absolute best to feed our babies and in the event that our bodies don’t cooperate, we supplement with formula and we pledge to feel zero guilt. A growing baby equals success, by whatever means we get there.
Breastfeeding Fast Facts:
- Your first let down will occur 2-7 days after baby is born. See there, even biology says you’ll have a baby before you have milk – so don’t panic.
- At birth, your baby’s stomach is only the size of a cherry – again, don’t worry about having to compete with Borden, Inc. – we’re just taking this one day at a time.
- Producing milk is a supply and demand process. If/when you deplete your supply, a signal is sent from your brain to your body to produce more. The same works before you have a supply; if you consistently pump or allow baby to latch, you create a demand that will then kickstart your supply.
- Pumping or letting baby latch should be for a minimum of 15-20 minutes (here’s where an electric pump comes in handy) and in some cases, going longer will trigger another let down; two birds with one stone!
- Breastfeeding burns calories and helps your uterus return to its normal size after delivery – uh, hello snap back.
Aiding Your Supply:
- Herbs and Spices: Fenugreek, Brewer’s Yeast, Milk Thistle, Alfalfa, Fennel, Stinging Nettle, Cumin, Ginger, Cinnamon
- Drinks: Gatorade/PowerAde, Body Armor, Mother’s Milk tea, coconut water
- Foods: Oatmeals, yams, leafy greens, chickpeas, flax seeds
Supplies I’m currently using: Mother’s Milk tea, PowerAde, BodyArmor, nursing pads (any brand), Lansinoh hot/cold packs, nipple cream
Before we go any further let me tell you that there’s no shortcut, breastfeeding is just hard. That’s why 83.8% of mom’s start breastfeeding, decreasing to 57.3% at 6 months, and less than 37% at one year. Whether it’s for health reasons, mental/emotional difficulties, or unsupportive work cultures many women struggle through the early phases of feeding. But if you can push past 1 month and set small goals as you go, a year may not seem so daunting. But for now, here’s the quick and dirty:
- Give yourself 48-72 hours of strict discipline: pump and/or let baby latch every 2-3 hours for at least 15-20 minutes every time. No excuses; supply and demand.
- During this time, the goal is to empty both breasts. Emptying will tell your body, “hey, we have a big ol’ hungry baby to feed, keep sending more milk”. When I pump both breasts at the same time and empty, I’m getting two feedings at one time. Do this enough and you’ll be able to freeze some, have back up bottles in the fridge, and a body that’s use to overproducing.
- You won’t sleep much during this period so have someone stay over to help clean up, give baby a bottle, and let you nap when you can.
- Have your prenatal vitamins, Mother’s Milk tea, nipple cream, and ice packs ready for war – this will be an uphill battle. Hunker down for a weekend and give this your best go.
- Understand that things won’t get easier overnight but the more disciplined you are early on, the stronger your supply, the more you can save, and the more you’ll be able to sleep soon enough.
Good luck, momma. Remember, women having been doing this for thousands of years. You can do this! For a little extra motivation, check out some photos below. Here’s what I produced on day 6 of motherhood with both of my children: