Lesson 46: How to increase milk production while pumping

When I first started pumping, I was producing 10 ounces in 10 minutes with no problem. Pumping was a breeze and I always managed to pump twice as much as I needed in one session. I also had a plentiful freezer stash of milk, so I didn’t worry about not having enough food for J in the beginning.

But as the weeks went by and my boobs were seeing more of my pump than my baby, my supply started dwindling. It happened slowly at first, but by the time he was 8 months old, I was starting to panic. My freezer stash was dwindling, and I wasn’t pumping enough to replace it. I knew that in just a few months I’d be faced with not having enough milk to send with my baby to daycare. Yes, I could have supplemented him with formula (and I eventually did), but that wasn’t my goal. I wanted to provide enough breast milk to at least get him through his 1st birthday.

Like I do with a lot of things, I obsessed over it–and the more I worried about it, the more my supply dwindled. Now while I was pumping at work, rather than tuning out the pump and busying myself with paperwork or whatever, I stared at the drops of milk landing in the bottle, watching it slowly climb to the 2 ounce mark. I would sometimes pump for 45 minutes, only to get a total of 3-4 ounces. By this point I had to start supplementing with formula (which was a struggle since he didn’t tolerate it well at first).

So I did what any Type A control freak might do in my position: I researched and I came up with a plan. And I did find a few things that worked for me. I actually managed to increase my production for a little while, but I’m not sure it was worth it. I spent way too much time consumed with the amount of milk I could bring home in a bottle every day.

While I definitely advocate breastfeeding, and I support supplementing to increase your milk production if you want to, I highly recommend coming to peace with the fact that it’s very okay to supplement your baby with formula. It does not make you a bad or less-than mom. Your baby won’t care. I promise.

On that note, here are some ideas for increasing your milk supply.

Nurse and pump. During the times you are able to nurse your baby, pump immediately after.

Take fenugreek. You need about 3500 mg a day in order to effect your milk production. Start on the low end and gradually increase your dosage until your pee smells like maple syrup. Yum. For more information on using fenugreek to boost milk production, go here.

Eat carbs! Eating junk really seemed to increase my milk supply.

Eat a lactation cookie for breakfast. They’re actually quite healthy! You can order cookies from Milkmakers (they’re really yummy!) or you can make your own.

Drink water. You should be doing that anyway, but make sure you’re drinking lots and lots of water!

So yes, there are ways of increasing your supply. And I encourage you to try some of them if you ever need/want to. But I also encourage you to chill the hell out and just supplement with formula if it comes down to it. Breastmilk is great, but there can come a point where the negatives outweigh the positives.

This is my plan for if/when I have Baby #2.

1. Pump early on to start building a supply (but not so early that it causes me to over-produce).

2. Once I return to work, take fenugreek and eat a lactation cookie every day to help maintain my supply.

3. Pump in the morning, right after Baby’s first feeding, while getting ready for work.

4. Pump for 20 minutes every 3-4 hours during the work day.

5. Pump after Baby’s last feeding at night.

6. Despite my best efforts, watch my supply dwindle anyway.

7. Chill the hell out.

8. Supplement with Similac (The ready-to-feed for sensitive tummies worked wonders for us when J wouldn’t tolerate other formulas. I only just discovered that Similac now makes a formula specifically for supplementing. And while I know it’s only a marketing ploy to stay in the game since breastfeeding is picking up in popularity, I was so happy with their product that I’ll definitely give it a try.).

4 thoughts on “Lesson 46: How to increase milk production while pumping

  1. Pingback: Lesson 48: How to store breastmilk | Cabernet and Breastmilk

  2. Pingback: Lesson 45: Never answer the door while pumping at work | Cabernet and Breastmilk

  3. Pingback: Lesson 44: Tips for pumping at work | Cabernet and Breastmilk

  4. Pingback: Lesson 49: Whoever said there’s no use crying over spilled milk… | Cabernet and Breastmilk

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