“Holy moly, those are bigger than your baby’s head!” my sister exclaimed while looking at my ginormous breasts as I held my first newborn boy. My husband was happily shocked at their size — I was in complete disbelief. How could my breasts get that big? I went from a 32C to, oh my word, jugs galore! I had glazed over the part about milk production in all the books I’d read and in advice I’d heard from fellow moms — I probably should have been more focused.
The human body is truly amazing. I was blessed to have been able to produce so much milk as I nursed both my boys. I nursed my first until 14 months and my second until 9 months. I would nurse every three hours or so during the newborn phase. They were hungry, growing boys! My youngest did not sleep through the night until he was 1 year old. He was hungry every two hours. I was working full time, pumping during the workday.
But not everyone has such an easy time producing sufficient milk for their little ones. So what can you do to help your milk production?
Dehydration leads to less milk. Always have a water bottle with you. Eat foods naturally rich in water like vegetables and fruit.
Feed on demand
Breastfeeding as much as possible also boosts your supply. Increased frequency of pumping and milk draining will let your body know that more milk is needed on a regular basis!
Get plenty of sleep
This is easier said than done when you have a newborn, but even a 10-minute power nap helps. Nap when you can — especially when baby sleeps.
Eat whole, real foods
Get plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Your body may need up to an additional 300-500 calories per day when you are breastfeeding exclusively.
Manage your stress
Lower stress levels can improve your let-down reflex, which releases milk into your milk ducts. Tap into help from family and friends for household tasks and overall life help. Relaxed, deep breathing during feeding helps calm mama.
Limit/avoid alcohol and avoid smoking
Studies show even one beer or glass of wine can interfere with your let-down reflex and overall milk supply.
Practice power pumping
Pump in between feeding sessions or continue to pump after the last drops of milk have been expressed.
Check your form
Be sure you are comfortable in your posture, using a nursing pillow to prop up your baby to latch on. Relax your shoulder down and back on the breastfeeding side.
Breastfeed on demand
Or, nurse more often if baby is not very demanding.
Feed on both sides
Switch up and offer both breasts at one feeding, especially if the baby is tired and falls asleep too quickly.
Count your feedings
Make sure the frequency of nursing is enough (8-12 times every 24 hours and at least every three hours at night when baby is brand new).
Check your medications and supplements
Some antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, weight-loss pills, and contraceptives containing estrogen may reduce your milk supply. Talk to your doctor about alternative meds.
My husband still jokes about the endless bags of breastmilk I kept in the freezer. “We should start a company — it’s like a breast milk factory!” But of course there are women who cannot produce enough to feed their babies. If you are curious about donating or receiving, check out the organizations below.