My breastfeeding journey with baby #3 turned out to be like a roller coaster ride.
After being happy that she didn’t get jaundice like her older siblings, she ended up hospitalised for a few days due to dehydration. Formula supplementation became mandatory until my milk supply was able to catch up with her demand.
At 1 months old things seemed better as her weight gain became steady and I was able to eliminate formula milk completely. But nearing 5 months old, her weight gain slowed down again below her curve, and her paed asked me to start solid early.
Oh my.., what a journey...
What are the things that I tried to increase my milk supply this time around?
Below I listed out 20 things that I did to boost my supply (in no particular order), plus its efficacy score.
1. Pumping After Feeding (Efficacy Score: 5)
I did this especially in the beginning when she needed formula supplementation. My baby used to nurse for five minutes or less then fell asleep (and very difficult to wake her up). When she was no longer eager for nursing, I hooked myself to the pump to stimulate more milk supply.
I pumped up to 7x daily, and thanks to that, within 3 weeks we were able to go back to exclusive breastfeeding. I still did regular pumping after that, but only twice or thrice a day maintain my supply.
PS: Don't forget to check out my breast pump recommendation to increase milk supply.
2. Power pumping (Efficacy Score: 5)
Power pumping is one of the best way to stimulate your supply when your baby is too sleepy / too weak to latch directly.
There were two phases when I did power pumping. One was during the early weeks (baby was less than 6 weeks), and I could see the effect significantly after two days. The other power pumping was done around 2 months old and it took me much longer(between 1-2 weeks) to see increase in my supply.
Clearly, the first six weeks was the golden week to prime up your milk supply because it is still driven a lot by hormonal change.
MORE PUMPING RESOURCES:
3. Meet a lactation consultant (Efficacy Score: 5)
When my baby was hospitalized, the hospital lactation consultant visited us. I truly felt grateful with her encouragement. Mind you, at that time I was in my lowest point, feeling that my breast milk is not nutritious enough to nourish my baby.
But with her patient help and cheers, I was determined to continue my breastfeeding battle. She ensured that my baby was latched correctly. Additionally, she taught me how to do a correct breast compression so that my baby gets more milk even though she fell asleep easily.
4. Breast compression (Efficacy Score: 5)
If you have a baby who falls asleep easily, this is a must for you. My baby fell asleep easily once my milk flow slowed down. By doing breast compression, I helped my baby to draw more milk from the breast by massaging milk out from the duct. When the baby knows the the milk is still there, she would continue sucking and get even more milk.
Breast compression allows to to empty your breast better, whether it is while latching or pumping. As a result, your breast will produce milk faster.
Bonus: your baby gets the fattier milk that would otherwise left inside the breast.
5. Help my baby with stimulating let downs (Efficacy Score: 4)
Around 2 months mark, my baby became very fussy at breast. She would nurse then scream, on and off. I found it strange considering the she has never done that before. I suspected she was frustrated because it took a while to get milk flowing from the breast (she still received 2 bottles of expressed milk at that time, so nipple confusion might contribute to the frustration).
Rather than go straight to bottle feeding, I coaxed her and help her stimulating let-downs so she can get milk faster. Wait.. would it make her a lazy baby then? Well, I would rather have her keep nursing directly from breast rather than going to bottle feeding and exclusive pumping route.
Fortunately, a few weeks after that, when she was calmer enough to nurse, I didn’t need to help her again with the let downs.
6. Stay calm during feeding (Efficacy Score: 4)
It already took a while to achieve let down. But when I felt nervous and annoyed, my let down will come even slower. What a nightmare combo when you are dealing with a screaming baby, lol.
So, one solution that I used is to stay calm and imagine all the good moments with the baby. This helped me to stay positive and happy, and I noticed when I did that, my let downs come faster and that means more milk flowing for the baby.
7. Switch sides a few times (Efficacy Score: 4)
Who said you can only change side once in one feeding session. When my baby is fussy after the first switch, I would switch her again to the other side and again until she feels satisfied. Not only me experienced this. I’ve got exactly the same suggestion from fellow nursing mamas.
The more you switch side and allow the baby to nurse again, the emptier is your breast. That will signal your body to produce more milk.
8. Scheduled feeding followed by on-demand nursing (Efficacy Score: 5)
As a newborn, my baby was very sleepy. So I didn't wait until she woke up to nurse her. Most of the time, I woke her up every 2 hourly to nurse. If she fell asleep quickly after that, I would try my best to wake her up again until she nursed long enough. This scheduled feeding will send signals to your brain to ramp up your milk production so that it’s enough for the baby.
Once I noticed my baby was more alert and waking up to nurse by herself, I switched to on-demand feeding. I let her decide how often she wants to nurse, And this, will be different between one baby to another. My baby is a snacker, she nurses for 5 minutes (or at most 10) and done. But she would nurse again an hour later. Other baby may nurse longer (up to 30 minutes per feeding) and stays full for 3 hours. Watch your baby, not the clock.
On self care...
9. Frequent Napping (Efficacy Score: 4)
Remember the old saying, “sleep when your baby sleeps”? For me, that’s partially true. I noticed that when I feel overtired, I have problem with my milk supply. So I tried to have a few short naps during the day, when my baby slept. Of course, not every time I can do this, but I tried to aim at least one nap a day.
A nap does not need to be long. A 15-min good quality sleep helps me recharged, and believe it or not, my breast feels fuller and I let down easier.
10.Stay Hydrated (Efficacy Score: 4)
This sounds like cliche. And with the latest study that warns that overly too much water can decrease supply, one may question how much is enough and how much is too much. The key here is drink to thirst. If you feel thirsty, you need a drink.
As a busy mom of three, I need to keep reminding myself to fulfill my daily dose of water. So, stay hydrated is top on my list. I would drink a glass of water once I wake up and remind myself to drink throughout the day. I also have a water bottle ready in my room so that I don't need to go to the kitchen to get water.
11. High-protein diet (including daily milk consumption) (Efficacy Score: 4)
My baby’s pediatrician as well as the lactation consultant in the hospital reminded me to take a good balanced diet, especially high in protein. I think I know why. I was very skinny during my pregnancy and right after birth. Perhaps I didn’t eat properly (as in nutritious meal). So after my baby was discharged from hospital, I am committed to eat better, nutritious food, that’s high in protein.
Whenever I feel hungry but don’t have time to eat, I gulp down a glass of milk. One may disagree, your body will still make good milk no matter how under-nutrition you are. Yes, perhaps that’s true if we have ‘reserves’ in our body. What if we don’t? And perhaps the milk is still nutritious but then you have no energy left to yourself. Then you feel tired easily and that may affect your milk production and the cycle continues. Well, perhaps this is just me, but I feel better after I change my diet, and my mood affects my milk supply so I keep doing this.
on supplements / milk-booster food...
12. Goat's Rue (Efficacy Score: 5)
This is my go-to supplement. If I need to choose only one supplement and discard the rest, I would choose goat’s rue. Essentially, goat’s rue helps to build mammary tissue that’s responsible for milk production. It is best taken starting from 36 weeks and all the way past birth.
I started taking goat’s rue at day 5 postpartum, one capsule daily. I didn’t see much effect back then until I take the full dose (4 capsules daily). I could see my milk supply was getting better and better, until I was able to wean from formula. I believe the efficacy of goat’s rue is best during the first two weeks postpartum, but I still take it until now.
13. Black Seed Oil (Efficacy Score: 4)
Black seed oil is considered like a magic medicine in Arabic culture. It is very good to maintain your immunity system.
In terms of milk supply, this herb is believed to speed up milk production, so your breast is filled up quickly. I took this quite diligently before my baby turned 6 months old, 1 teaspoon 2-3 times daily. I've got my self the oil version, but you can get the capsules one, too.
However, once her solid appetite is getting better, I tried to stopped some supplements so black seed oil got removed from my daily regime.
Warning: black seed oil tastes bitter. In Arabian culture, people take black seed together with honey. Alternatively, you can choose to consume the capsule form.
14. Fennel (Efficacy Score: 2)
I stopped taking it because I didn’t see any significant increase in supply nor my let down. Besides, I already took a lot of supplements at that time, and it’s getting overwhelming to remember which capsules to take at which time.
15. Sun Flower Lecithin (Efficacy Score: 2)
I consumed sun flower lecithin (I used the softgels form) when I kept getting clogged duct. Believe it or not, before my baby turned 6 weeks old, I would easily got clogged duct when I nursed in side lying position, yikes. So I had to nurse while sitting, even at wee hours.
Consuming lecithin does help clearing the clogged duct faster. But it didn’t really help boosting the supply (as what I heard from certain Facebook group). So I stopped taking it when the clogged ducts went away.
16. Blackmores Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold Multivitamin (Efficacy Score: 3)
When my baby was hospitalized, the pediatrician suggested me to take postnatal multivitamin. After some research, I decided to get Blackmores Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold Multivitamin. This may not boost your milk supply in terms of quantity. But I believe it complements your diet so that you have balanced nutrition intake.
17. Rolled Oat (Efficacy Score: 1)
Oat is deemed as comfort food for most women and also believed to increase milk supply. However, I don’t really enjoy having oat as my breakfast. I did make overnight oat for the first one month postpartum, but I stopped since I didn’t see any significant effect. Well it’s good in terms of fiber and vitamin B intake, but that’s it for me.
18. Dates (Efficacy Score: 1)
Dates are one superfood with high calorie content. Some people has gained supply boost by consuming dates, but I didn’t have any. So I keep dates as a staple food at home in case I need a nutritious snack, but unfortunately, no supply increase.
19. Peanuts (Efficacy Score: 1)
Peanuts are very popular in my home country for nursing women. So my moms brought me a lot of peanuts =D. I kept one container in my bedroom to accompany me during the wee hour nursing. Unfortunately, I didn't see any positive effect in milk supply, too bad.
20. Lactation Cookies and Brownies (Efficacy Score: 2)
I tried lactation cookie and brownie from Mamalait. They are seriously yummy and packed with a lot of super food. I noticed that after eating them diligently, I can get let-down easier when latching my baby. But that means, I need to eat those brownies 4-6x daily. But hey, they are expensive (even more expensive than goat's rue!) So I stopped consuming them after 2 months of use.
on bottle feeding...
If you have problem with your supply, likely you are supplementing your baby with bottle. If yes, these 2 tips below are for you.
21. Using slow-flow teat (Efficacy Score: 4)
This! If your baby is being bottle-fed on top of direct latch, pay attention to the teat. I suspected that the reason my baby became fussier at breast was because I introduced a new teat (she rejected the old one) which accidentally has faster flow.
It took me a while to wean her from this particular teat (including going to no-bottle route), and finally her fussiness was reduced significantly after we switched her off to slower teat and breastfeeding becomes peaceful again.
22. Paced bottle feeding (Efficacy Score: 4)
Bottle feeding has such a bad reputation because you can easily overfeed a baby. When a baby is overfed, she may still be full when you came home to nurse her (or you may think you have supply problem when you are not). But if you practice paced bottle-feeding, you are in a safer side.
Paced bottle feeding is a method to feed baby with a bottle such that it mimics breastfeeding. If you think that your supply is not enough for baby daily consumption (especially if your baby gets milk from bottle), check if you have done paced feeding or not.
Initially, I didn't realize that I have not done paced bottle feeding properly. Until someone in Facebook group pointed out that a full bottle feed should take about 15-20 minutes (just like how nursing does). And boy, I realized that my baby gulped down her bottle in less than 5 minutes. Though it was not a full feed, it's still too fast. From that day on, I tried to pace her bottle feeding even further. And that makes my baby became more patient in nursing at breast. And soon no more bottle needed, yay!
So, there you go, 22 things that I tried to boost milk supply. As you can see, I'm not into supplement and milk booster food so much, I tried but a lot of them did not work for me. On the other hand, pumping and change the way I latch and bottle-feed my baby have helped me to maintain and increase my milk supply.
I hope these may give you some ideas whenever you feel your milk supply is low and needs some booster. Bear in mind though, the efficacy of certain booster (especially the food and supplements) may differ from one woman to another.
Have you tried any of the things listed here? Or do you have other milk booster? Share yours in the comment.