For me, it happened when E was seven months old. A sudden and dramatic drop in my milk supply happened just a couple of months after returning to work, making the whole mothering gig feel so much more overwhelming. After battling oversupply in my first couple of months (I’m talking ten ounces per side!), I was extremely frustrated to discover only three ounces after thirty minutes of pumping at the office.
I had a strong desire to breastfeed during E’s first year, and after starting off so brilliantly, I was devastated to have to face the fact that I might need to supplement. Before I took that route, I tried several methods to increase my supply and to my great joy, they bought me a few more months!
If you’re battling decreased milk supply, try a couple of these tips and see if you can get those boobies producing again!
Water, Water, Water
Simple enough, and we certainly have all been told this, but water is crucial to your milk supply and often a disappointing pumping session can be remedied the next time around with a nice, big glass of water beforehand. I started keeping a full bottle of water with me at all times and the resulting pumping sessions were far more satisfactory.
A bowl of oatmeal a day is often given as advice for increasing supply. Although there have been no studies linking oatmeal to increased milk supply, there are several possible explanations that might mean oatmeal will help you. Oatmeal did not seem to change my milk supply, but my sister would immediately see improved milk production after eating a bowl of oatmeal. If nothing else, oatmeal is a delicious comfort food, and being comforted (aka – relaxed) is never a bad thing for milk supply!
The most popular herb that I’ve heard of is fenugreek seed. There are a variety of popular teas and capsules containing this wonderful herb.
For me, the magic came from a different herb. After disappointing results from a capsule with only fenugreek seed, I started to look for other herbs. When I called the lactation consultant from my delivering hospital, she mentioned goat’s rue, which I had never heard before. She told me to look for any herbal blend at a health food store that included goat’s rue. I ended up purchasing a lactation blend that had fenugreek and goat’s rue (along with a bounty of other herbs).
This, friends, was what I can only describe as ‘magic.’ The day I took this pill, I pumped eight ounces in thirty minutes. This is where I wish to warn you that what works for me won’t work for everyone. The herbs presented in this lactation blend somehow filled a deficit in my body that my diet wasn’t providing, and allowed my milk supply to spike.
This is the key to all supply increasing techniques: your supply has most likely dropped because of one or more of a myriad of reasons. These techniques are to help you get your body biology back into balance in order to increase your ability to produce. What is off-balance with you may not be what is off-balance for someone else.
This sounds extreme to many, because of the sacrifice it seems to entail. For me, it was my final step to get my supply back in order once and for all. The idea seems to be to mimic those first weeks of life when your little one is constantly at the breast, therefore giving your body the signal to produce, produce, produce!
What you do during a nursing vacation is…lay around all day. I literally stocked up on my favorite movies and snacks, had a ton of water nearby, and watched movies on the couch all day with my daughter right next to me. I offered her the breast as much as she would take it. No solids, no schedule, and naps happened on the breast, as well. After two days, I was actually feeling that “full” feeling again for the first time in months.
It’s extreme, but a nursing vacation has the added benefit of being a vacation. A relaxed mama is likely to produce more than a tense mama. Which brings me to my final tip…
I noticed that I could control when my letdown occurred simply by taking deep breaths, relaxing my shoulders, and just calming down. When we’re at work, we’re carrying a lot more tension than we probably realize. Relaxing your muscles and willing your mind to calm down can have tangible results during a pumping session.
Sometimes your decrease in milk supply has chemical or biological factors that you can’t control. Your doctor or a certified lactation consultant are always great resources to help you.