**This is all about breasts and pumping, so if you don’t want to read breast about 80 times, I’d go ahead and stop reading now.
I had every intention of breastfeeding Molly until she was one year old. I was so committed to making it work. While in the hospital, the pediatrician commented that I probably set a record for feedings in 24 hours for a first time mother after reviewing our feeding log. I wanted it to work. I was so hellbent on it working. And, you know what? It didn’t.
Molly had a lip tie that made it impossible for her to eat effectively. We unfortunately couldn’t get an appointment for her to get it fixed until she was 2.5 weeks old. By that time, she’d lost 10 ounces. After vomiting twice at a weight check appointment the day after her lip tie got fixed, she was hospitalized for failure to thrive. I can’t even begin to explain how much that sucked. I felt like a bad parent. Like no matter what I did, I wasn’t good enough. Fortunately, she gained enough weight after 24 hours in the hospital that we were cleared to go home (and then move 2 days later). But, the way she gained that weight was from bottle feeding pumped milk (and a little bit of formula because my supply wasn’t where it should have been because Molly couldn’t feed effectively).
So here we are 3 months later. I’m exclusively pumping, and I get at least 40 ounces a day. I have about 400 oz of milk in a deep freezer in our garage. I thought I’d share some milk making tips and some EPing tips for anyone else faced with this. Most of these tips apply to breastfeeding too.
- Hydrate. I drink about 120 oz of fluid a day. I water down juice (about 2 oz of juice to 10 oz water) so it has just a bit of flavor, make flavored water with cucumber or lemon and limes, drink decaf coffee, have some milk, etc. If you don’t drink enough, you won’t make enough.
- EAT. I was really worried I wouldn’t lose any weight after I delivered if I ate as often as I was hungry, but that wasn’t the case. You need an additional 500 calories a day to produce milk–this is more than you need while pregnant. Pick proteins and healthy fats. Both encourage milk production. Once you get used to eating so much, you can plan ahead so you don’t end up ravenous.
- Fats: Greek yogurt (2%, not 0%), cheese, milk, avocado, steak
- Protein: Meats, cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs, KIND bars
- Other helpful foods: Oats!
- Herbs: Fenugreek (makes you smell like maple syrup, which is awkward) and Mother’s Milk Tea
- AVOID: Peppermint and Sage (both reduce production)
- Pump every 2-3 hours in the beginning. The first 12 weeks are the most important for creating a supply. For the first few months, I pumped every time Molly ate so I’d have enough for her. Now, I’m down to 4-5 pumpings a day. I pump every 3-4 hours during the day and then if Molly wakes up at night, I’ll pump then too. Currently I pump around 6 am, 11 am, 3 pm, 7 pm and 9:30 pm (right before bed). My first pumping of the day yields about 14 oz, as I haven’t pumped in about 8 hours.
- Lube. Use some sort of nipple balm before you pump. It helps to reduce friction so pumping is more comfortable. This allows you to pump for longer, making sure you fully drain your breasts. I use this Honest Co. Organic Nipple Balm and I really like it.
- Relax. If you’re stressed out, you’ll yield less milk. When we were still trying to find a house and living in temporary living, I was hardly getting any milk. Once we found a house and everything settled down, I saw a HUGE jump in my supply. I also get that it can be difficult to relax when life is so stressful with a new baby, but it does help!
- Flange Size. Have a lactation consultant check to make sure you’re using the correct size flange. This makes a huge difference in comfort. If you’re uncomfortable, you’ll yield less because you’ll stop pumping too soon.
- Pump an extra five minutes. This is the SINGLE BEST TIP I ever got. This probably makes no sense unless you’re actually pumping. When your milk stops flowing while pumping, continue to pump for an extra 5 minutes. The milk should resume flowing after about 5 minutes. Once it stops again, continue to pump another 5 minutes. Continue to do this until your breasts are 100% empty. If I stopped the first time my milk stopped flowing, I’d get 2 oz on each side. Instead, I get 5 oz or so on each side. It takes me about 20-30 minutes to pump because I let the pump continue to run to make sure I get as much milk as possible.
- Get extra pump parts. It’s annoying to wash parts all the time. I’m lazy and it makes me cranky to have to wash them all the time. Having extras reduces the annoyance factor, which makes me keep pumping.
- Storing Milk. I use the Medela storage bags to freeze my milk. I group a week of those bags into a gallon ziploc bag and date it with that week. It helps organize the milk in the deep freezer so I can use the oldest milk first.
If you get blocked ducts, most of the advice you’ll find online will tell you to breastfeed and then pump after. This is just mean because you can’t breastfeed if you’re EPing. The only solution I’ve found is to use a heating pad for five minutes before pumping and then continue to hold the heating pad on the hard spot while pumping. I’d also suggest avoiding anything with underwire while you’ve got blocked ducts, as it seems to exacerbate the situation.
If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me! I’d love to help! Healthy Children, a website created by the American Academy of Pediatrics, also has an extensive section covering breastfeeding and related issues.