Oh lactation cookies, if only it were so easy for every nursing woman to eat a cookie and solve a supply problem. Instead of starting with sweets with questionable merit, here are some proven tips to establish, increase, and maintain supply.
Understand milk production is a supply and demand process.
Think about your freezer’s ice maker. It has the capacity to make ice all day long, but as long as the tray is full, it won’t make any more. It only makes more when ice is removed. Breasts work the same way. If your goal is to make more milk, keep removing milk by nursing/pumping often. This is the best proven way to increase supply, better than any cookies, herbs, or essential oils.
Nurse and offer lots of skin to skin during the early days.
When my son arrived, my midwife also said my job was to stay in bed and nurse the baby. From research, I knew resting plus all the constant, but comfortable, latching was signaling my body to make milk. Had I not expected these intense early days, I might have worried my baby was nursing too much, but a newborn can’t nurse too much. All those little snacks are vital to the supply and demand process.
Feed on demand when you can.
I worked full time outside of the home when my baby was born. I knew I’d have 12 weeks off, so I spent that entire time feeding on demand, both day and night, because I knew these early feedings would set my supply and making pumping easier when I returned to work.
It can be challenging to have a baby who nurses more often than the mother would like, but there’s some really great evidence out there for why this developmentally appropriate behavior occurs and how it helps avoid supply problems. I knew I couldn’t be there all the time, but before and after work and on the weekends, I fed on demand.
When you pump, use your hands.
Pumps are not as efficient as babies at removing milk. Lots of moms have shed many tears at how little milk they get from the pump, but researchers at Stanford have found a way that helps most moms increase the effectiveness of pumping, sometimes up to 50%. It’s called hands-on pumping and watching this video can change your pumping life.
Developed for moms of preemie babies, this technique teaches moms to massage before pumping, pump, then pump with massage, then finish with just hand expressing milk. By getting more milk out of the breast (ahem emptying the ice maker), the body begins a cycle to create more milk. Even moms without supply issues love hands-on pumping because it often decreases the amount of time needed to pump while increasing output.
If supplementing, be sure to use that time to pump.
Increasing the amount of time between pumping/nursing does not allow the breast to fill up with more milk. Instead, it tells your body to make less milk. Remember, this is a supply and demand process, so if you are supplementing, be sure to hands-on pump for each supplement to encourage an increase instead of a decrease. If you can, start off nursing and then follow up with a supplement.
Finally, take time to focus on the milk that you are already making.
Every woman’s body is different, and stressing about what’s not happening can diminish supply further; instead celebrate every drop. Be kind to yourself, even eat a cookie if you want a treat, but for increasing supply, these tips are a better place to start.
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