If I lost you at the word "pump," this post is most definitely not for you! Ha. As a new mama, who was very interested in providing exclusively breastmilk for her new little, i'm here to share what's worked for me (so far) on this journey to the land of good and plenty. Given that i'm hardly two months in and this is my first rodeo, I am by no means an expert. But, I definitely absorbed hundreds of Pinterest articles throughout pregnancy on the topic, and multiple conversations and 1:1 sessions with lactation consultants since we welcomed our sweet baby, and have noticed what is working for me and mine.
Make a schedule - and stick to it! In the first few days of bringing our sweet baby home from the hospital, it was like sensory overload. I ended up having a C-section, so everything i'd imagined about the first few days of recovery were out the window. Thankfully, I have an amazing partner who jumped in and did what needed to be done for our little one and me when I physically couldn't do much at all. That said, I was determined to build up my milk supply so that we could (hopefully) stop supplementing with formula. A schedule is important when your life feels like utter chaos because it will keep you committed to your goal, and let your body know what time it is - which increases your milk supply (and maintains it). Erratic pumping, eating, and water-intake = sketchy milk supply. Also know that even when it's super rough- it's only for a season (the first few weeks home we were on a two hour schedule: every time the baby ate, I pumped. It was the pits and I was so exhausted! Then we transitioned to a three hour schedule... and in the future, that will change too, based on the baby's needs).
Note: I am not anti-formula, and I believe a fed baby is a happy & healthy baby, period. I chose the goal of exclusively breastmilk for our mini because of the health benefits for her (and me). That said, I did have to supplement with formula the first week of her life until my milk started rolling in. Now that it's rolling...I hope to continue 6 or more months.
Hydration is clutch. Breastmilk is like, 70% water. You also are burning calories every time you pump (or latch. same difference). So, it's important that you fuel your body so that you are getting the nutrients you need, too, mama! I can definitely tell when I haven't had enough water, because my output is noticeably lower, and I feel dehydrated. I have found that keeping a 32oz water bottle full next to my pumping station works for me. I actually like drinking water so it's less about not liking it and more about having it easily accessible in case I get distracted by our little one's needs and can't get to it easily. After each pumping session, I drink at least half the bottle of water - my goal is to drink three of them per day (if not more). Oh - and your skin will thank you for this. Trust me.
Oats on deck. There are a few superfoods that are supposed to positively impact your milk supply. Oatmeal is one of them. Problem: I despise old fashioned oatmeal. I really, really do. My sweet husband has tried whipping up several different combinations with dried fruit, sugar, etc....it's a texture thing. Quaker Oats Real Medleys hot cups are doable for me, because it's a SMALL amount, takes 45 seconds in the microwave to make, and once I make it..i'm on the go. I also keep Kind bars, Nature Valley Oat & Honey bars, and a loose bag of Kind oat/granola crunch on hand to eat as a snack or toss in my yogurt or cereal. The fiber works for me... and definitely works for producing food for our little. Note: I am not receiving compensation of any kind for sharing these product recommendations. I just like them!
Relax. No seriously, it really annoyed me when every lactation consultant or mommy-friend I talked with about this told me to relax. Like, I am a new mama - who has time to relax? I am a recovering workaholic, so I don't know what relax even means. Yes - I am working on that. Anywho, they are RIGHT. When I do a few breathing exercises, sit down, hook up my pump and close my eyes (don't watch the bottles. It really messes with your mind to track how much you're making as you go. The opposite of relaxing. Trust me).... it's magical! Relaxing really does allow your body to take nature's course and let flow. My husband even massaged my shoulders once while I was pumping and I truly believe it made a difference.
Find your people. It really helps to have a supportive partner and circle of friends if you are trying to breastfeed and/or pump. I definitely do not take that for granted. Particularly for women of color, breastfeeding support within familial circles or community resources are not as common - which I knew heading into my pregnancy. Many are discouraged by family members and friends who don't understand it or didn't do it themselves, when it doesn't work out in the first few days after birth. This encourages many to go the exclusively formula route because it's easy (albeit expensive!) to feed your child and it takes one layer of task off your plate as a new mama without having to breastfeed or pump. It's even harder if you have to go right back to work after childbirth. It's not for everyone - but again, I was determined to stick to it and give it a good try for at least a month before giving up to give my body time to increase production. I'm very grateful I had the resources and time to work through the stressful period with a supportive partner and network of newer moms and lactation consultants cheering me on.
Are you breastfeeding? Share your story and tips for sticking with it below!