Breastfeeding Tips: Supply + Demand

Last week, we received great responses from readers regarding Breastfeeding Tips: Latching. We are so glad this series is serving you as this is meant to be a platform for encouragement + discussion. Keep it coming!

Between my sister and I, we have received many questions about maintaining a healthy milk supply over the last several years. Our struggles, how we kept up healthy milk supplies + tips on how to boost low supply. Well, this week we believe we’ve come up with a couple helpful tried + true tools to have in your home kit!

Allie and I have both struggled with milk supply for differing reasons. Returning to work, sleep schedules, diet, pregnancies + exercise have all effected our supplies on some level or another.

Our kids all seem to grow at slow rates – and have even been labeled “failure to thrive” by pediatricians according to growth charts which means their weight was less than 5% of other kids their age. We have had to make tough decisions on how and whether or not to supplement. We have cried in frustration and released each other from mom-guilt and had many a long talks about this subject and still haven’t got it down to an exact science, but these are some tips that have worked for us.

  1. Herbs + Supplements: such as fenugreek, an herb used for increasing milk supply. You can purchase this in many forms such as pills, tinctures, powders, but our favorite way is tea. 2-3 cups per day. I notice the biggest difference when I drink a cup of tea especially at night. Stay away from “hot” herbs like peppermint oils or teas as this can decrease your milk supply. Save that one for when the time comes to wean! Whole food supplements like cod liver oil, probiotics + magnesium are tremendous as well.
  2. Nursing + Pumping: Keep in mind that everybody’s body and baby responds differently but the main idea is that breast milk is based off of supply + demand. Nurse, pump, then feed the rest to baby in a bottle or store for later. Repeat every 4 hours or on demand. I got into a great rhythm after my second daughter where I was pumping every morning and ended up with several gallons in my freezer which I was able to save for after I weaned, and even donated some to a mom in need!
  3. Diet: Allie and I are both adventurous foodies but in our experience, breastfeeding has not been the time to try any drastic new diets such as low carb, keto, or paleo diets that eliminate grains. Personally we have both experienced low milk supply when we tried to eliminate grains while breastfeeding. Again, every body is different but that’s just our experience. Grains such as oats, brown rice, and quinoa are staples! Even occasional treats like stove-popped popcorn or a nice dark beer will give you a boost overnight. Breastfeeding is also a time to increase your protein, shooting for 80-100 g/ day, and extra helpings of those healthy fats. Kick or limit the dehydrating drinks with caffeine if you need to and drink water, water, water! Check out our favorite recipe for no-bake lactation bites here.
  4. Sleep + Activity: Setting a bedtime for yourself is so important with a new baby, and so freeing. I didn’t understand this the first time around and our sleep schedule was all messed up, I was dragging and my milk supply suffered around 6 months. When you nurse, there’s an oxytocin release in your brain as well as the baby’s that promotes sleep. In reverse, sleep promotes releases of oxytocin as well that is important for production. It’s a win win. Baby wearing, skin to skin, and co-sleeping are all great ways to boost oxytocin and promote nursing as well.

There are other important factors to consider if you think you may be struggling from low milk supply. Seasons of nursing, for one. As your baby grows they will enter different seasons of demand which will effect your supply. Checking for 5+ wet diapers/ day and a bowel movement (though some babies don’t go every day) as well as their behavior is more important than comparing the size of your baby to a chart or to your friends baby. La Leche League International’s book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding explains this in great detail and you can read along season by season, and I still refer to this book even my third time around.

We all have mama instinct and if you know your baby is getting enough than be at peace, and if you feel you need to supplement also be at peace. For us, we tried formula, but were dissatisfied with the constipation that resulted. We found that around 10/11 months goats milk was a healthier way to introduce our kids to dairy without upsetting their stomach, and friendlier on the budget, and avoiding all the fillers + chemicals in formula. A local farmer and friend kept goats and we visited her every other week religiously to stock up!

Be at peace mamas and if your struggling, try some of these tips this week and let us know how it goes!

-Kristin



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