Maintaining Your Milk Supply
Once you bring that new baby home and that "real life" clock starts, you're going to have that crazy overwhelming experience of caring for your babe at home. If you're breastfeeding, that means you're taking care of your milk supply too!
Mamas are understandably more tired than they've ever been in their life once they bring that little love home from the hospital, and a lot of times eating and drinking and anything other than sleeping and feeding your little don't make the cut. But, mama's overall health is so so important when it comes to maintaining a health milk supply for babe.
So how do you do this when you're so tired that you can barely stand for long enough to microwave a bag of popcorn, let alone make sure you're getting enough to keep the girls full. In my mama experience, it's all about three things: water, food, and stress.
Breastfeeding mamas need to be drinking more water than anyone else in the world. I promise. In fact if you're anything like me, breastfeeding will make you SO THIRSTY you'll be dying for water before, during, and after nursing. It's recommended that mamas who are nursing drink around 12 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but don't worry about keeping count. Just keep a water bottle full and on hand at all times so that you never have an excuse not to drink some water.
This one is real simple, mama, but when you're sleep walking through that newborn stage, it can be the thing that gets forgotten. I recommend getting yourself a pack of plastic water bottles before you deliver, and keeping those babies in the fridge, because I can promise you mama, having those in there ready to grab whenever will mean you're drinking more water. Now is not the time to worry about your carbon footprint.
Most hospitals give you an awesome jug with a straw that you can use to refill with ice water, and seriously, I love both the ones I've gotten after delivering my babes. I use them all the time, and they helped me drink so much more water. There are also around a million different options for water bottles that will keep your water ice cold all day long and you won't have to be chugging room temp agua. Ew. No one has time for that.
Okay, I know that after you have your baby and you take a look at your tummy and the baby that used to live there, you think how do I make sure that I can get rid of this as soon as possible? First of all, no. Second of all, don't worry about that. Not now, not ever. But since we're on the subject, if you're nursing, you need to understand that your body needs food to fuel your milk supply. There is no way around it.
I always tell mamas not to restrict their calories in any way while they're breastfeeding if they want to maintain their supply, because so many mamas' milk is affected by a change in diet or a decrease in calories. If you want to maintain your supply for any length of time, then eating is important. But if you are worried about getting some of that baby weight off and feeling better in your bod, then the good news is the types of food that will help you maintain your supply are also the foods that are good for your bod!
Here's a short list of things that I ate every day that made a noticeable difference in my supply, and helped to make it last as long as I wanted it to (around 9-10 months for both my babes):
- Juice (cranberry, orange, pomegranate)
- Lean protein
- Green veggies
Keep these things on hand in your fridge and pantry, and be able to grab quick snacks and meals when you have a couple minutes in between feeding your babe, changing your babe, rocking your babe to sleep, bathing your babe, taking your babe to the doctor... you get my point, mama! If you find the need to supplement your diet with something that will really get your milk going, I used fenugreek tablets. Let me tell you what, they will increase your production! The only side effect I had was that I smelled like maple syrup while taking them... but, I will smell like an IHOP any day if it means I'm producing!
This one is so hard for new mamas, and it's also a difficult one to explain. All I can say is you'll know it when you go through it. The thing that a lot of mamas are told is that breastfeeding is hard. But until you're doing it, you don't realize how hard it actually is. Babies have a hard time latching, some mamas have inverted nipples, some babies need to be held in certain positions to even want to eat, some mamas have to use shields, and it hurts. It hurts and it's uncomfortable, and it takes a lot of work between you and your baby to make it work well.
With all of that being said, the beginning of a breastfeeding journey is often very, very stressful for mamas. It's almost the only thing you're thinking about is how to get your baby to eat better, how to do things a little differently to make it hurt less, if your baby has enough wet/dirty diapers and how that is related to how much they're eating... I mean, it's crazy. And it's stressful.
And one thing that I have learned is that the more you stress, the more your milk disappears. I mean, the times I noticed the biggest decrease in my supply were when I was stressed out (normally while traveling) that I just wasn't able to produce.
I recommend that mamas do their best to not be so hard on themselves, and if all else fails, pump, pump, pump in between feeding your babe. That way if you're not able to get the best latch or you don't have the time or the cover or the space to nurse you, then can feed them a bottle, and you don't have to be constantly worried about how your baby is going to eat. Finding little ways to take the stress off will help you to maintain your milk instead of drying up due to overthinking and over-stressing.