Tips For The Undersupplier

As you may have read in one of my recent posts, How I Decided to Exclusively Pump, I was pumping about half of what my little girl needed.  I’m going to walk through all the things that I did or took to help my supply increase to 27-30 ounces a day.

Exclusively Pumping - Alternative Breastfeeding
This is the pumping life. When baby eats, pump.

First, I joined a support group of other women exclusively pumping like me.  I just couldn’t do it on my own and I needed encouragement from other moms in the same boat.  These moms have already been in my shoes or are walking the same path as me.  Now, don’t get down when you see some women post pictures of their huge milk stashes or 20 oz. pump sessions.  Be happy for them – many of those mommas donate their extra milk to moms like me and you who had or have trouble making milk.

The first thing I realized was I needed to pump MORE often.  The lactation consultant told me not to pump too much or too long because I could have an issue with oversupply.  Well, based on my history – that is not the case.  I started pumping every 2 hours OR I pumped while Kaylee Mae had her bottle (sometimes more frequent than every two hours). I wouldn’t go more than 3-4 hours between pumps at night.  My goal was to shoot for 9-10 pump sessions while trying to increase my milk supply.

This seems silly but it really does help.  Pump into the smallest bottles you can find.  It gets depressing when you look at your 4 or 8 ounce collection bottles and only see a quarter of it filled.  Get some colostrum collection bottles and fill those up then move to the 2/3 ounce bottles.  It seriously helps with morale.

There is a lot of buzz about power pumping… which goes something like pump till empty, rest 10 minutes, pump 10 minutes, rest 10, pump 15, rest 10, pump 5 – or something like that.  All it is, is mimicking the baby when he/she is cluster feeding.  Which signals to your body to make more milk.  I could never get the minutes just right but I would watch a tv show and pump during the show and rest during commercials or vice versa.

Pumping while driving with freemies.
I love pumping in the car. Kids are strapped in and usually chill so I have uninterrupted pumping time. Freemies are a must for this.

When I am getting in the car to drive somewhere, I don’t care if it’s only been 20 minutes since I last pumped, I will take advantage of that time in the car with zero kid needs.  Freemies work best for on the road pumping, IMHO. Power pumping is great – do it when you can.

Now… I GAINED weight when trying to up my milk supply.  I saw a video of a mom showing off her milk stash – like multiple chest freezers and she made the comment that she ate 4000-5000 calories a day. Well, I took that to heart and ate all the oatmeal cookies/bars in sight.  For the under/just enough suppliers, we really only need an extra 5oo calories or so. So, don’t over do the food thing like I did lol.

Morning Pump - 4 ounces
My first 4 ounces of breastmilk. This was a huge milestone for me. Kaylee Mae was almost 2 months old before I was able to pump 4 ounces. And this was my morning pump so it was more than usual anyways.

Talking about oatmeal cookies – oatmeal helped me (a little). I made oatmeal bars that were pretty tasty and had all kinds of stuff that are supposed to help with supply. I’ll find and share the recipe in my next post. Here are some foods and supplements that I’ve tried…

  1. Oatmeal
  2. Flax Seed
  3. Gatorade
  4. Body Armour Drinks
  5. Fenugreek / Blessed Thistle
    1. Some women’s milk supply can take a hit from fenugreek.  So watch carefully when you try this.
  6. Goat’s Rue
  7. Moringa
  8. Domperidone

It’s so hard to tell if any of these things REALLY helped because my supply was steadily increasing while doing these things (plus pumping often).  Once I started pumping about 27-30 ounces a day, I stopped seeing an increase and I stopped taking all the stuff.  I didn’t see my supply drop but it was also around 13 weeks pp that I stopped taking all the things which is right around the time milk supply regulates.

Exclusively Breast Pumping - Increase Supply
Chart of my milk supply once I started pumping. I had a few highs and lows but the overall trend is up. This chart is from the app – Feed Baby for android.  Pump Log is awesome if you have an Iphone.

Things that did impact my supply NEGATIVELY.. Stress!  Kaylee Mae went to the ER for a fever that got up to 104.6 and then they couldn’t figure out what happened until like a week later.  My supply took a huge hit where I was only pumping 20-24 ounces a day during that time. Even stressing about pumping would affect my supply. So, stop freaking out over the numbers and just feed your baby. Seriously.  A fed baby is best – even if it’s formula or goat’s milk or breastmilk.

One way for me to stop stressing over the numbers was tricking myself into racing the clock.  At around the time I was making 24 ounces, I would try and beat the clock.  So if it was 9AM, my goal was to have more than 9 ounces pumped.  If it was 2PM and I had only pumped 12 ounces, I would get on the pump and try to beat the clock.  It’s just a silly thing that helped me.

Lack of hydration also impacts my supply negatively.  If my pee isn’t clear, I’m also noticing a drop in my supply.  I’m terrible at drinking water too.  If it’s not in front of me, I’m not drinking it.  A water tracker water bottle is awesome if you’re like me. I’m not sure what the connection is – maybe it’s the caffeine, but when I drink cokes, (i’m from the south where all the sodas or pop or whatever you call it are called coke) my supply drops as well.

Pumping on the go.
S2 Spectra requires a power source. Once I realized I would be pumping exclusively, I purchased the S1 which doesn’t require a plug. Just needs to be charged.

I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for my semi-portable pump and freemies. Side not for the freemies – you need to buy a connection kit to use with the Spectra pump.  I started with the S2 Spectra and would use a power converter in the car like this one.  Once I realized I would be pumping full time, I bought the S1. The S9 would be awesome too but I didn’t go that route. I can pump in the car, in the ER room, in the living room with other people and sometimes nobody even realizes I’m pumping.  My body had to get used to the freemies but now I get more with the freemies than I did with flanges and bottles. I can pump and make dinner or do the dishes or sit here and type up this post.  TMI but I hated the bottles and flanges because my nipples were visible and seriously – I can’t pump like that in front of my son. I tried a hands free bra for a little while but it was such a hassle getting prepped to pump. By the time I was all setup – it had been like 5 minutes just getting situated.

If you are planning on pumping for the long haul, invest in a gentle but powerful pump that is portable – no plugging in required, some loose fitting tops, and freemies.  Stay hydrated, eat when you are hungry, pump often and until empty.

All the extra stuff MIGHT work for you.  I don’t think they did for me but other moms have awesome results from the supplements listed above. Do what works for you.

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