My Precious Milk Supply

I often stand in front of my freezer admiring my collection of breastmilk. My breastmilk collection has become one of my greatest accomplishments. I never understood the phrase “No use crying over spilled milk” until I actually spilled a freshly pumped bottle of breastmilk. Yes, I cried.

For any mother who has breastfed, you know how precious every ounce of milk is. Now that I have a newborn again, I am reminded of the dedication it takes to feed my sweet baby boy. Breastfeeding to me is wonderful. I love that special time with my baby. I also love having my baby close to my skin. It gives us both a big rush of endorphins. He eats and I adore him. It’s a fair trade.

Pumping, however takes a whole other level of commitment. At four weeks postpartum, I am back to work. As I sit at my computer completing patient charts with the buzz of my breast pump in the background, I remember that pumping is much more mechanical than actually breastfeeding my baby and comes with much less endorphins. As I increase my frozen milk supply, I am reminded that I must take care of myself in order to take care of my baby.

Here are some of my personal tips to maintain milk supply and build your own stash:

  1. Sleep. When I breastfed my oldest daughter, I was completing my first year of residency training. The hours were long and grueling. I noticed that when I would work a long stretch of night shifts, my milk supply would dwindle. However, I could always get back on track with a few good nights of rest and a consistent pumping schedule.
  2. Eat healthy and focus on steady weight loss. This is a challenge for me because I want to lose the baby weight as quickly as possible. However, I notice when I’ve lost too much weight too quickly. My supply shrinks slightly, so I add in a couple hundred calories per day until my supply rebounds.
  3. Drink water. Your milk is fluid and you need extra fluid for high production. I’ve read you should drink 8 ounces of water with every feeding. If you drink to thirst (and you will be thirsty) that will suffice.
  4. Make time to pump. The more stimulation your breasts get, the more milk you will produce. Even when you’re busy, you must commit to a pumping schedule that is at least somewhat similar to your baby’s feeding schedule.
  5. Get your baby on a schedule. I know this is controversial advice, but I think this improves breastfeeding success. I initially tried feeding on demand, and I ended up exhausted because my baby was eating all the time, almost every hour. Getting your baby on a schedule also helps extend the amount of nighttime hours that your baby (and you) sleep.