I feel it important to impart all of the wisdom I procured over the most intense eight weeks of my life.
The eight weeks I spent trying to establish anything resembling a milk supply.
There’s a lot I need to type out here so I’ll try to make it as easy to read/scan as possible.
Before Vivi was born I read “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” by Kathleen Huggins and “The Breastfeeding Book” by Dr. Sears. From my limited experience with Addie I knew to have Lansinoh on hand and to use it with reckless abandon.
Much of the blame in an unsuccessful breastfeeding relationship is heaped upon the hospital and its staff. I am pleased to report that not only was the hospital I delivered at baby friendly, it was boob friendly too. Vivi was given to me as soon as she was out, and if it weren’t for some minor complications as a result of her being meconium stained she would have remained skin to skin with me for the next two hours. After she was suctioned and cleared by the doctor (which only took a few minutes) she was handed back to me where she remained skin to skin for the next two hours. No interruptions from doctors or nurses.
Just Vivi, Cody and me.
Throughout our three day stay at the hospital Vivi was only removed from my room by nurses three times in the middle of the night for weight checks and then brought back to me immediately. If Vivi was awake I was awake and she was in my arms. If she cried a boob was popped into her mouth. A IBCLC came into my room twice daily and there was a CLC on staff at all times. Never was formula mentioned or offered.
Her latch was superb.
Everything seemed perfect.
My advice for the hospital: No visitors if you can get away with it. The hospital is sacred time with your new baby and visitors throw a wrench in your new relationship. You cannot full focus on your baby if you have other people in the room. (To be fair Addie came in with my MIL twice a day and of course they came to see me.) Nothing makes me squirm more than seeing hospital rooms FULL of people just after a baby is born.
Be selfish. Be bossy. You’re the mom and the last thing a new mom needs is help holding the baby. What she needs is for you to make her family dinner and scrub the toilets.
Here’s where I get into what I wish I would have known/would have had on hand immediately upon coming home. (Amazon and Buy Buy Baby did a lot of next day shipping to my house.) My advice on gear? If you have any suspicions that you will have trouble establishing a milk supply (from PCOS for example) have everything on hand immediately, you can always return what you don’t use later.
- Making More Milk by Diana West. Read it. Before you give birth. It’s a wonderful book.
- Pump – You can rent or you can own. Whether you rent or own be sure the brand you choose is WHO compliant (Medela is not WHO compliant, you can learn more here.) I used a Hygeia pump, their online support is amazing, specifically on twitter through @hygeiakate. Another important element to pumping is being sure that you have the right size of flanges (the funnel looking things that your boobs go in.) More than half of nursing mothers need a larger size shield than expected. Either have multiple sizes on hand or get fit by a IBCLC. Your nipples will write you thank you notes for the next fifteen years.
- Nursing Bras – I wore Nummies 24/7. They’re wonderful. The end.
- Carriers – At some point you’re going to want to get up. Or leave the house. The best way to remind your body that there is a baby that it is supposed to be making milk for is to wear the baby. I used a Sleepywrap (MobyWrap) the most. Since it’s basically one enormous piece of fabric I could get away without wearing a shirt under it, thus furthering the whole skin to skin thing. An easier carrier to maneuver and one that isn’t quite as hot is a Mei Tai, but be warned, if you go skin to skin in a Mei Tai, keep the blinds closed.
- Hands Free Pumping Bra – When I first saw a picture of a hands free pumping bra while I was still pregnant I was SHOCKED! and APPALLED! at how ridiculous they looked. I now own two and have no idea how I went three weeks without one. You can pump and do your makeup at the same time! You can pump and read a book at the same time! You can pump and twitter at the SAME TIME. YOU CAN PUMP AND EAT AT THE SAME TIME. When you’re pumping six to eight times a day for 10-20 minute stretches? You’re going to want one of these.
- Nursing Pillow – I had a Boppy. Then I used a My Breast Friend pillow at the hospital. Boppy what? I got over my not buying things with stupid names and bought a My Breast Friend pillow and never looked back. That thing is the cat’s MEOW. My breast friend INDEED.
- A bottle/glass/jug/jar/trough of water in every corner of your house. A NURSING MOTHER’S THIRST KNOWS NO BOUNDS. If you were to spread 20 glasses of water throughout your house each morning you will have sought them out and drank them all by dinnertime. SERIOUSLY.
- Supplements – Fenugreek will make you smell like syrup. It works for a lot of people. It’s pretty cheap and easy to find. More Milk Plus has fenugreek in it, does not make you smell as bad and can be ordered for pretty cheap on Amazon. Goat’s Rue is much harder to find, will not make you smell like anything and is easiest to find on Amazon. Brewer’s Yeast made me feel like an enormous painful fart. Milkmaid Tea tastes like hot artichoke water and works for some people as well. Domperidone is the holy grail of lactation drugs. While it is not FDA approved in the USA it can be obtained somewhat easily for a price. Compounding pharmacy, that’s all I can really say about that.
- SNS (Supplemental Nurser Systems) – I started out with a syringe and small feeding tube taped to my boob. Then I moved onto the Lact-Aid, or as I called it, the feed bag. Y’all, these things are not for sissies. A pain to clean, a pain to assemble and a pain to attach…BUT…it works SO WELL. It allows you to pretend for one tiny moment that you are actually satiating your baby with your your own body. You will get better at it. If it weren’t such a huge investment in both time and money I would have kept using it on occasion, but it just wasn’t realistic. If there were ever a chance at me establishing a milk supply it would have been thanks to the Lact-Aid. DouLaLa has more information on the Lact-Aid including a video on how to use it properly. (A Lact-Aid will also take three part feeding (nurse, supplement, pump) down to a two part feeding, which is super nice.)
- Other Things I Tried – Oatmeal. I ate it three times a day. While I never made any more milk, I am now the poster child of low cholesterol. Dark beer, specifically Guinness. Works for some, I am not some. Hypno Lactation. Again, works for some. I am not some.
- Kindle – So it technically has nothing to do with milk supply. But you’re going to be attached to either a baby or a pump a lot. Being able to read with one hand is pretty much the best thing ever. I have the cover with the built in light so I could read in the middle of the night AND see what was going on down in the defunct milk factories at the same time. Win. Book suggestions? Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist and Bossypants by Tina Fey, although the latter will probably cause you to laugh so hard you will shake your boob right out of your baby’s mouth.
If there ever is a third time (which let’s be honest, have you seen the babies we produce?) I will be taking all of my own advice as well as doing more hand expression while still in the hospital. It’s pretty much the only thing I didn’t do simply because I found out about the benefits too late. (I do however have to say that I became a MASTER at hand expression. In the final weeks, nursing with the Lact-Aid and then following up with hand expression instead of pumping seemed to get out the most of what little was in there.)
There is endless advice available on the Internet and in hundreds of books…it’s overwhelming really. Every situation is so much different, this is mine and this is the post I wish I could have read before having Vivi.
Breastfeeding is wonderful and magical. If I can make it easier for one more mom out there? Then everything I went through is doubly worth it.
(While no one asked me to mention any of the products listed above, I must thank Earth Mama Angel Baby, Alison from Nummies Bras, Hygeia (especially Kate), Amy, Pumpease and Annie for virtually holding my hand and talking me off ledges through my experience.)