Pumping and Breastfeeding; How to Boost Your Milk Supply
I have been on a breast-feeding and pumping journey of my own since 2018. I have been on both sides of the spectrum and want to share my experiences on exclusively pumping versus exclusively breast-feeding and on doing a combination of both. It all really depends on personal preference and lifestyle choices but with this post I hope to provide you with some insight to make your decision easier.
With my first daughter, I wanted to exclusively breast-feed and did for the first four weeks but I went back to work way too soon. I was grateful and thankful to be able to pump every three hours at work but once she was introduced to the bottle, that’s all her lazy fat baby self wanted. My second daughter on the other hand, is very sensitive and spits up a lot, so she is the exact opposite and prefers the boob.
Both times breast-feeding hasn’t worked out for multiple reasons and for those who want to breast-feed, I want to share why my breast-feeding journey ended and where it went wrong. Thankfully pumping saved my supply but that comes with a whole new set of obligations. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding or pumping you need a whole different array of items and if you’re doing both it’s a crazy ass time. Hopefully this post provides you with enough insight on both and let me know what you want/need to hear more of!!
When you’re first pumping and establishing your supply, your milk will be the same but after the first couple weeks when you’re producing more, you will notice that your milk is changing itself. It will start to become different consistencies throughout the day and in that single pump session too. The milk that first comes out is like fat free skim milk, super watery and translucent. The last milk that comes out is super white and fatty like thick whole milk.
If your baby is struggling to gain weight and you don’t want to supplement with formula yet, use the last half of the milk you pump and freeze the first fat free milk for later on. My premie gained 3 pounds in a month, solely on fatty boobie milk lol. Babies definitely get more milk with bottles but that also comes with spit up and a lot of pumping and bottle washing.
I am grateful for my milk stash supply, I have a whole deep freezer full. It’s costed me a lot of hard work, sweat, tears and sacrifices but it is worth it.
It is very rewarding knowing your baby is solely surviving off what your body is producing. Also, it is good to get your baby to latch sometimes so that your body recognizes her saliva and germs. When your body (nipples) are introduced to his/her spit, your body makes the milk specifically tailored to what your baby needs. So if your baby is sick, they need to latch! I still get her to latch every day or two and if it’s been a couple days, she cries for my boob.
I know fed is best but I feel like boob is bestest, not only for your baby's health but because it’s easier and less time consuming to breastfeed. My baby does not ever spit up when she eats from my boob and I had less crap to wash back then. After she eats bottles, she needs burped for a solid 10-20 minutes, still spits up and has to be propped upright. She usually falls asleep while eating from my boob and usually doesn’t even need burped because it comes out at her pace. On the other hand, she also doesn’t get enough since she falls asleep too soon; so for our circumstances, it is also time consuming to breastfeed because it is a constant cycle of waking her up and keeping her awake, all while still trying to get the milk out and make sure she is full.
Breastfeeding with my first was hard because it was my first time around and neither of us knew what we were doing but it lasted for a few months strong. She started weening herself off my boobs when I introduced bottles and she officially weened herself off when she was introduced to food around five months old.
I hoped to last longer this time around but it’s so difficult for the exact opposite reasons. She actually wants my boob but her mouth was too small and her suck wasn’t powerful enough, so I started pumping sooner than I wanted too; which made my boobs even bigger.. if my boobs are too full I can’t feed her and if they are too empty I can’t feed her either, so there is never really a good time to feed her.
When she was a preemie, she would get too cozy and fall asleep before she was full which is another reason why we started bottles. She still does the same thing at three months old and if you wake her up to eat, she latches right back on only to fall right back asleep again.. which isn't a problem until she wakes up when I lay her down and I need to pump because my boobs are swelling.
If you are struggling with breastfeeding, right after the bath is when she wants my boob the most.
My personal preference would’ve been to stick with breastfeeding longer and only pump when I needed too bc now I have to pump all the time. I try to go as long as I can between sessions and I've got it down to about every 5 hours during the day and finally about 7 hours at night. Super big accomplishment for me, without getting any super painful lumps!!
I started pumping too much and giving both my girls bottles after a couple months but I feel like if I would’ve waited another month or so, I could’ve been strictly breastfeeding and that would save me a lot of time, allowing for more quality time together. Pumping takes time away from your kids and breastfeeding allows you to spend more time with them. Not only is pumping time consuming but what comes along with it is also super time consuming like washing bottles and storing milk.
Since it takes away precious time you could be using elsewhere and so many things get put on the back burner, pro-tip is finding things you can do while you pump. You have to use your hands to get the milk out but you can still do things in intervals when you don't have to use your hands like hang out with your babies, sweep the floor or wash bottles. You just can't bend over and are limited on what you can do because milk will spill out.
Introducing my first baby to bottles ruined breastfeeding for us bc she got spoiled with the bottles and loved her paci. My second baby prefers boob over bottle but it is more difficult when I am pumping and she is too tiny and sleepy. I have an over supply and there’s never a good time to breastfeed her when I have a toddler on my hands; trying to pump and potty-train is highly not recommended lol.
I don’t believe pacifiers and bottles ruin breastfeeding; I think it all depends on your situation and baby, so you have to weigh out all your personal circumstances. Most moms go back to work way too soon and I still regret it till this day but sometimes we really do not have any other options, so bottles it is. I see pumping becoming the new normal, especially for those moms who want to freeze their breastmilk and have to work.
In the deep freeze, it is good for up to a year but in order to have that much saved up you would need several deep freezers. In the regular freezer, it is good for up to six months and you will most likely use it all within that time frame. I can do a separate post about breastmilk storage rules and everything that comes along with that like the rules for leaving bottles out and reusing them. Also if anyone is interested in how I store and freeze my milk I can talk about that too.
The most common question I hear from moms is, How do I boost my supply? So I will tell you what personally did and didn’t work for me, along with the side effects (if any)
Boobie milk is a supply and demand system; so the more you pump, the more you will eventually soon be producing. If you’re exclusively pumping, you need to be pumping as often or more than your baby eats.
- Body armor was a good trick bc if anything it will help you stay hydrated and that’s key to milk supply. Drink more water!!
- Also oatmeal anything and everything. For me, oatmeal cream pies did the trick. They never got old like oatmeal and other oat related things. Oat coffee creamer is a good one to, even oat milk. Make the switch to almond and oat milk, I swear almond milk helped my supply more than anything and I’ve never heard that anywhere else.
- Milk thistle and fenugreek capsules are good too, they have a 50/50 chance of working but will most likely make your baby colicky (gassy and unsettled) both my babies didn’t take well to them and I noticed it also made me gassy myself lol. It def boosted my supply but it was not a good time, so this one depends on how desperate you are.
- Take your post natal or even finish up your prenatal because pumping and making breastmilk takes just as much nutrients form your body as pregnancy itself. Just think about it, your body is still solely nourishing your baby. I got my placenta encapsulated and I think that really helped boost my supply in the short term and establish my supply in the long run.
I will do a separate posts going into detail about preparing yourself for pumping and breastfeeding, with the tips and tricks I’ve learned, along with what I wish I knew and the supplies that saved my life (and my nipples) lol
I am not a medical doctor, I am just speaking from many many personal experiences and the many conversations I've had with nurses during my hospital stays when I was pregnant and when I had my babies.
Stay Happy, Healthy and Blessed
Blessed Hippie Mama