Ahhh breastfeeding, the most beautiful and natural thing a mother can do, right? This is one of those things about motherhood I was not at all properly warned about, despite watching every video my doctor sent me, talking to mom friends and reading as many articles as I could online.
Breastfeeding, while it is the most beautiful bond between mother and child, can come with massive struggles! From supply issues to the baby not latching properly to nipples not being pointy enough… yes, that’s a thing. After some minor struggles and a lot of sleep deprivation, I was able to get my son to breastfeed with minimal issues after about a week and a half. He received my breast milk for one year, which was my goal, but over that year I learned A LOT!
Here some hacks, tips, and products I found to help me through our year-long breastfeeding journey.
So the funny thing about breastfeeding issues… the answer to almost all your issues is to breastfeed more. The more you feed and empty the breast, it signals to your body to refill it and produce more milk. The lactation consultant I saw in the hospital recommended I pump for 15 minutes after every feeding to get my milk flowing and that definitely helped. While nursing, you should continue to take your prenatal vitamin. I found a few supplements to add to my routine that helped me to not only maintain my milk supply, but keep it flowing to feed my son and pump and store lots of milk.
The first is brewer’s yeast, which can be taken in pill form or a powder. I found the pills much easier because forgetting to mix a powder in a drink everyday kind of defeated the purpose. I took 6 a day of this brand in addition to my regular supplements. Yeast is said to aid in your milk production. In fact, you may have heard the old-school remedy of having a cold Guinness Stout daily to increase your supply because it is extremely yeasty. Friends have reported that their doctors are okay with one beer or glass of wine a day used for relaxation or to mitigate stress. So if you are okay with it and your doctor does not advise against it, you might try it to relax and focus on feedings.
Twice a day I would also mix a pouch of special herbs in berry flavor into my water. It had a surprisingly good taste and I usually took my supplements with this water. I think I was thinking it would taste fake or artificial but it didn’t at all because it’s made from natural ingredients.
At night I would have a cup of Mother’s Milk tea with honey. These drinks have fenugreek and thistle which helps boost your milk supply.
I also snacked on these delicious lactation treats a few times a day. They are so good and well made, you forget they are functional! So don’t eat too many a day! I loved their brownies and cookies. And didn’t stress about the calories because at this point, you need them! Breastfeeding can burn 1,000 calories a day and it is also very dehydrating on mama, so make sure you drink as much water as you can.
In addition to what you can take or eat to boost and maintain your supply, you can also try some topical treatments that are completely natural. Basil and fennel are known to help increase your milk supply, while peppermint is said to decrease it. In my experience, I drank a peppermint tea almost daily while nursing and I was still a cash cow! I later read unless you are rubbing it directly on to your breast, it shouldn’t affect your supply. So that being said, I made a roller with Basil and Fennel essential oil and diluted with coconut oil and rubbed it on my breasts several times a day. If your nipples ever get chapped or cut, air them out as much as possible and put your breast milk on them. They don’t call it liquid gold for nothing!
I found a few products also very helpful during my period of nursing and will for sure be using them again the second time around. You will notice when you nurse, the other breast will start leaking as well and you’re losing all that precious gold! I used this breast milk saver while I would nurse my son on one side, catching the excess escaping milk. The ounces really added up! Once you’ve dropped or spilled breast milk and it’s ruined your day and you’ve cried about it, you see just how clutch this product is.
Your breasts tend to get very sore, being filled up and emptied. Then there are those frustrating times you can’t get to your pump and they overflow… I used these packs to help relieve the soreness. You just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds and place them on your breasts. If you do this while pumping and kind of massage your breast with them at the same time, you’ll get SO MUCH more milk out of the pump.
My son was born on time and healthy, but was just a little nugget at 6 pounds and 2 ounces. One of our first struggles was his mouth being too small and my nipple not being pointy enough. The hospital gave me a nipple shield which helped direct the nipple into one place and he could latch easier. I also think this helped when we introduced a bottle because he felt the thin plastic of the shield and wasn’t totally objecting to the bottle nipple. I tried a couple of brands and liked this one better because of the shape. As genius as the shield is, it can be difficult to keep on. One day when my son was just over two months, I was so over the difficulties, so I ripped it off and put his mouth by my nipple and he latched perfectly. I was so relieved…
Another genius mom saver I used, and am surprised more moms don’t know about, is the hands-free pumping bra. I used this one in nude. I mentioned it to my sister-in-law who pumped exclusively for 7 months and she basically could not believe it. I can’t imagine on top of everything else, having to hold the pumps to your breasts, while exhausted and having about 50 other things you need to do and use your hands for. When you’re a mom you don’t just need your 2 hands, you need about 35 more!
I started my breastfeeding journey literally not knowing a thing. I hope my advice and tips can help new moms in the in the same position–us moms have to stick together!
Share in the comments what has worked for you!
About Guest Writer Erin McInerney
Erin McInerney is a native Brooklynite living in San Diego, CA for the past 8 years. She and boyfriend Ryan have one son named Bryson and a baby boy born October 2018. She spends her time “modern momming” and practicing and preaching wellness. Look for her personal blog coming soon!