Before Asher was born I read a couple of books on breastfeeding, some blog posts, watched some videos, and discussed the topic with other mamas. Once it came time to perform the act though, it felt so foreign to me. In theory, I knew what to do, but when it came down to making sure Asher’s latch was correct, I felt clueless. I didn’t know how it was supposed to feel or what the right/wrong latch looked like. At the hospital I had a few nurses tell me how to do it, but each of their instructions varied so I felt even more confused. I was supposed to have a lactation specialist come see me the day after his birth but they postponed her visit and someone else filled in for her on the 3rd day. When the substitute came and helped me I finally felt like I had a better grasp of what to do. She also gave me some encouragement as I was a bit worried about my supply since Asher wasn’t peeing after breastfeeding. I told her that I had a breast reduction surgery when I was 16 and she said that could have affected my ability to breastfeed and that it might also make it difficult for me to feel when Asher is latched correctly/incorrectly. She asked if she could squeeze my breasts to check them and when she did creamy yellow colostrum came out. I was so relieved and she said it looked like there would be no problem after all and that it may have just taken a couple of days for my supply to come in.
By the time we got home, my breasts became engorged and I was amazed! I was feeding Asher every 2-3 hours, but my boobs kept getting bigger and more swollen until even my armpits were affected. I consulted my midwife about it and she gave me some tips that really helped, along with several others that I found through research. You can find all of the tips that worked for me in this blog post here: https://imalovebug.com/blogs/health-recipes/how-to-treat-clogged-milk-ducts
One thing that I forgot to mention in that post was that you can try different positions with your baby to empty out different ducts. At first it was tricky because he mostly wanted to do the cross-cradle and football hold positions, but eventually, I got him to do other positions like the side-lying one in bed and the one where he lays on his back and I hover above him like a cow.
Since then I haven’t had any engorgement problems and have been a lot more successful with our feedings, so I thought I would take a moment to share things that I’ve learned and that have helped me. One problem that I had shortly after I began breastfeeding and that continued for a couple of weeks was super sore, cracked, and slightly bleeding nipples. My midwife gave me a fantastic tip that really helped them to heal quickly. This was taking a little colostrum or breast milk after each pumping and rubbing it into the nipple and areola. Colostrum and breast milk are both very healing and helped expedite the healing process much more than it would’ve been on its own. Applying nipple butter after each feeding session really helped to relieve the soreness when rubbing against clothing and to provide a barrier while they healed. In the beginning, I would typically not wear a shirt or bra so that my nipples were free and were not rubbing against anything so they would have a chance to heal in between feedings. Another great thing to get into the practice of is applying coconut oil to the areola and nipple before pumping. This helps to create a barrier shield in between your skin and the flange because of the rubbing that occurs while pumping. Without the oil, your nipples could eventually get very sore and raw. The coconut oil has really helped to prevent that from happening! Another thing you can do if you have sore nipples is to use a nipple shield. This is a thin, clear, silicone device with holes in the middle that you placed on your nipple that the baby can feed through. It helps to protect your nipple if it is very sore and raw. You can also use it to help train your baby to get a better latch if they are having issues. I used it for both and it was a lifesaver.
There are also several tips I have found for increasing milk production and speeding up let down. Before I go into those I would like to recommend taking postnatal multivitamins. As you know, pregnancy really depletes your body of vitamins and minerals so it’s important to make sure you are putting them back into your body with the foods you are eating. It’s difficult to make sure you are getting everything you need through foods though, so taking a multivitamin is very wise. I really love New Chapter’s because they are organic and made from whole foods, plus they’re fermented to make them more bio-available. They also include probiotics and several herbs specifically targeted toward helping improve milk production. I take the recommended 3 tablets spread out throughout the day to optimize absorption. So, I take one in the morning, on in the afternoon, and one in the evening. If you take them all at once you will end up peeing some of the vitamins and minerals out, which would be a waste. Taking them spread out throughout the day prevents this from happening.
One of the best things you can do to increase your milk production is having skin to skin contact. I try to do this every time Asher nurses. It’s not only important because of increasing your production, but it also helps to increase your bonding with your baby. Studies have shown stronger immune systems and increased brain development with babies who have had lots of skin to skin contact. Another simple and easy way to increase milk production is to feed more often! I found that if I increased feeding intervals to every two hours instead of three or four that the milk would start to come in faster than usual. Also, if you continue the feeding after the baby is done or after the pumping is done for five extra minutes it will tell your body that more milk is required so next feeding you will produce more. It is also super important to stay hydrated. You will need to drink more than usual since your body is making breast milk. I found that when I was not hydrated enough I was not creating as much milk as when I would stay on top of getting my liquids in. You can do this in a variety of ways from eating water-rich foods like fruit to drinking teas, etc. Speaking of teas, there are several herbs that are known to increase milk production such as fenugreek, fennel, milk thistle, marshmallow leaf, red raspberry leaf, shatavari, blessed thistle, stinging nettle, alfalfa, goats rue, and hibiscus. You can take these in tinctures, pills, or make your own teas to help increase production. I personally haven’t had the energy to make my own loose tea mixtures so I buy them premade. My favorites are Mother’s Milk, Milk Maid, and Oat Mama Lactation Tea. There are also lots of foods that you can eat and incorporate in your diet to help increase production. Some of my favorites are sprouted oats, oat milk, nuts/seeds, papaya, raw honey, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, cardamom, cumin, and chickpeas.
Once your milk starts coming in and let-down improves, you may start to notice that your nipples leak milk prior to a feeding, during a feeding, etc. Several people told me to get pads to put in my bra for when this happens. That’s definitely helpful for when you’re going out, but when you’re at home there’s no need to waste that precious liquid! I bought Milkies Milk Savers, which is a small container that you place on your boob inside your bra that catches the dripping milk. You’ll be surprised how much this adds up sometimes! I will wear it on one side while Asher is feeding on the other side or sometimes I wear it while I am getting ready to nurse and I am dripping.
One last tip that I have for you is to get a nice breastfeeding pillow to use during your feedings. While you don’t HAVE to have one, it is very helpful and can help to prevent poor posture during feedings. I initially found the Smilo pillow and asked for that in my gift registry, but after using it I found it to be a bit too big and fluffy to use. I felt like Asher was slipping around and could easily fall with its use. So, I’m going to use it for other purposes instead. I researched many more pillows and found the Breast Friend pillow to be the one with the best reviews. I use it now for every feeding and it is super helpful and handy because you buckle it around your waist and it provides a nice platform and support for the baby to lay on while feeding.
I’m also going to give you one bonus tip that I recently discovered while out hanging out at a Starbucks with Asher. I was wearing a breastfeeding shirt, but I am a modest person and it felt quite revealing to me to breastfeed with it alone. I forgot to bring my nursing scarf with me, so I took a swaddle blanket that I packed up in his diaper bag and tied two of the ends together. I put it over my neck and bam, just like that I had an easy and lightweight breastfeeding cover up to give us both privacy.
All of these things have really helped Asher and me to improve our breastfeeding sessions together. Now I am feeling much more confident and he is satisfied, which is the end goal! What tips have you found useful? Do you have any that I haven’t mentioned? I would love to hear your feedback. Feel free to leave recommendations in the comments below.