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Increasing breast milk supply - IS IT POSSIBLE?


From my personal experience, the short answer is….. YES! It ABSOLUTELY is possible :) To put it into context, let me tell you about my breastfeeding journey. Just to warn you – it is a long read, but please bare with me! I want to give you as much information as possible in ONE PLACE rather than you having to root around like I did.

 

OKAY… LET’S GET INTO IT!

 

My supply in the beginning

So when my little bundle of joy was born, he was exactly that – LITTLE! Even clothing size 'tiny baby' was too big for him. At just shy of 2.5KG, he didn’t have a lot of sucking power so breastfeeding was a struggle. As this was my first baby, breastfeeding was already new to me so I decided to stay in hospital for an extra day to make sure I was comfortable my baby was being fed.


As the hours went by, I did exactly what the midwives advised, but I still had a feeling that he wasn’t getting enough, so I gave him formula (most hospitals have ready made bottles). The next day I spoke with the midwives about what my options were and eventually decided I was happy to combi-feed my bubba so I was discharged, happy to finally be going home.



By the time my first routine home visit came around, I knew I was already a few days behind on getting my supply in. I just kept thinking, “is it too late to increase my breast milk supply?” or “how can I increase my breast milk supply fast?”. The midwife suggested I get a manual pump straight away and start pumping every 2 - 3 hours. I went onto Amazon that same night and ordered one which came the next day (the joys of Amazon Prime!). I was really excited to get going on my breastfeeding journey, but unfortunately that excitement quickly fizzled out. It just DIDN’T WORK for me. The fitting was off to the point where it was really uncomfortable and the suction was so strong that I was actually left with burn marks! (they have since faded).

 

I was SO DISAPPOINTED that by the end of the day I decided that this just wasn’t going to be for me :( When I discussed it with my husband, he was very supportive and said I was free to decide which way to go and he would be happy to go along with whatever I decided was best for me and our baby. Ultimately we both decided it was best to move to formula only so that’s what we did…. UNTIL a few days later when another midwife came for a home visit.

 

Now this lady is probably the reason I’m writing this blog today – just an hour or so of her time and she gave me the confidence I needed to just START. So, who was she?...



newborn baby boy formula fed, holding own bottle

My personal NHS hero was a lovely lady from New Zealand with 3 adult children herself – eagerly awaiting some grandchildren :) As soon as she walked in she gave me a sense of warmth and instantly reminded me of my nan.


When she asked how I was feeding my baby and how it was going I replied “yes it’s fine, I’ve decided to go with formula only” but she could sense there was more to it. She then went on to ask me about my breastfeeding journey. I explained what had been going on in the last few days and she listened whilst keeping a smile on her face. I thought she was just being polite but actually it turned out to be excitement because as soon as I was finished, she said – “If you want to breastfeed, you breastfeed! It absolutely is possible even if you didn’t start in the first few days”. I was a little shocked to be honest and thought she was just saying it for the sake of it, but she went on to say whenever I get a chance, I should just put my baby on each breast for stimulation as every little will help, even if NOTHING is being produced right now.

 

We spoke a bit more and she told me about a few success stories of how other women in a similar situation to me had managed to increase their supply and by the time the appointment was over, I felt CONFIDENT that I was going to give it a try.

 

In my heart of hearts, I really wanted to give breastfeeding a go – it’s something I always thought I would do and honestly I felt like I was FAILING in some way for not being able to do so. I don’t have a problem with formula feeding but this was a PERSONAL GOAL, and I was DETERMINED to get my supply up.

 

So, the weekend came by and I delved straight into Google to find out EVERYTHING I possibly could on how to increase my milk supply. As you can imagine I was overwhelmed with the information out there on what foods to eat, compressions and massaging, offering both breasts, and the list goes on and on.

 

Perhaps the most important thing I learnt was that there are LOTS of mothers in the same position as me. Though we all have our own reasons for wanting to increase our supply, I found some comfort knowing that I wasn’t alone in facing what seemed like a mammoth task.

 

Very early on I came across the concept of POWER PUMPING. The idea behind this is that it encourages stimulation by pumping more often for shorter periods of time, resulting in your body producing more milk (YAY!). Essentially it is mimicking cluster feeding and one regular pumping session in your day should be replaced with a power pump.

 

The more I read about it, the more excited I became. FINALLY, I had found something more concrete than mixed reviews of ‘Mother’s Milk’ tea and I could finally begin my breastfeeding journey. BUT, despite reading countless articles and searching through numerous forums, I did wonder “DOES POWER PUMPING WORK?” Well, there was only one way to find out!

 

Did power pumping boost my breast milk supply?

Let me start off by saying, this was a total GAME CHANGER! I found best results from doing a power pump session twice a day which let me tell you was no easy feat. Especially in the beginning.  


When you have been pumping for 30 minutes and at the end you’re left with only a few drops to show for it, TRUST ME when I say the phrase THE STRUGGLE IS REAL has NEVER rung truer before! BUT PLEASE KEEP GOING! It does work!

 

Overall my increase was slower compared to the women I had read about, but bare in mind I went from literally 0ml of milk being produced to meeting what my baby needed (in about 2.5 months) whereas most women who power pump are already producing a healthy amount.

 

I would say it took about 1 week for me to see a real change. Now I’m in no way saying within a week I was able to produce a massive amount per session, but I was making something =D When you see those drops FINALLY come through – it really does feel like LIQUID GOLD!

 

The schedule I followed was: pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes and finally pump for 10 more minutes.


power pumping schedule

Most women tend to do a power pump session once a day, typically at night, when your baby is asleep. This ensures minimal distraction and allows you to focus on milk production. For me, I felt WEEKS behind so I really wanted to JUMPSTART in any way I could! With that in mind I started power pumping twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. I was lucky that I had support from my husband and family so this was achievable for me but please do what is best for YOU. If you can only manage one session, then just stick to that – you will still see results!


Did you know listening to relaxing music can increase your supply by up to 63%?

A number of studies have shown what a positive impact relaxing music has on your stress levels through increased serum oxytocin levels resulting in a significant increase in milk production. This was especially true for mothers of premature babies (preemies) who spent time in NICU.


With that in mind, I would highly recommend listening to some calming / relaxing music and really try and disconnect from everything else for this hour so you can just relax and make the most out of your session. Have pictures of your little one to hand as they say this can encourage a let down.


Power pumping and my regular pumping schedule

For anyone who has decided to commit to pumping, HATS OFF to you! Having been through this myself, I can and do, truly appreciate the effort we go through. I remember the nights when bubba would wake up every 2 hours and I would get up to feed him, change his nappy and put him back to sleep knowing I had to wake up an hour later to pump (for 20 – 30 mins) and then REPEAT in about another hour. Trust me, I KNOW it’s TOUGH.

 

In the beginning I would pump every 2 hours for about 20 – 30 minutes – EVEN if NO milk was being produced. The key thing to focus on here is INCREASE STIMULATION to get our body producing more milk. I would also recommend offering each breast to your little one at each feed (for about 5 mins each side) – again to promote stimulation.

 

I would normally switch my mid-morning and early evening pumping session for a power pump as this is what worked for me.  Once my supply started increasing and I was regularly producing a consistent amount, I spaced out my pumping sessions to every 3 – 4 hours and dropped one power pump session. Again, do what is best for you.

 

When you decide to start and stop power pumping is completely up to you. How long you power pump for will differ woman to woman and there is no “right” answer or magic number of days. Just be consistent and stick with it.

 

For example, if you want to increase your milk supply to build a freezer stash, you can stop once you’ve reached your goal. If later on you decide you want to increase more, you can always restart.


If you are experiencing any pain / discomfort or any other side effect, you should stop immediately and seek medical advice from a professional. YOU know your body best so if something doesn’t feel right, just STOP.

 

*Please note that to truly see an increase in supply, it can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks as every woman is different, so please don’t feel disheartened (like I did) if it takes a while*

 

Manual pump vs. electric pump

The all important question. After all, we are talking about a daily hour long commitment. Well, I have tried both and from experience I can say, HANDS DOWN, the winner every time is the electric pump! I personally used the Mom Cozy S12 Pro as it is hands free and relatively quiet. The biggest benefit is that when there are other errands to run or perhaps you have other children to look after you don’t have to forgo a power pump session! AMAZING RIGHT??!!



mom cozy electric pump to use for power pumping to increase breast milk supply


I actually attended a photography workshop which lasted the whole day (we’re talking 8 – 9 hours) and I still got my power pump session in – determination levels were at PEAK!


You should sterilise all parts of the pump once a day (except for the pump motor).


IMPORTANT: Please make sure when you receive your pump you take the time to check the fitting is correct. Most brands offer a flange insert / breast shield if the standard size doesn’t fit. The Mom Cozy pump comes with a nipple measure tool along with a handy table to recommend which flange size will work best.


Check out this useful sizing guide from Lola & Lykke:

 

electric breast pump size checker

mama mio nipple cream to soothe and relieve sore or damaged nipples from pumping

I would also recommend buying a nipple cream. I personally used the mama mio nipple cream which is widely available and had no issues with it.


You can also rub some breast milk on any irritable area as it has great anti-bacterial qualities.

 

 

Pumped Breast Milk storage

For milk storage, I used the Lansinoh storage bags and had no issues with them. Breast milk can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. To defrost, it is best to refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

 


breast milk storage bags to store pumped breast milk

Got excess supply? Did you know your breast milk can be used for your baby’s bath and is actually really good for their skin? Next time, instead of freezing your milk in the storage bags, fill up an ice cube tray. When you're preparing your baby's bath just add 3 – 4 frozen cubes and your baby can indulge in a milk bath!  


happy smiling baby in milk bath to show benefits of breast milk on newborn baby skin

 

Other useful resources

Two resources I found particularly helpful were the local family centre and the ChatHealth service.


logo for Hertfordshire Family Centre for breastfeeding mums

The family centre services provide advice and support to families as well as support for breastfeeding, health visiting and they offer a range of classes (e.g. how to start the weaning process, introduction to solid foods, baby massage and a lot more).


For mummies based in Hertfordshire, I’ve included the link below:

 



logo for chat health which is a private messaging service for parents of children under 5 years old

ChatHealth is a confidential message advice service for parents with children up to the age of 5 years old. You don’t have to give any identifiable information about yourself, you simply text the number with what your concern / question is and you will get a confirmation reply that your message has been received. You will then receive another text from a health care professional answering your query and should you need it, further advice or an appointment will be offered.

 

The number for ChatHealth should be on a sticker on your child’s red book and is area specific.


In closing...

So that’s it from me. If you managed to read it all and are anything like I was, DESPERATE for a solution, my aim is to give you HOPE. I think above else that is what I was holding out for. Hope that there was a chance for me, like there is for you!

 

If you have any questions or if this has helped you in any way, please let me know in the comments! Equally, if you’ve decided to give power pumping a go or if you have done it in the past, let me know how it’s going and if it worked for you =)


Mama's I also have a free power pumping FAQ which you can download below! BONUS CONTENT INCLUDED - SAMPLE PUMPING SCHEDULES BY AGE!


HAPPY PUMPING =D


POWER PUMPING FAQs
.pdf
Download PDF • 123KB


PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL THE INFORMATION MENTIONED ABOVE IS BASED ON MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND IS IN NO WAY MEANT AS FORMAL MEDICAL ADVICE. BEFORE COMMITTING TO POWER PUMPING I WOULD HIGHLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO UNDERTAKE YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND SEEK HELP FROM YOUR DOCTOR OR A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL IF YOU’RE UNSURE WHAT IT COULD MEAN FOR YOUR BREASTFEEDING JOURNEY.

4 Comments


anjala.anand.1
Mar 20

This blog is extremely useful for all new mothers as it contains valuable information about breast feeding which many new mothers will find daunting. It gives so much insight from a personal experience that many new mothers can relate to. The fact that all the information is available in one place rather than having to search for hours is absolutely amazing.


Well done! 🤗😘

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Shivani
Shivani
Mar 20
Replying to

Thank you very much! Yes breast feeding especially as a first time mother can be very hard so I hope this blog helps someone!! 💕

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Guest
Mar 20

This is such a wonderful informative blog with so much interesting and useful information for all new Mums who will definitely find it worthwhile experiencing motherhood. Well done! 😍

Like
Shivani
Shivani
Mar 20
Replying to

Thank you so much 💖

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Shivani from Photography by Shivani. Please feel free to check out my blog where I have a range of articles related to maternity / pregnancy :) 

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