Before my son was born, I was adamant about wanting to breastfeed him for at least a year. So imagine my disappointment when I realized that I was a low supply mama. I turned to every mommies’ group on WhatsApp, Facebook, and of course spent a huge amount of time Googling ways to boost my supply. Here are the 15 things I’ve tried.
1.Regular and Frequent Latching
This is one of the first things that medical professionals advise to maintain a good supply. When your breasts are emptied after each feed, your body understands that more milk needs to be produced. Simple demand and supply.
2.Green Papaya Fish Head Soup
There is no scientific evidence to support this traditional dish but is a go-to milk booster for many mothers. The protein and vitamins found in the ingredients used also contribute to a healthy meal.
I was taught by a Lactation Consultant that by gently squeezing your breast during breastfeeding helps to stimulate a second letdown (a release of milk) and allows for a more thorough emptying of the breast.
4.Pump & Latch
Trick your body into thinking you have twins (and thus, need more milk) by latching your baby on one breast and pumping on the other.
When my son stopped latching at 2 weeks old, I relied solely on pumping to ensure a steady (albeit low) supply. I was pumping every 3 hours, then 4 hours when I returned to work.
6.Use the Correct Breast Pump Flange Size
This is important to effectively and thoroughly empty your breasts. With an incorrect flange size, you risk pumping milk at a less than optimal rate. This tells your body that your baby does not need much milk and will thus, produce less.
7.Think of Your Baby
A hormone called Oxytocin is responsible for getting milk already stored in the breast to flow to the baby during feeds. This reflex, called the letdown reflex, is conditioned to a mother such that touching, hearing, or even thinking of her baby would trigger the reflex and encourage milk to flow.
8.Drink More Water
According to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB), the most crucial nutrient to ensure a healthy production of breastmilk is water. Aim to have a daily intake of approximately 1.5-2 litres.
HPB also indicates that mothers can turn to other sources to meet their daily fluid intake. Lactation tea is a good alternative as it contains galactagogues – traditional herbs such as Fennel that boost milk supply.
This is another galactagogue that is deemed safe for mothers to consume on a daily basis. Fenugreek can be found in lactation tea and also as supplements.
Power Pumping is tricking your body into producing more milk through frequent pumping over the span of an hour. Mothers pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10, pump for another 10 minutes, rest for 10, and pump for the final 10 minutes.
The ingredients in these cookies such as Brewers’ Yeast are what helps boost milk supply. You can read more about them here.
When I reached out on social media platforms for ideas to boost supply, my Filipino friends recommended Malunggay or Moringa leaves. These galactagogues are said to have multiple health benefits and is often cooked in dishes for new mothers to boost supply.
14.Maintain Healthy Iron Levels
In studies like this, it was found that low levels of iron are associated with insufficient milk. So remember to include iron-rich foods such as oats and spinach in your diet.
Most importantly, and probably the hardest to do, treat yourself well. According to Lee Yee Hong, a dietician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, a poor diet, insufficient rest, and high stress levels are the most common causes of low supply.
What you may not know is, though tried and tested, the above 15 ways did not work for me. Despite trying everything for 6 months, my supply plateaued and I was only able to provide one feed of 150ml a day with three 20 – 30 minute pumps. So instead of my initial goal of breastfeeding for at least a year, I hung my pump after 6 months.
Together with information on how to boost supply, articles on the Internet offer hope that these ways have been successful with many mothers. And while there is nothing wrong with stating its effectiveness, these articles almost never provide the comfort and reassurance some mothers may need – those who have tried everything but failed.
I wish I were reminded that while I tried my hardest, failing to provide adequate milk is not a reflection of my worth as a mother. I wish I were reminded that contrary to popular belief, sometimes breastfeeding really is that tough. I wish I were reminded that I shouldn’t feel such immense guilt for wanting to pull the plug on breastfeeding because I was tired and stressed out. I wish I were reminded that I was allowed to feel relief when I finally made the difficult decision to hang my pump. And that when I do, I wish I were reminded that it was okay to feel sad watching other mothers breastfeed their baby, wishing I had the ability to do the same.
So mama, if you’ve tried everything in the book but still struggle to produce enough, it’s okay. You’ve been so amazing for trying and for keeping at it despite all the disappointments along the way. If your decision is to continue to provide breastmilk for your child, no matter how little, you do you. If you decide that there is a need to cut short your breastfeeding journey to save your sanity or to better spend that time with your baby instead, you do you. Whatever it is, you’ve done so good so far and will continue to.