When your pregnancy suddenly ends and your left sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a small room looking at your tiny baby through a box you feel extremely helpless. The one thing I could control and do to help my little guy in his fight was provide milk for him. This being my second preemie, I had a little more knowledge on how to get started off. By the end of the first week, I was pumping almost 30 ounces a day! Not only have I been able to fill his freezer at the NICU but have been starting to stock up my freezer at home for when I return to work. These are the things I have done to increase my supply quickly and stay sane in the process.
1. Start pumping as soon as possible. I know you’re a bit shell-shocked after watching your baby be whisked away. It’s hard to process what to do next. From my experience, though you are stuck in that bed for a few hours before your able to go visit your baby so the best thing you can do is request a pump and get started right away. Pumping within the first hour after birth has been shown to bring milk in sooner and lead to a larger supply later on. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get more than a few drops or anything at all! You just had a preemie and your body wasn’t expecting that. Let it know what you need from it and then give it time to kick it into gear. Give the nurses any little drops you do get. Colostrum is liquid gold that I’ve heard referred to as baby’s first immunization!
2. The first few weeks require a commitment of 20 minutes at the pump every 2-3 hours minimum. If you have extra time I recommend pumping a few minutes after your completely empty regardless of how long you’ve been on the pump. That tells your body you need more. It’s not easy. Your tired and stressed and running back and forth between home and the NICU. Maybe you have other kids to care of too. It’s tough but you can do it! And if you decide you just can’t keep it up, be forgiving of yourself. Baby needs a sane mom more then he needs breast milk. Babies thrive on formula every day!
3. The hospital provided me with lanolin as it will take a while for your nipples to toughen up. Toss that stuff in the trash and have your husband run and grab you some coconut oil! Rub a small amount inside the flange before you pump and it will make it feel a ton better and moisturize at the same time!
4. Massage Massage Massage! You might feel a bit funny but massaging before and during will really help empty your breasts. The better you can empty them at each session, the more your body will respond by increasing your supply. I typically let the pump run for the first ten minutes doing its own thing and then massage for the last ten.
5. Make sure you have a double electric or better yet hospital grade pump at home. Your insurance is required to supply you with a pump. Contact your doctor for a prescription and then your insurance to find out how they want you to purchase it.
6. Invest in a hands-free bra. Nothing is worse than spending half your day sitting there holding up bottles while trying to massage and not spill your milk! It has been a life saver! In fact thanks to the simple wishes hands-free bra, I’m pumping as I type this post! It is well worth the money spent.
7. You’ll also want a nursing cover. I pump frequently in the NICU and it’s nice to have a cover as nurses run in and out of the room.
8. Stay hydrated! I find it’s hard to remember to drink and eat with everything going on so I use the big cup they gave me in the hospital and carry it around with me. My goal is to drink at least two of those a day (60oz).
9. Do what you can to get as much sleep as possible. The middle of the night pumps kill me. I’ve been known to sleep through them a time or two. I have two sets of flanges and multiple bottles. I set myself up before bed so I just have to sit upright and grab the equipment off my nightstand. I pump and then take it to the kitchen. Milk and flanges in a plastic bag go in the fridge and I grab my second set to bring back with me for the next pump. After that one it’s not normally more than 3 hours before the husband is getting up for work so I don’t even walk the milk to the kitchen. It can sit out for up to four hours before needing to be refrigerated so I take advantage of it. When his alarm goes off he takes the milk to the fridge for me and brings me back my first set and two bottles. I pump again and then usually fall back asleep until the older kid wakes up. When I’m up for the day everything gets washed and thrown into freezer bags.
10. Download an app. My favorite is Pump Log but eventually costs money to continue using. There are other free ones if you prefer. I love the reminder feature that yells at me every three hours to pump. It’s a nice reminder when I get sidetracked. It also lets me watch how my supply is increasing or decreasing based on the number of pumps I’m getting and for how long. It also has a nice stash it feature so I can keep track of how many ounces I have in the freezer.
11. If your still struggling there are teas you can drink and various supplements you can try. When my supply dipped with my first the thing that helped most was lots of oatmeal!
Hang in there momma! Baby will be home before you know it! With my first I dried up at three months and switched to formula, I had to come to terms that it wasn’t worth all of the trouble I was going through to increase my supply. I’m hoping Baby E takes to nursing in the NICU so the pump will only have to be used at work, but if not that’s OK. I’m doing what I can for now and however, this turns out I know it will all be OK because Baby E will be loved and fed regardless of how.