Thursday, February 23, 2012

Establishing a good milk supply

So you've just had your baby and you want to nurse. As a first time mom I well remember the awkward feeling trying to learn how to nurse a baby. It did not come easily for me when I had my first. My son lost weight for the first three weeks, and only after much prayer and perseverance on my part did we establish a good nursing relationship.

I'm currently nursing our fifth baby and so far everything has gone just beautifully. Here is what I do to get off to a good start:

1. Do NOT set a schedule! It is absolutely critical when trying to establish a good milk supply that you nurse whenever the baby wants to nurse, and avoid any sort of schedule. That pretty much means the first few weeks you sit and hold the baby and nurse. Now is a good time to grab a great book, or find some encouraging blogs to read. Or read aloud to your other children!

2. Avoid pacifiers or bottles. You don't want to confuse the baby with artificial nipples when trying to establish your milk supply. Let your baby nurse for comfort as well as for nourishment, it will really help  build your milk supply. I've introduced pacifiers after a month or two if needed, but by then most of my babies would not take one. Deborah has yet to like one, she acts like I'm choking her when I've tried it!

3. Drink lots of water. Everyone says this but it really is true. You need lots of water to sustain a great milk supply. Keep a water bottle by your chair and drink, drink, drink! I ask my two oldest children to refill my water bottle throughout the day for me as I nurse.

4. Use a good nipple ointment to avoid cracked nipples. Nothing hurts more than nipples that are open and bleeding. I've had that happen before due to thrush and I've never felt more like screaming from pain than during that time. I've always used lanolin but I really dislike how sticky it is. Before having Deborah I purchased Natural Nipple Butter from Earth Mama - Angel Baby brand. It was wonderful! I put it on frequently as it wasn't a bother to use, and I even used it Deborah's hands and feet when they were dry and peeling.

5. Have a nursing pillow close by. While not necessary, a nursing pillow can be very useful during that season where you do little else but nurse. My favorite one is called My Breast Friend (this happens to be the same one Michelle Duggar uses). I've used a boppy before, but I feel this gives a lot more support for both you and the baby.

6. Supplement as needed. If after doing all these things your supply is still low, use some herbs God has given us for the breastfeeding mom. Fenugreek, blessed thistle and alfalfa are the ones commonly used. The Bulk herb store has a tea you can drink called mama's milk tea that has excellent reviews.

7. Pray, pray, pray! Sometimes that is the only thing that gets you through. With our oldest son we had tried lots of different things, but one day it just all came together and he started nursing and gaining weight. I really feel that God blessed us in that. We had done all we could and it still wasn't working. So don't forget to pray for God to guide you and bless you if you are really struggling establishing a milk supply.

Snuggle and hold that wee one close, they grow so fast! Nursing is a wonderful time to sit and gaze at your little one, talk to them, and pray for them. Yes, at times it can be trying as you feel so stuck to your baby all the time. There is no break and you are the only one who can keep the baby satisfied. But it is very worth it as you are giving your baby the nourishment God designed for it!

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At February 23, 2012 at 6:22 AM , Blogger Shana said...

This is great advice. I have always had issues with my milk supply and the herbs you mentioned have helped me tremendously. Thanks for your blog. It is a great source of encouragement :)

At February 23, 2012 at 7:53 AM , Blogger Vintage Girl said...

This is such good advice. I nursed both my sons for 17 months. They are healthy young men now.

At February 23, 2012 at 9:09 AM , Blogger Rachel E. said...

Such a beautiful picture. I think you look wonderful.

At February 23, 2012 at 11:09 AM , Anonymous Melissa Strong said...

Also, if I can add, throw away any "free" samples of formula. Such deception in those "cute" little diaper bags they give away at the hospital. The only thing "free" is their ability to market to poor sleep deprived mommas.

At February 23, 2012 at 11:21 AM , Blogger Caroline @ The Modest Mom said...

Excellent thought! Since I've had home births I've never been given the free diaper bags with the formula.

At February 23, 2012 at 1:29 PM , Blogger Mama Chocolate said...

Great tips! I had major issues nursing my first, and like your son, my daughter just kept losing weight her first three weeks. Very scary. :-(
But we persevered and made it through and she nursed like a champ until she was 14 months, when she decided she was all done. ;-)
(much more interesting things to do at that age) ;-)

My second went much better, and I'm hoping to do even better with our third, (coming in August!) I always have supply issues, and I am going to be trying harder to stick to drinking LOTS of water and using the herbs that I have.

At February 23, 2012 at 1:32 PM , Blogger Meghan Carver said...

Excellent advice -- and I agree with Melissa about throwing out the free samples of formula. I had problems with my first as well, but eventually it all worked out. My fourth was over ten pounds and her suction was so strong that the first six weeks were torture for me. Now I am nursing my sixth (he is nearly thirteen months old) and am so glad I stuck with it through all the babies. It's the way God created it to be!

At February 23, 2012 at 1:34 PM , Blogger Meghan Carver said...

Wonderful points, and I agree with Melissa about throwing away the free samples of formula. During the times of bleeding and toe-curling pain, I was tempted to use it. Now, nursing my sixth (he is nearly thirteen months old), I am so glad I stuck it out through all the babies. This is the way God intended it to be! Thanks!

At February 23, 2012 at 1:54 PM , Blogger Jess said...

I'm still going strong nursing my 7 month old. It was difficult at first (I thought it would come so naturally but of course it didn't) but I remember about a month in we got the hang of it and it's been smooth sailing ever since. The nursing bond is so sweet and special it brings tears to my eyes! It's such a blessing from God to be able to nourish and sooth our babies. Great advice and such a beautiful picture! So precious!

At February 23, 2012 at 3:22 PM , Anonymous sandra @ the sensible mom said...

Excellent tips! I'm currently nursing baby #5 too, and this baby has been the easiest to nurse so far. No significant weight loss, no supplementing, and no excruciating pain like I experienced nursing my other children those first few weeks.

I definitely think that prayer and using lanolin early in the hospital helped to avoid a lot of pain.

Great tips!

At February 23, 2012 at 6:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first had nursing issues and we only made it four months. In the birthing center, they recommended taking her to a cranial sacral therapist for help with the nursing. I thought it was a crazy suggestion. For baby #4 and baby #5 I was once again encouraged to go. I am so glad I did. Within 24 hours it was if I was nursing a different child. I nursed baby #4 for 12 months and baby #5 is just 2 weeks old, but nursing great. So, if your baby is struggling to nurse, it may be worth a try to get outside help. I will also put in a plug for Mama's Milk tea. It helped my milk come in much quicker this time. I also used Eden Salve from the Bulk Herb Store on my sore nipples and rubbed it all over my chest when I was engorged. It took the redness right away.
Kim Crawford

At February 23, 2012 at 9:58 PM , Blogger Natalie L. said...

Thanks for the advice! I was never able to get a decent milk supply for my baby. I don't know if it was because I didn't produce enough milk, or that my daughter didn't stimulate my breasts enough to make enough milk. For the first 5 months of her life she only took one side at a feeding. When she was 6 months old I got pregnant again, and that reduced my milk even more so that I had no choice but to supplement her. (I make her formula using raw goat milk as a base, and it's worked out really well!) It just about killed me to have to start weaning so early, I had been hoping to tandem nurse. She was completely weaned at 9 months old. I'm praying that nursing will go way better this time, but was wondering if you had any advice for being able to keep a steady supply of milk during pregnancy? Just in case God decides to bless us again soon after this baby arrives. ;-)

At February 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM , Blogger Patches of Thyme said...

Great great advice and encouragement. From a former La Leche League , the only thing I would add is to contact your local La Leche League group or leader. you will find such encouragement. They are well trained in many areas of breastfeeding, even if you are having no problems. And yes nursing is natural but sometimes it does not always come easy. Very well worth it though!!! Thanks for such a great post


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