Thursday, June 8, 2017

how i increased and maintain my supply exclusively pumping

So now that you know how it all began, here we are.  I am exclusively pumping, and according to the Glow Baby App, I'm pumping anywhere from 900-1300 ml per day (30-43.3 oz).  In the beginning, I was getting 250-350ml each day.  Keep in mind, your supply naturally increases as baby's demand increases, so that has to account for some of my supply increase.  Like I previously stated, the steps I took were from research across many sites on the internet, and the information I have is also from research.  So here's what I did, and what I learned!

Pump, and pump often.  In the beginning, I was pumping as often as I was feeding the baby, and I was feeding on demand.  He was a little babe at that point, so it was usually every two hours.  If the little babe allowed, I was pumping for twenty minutes as well.  Did I always get to pump every two hours?  No, no I did not.  But when you're trying to increase your supply, pump as often as you can, and if it takes twenty minutes to allow for multiple let downs and completely drain your breast, that's what you have to do.  Now that my supply is large, and I'm trying to pump less often, I've been pumping for at least thirty minutes while massaging my breast.  Sometimes it can take a little longer.  One trick is to pump longer than your actual expression; this sends a signal to the breast that you are not producing enough milk to keep up with demand and helps increase supply.

How did this help my supply?  Well my lactation consult and I found that my babe was an inefficient nurser, so even after nursing for 20-30 minutes, he was only eating about an ounce.  If I had not started pumping, I would have had even more issues with keeping up with his demands.  Pumping helped increase demand.  In the beginning, I was supplementing my breast milk with formula; I haven't had to do that for weeks, and I have a stockpile of over 300 ounces.

Drink lots and lots and lots of water.  In the beginning, my boyfriend would make sure I always had a full bottle of water next to me.  After he went back to work, it became my responsibility, and on the days I slack off on drinking water, my supply suffers.  I've gotten into the habit of drinking at least twelve ounces of water each time I pump.  Now that I'm pumping less but still feeding at least five times a day, I try to drink that much each time I feed him.

Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.  There are also post-partum and breastfeeding vitamins on the market as well.  Take a vitamin!  You are making your baby's food, and that is a high demand on your body.  Make sure you're getting what you both need.  I don't know if this effects your supply, but it's hard to be an efficient milk machine if you're run down.

Drink smoothies!  You can add the smoothie ingredients to other meals, but making smoothies is fast and easy and sometimes you don't have time to do anything other than throw some shit in a blender and turn it on.  Bonus points if you have a separate room away from where the baby is sleeping to run your blender.  I usually only drink one smoothie a day, but if I have more than one, the only ingredients I never double are the fenugreek and lecithin.  Everything else is on a "what's my mood" basis if I have a second smoothie.

I bought everything I needed for my smoothies between Amazon Prime and Prime Now.  Though I do work for Amazon, I don't benefit from sharing the links that way.  I do use Amazon Affiliates, but I mostly use it for the shortened links.

Black + Decker Fusion Blade Personal Blender ($20-$30) - This has two cups and is super easy to clean.  It handles frozen banana chunks and whole frozen strawberries just fine.  I add whole oatmeal as well, and why it's not smooth (because oatmeal), but it's totally drinkable and it is a pretty powerful little machine.

Spectrum Ground Flaxseed, 24 ounces ($7.95) - I use a tablespoon of this per smoothie, if I include it in my smoothie.  There is no reason to not include it in every smoothie I make, but I don't always include it.  Store this in the freezer to keep it fresh as long as possible; omegas are susceptible to damage from temperature fluctuations.

Spectrum Ground Chia Seed, 10 ounces ($7.84) - I don't always use Chia Seed either, but when I do, it's a tablespoon as well.  I store this in my freezer as well to keep it as fresh as possible.

Starwest Botanicals Organic Fenugreek Seed Powder, 1 Pound ($12.76) - this stuff is the magic.  Fenugreek is well known for it's ability to increase your milk supply.  It is one of the main ingredients of all of the "mother's milk tea"s on the market.  I can see an increase in supply within hours.  I only use 1/8 of a teaspoon per smoothie, or 1/4 of teaspoon, but only every other day.  I have to be careful with fenugreek or I will have issues with engorgement.  I've also read that it can give the baby diarrhea, so I am careful to not overuse it.  My bub has enough tummy issues.

Lecithin Granules NON-GMO Now Foods 1 lbs Granule ($13.87) - this does not increase supply, but it is vital to your supply.  Lecithin is a fat emulsifier, so it helps prevent clogged ducts.  I was having issues with recurrent clogged ducts in my right breast, so I started including this.  I haven't had clogged ducts since.  My supply suffered from the clogged ducts, and my right breast is my slacker now (usually only producing about 65% of what my left breast produces).  This is a non-gmo soy lecithin, but you can also get sunflower sourced lecithin if you have a soy allergy.  I use one serving in my smoothie, which is listed as 1.5 tablespoons.

I will get some photos and expand on this a little more later, but I wanted to get this information up immediately for those of you who have messaged me.  Consider this a work in progress!  When I update it again, it will include information about why I use these items specifically, and also resources for information.

In the beginning... [my breastfeeding to exclusively pumping journey]

I have received two DMs in the past hour on Instagram asking how I boosted my milk supply; so here I am.  First let me start by saying I am not a lactation consultant, or any sort of healthcare professional; and a good lactation consultant is a priceless tool in your breastfeeding journey.  Always start with trying to find one; they can help address latch issues and also make sure your baby is efficiently nursing.

Also, everything I know about breastfeeding and milk supply I have learned by doing research during my own struggles with feeding my little nugget.  No formal training, no degrees or higher education; please do not take my word as gospel.  What I can share is my own personal anecdote, and hopefully it can help you find a direction in your own journey.

In the beginning...

I was able to express colostrum starting in my second trimester.  It was never a ton, but it was there and I could express it any time I tried (though I didn't do it often once I read that nipple stimulation can cause preterm labor).  I share this information because this could mean that I was going to have a great supply from the beginning.

My son was born at exactly 37 weeks via emergency c-section.  He was a healthy 7 lbs 1 oz, though we found that the better part of at least a pound of that was actually fluid from my long 36 hour labor.  He was down to 6 pounds 4 ounces when we had our first post partum visit five days after delivery; that is an 11% body weight loss.

My experience with the lactation consultants at the hospital was not a positive one.  I was having my own struggles due to a long, taxing labor, a drug reaction, and having a team of consultants confusing me with conflicting information.  I started breastfeeding in recovery right after my c-section, and continued to breastfeed my entire stay (I had him on a Sunday at noon, I left the hospital by Tuesday afternoon).  By the time we were released, the one consultant who did not frustrate the absolute hell out of me requested I supplement, and I obliged out of desperation to just do something right for him.

When I had my followup appointment to have my staples removed and check on the bub, the consultant made me feel like I had been starving my baby to death, that we were moments from a NICU stay, and that I was a horrible person and mother.  I literally wanted to have a meltdown at that point and stop breastfeeding because I thought I was killing him.  He had jaundice, and we had to start getting his bilirubin levels checked almost every other day.  Fortunately, my pediatrician was in charge of this, and preferred that we "feed him and get him in the sun" versus a hospital stay.  His bilirubin levels were elevated, but they were also stable, and the doctor was confident that I was able to fix this.

The IBCLC at my pediatrician was extremely frustrated with how my previous experiences had gone, how it had all been handled, saying in an almost angry voice, "Why is there no record of how much he weighed when he was discharged?  Them telling me how much he weighed at birth does me no good!  He's going to lose weight, of course!"  Both she and my pediatrician reassured me that I was doing a great job, that my baby was fine, and we just needed to formulate a plan to get some weight on him.  I felt much more confident, and was able to get weight on him very quickly with their help.

My milk came in when I was already home, somewhere between seven and ten days after delivery.  I did not pump at that time because of the conflicting information I was finding about how to handle engorgement when your milk comes in.  If I could do this over, I would have started pumping on day one, or even before my milk came in.  I was nursing, and I was terrified that if I pumped, I would take away from the little supply my babe was getting, so I was afraid of interfering.  By the end of the first week of him nursing nonstop, destroying my nipples, and him still not gaining any weight, a hard decision was made.  As I sobbed into his little head during a painful latch onto my deeply cracked nipple, I knew I couldn't do this anymore.  I had a meltdown to my best friend about what was happening, and she reassured me that whatever I decided to do, I was not a bad mother.  We discussed my options, and she helped me pull my shit together enough to make a logical, thought out decision on how to proceed on our journey.  I decided at that time I would start pumping exclusively to give my nipple time to heal, and then I would attempt to nurse again at a future date.  If she and I had not have had that conversation, I would not still be breastfeeding.  I would have given up in my mental state.  I text my IBCLC the next day to tell her my plan, and she supported my choice.  Also, yes; I can text my IBCLC any time I need to - she spoils us.

Due to both the damage to my right nipple, and the fact that I sleep on that side, I have had re-occuring plugged ducts that have decreased my supply in my right breast significantly.  Though I have been able to consistently increase my supply overall, my right breast is my "slacker", and my left is my "boss boob".  Have fun with breastfeeding ladies; the less it feels like a chore (and it can certainly feel that way), the easier it will be.

So now that we know how it began.. let's talk about how I've increased my supply.  Since this has gotten much longer than I intended, let's make it a separate post.. shall we?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Mommy Must Haves - Breastfeeding

I breastfed the first few weeks of my son's life.  I wanted to continue to breastfeed into his toddler age, but unfortunately, my late preterm baby had latching issues, and as I sobbed into his head because I couldn't take the pain anymore, I decided it was necessary to switch to exclusively pumping.  Yes, we saw lactation consultants.  Yes, we tried a lot of troubleshooting.  Yes, I still occasionally try to get him to latch and see how it goes.  Sadly, I don't think breastfeeding is for my baby if I want him to thrive at this time.

Is breastfeeding hard?  Sometimes.  Some women (and their babies) have zero issues with breastfeeding.  For the rest of us, it will be hard, and I want to acknowledge that because before I had my baby, everyone made breastfeeding seem like it was easy; that they had chose breastfeeding because it was the easiest option.  For some, it is.  I did not have that luxury; breastfeeding was a nonstop battle.  But even losing that battle, I chose to pump because I do feel that breast milk is best.  If you can't produce milk, by all means use formula.  But it is my choice (which is based on my opinion, which is formed via research) that if breast milk is an option, then it's the only option.

Despite the battles that can come with breastfeeding, there are many items that I think make breastfeeding easier.  Do you need these items to breast feed?  No.  You need a baby and your milk to breast feed.  Everything else is extra.

Photos coming soon.

1.  My Brest Friend Pillow ($20-$60; varies by cover and type)

I am such a fan of this product that I included it in my Newborn Must Haves list.  The Brest Friend pillow is secured to the body at the waist with an adjustable strap.  You can get the width exact with velcro, but attach it silently with a clip.  There are several options to suit any specific needs of the mother or baby; waterproof covers, organic covers, an inflatable version for travel, and a double version specifically for moms who are nursing twins.  This pillow was invented by a man who wanted to create a solution for his breastfeeding friends.  He gathered their complaints about the nursing pillows that were available at the time, and addressed those issues.  Everything that was wrong with other pillows I tried was definitely missing from this option, and I'm so glad I bought this pillow, even if I gave up on nursing shortly after.  I still let my baby nurse from time to time, but his latch just isn't good enough to effectively nurse.  When we do nurse, we have this pillow, and I will be happy to pass it on to a friend when we don't need it anymore.

2.  Medela Pump In Style Advanced ($139 for the starter kit; $299.99-$359.99)

If you are breastfeeding, you need some sort of pump.  Even if you don't need to pump in a workplace, there will still be times that you will need a pump.  You can use a pump to help increase your supply, to help remedy plugged ducts, to help with nipple and latching issues, to pump off any extra milk to store, and even create a small stash for emergency reasons or so that your partner can help with bottle feeding so that you can get some much deserved sleep!  That said, if you won't need to pump often, there are certainly cheaper options on the market, both from Medela, as well as several other brands.  From my research during pregnancy, I decided the Medela PISA was the pump I wanted.  I also purchased a secondary "backup" pump.  I have an unopened Ameda Purely Yours Carryall that I found on clearance.  As an exclusive pumper, I get a lot of peace of mind having a backup pump, but most moms won't find it necessary, especially if they are exclusively breastfeeding.

OR

2.  Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump ($20 NZD - $36 NSD; about $14 - $26)

This option is becoming more and more popular among breastfeeding moms.  You can use this to express milk like any other manual pump would, but it's most popular application is to actually latch it on with light suction while breast feeding from the other breast.  The pump then catches any milk that would usually be lost during let down.  This can make or break a new breastfeeding mom's spirit if she's struggling to produce milk, but feels like she's wasting so much each time she feeds.  It's also an affordable option in comparison to the more expensive electric pumps, and a much easier investment for moms who aren't planning to pump much.

3.  Boob-Ease Organic Nipple Balm ($12.99)

During our struggles with breastfeeding, a giant cavern of a crack formed on my nipple.  Each time my son latched on, I had to grip the side of the pillow and bite down to keep from crying out and scaring him.  I am moderately tattooed and handle pain well, but this was unlike anything I had experienced.  This crack in my nipple was eventually the reason I accepted that my son just can't latch and it was time to find a solution other than suffering through it.  Both nipples were wrecked, but I was legitimately concerned that my right nipple needed stitches.  I started using Boob Ease under the recommendation of a friend because the nipple cream I was using was coconut based and stayed hard in my 74 degree apartment, making it extremely difficult to work with; something I had no patience for.  The Boob Ease made a difference right away, and helped heal my nipple.  I would also slather it on before pumping as a lubricant to prevent as much rubbing on my poor nipples as possible.  The company that makes Boob Ease does also make a pumping lubricant, but this worked just fine for me.

4.  Lansinoh Thera Pearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy ($13.99)

I put these on my registry early on because they seemed like a good idea.  My childhood friend Lacey got them for me because she is brilliant and also a nurse.  She could see the logic and practicality behind them, and I'm so happy that she did.  I used them cold once during my engorgement period when my milk came in, but I also have used them hot several times to help unplug ducts while pumping.  The fact that they're designed to be worn both on the breast directly, and also over a flange, makes them a must have for breast feeding (and pumping, for that matter).

5.  Wee Essentials Nursing Pads ($3.50 - $3.75)

I was already using Wee Essentials reusable menstrual pads before I got pregnant.  Then when my best (and breast) friend got pregnant with her little one, I ordered her a mommy set of nursing pads, reusable menstrual pads, and a babymoon shell for the heavy bleeding phase after delivery.  When I found out we were expecting our own baby, I immediately put in an order for my own set of nursing pads and babymoon shell.  She makes them in a variety of sizes and prints (which vary by material).  You can buy ready to ship, pre-made ones in her shop, or you can place a custom order.  I have done both.  The owner of the shop is an amazing human being who is a mother herself.  She has always answered all of my endless questions with patience and grace, and I am so thankful to her for that because I'm sure some of my questions were a little dumb.  I truly can't recommend her enough.

6.  Nursing Bra

There is no one nursing bra that I personally recommend.  I do recommend finding something wire free, as the wires can contribute to plugged ducts and breast soreness, which can lead to mastitis.  When shopping for a nursing bra, you want something that is big enough, offers enough coverage, and doesn't compress the breast in any way.  Anything that "cuts" into the breast can also lead to clogged ducts.  I personally prefer the soft "sleeping" style bras.  I got my first one for a few dollars on clearance at Target.  I also ordered some off of Amazon.  The nice thing about this style of bra is that the lack of cup means you don't have to get the size exactly perfect, which is great because your breasts will constantly change with breastfeeding.

7.  Glow Baby App (free version; premium version available)

Following my c-section and long labor, I was a mess for about a week.  I couldn't keep track of the days or hours, and when I did fall asleep, I was extremely disoriented when I woke up.  None of this works well with trying to keep track of a tiny human, when they're eating, and their bodily functions.  They had me tracking on paper at the hospital, and I think the nurses filled out that paper more than I did.  Fortunately I started using the Glow Baby App, and it became a lot easier to keep track of things because I always had my phone with me.  Once I was home, the app is what made it possible for my lactation consultant and I to pinpoint that my baby just wasn't effectively nursing, and that's why he wasn't thriving.  Now that I'm pumping, the app is absolutely necessary to me to track why I pump as well, and keep track of what he's eating versus what I'm producing.  Also, now that my son is teething (at six weeks!), it also helps me keep track of his medicine doses.  In my permanent state of sleep deprivation, it has become an absolute must have.

8.  Nursing Cover

You may not need a nursing cover.  If you are comfortable whipping it out to feed the baby around others, I fully support that decision.  For those who are less comfortable, nursing covers are a great option (while baby is still small enough to not pull them off anyway).  I can't recommend a particular brand because mine was handmade by my childhood best friend.  I recommend getting something that doubles as a carseat cover if you have a pumpkin seat.


9.  Traditional Medicinals Mother's Milk Tea (price varies by source and region)


If you have any concerns about your milk supply, this tea is an easy way to increase your output.  It has fenugreek in it, which is a known herb for increasing your milk supply.  It is tasty with a spot of milk and some sweetener, but I have also drank it plain.  Be warned, if you're supplementing with fenugreek, you will probably develop a maple syrup body odor.  I noticed it in my sweat and my milk.

10.  Lularoe Irma ($35)

The Lularoe Irma, which is a specific kind of high low tunic, is fantastic for breast feeding.  I would throw it behind my head without pulling my arms out of the sleeves.  If I needed to cover up, it was easy to toss the front of the shirt back over my head and over the baby.  I wear an XS Irma, and it was still plenty stretchy to use for this reason.  The Irma is available in a large range of prints and sizes, and I tend to get mine second hand so I can get them at a good price.

11.  Water

This one seems fairly obvious, but it's so important you drink enough water.  Dehydration will decrease your output immediately.  There are a lot of cute water bottles on Etsy to help motivate mommas, but the best thing I've found to do is drink a glassful (ie: 1-3 cups) of water during the 20-30 minutes I'm pumping.  More is of course better, but one big glass is non-negotiable.

12.  Belvita Breakfast Crackers (price varies by source and region)

Most of the time, I am lucky to have one hand free, and even less likely to have both hands.  I have found that Belvita Breakfast Crackers are my jam.  They have oats in them, which have also been tied to increasing your output, but are much more convenient than making a bowl of oatmeal, or even whipping up a smoothie.  There are a ton of different options, and between my boyfriend and I, we tend to get a box of each kind.

13.  Rachel Rene's Vegan Deodorant Sticks ($5.50 - $16.50)

I switched to aluminum free deodorants long before I was expecting, but I feel like it's especially important while breastfeeding.  Now that my milk is in, I can tell how far over my alveolar cells are in my armpit.  I can't imagine putting a deodorant on that had aluminum in it; I would be extra paranoid.  This deodorant is also vegan, paraben-free, alcohol-free, and free of bactericides.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mommy Must Haves - Newborn

I've had a newborn for a little over a month now, and I want to share with you what I consider a must have.  I plan on creating a separate list for breastfeeding must haves, and exclusive pumping must haves, because I have some opinions about those as well.

As always, every baby, and every mommy, is different.  My words are not gospel.  But if you're filling your registry and you're not really sure what to put on it, these are things I think will enhance those first weeks with your baby.  This list is not all-inclusive, and it does not go in any particular order.