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?