My breastfeeding journey with Lia in 2013 wasn’t as successful as I hoped. I remember crying so many times out of frustration because she simply refused to latch. It took me months to accept that I’d have to go via the pump-and-bottle route instead of direct breastfeeding.
So before I had Sam, I already made up my mind not to stress out if I couldn’t breastfeed him directly. Thankfully, the first moment we had skin-to-skin contact, he immediately wanted to breastfeed. His desire to breastfeed never waned, and we’ve been breastfeeding directly for nearly four months now. Praise God! Anyway, here are some tips on breastfeeding I’ve learned along the way.
TIPS TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY
1. Use a silicone pump while breastfeeding. The pump catches the letdown and works through suction. I use the Haakaa brand which I bought online at Qoo10 from the authorised reseller for SGD29.90.
I found out about the Haakaa when I told some mommy friends that I can’t figure how to build my breastmilk stash. The problem is that I let Sam latch whenever he wants – and he wants it a lot – and this leaves me too exhausted to pump.
With the Haakaa, all I need to do is to put this on my other breast while I feed Sam, and I can collect about 250 ml (around 8.5 oz) of breastmilk the whole day – good for 2 feeds. I now have more than 40 bags of breast milk in our freezer and we are running out of space!
The great thing is that it tricks your body into thinking that you’re feeding twins, so your body produces more milk. The more I use this, the more I see an increase in my milk supply. Seriously, this is the most AMAZING thing ever. I wish I knew about this four years ago, it could have really changed a lot of things for me.
2. Drink a lot of water. 90% of breastmilk is water, so it makes sense to drink more than usual. Breastfeeding is thirsty business, and I make sure I drink at least 2 litres every day. The glass I use at home is 180 ml, so I drink 3 glasses of water during breakfast, 3 during lunch, 3 during dinner, and 2 or 3 more before I go to sleep.
3. Incorporate galactagogues in your diet. Galactagogues are substances that are proven to increase lactation. For some reason, Filipinos only seem to know about moringa (or malunggay) but there are so many others out there. Here are those I take:
- fenugreek – 2 capsules three times a day (as prescribed by my gynaecologist)
- Mother’s Milk tea – I drink one or two mugs every morning. It contains fennel, fenugreek, anise and blessed thistle (among other herbs) – all of which are known to increase milk supply. I’ve always been a tea drinker so it was easy switching from my usual Twinings or TWG or Dilmah or Lipton to this. I buy it online from iHerb for SGD6.23 (SGD6.56 less 5% discount if you buy 4) since it costs about SGD9 elsewhere.
- Moringa (or malunggay) – added to corn soup, ginisang mongo (sautéed green beans) or ginisang sardinas (sautéed sardines).
- Oatmeal, flaxseed, brewer’s yeast. These three are the main ingredients for lactation cookies and other treats. I make no-bake treats from a recipe by Baker Mama, which is my favourite among several recipes I tried. I wouldn’t recommend eating too much of these though (hello, calories) – but I do eat at least two everyday especially when I’m craving for something sweet.
More often, I take my oatmeal, flaxseed and brewer’s yeast with Milo or a smoothie. For Milo, I mix 4 teaspoons of instant or quick-cook oatmeal, 1 teaspoon of flaxseed meal, 1/4 teaspoon of brewer’s yeast, 3 teaspoons of Milo, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and a splash of fresh milk. I bought my flaxseed meal and brewer’s yeast at iHerb too, although you can also buy flaxseed meal at FairPrice.
For the smoothie, I mix 3 teaspoons of rolled oats, 1 teaspoon of flaxseed meal, 1/4 teaspoon of brewer’s yeast, 1 teaspoon of wheatgerm (only because I have it on hand, plus it’s a good source of folic acid), 1/4 cup of fresh milk, 1/2 cup water, a dollop of non-fat yoghurt and 1 banana. The result is a thick, creamy smoothie, and is the perfect drink after working out or for a quick breakfast.
4. Take Domperidone. This medicine increases breast milk production by the release of prolactin. My gynaecologist gave me a month’s supply after I gave birth (1 tablet three times a day). When it ran out, she gave me a prescription for an additional 6 months supply. The cheapest place to get it is in Unity, where I can get a month’s supply (90 tablets) for about SGD14.
Do note that Domperidone requires a prescription, it has side effects, and it may not work for everyone. Thankfully, it works for me.
5. Get enough sleep. This is very challenging for moms, but I do notice a dip in my milk supply when I don’t get enough sleep.
TIPS TO MAKE BREASTFEEDING EASIER
1. Breastfeed lying down. It’s the easiest, most comfortable position. While we were at the hospital, they guided us to use the football or cradle position, but when we got home, I found that lying down was best for us.
2. Use a nursing cover that covers your entire torso. The first one I bought was a bib style – ie it only covers your front and sides. It was always a struggle to make sure I don’t accidentally flash people. A mommy friend suggested that I use a poncho style instead, and I’ve been using this ever since.
3. Wash your pump just once per day – and put it in the fridge inside a plastic bag when not in use. This saves a lot of time, since washing and sterilising can be a pain. You can keep breastmilk in the fridge for 24 hours, so the milk drops left in your pump at the end of a session will keep.
4. Find friends who are currently breastfeeding so you have a support system and can share tips with each other. With Lia, I depended more on the knowledge and experience of friends and family who have been mothers for years. The problem is that usually they won’t remember what worked for them anymore because it was so long ago.
I learned about the Haakaa pump and mixing oatmeal with Milo from a high school classmate who has a 6-month-old. We were not particularly close in high school, but have reconnected with another classmate now that we are all moms with babies ranging from 3 to 6 months old. Aside from them, I’m grateful to have the support of other mom friends who are breastfeeding advocates as well, because it is so easy to give up and just give formula.
5. Read and research. During the first few weeks of Sam’s life, I felt frustrated because he would sometimes take hours to feed so I thought maybe he wasn’t getting enough milk from me. What really helped is finding out about cluster feeding, where babies bunch feeds close together. Another huge help was learning that babies breastfeed for two reasons – nutrition and comfort. Knowing that he may want to nurse not because he’s hungry but because he wants to be close to me makes everything so worthwhile.
What I do is I wash the pump before I go to sleep, sterilise it, and let it dry. In the morning, it’s ready to use, and afterwards I just put it in the fridge after each session.
Anyway, those are the tips that worked for me. As a final note – the photo of me and Sam in this post was taken by Lia (my four-year-old) after I breastfed Sam. She even chose the filter to use. After taking this photo, she asked me, “Mommy, when I’m a mommy will I also breastfeed my baby?” I said, “Yes, I hope so, because it’s the best feeling in the world.”