How to Establish a Healthy Milk Supply
How to Establish a Healthy Milk Supply from the Very Start
One of the best things you can do to establish your nursing relationship with your baby is to breastfeed early. Obviously, there are certain situations where this can’t happen, but if you are able to, breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth. Starting early while your baby is alert is so important (and so is the opportunity to take advantage of professionals that are right by your bedside). One of the best resources I have found on the very first breastfeeding session is Milkology, an online breastfeeding course that teaches you everything you need to know about nursing your newborn. In the lesson about the first month of breastfeeding, it teaches you about the golden hour, what to expect with your first feeding, and tips on how to wake your sleepy baby when they need to nurse (this can be a common issue with newborns in the first few days after birth).
In the beginning, it’s going to feel like your baby is permanently attached to your boob… and that’s because they are. Babies breastfeed for hunger, thirsty, comfort, and just to be close to mom. The best thing you can do to establish a healthy milk supply is to nurse. Don’t be afraid that your newborn is using you as a pacifier or that they’re overeating. The truth is, most babies cluster feed during their first few weeks home from the hospital. It’s natures way of helping you establish a healthy milk supply and helping your baby gain weight.
Skin to Skin
Even when you’re not nursing, skin to skin is great for establishing your milk supply. Plus, why wouldn’t you want to cuddle that baby you’ve been waiting to meet for nine LONG months?
Follow your Baby’s Lead
I did not touch a pump the entire first month of Weston’s life. We were lucky to have a good latch and didn’t need to bottle feed at all. In fact, we didn’t introduce a bottle or a binky during that whole first month to avoid nipple confusion and to make sure that all his sucking needs were being met by me (the more they suck, the more our bodies know we need to make milk). I just followed his lead, did lots of skin to skin, and fed him on demand. I spent those first couple weeks just trying to understand the basics of breastfeeding and getting to know my baby.
Pump for any Missed Feedings
Always pump for any missed feedings. If you spend a day away from your baby, you should be pumping anytime baby would normally be eating. For example, if your baby eats every three hours, you should be pumping every three hours. This is so important for keeping your supply up. Breastfeeding works by supply and demand. The more often you empty your breasts, the quicker you will produce more milk. Kelly Mom has an amazing article about milk production that you can read here. I typically take my electric pump if I know I’m going to need it, but I also have a manual one for those times when plugging in my pump might not be so convenient. My little hand pump has helped me stay on my milk makin’ schedule many, many times.
Get on a Pumping Schedule
If you want to build a freezer stash, or even just have some stored milk for those times that you need to be away from your baby, it’s smart to get on a pumping schedule. How much stored milk you need is up to you, and your pumping schedule should depend on how much milk you’d like to save up. You can read more about my pumping schedule and how I built my freezer stash here. Pumping can also ensure that your breasts are truly empty (or as close as they can get) after nursing sessions. The more you empty your breasts, the more milk they will create.
Breastfeeding is hard. Relaxing is easier said than done, but it is so good for you, for baby, and for your supply. When you’re feeding or pumping, try to just sit back, relax, and think about your little bundle of joy. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your letdown will come and how much that mama milk will keep on flowin’.