Oversupply, Undersupply, the fine balance of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding and pumping have probably been some of the most challenging aspects of being a FTM (first time mom). I was lucky that Bailey latched on right away and to this date seems to know exactly what he is doing, I, on the other hand, not so much.

In the first few weeks, nursing was actually pretty uncomfortable for me. Not every time, but often enough that at least once every other day, usually in the wee hours of the morning, my inner voice would whimper “I don’t wanna do this.” But I stuck with it and learned some tricks along the way that may or may not work for you. Here are the highlights or lows depending on how you look at things…

Ouchie boobies!

If you feel like you have blocked duct or like you’re on the edge of mastistis, I highly recommend a hot Epsom salt soak for your breast. The easiest (though perhaps not most dignified) way is to fill a tall mixing bowl with hot water and Epsom salts and then lean over your bathroom counter and dunk your lady in the bowl. Hang out for a few minutes and then switch sides if needed. I would do this before and after each nursing session and always felt pretty instant relief. You can also warm something up and drape it over your chest before your nurse to soften up your milk ducts. You may be wondering, how do I know if I have a blocked duct? Well, for me, it was sore when B was nursing – the pain would sort of radiate into my breast a couple of inches and would get worse, the longer he was on me. And then it would hurt for awhile after nursing.

Oversuppy:

This is probably more of a blessing than undersupply. However, oversupply can completely overwhelm baby and a baby like Bailey compensates by learning to pinch down on your breast to stop the flow. Ouch! But then he’s not choking on milk so good for him.

Different positions: It helps to play around with different positions. What worked for me was a more laid back seated position with him draped across my lap, bum down almost like he was sitting with him diagonally across my body. Not sure if that was a clear visual. Imagine cradle hold, but then drop the baby’s bum down and maybe rotate them in more so you’re tummy to tummy. Having the baby more upright and my body more laid back helped slow down the milk flow.

Block Nursing: If you tend to have oversupply on one side (me!), then you can try block nursing to balance things out. To Block Nurse, you do two feedings in a row on one side – this will tell the side you are using to produce more and tell the side you didn’t use, to produce less. The oversupply side that you don’t use will probably feel engorged – the key is to not express milk on that side even though you will really want to. You can hand express a little bit for relief. And in fact, you may need to hand express before the next time you nurse on that side just so baby can get on you.

Undersupply:

I had tons of supply when I started out, but as time goes on (especially now that I’m back to work), my supply has settled down and now I’m in constant fear of undersupply. Here are some tips about maintaining your supply or building your supply.

Food & Beverage Helps!

Hydrating and eating regularly is king for maintaining supply. Hello! You’re feeding another human being, now is not the time to go on diet! Also, there are specific things that may help build supply. They may also be things you want to avoid if you have oversupply.

  • Gatorade – does wonders for me! I drink it every day multiple times a day
  • Oatmeal
  • Fenugreek
  • Nursing tea ( I like the one from Rebecca’s Apothecary better than the ones in the grocery store)

Pumping and bottles:

If your little one is not eating directly from you for a portion of the day, it’s important to pump the same number of times that your little one is eating. Example, baby gets 2 bottles from someone else? You pump twice. There are different sorts of “rules” like pump an hour or more before the next time you feed your baby. Wait an hour after you feed your baby. Or pump right after you nurse to empty out your breasts. Or, early mornings and middle of the night reap more milk. Some of it will apply to you and some of it won’t. What does seem universal is that when you first start pumping, you may not get much, but the more regularly you pump, the more you will have come out of you. And, if you try to pump at consistent times each day, your body will produce milk accordingly.

There are tons of great online resources for nursing tips and nursing woes. I got a ton of information from Kellymom.com

I could go on and on about this subject, but I think that’s enough for now!

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