Is your milk drying up, learn how to get it back?

Who knows how much milk you are producing as a nursing mamma? It would be so awesome if there were a way to measure how much is coming out and getting into your precious little one. Like a device you could stick to your boob with a line which moves up as you are feeding to count the quantity as the milk drains out. Get me on the Shark Tank!

Going back to work and not having a baby suckling 24/7 can make your boobs think that it is time to hang up their hat. They can take a back seat. They just do not need to be making as much milk anymore.

Your breastmilk operates on a system of supply and demand. The more you feed, the more they make. So, the opposite is also true. Use it or lose it.

It is important that your boobs know that they are still in business. So, as if the stress of going back to work was not enough, you also have to worry about pumping in the office to keep up your supply.

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Can I pump at work?

Pumping between feeds helps to stimulate the breast, keeping your supply going. Your business is legally obliged to make adjustments to your work environment, and schedule, to enable you to pump safely, comfortably, and in private.

If pumping works for you, be sure to make time during your office hours to pump out what you can. If nothing comes out, at least you are stimulating the production.

Why is my milk drying up?

Personally, I can’t pump, no matter how full, no matter how much I prep. I nice long warm candlelit bath with a podcast, soft lights and pictures of my baby to stimulate the serotonin.

I’ve tried so many different pumps, manual, electronic, single, double, those things you put in your bra to just catch milk as it naturally seeps out during the day. Nothing works for me. The baby is the only efficient method of extraction. So, if pumping does not work for you, you are not alone!

It can be easy to lose confidence in your milk supply when there is actually nothing to worry about. 

When I started on my breastfeeding journey, the first time around, I’d wake up engorged and swimming in leaked milk. Later down the line they were soft and ‘normal’ with no leaking in the night. It would be easy to think this means that my milk is drying up. It is not necessarily the case.

A softer breast is perfectly capable of producing milk. It is not like a carton, holding all of the milk until your baby feeds. In fact, most of the milk is made while your baby is feeding. Big, small, firm, soft, your boobs are amazing.

If your baby changes their demands and decides they need to feed all of the time you can be forgiven for thinking that they’re not getting enough out. It is more likely that they are going through a growth spurt.

Much like everything baby, it’s just a phase. Feed as often as they want. Supply and demand, remember?

If your baby is pulling away and sad when your feeding, you might see this as a sign that they are not getting anything out. Try not to panic. It may be that the baby is just really hungry, and you haven’t let down yet.

This is when your milk begins to flow. Some women can feel the let down. Others can’t. It can be painful. It might be that with your first it’s an unpleasant sensation and with your second you don’t feel it at all. It’s different for everyone. 

If you are sure that your milk is drying up and concerned that your baby is not getting enough from you, then it is important to make sure you take steps to keep them topped up.

Before you give up and decide that there’s nothing left in the tank, talk to a lactation consultant, just to be sure. 

If you and your baby are ready to stop your breastfeeding journey, then do. You don’t have to exclusively breastfeed. There are lots of positives to breastfeeding, even just that first feed in the delivery room offers your baby a huge immunity boost, as well as comfort.

But, when it’s time, you will probably both know, and there is no need to beat yourself up about it. Just a pre-warning, stopping breastfeeding can have a knock-on effect to your hormones so you might get very teary or grumpy, or both. It’s all a simultaneously joyous and terrifying roller-coaster.

What if my milk has dried up, but I want to start breastfeeding again?

There are plenty of reasons why you may want to start breastfeeding again. A lot of new moms are given bad advice and little or no support in those early days.

With hormones all over the place and a hungry baby chopping at your nipples, perhaps you felt that you had no choice but to give up and move straight to formula

A medical procedure or work trip may mean you are separated from your baby for a period of time and perhaps pumping isn’t possible, or it just doesn’t work for you.

Whatever the reason, if you want to start producing milk again, it’s entirely possible to do so.

What is relactation?

Did you know that you can start producing milk even after you have not done it for a long time? It’s called relactation. It might be a few weeks, months or even years since your last feed, whatever the time period, it’s still possible to start lactating again.

How do I go about relactating so I can I start producing breastmilk again?

To relactate, you need to be patient and committed to bringing back your milk supply. Here are a few hacks for getting back on track:

  • Pump lots. You need to be pumping at least eight to twelve times a day for 20-30 minutes. Sorry to say that you also need to be pumping at night.
  • Let them suck. Allow them to latch and comfort suck between feedings as often as possible. The stimulation will let your breasts know that they’re back in business.
  • Get naked. Skin to skin is just the absolute best. It is relaxing for both you and your baby and helps to regulate their heart rate. Breathing in the scent of your baby and holding them close to you feels amazing. There is nothing so perfect.
  • Relax. When it comes to cleaning, it can wait. If you live with your partner, they can do a bit extra for a few weeks. What you’re doing is more important than the dishes.

How long will it take to relactate?

How long is a piece of string? As with everything baby, it is a different experience for everyone. It can take weeks or months. Be sure to keep your baby’s diet supplemented with formular or donor milk while you’re building your supply. And, persist.

If it’s something you are committed to, keep going. Try not to be disheartened if little to nothing comes out when you pump. There is no pump as efficient as a tiny hungry human. It’s still important to keep it up, even if nothing is coming out. It’s still stimulating the milk production.

Keep track of your progress. Take pictures to document how much you are pumping at each attempt. 

Set an alarm or get an app to remind you to pump so you can keep on top of it. You do not want to miss out session and feel like you’re taking a step back.

You’re a busy mom, you are bound to forget to pump when time is moving fast, and you are tired. So very tired all of the time. Of course you are tired. You’re pumping at night and all through the day. It’s a bit commitment. Rely on technology to remind you.

Should I use supplements or medication to get my milk supply back?

You might have heard about galactagogue. It is supposed to increase milk flow. Some common ones are fenugreek, blessed thistle and alfalfa. There are also prescription medicines.

It is a personal choice. Remember that medication can have other side effects. Only make a decision about using supplements or medication in consultation with a medical professional.

How do I know if my milk supply is back?

There are some obvious signs that your hard work is paying off.

  • Your breasts feel heavy and full, and/or tingly and hot
  • Your leaking milk (get those breast pads in to avoid those embarrassing damp patches)
  • You feel hormonal
  • No amount of water will quench your unbearable thirst
  • Your baby is putting on weight and filling up their nappy faster

Whatever your reason for thinking that your milk is drying up or you have not breastfed for a long time and want to start it up again, remember that you made this tiny person. You are a badass. You got this mamma.

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