Two months after birth, I was able to store 441 ounces of breast milk. My maternity leave is up and I need to go back to work. Many friends ask me what my secret is. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, and to the uninitiated, it might seem that exclusively breastfeeding is easy as pie. On the contrary, a breastfeeding mom knows how difficult it is to establish milk supply and sustain exclusive breastfeeding well into toddler years.
From proper diet and hydration and supplement, there are many ways to boost breast milk supply. Here are my top 3 secrets to healthy breastfeeding:
3. Enabling and supportive environment. Happy thoughts equal abundant supply. To commit to exclusive breastfeeding is one thing, but to remain motivated is another. Having a supportive environment, from family and household members, to relatives and friends, and office colleagues is very important to sustained exclusive breastfeeding. I am fortunate that my hubby is 100% committed as I am. He lets me focus on breastfeeding by patiently helping me with the other stuff – waking up in the middle of the night to change diapers, and carrying baby to me (with my wrist injury, I find it really strenuous to lift baby up from the crib), looking after our 4-year old, bottle feeding when necessary, and yes, even washing and setting up my pump.
I am also lucky to have a community of devoted breastfeeding moms at work. Even though I express at my desk, I still drop by the lactation room (LR) from time to time to draw in their positive energy and to swap stories.
2. Handy tools. It is critical to have the right tools to express. I haven’t learned the art of hand expressing, so I have to rely on my manual or electrical pumps. But expressing on the go requires more than just the pump. You need to wash your bottles and pump, sterilize them, and properly store the milk. Here are the essential tools for successful milk storage:
- manual/electric pump and bottles
- nursing cover for on-the-go feeding or expressing
- insulated bag and ice substitutes
- air tight BPA-free containers – for washing, sterilizing and storing pumps
- sponge and dishwashing liquid
- automatic kettle -for boiling water
- milk storage bags – for storing milk
- chiller (for shipping days’ worth of milk)
- freezer, preferably with capability for deep freezing so milk can last from 6 months to 1 year
1. Round-the-clock 2-3 hour intervals. For me, this is the top secret to an abundant milk supply. Direct feeding is still best but I also make sure to regularly pump. I religiously follow the 2-3 hour intervals even when I got back to work and even when traveling. This means waking up early in the morning even if baby is asleep. This means that 8-hour sleep straight is impossible. I also learned to express quickly, in between meetings. Being shy is out of the question. With a nursing cover, I express in the airplane, in the car, in restaurants, department stores, and other public places. Same with direct breastfeeding, although this is more difficult to maneuver. I schedule my activities around this 2-3 hour interval.
Going into my baby’s 3rd month, I have already stored 566 ounces (around 16.7 liters) of breast milk and I attribute this collection to discipline, firm commitment, and love for my baby.