How Can I Maximize My Supply?

Back to regular programming!!

Most of my family and close friends know that I make much more milk than my baby actually needs.  In the first several months of her life, I was making an estimated 40-50 ounces a day.  In fact, I was storing an excess of around 24 ounces per a day ASIDE from satisfying her growing appetite.  It was a good thing that I had bought a separate freezer chest, because I filled it within weeks.  In fact, I was soon posting online to my FB groups asking for mommies who needed milk, as my storage space would soon be overwhelmed.  I usually had no trouble finding willing takers; and soon, there was a regular stream of cars coming by the house to relieve me of our excess stash.  Around 3 months in, a local milk bank contacted me and asked if I would be willing to donate regularly.  I was agreeable, so they gave me some blood tests; when everything checked out okay, they told me to contact them whenever I had at least 40 ounces to give.  For me, this was ridiculously easy; I ended up messaging them about every 2-3 weeks with at least 20-30 bags containing 9-12 ounces each.  This happened for more than a year.  That’s around 4,000-6,000 ounces excess! And all the while, I was able to keep my own darling well-fed.

My stand-alone freezer chest filled about two-thirds with breastmilk. Picture taken this morning.

Nowadays, almost 2 years in, I don’t make as much (25-30 ounces, I would say), but still enough to keep my baby happy and to donate top-ups to my little niece.

So how did I do it?

Notice that I used the past tense.  The secret is maximizing your supply from the get-go, and not waiting for it to drop before doing anything and everything to get it up again.  I know this because this is what happened with my firstborn.  I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so before I knew it, my supply had dropped to just SIX ounces a day by the time he was 3 months old.  I had to mix-feed, which depressed me. So I consulted a lactation consultant, researched online, bought books, pumped like crazy, and within two months, restored my supply to 36 ounces a day (I know the exact number because I was an exclusive pumper back then.) But I could never go beyond that, no matter what I did.  And I could only maintain it by pumping 8-10 times a day and taking a LOT of galactogogues.  It was tiring work, but I managed it for 18 months before I had to stop.

I had greater success with my second child, and at least he latched directly all throughout, but I still had to take all sorts of supplements just to keep up with him.  By the time we finished after 2 1/2 years, I was thinking to myself, there has to be a better way. 

So with baby Bethie, my third, I formulated a PLAN.  (A lot of the points are common knowledge except for the last, and it’s the timing that matters–you have to do it from the beginning.) This is what I did:

  1. I started taking malunggay (Moringa) capsules even BEFORE I gave birth.  I detailed the evidence for this in an earlier post.
  2. I didn’t try to diet.  At all.  And I tried to eat healthily, with lots of fruit, vegetables, and nuts. Yet, I lost weight quickly because of all the milk I was making.
  3. I drank lots and LOTS of water.  No less than 3-4 liters a day.  I kept a Coleman on my bedside and drank constantly, especially while pumping or breastfeeding.
  4. I never let more than 2-3 hours go by without feeding or pumping, even at night or in the unholy hours of the morning.  I never let my boobs get too full or engorged.  My mantra was drain, drain, drain, DRAIN. If my baby was asleep, I woke her up so she could dream feed. If she didn’t want to feed, I pumped off the worst of the engorgement so that my body would produce some more.
  5. I DID take some supply-enhancers, like Mother Nurture lactation coffee and M2 malunggay tea. I’ll talk about them and other galactogogues in future posts.
  6. I purchased a Haakaa pump (I now have THREE) to catch the letdown on one side while I fed the baby from the other.  I did this starting day one.  Of all the interventions, this is the one that I credit to maximizing my supply the most.  It was especially helpful on the third morning when my milk came in and I was practically gushing. When your milk first comes in, your body doesn’t know how much it should produce, so it goes overboard.  Don’t waste it!! If you only skim off exactly what your baby needs, your body will get the message and downregulate to that amount.  The problem with this is that if you encounter any problem in the future–an illness, a milk-depressing drug or food, etc., your supply will suddenly become inadequate.  But if you keep draining BOTH your breasts from the start, your body will think that you are feeding twins, and produce a larger volume of milk accordingly.

In my case, Bethie couldn’t finish one side, much less proceed to the other.  So when I fed her, I caught the leakage on the other side with the Haakaa, catching almost 2-3 ounces per feed! (Multiply this by 10-12, and you get the 20-30 ounces per day excess that I started stashing.) My plan was a resounding success!

A caveat, though: If you tend to oversupply, this technique might not be for you, as it will make that problem worse, leading to clogged ducts or mastitis. Otherwise, I wholly recommend the Haakaa pump to both maximize your supply and build a freezer stash at the same time. You can buy it at Rustans, Babymama, milkandhoney, and babyhub; you can also find some independent sellers in Shopee and Lazada, but be careful of fakes. I don’t recommend buying the cheapie, unbranded ones from China because they’re probably not made of 100% medical -grade silicone like the Haakaa. A possible exception is the Dula pump, which also claims to be made of medical- grade silicon and is considerably cheaper than the Haakaa. It can also be found in Shopee.

To all champion breastfeeders and pumpers out there, what else do you do to maximize your supply?

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