When it started going downhill…
I was engorged. I had back to back meetings and I didn’t have any time to pump. I needed at least 25 minutes. I didn’t have 25 minutes…until about 2:30pm. I quickly zipped open my breastfeeding bag, took out the pump and the tubes were missing! THE TUBES WERE MISSING! My hands turned cold…I started sweating. By the time I sorted out pick-up for my older girls, dropped-off the car keys to my husband, got money out of the ATM machine and hopped on a taxi across Abu Dhabi – it was almost 4:30pm. I did not breastfeed for 12.5 hours.
It only took one innocent mistake and my temperamental non-established milk supply decreased by a whopping 75%. #MySharif chugged down my whole freezer supply in 3 days and I started supplementing with Kibrita. Then it was a pathetic game of catch-up. The pump did not cut it. My body responded much better to the feel and smell of Sharif’s little Mustela smelling head rooting, not so much to the crappy Medela swing pump (which I later on replaced). No matter how many photos of #MySharif I stared at or how many hats I smelled while trying to pump. My body said “Mustela not Medela“. After four days of this nonsense, I was right up there were drying-up was.
When I knew I was drying-up and had to turn things around, quickly…
There was this one day when I asked my auntie to wean him from the last bottle before I came home so I can feed him better. When I got home my little chuncker was really hungry, started feeding and I could see his frustration building… he then suddenly pulled off and let out a very distinct disappointment cry. Nothing was there, not a drop and he was really hungry. He was only five months old, two weeks short of the magical 6 months mark (when I wanted to start him on solids) and a far cry from the 24 months of breastfeeding I wanted to do. Was this the end of my breastfeeding journey? I remember looking at him, tears welling up in my eyes, and said “Sharifi, Only Allah knows how much I tried. I actually tried really hard and I will not give up”. For the next 5 days, I took my silent battle public. I asked for help from thousands of moms everywhere, I even posted it on my personal instagram account and researched every possible site that knew anything about re-lactation.
8 Solutions that increase milk supply and helped me get back on track after almost drying-up…
- STOP feeling guilty
When you get to that stage of drying up, it is time to focus, think positive, and stop comparing yourself to that mom in your playgroup who has no issues and breastfeeding her quadruplets exclusively. It’s time for you to stop feeling guilty and shift your thought process to trying your best. It is time for skin-to-skin, being close, hugging and kissing your baby and trusting your body. Trust. Relax. This is what helped me with milk let downs and reduce my stress hormones which diminished my milk supply.
- DITCH your routines
Do you schedule feed your baby? Maybe it’s time to put that aside for a little bit to increase your milk supply. Take a breastfeeding vacation! I was lucky enough that during the peek of my issue it was a Wednesday and I had all weekend where Sharif and I were inseparable. I ditched his feeding and napping schedule and breastfed him as much as possible all day and all night. Milk is all about supply and demand. When the demand increases. The supply increases.
- DITCH your diet & exercise
I cut out my TRX & personal training routine (Not exercising set me back). I only did it because that was a brand new routine and my body was still adjusting to it. If you have always exercise, it might actually have the opposite effect on you and help you relax which will help you increase your milk supply. I also stopped counting calories. I listened to my body and ate to appetite. I ate well. Lots of proteins, coconut oil, omega oils, salmon, spinach, brown rice, carrots, garlic, cumin, leafy greens and asparagus (which has an essential amino acid which may stimulate prolactin). I also got a reusable 1L of Bounty & Nuts and Bolt smoothies from Nectar!
- BAKE yourself some lactation cookies
You could make your own cookies. I got my recipe from Just Kidding’s Blog, they were delicious! I would dip them in my nursing tea. If you’re not the baking type mama, you could just order freshly baked lactation cookies from SuperBaby Cookies.
- EAT Whole Oats
A couple of the moms suggested oats. There is no scientific proof of it increasing milk supply, but I swear by it! I ate two bowls of oats every morning (until now I eat at least one a day). What Oats do is increase the iron stores in the body. I am not sure how that is related to breastfeeding but it works. I also noticed that organic whole oats helped me a lot more than the insta-oats.
- SWITCH to natural nursers
If you’re using pacifiers to soothe your baby’s need to suck without providing the baby nutrition. It might be time to switch over to being a human pacifier until you increase your milk supply to desired levels. Remember that bottles that are not shaped naturally might cause nipple confusion or latching & sucking issues for some babies. To be safe I went ahead and switched Sharif over from BeBe Confort glass bottles to the MimiJumi bottle during that period of time. They were both great, but the MimiJumi was closer to natural feeding than the other options available. There are many other options available in UAE including Yoomi (My Organic Baby Shop), and Como Tomo (Nest for Kids, Abu Dhabi Mall).
- HYDRATE your self –
I know this goes without saying, but go that extra step of hydrating. How about adding 1L of coconut water to the mix. I remember reading a quote from Dr. Bruce Fife which totally inspired me to add that to my grocery list every week. He said “One of the most remarkable characteristics of coconut water is its chemical profile and mineral content. The primary minerals or electrolytes in coconut water are essentially the same as those found in human blood. For this reason, doctors have used it as an intravenous fluid for rehydration, pumping it directly into the patient’s bloodstream. Numerous studies dating back over 60 years document the successful use of intravenous coconut water in the treatment of malnutrition and dehydration.” I hope you will add coconut water to your mix. I love my to-go Vita Coco & GoCoCo bottles.
- JUST a spoon full of Halwa makes the drying-up go down
I remember there was this one mom that sent me a DM message on instagram that urged me to please try Halwa before giving up. I remember thinking, Halwa as in sweet tahihi? hmm… interesting. Then I found out that Halwa has been famed for centuries for increasing milk supply. You know old wives tales, but there’s some truth to it. Indeed, after 48 hours of eating halwa in between my meals, I was able to pump double the amount. It’s available in almost all grocery stores in UAE.
- POWER PUMP in intervals
This technique involves mimicking your baby’s feeding when they experience a growth spurt. During your baby’s growth spur, they’ll feed more vigorously, more frequently and for a longer period of time. I just replaced my regular useless pumping sessions with this strategically designed session. When I power pumped I would pump for 20 minutes; rest for 10 minutes; then pump for another 10 minutes; rest for 10 minutes; then pump for 10 last minutes; then I would be done. It was an hour long process, but for my Sharif I endured it. I did that only once a day for 5 consecutive days.
- MEDICATE (It’s a last resort, but it works)
Domperidone (Motilium, Motilidone) was my last resort, to others it might be their first resort. It absolutely works (from experience). I highly highly recommend it if you’re en route to drying-up. If you’ve tried the seven tips above and nothing works, this is your big ticket. Unlike the other options, its Lactation risk category is “L1” which makes it the safest one out of all the options out there. It is approved by the American Pediatric Association. You will start seeing a difference on day three onwards.
All this effort and now a month later I would say that my supply is at 75%. I am happy to have it up to that level. I work and I am separated from my baby 8 hours a day. That is the best that I can do. Thankfully, my baby boy turned 6 months old a couple of weeks ago and is now eating a little bit. That extra couple of bottles that I cannot produce got replaced by fresh avocados, bananas, and sweet potatoes. The way I think about it is the 300-400mls is sufficient, Al hamdulilah… that’s a lot of antibodies right there that Sharif will have long after I finish nursing him.
Note: I couldn’t have done this battle without the support of my husband, family and friends. If you do not have a support circle and need someone to talk to call this UAE breastfeeding support hotline: +971 50 868 4417. Stay strong!
Sudanese-American working mom of three. Free Spirit. Idea Curator. Her brain moves faster than her body can go. A laid back chic who walks around with that stereotypical hippie vibe.She is never afraid to give you her unsolicited opinion about gentle parenting. Esraa has been actively over-sharing her motherhood and parenting stories on social media since 2008.