We know that milk supply is a function of so many things- a delicate dance between hormones, baby and breast. It is also deeply affected by the health and wellness of the breast/chestfeeding person and this is where postpartum care and support really comes into play.

The first few weeks postpartum are typically exhausting- your body is recovering, you’re adjusting to life with little sleep and a 24 hour clock and are probably realizing the reality that sometimes it is difficult to even manage 3 square meals a day! Below, a few of the common foes to establishing great supply in the early days and how you can be best prepared to avoid and overcome them in your journey.

1. ““Stress is the No. 1 killer of breastmilk supply, especially in the first few weeks after delivery. Between lack of sleep and adjusting to the baby’s schedule, rising levels of certain hormones such as cortisol can dramatically reduce your milk supply.” Dr. Shavani Patel MD

2. Eating/Drinking Too Little

Sometimes when we are GO GO GO and just relentlessly busy with baby or family or playing host, the food is the first thing to go. The quantity and quality of your milk is super dependent on what you put into your body- and now is not the time to be thinking about cutting calories or “bouncing” back to some kind of prepregnancy mode.

3. Misinformation about breastfeeding etc.

In the early days, it is all about establishing supply AND about establishing your relationship with baby- two things that are an uphill battle if you are worried about sticking to a schedule or some kind of plan. Many of us are so worried about when we will ever sleep again or how to tell baby is getting enough milk that we fall into the advice of heavily scheduled, one-size-fits-all kind of planning and these not only cause unnecessary stress (see #1), they are often the enemy of establishing a great supply in the crucial early days.

The great news is, the common challenges of the early days can be overcome with some simple solutions all aimed at providing loving care and nurturing to the birthing/feeding person in the early days of recovery.

*A thoughtful Postpartum Plan: Go beyond the birth plan! Your postpartum plan can cover everything from who makes the meals to who takes out the trash or walks the dog. If you choose to welcome visitors, post it on the fridge for helpful friends to chip in-people love to be helpful. Planning ahead for these details will make the day to day of this time less weighted by the stresses of daily life- put those bills on autopay, let your best friend plan the meal train and

*Postpartum Doula Support: A postpartum doula can support you in everything from your physical recovery to the daily tasks required to keep the calm in your home. She’ll make sure you’re fed, nurtured, heard and set up for a healthy transition. In short- she takes care of you, so that you can recover and focus on the things that need you (like staring into your babies eyes, nursing, and resting!) This is one of those things that somehow seems hard for us to understand until we are in it- like how it might be possible to NOT have the time for a shower or how a person could go all day without eating….but once you’ve had a postpartum doula in your home, trust me- you’ll never want to let her go! I also really see this as a significant way to mark the phase that you are in- you are intentionally taking the time and space to make this an important part of your journey and it will pay you back, trust me!

*Lactation Support:

A relationship with an incredible lactation consultant can change your experience from start to finish. I always recommend that families meet their consultant before baby if at all possible, once baby arrives, and then as needed. So many of us are working with less than perfect latches, tongue-ties or other challenges that we don’t even realize- and there’s not reason to struggle with these things for weeks only to find out that it could have been easier for all of you! Furthermore, with a professional on speed-dial, you can avoid falling into the trap of the schedules or routines that so commonly harm our supply in the early days. As the common questions and hurdles of the early days ease, others will come up- when to pump? How to keep supply up at work? You get the idea, and having this person in your back pocket is one of the best ways to ensure you meet your personal breastfeeding goals.

When a Breastfeeding Mom Goes Back to Work

Aside from birth itself, it seems like some of the most common concerns we hear from parents in the early days are all about how to get ready for the transition back to work. Not only are you dealing with the logistical and emotional aspect of planning for yet another big transition, but if you are a chestfeeding/breastfeeding family, you are probably already starting to think about how you are going to manage to keep up with the pumping, maintain your supply, talk to your employer or even get through the workday well-fed. Here, we take on a few of the most common, crazy-making ideas and questions and make them into bite-sized, plannable steps that we hope will help to take the pressure off as you ease back into the workplace.

1.Have you seen those incredible Pinterest pics of the deep freezers FULL of a years worth of breastmilk just waiting to be devoured? US TOO...and let’s just say that was NEVER me. I was lucky if I was ever able to even get a day’s worth of extra milk, my low supply was rarely enough to exclusively feed breastmilk...and you know what? That’s perfectly ok. I recently read something that literally gave me a sigh of relief for all the moms out there…”When preparing to go back to work, one really only needs about two days’ worth of milk in back-up”. Isn’t that so freeing just to see here in writing!?! If you’re one of the lucky ones who has an admirable stash...go YOU and certainly that will come in handy especially if you choose to stop pumping etc. and you want to continue to offer breast milk. BUT for the rest of us mortal milk-making creatures two days of backup is a great place to start. Remember, when you are away from baby you want to be pumping enough to mimic the message your body would be getting to produce if you were with your baby feeding directly. This doesn’t have to mean that you are pumping at the same time she eats, it just means you want to keep up as much as you can with the pace of things. And most importantly, take on a routine that you can maintain rather than setting yourself up for failure. (note: a consultation with an IBCLC or CLEC can work wonders in building a lasting plan to reach your goals, we can’t recommend this enough!)

2. And that brings us to #2. How to set up this routine? Should you talk to your employer/manager/team about your goals for pumping at work? The answer is a big YES YES YES absolutely YES! Where do we begin with this?

  • First, here’s a link to the “Breaktime for Nursing Mother’s Law” , hopefully, you won’t need to refer to this much or use it in your planning- but if you do, you’ve got it in your back pocket.  

  • Secondly, consider this like any other plan that you are implementing at work. Come to your team and employer with an outline of

  • when you plan to pump (block it in your calendar etc.)

  • Where you plan to pump/store etc

  • anything you will need from them (for example if there is not suitable storage option or no private, clean space to pump)

  • Any plans you have to address the challenges this may pose for THEM

This is where you get to set the ground rules and expectations and also where you get to be the educator, workplace culture-shifter that you so badly want to be! Doing this planning upfront really takes the sting out of the day to day of having to remind, approach and mention your needs time and time again and it gives your coworkers the opportunity to step up to the plate while normalizing breastfeeding for all. WIN-WIN-WIN.

3. So now you know that you’re good to go with a couple days worth of milk and you’ve got a thoughtful plan to bring to your team when you head back. What else do you need for a successful pumping journey?

Let’s start with accessories. If you’ve already got a pump, consider borrowing a second from a friend or if that’s not doable at least a second set of all the bits and bobbles that go with it. There is NOTHING worse than getting all set up, sitting down to do the thing and then realizing that you’re short a flange, or you forgot to clean the bottles you used yesterday. By setting yourself up with an extra set or two, you can eliminate the schlepping back and forth of it and the constant management of pump inventory that can make a person nuts!

So you’ve got the extra set of things, hopefully set up somewhere in your office or in a quiet, comfy spot that’s been set up for you. What else do you need to make your pumping moments happen? Maybe a special photo of you and your baby feeding at home, videos and photos on your phone to help you focus and relax, a meditation track even...anything that brings on the love and helps you to step into your mom role for a moment. A great meditation app for expecting parents is Expectful and for general meditation Headspace is also great!

You already know this one but I’ll say it anyways...water water water and snacks snacks snacks! Keep a pitcher and glass on your desk or pumping station at all times and keep easy snacks handy like the Majka bites, lactation protein powder, trail mix, pb&j, apples and nut butter, beef jerky. It goes without saying, but so many of us will just power through our days without considering what our own needs are. Baby can’t be fed if you aren’t nourished and replenished- it really is that simple.

4. My last tip is really just a plea to go easy on yourself. We aren’t all instagram moms, we don’t all have superhuman boobs, and there is no such things as the right way to do this. Having said that, so many of us throw in the towel when it isn’t exactly right- and I want to remind you that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing (it certainly wasn’t for my family). If you find that your supply dips or you have to cut down on pumping sessions and you are ready to move on a bit, you can always offer the breast when you are home in the am and/or pm or anytime you and baby are feeling it. This is your journey, your story, your version of things and it is anything but one size fits all.

A dou-what?

So…what exactly does a doula do?

We thought you’d never ask!

In a nutshell, a doula is a non-medical professional who provides physical and emotional support to a pregnant person and her partner.  She is a person who is trained to assist a birthing individual during childbirth and who may also provide support to the family after the baby is born. The best part about this work is that every doula has her own style and skillset, and we believe there is a perfect doula for every family. Having said that, if you’re considering your options here are the important ways that a wonderful doula would support your family.

“My partner read all the books, why would our family need a doula??”

“If people have been birthing all these years and years why do we need any help?”

“ We love our doctor, as long as she’s there to take care of us-we’re all good.”

Unbiased, on-demand support.

When you choose a doula, she (or we acknowledge “he”, or “they”, but we’ll stick with she for our example) will become your go-to sounding board for anything that comes up for you in pregnancy. A great doula will be able to point you toward all the relevant, evidence-based information available while supported all of your decisions without any bias or preference of her own.

Better birth outcomes.

You can check with dr. google on this one or check out some of our favorite evidence-based resources, the stats and evidence are all conclusive. Here are just a few of the tangible ways a birth doula makes a difference.

  • more likely to give birth spontaneously

  • less likely to give birth via caesarean or with a vacuum or forceps

  • less likely to use pain medications

  • more likely to be satisfied

  • had slightly shorter labors

A doula is a constant birthing companion.

A lot of birthing people are surprised to find that they are left on their own for much of the birthing process. Research shows that the average labor and deliver nurse is only present for about 31% of the birth process, and if you ask around, you might be surprised to hear that most of that time is spent taking care of the tasks/tests and others that may leave you feeling rather alone for the remaining 69% of the time!

Your doula will be with you every step of the way providing physical, emotional and practical comfort in every which way imaginable. We know that this feels good in the moment, but we also know that it results in preferable outcomes for birthing people and their families.

Your partner may have to pee.

Ok, so this speaks to the reason above…but worth further exploring. Your partner may need to take a break, step out for a snack, check in with family members or yes…even pee! And its really comforting and useful to have another set of hands to help out with things in these moments. Sometimes it looks as simple as moving the car that nobody managed to actually “park” upon hectic hospital arrival, other times it its holding your hand while your partner checks in with your in-laws who are wholly committed to a 36-hour straight sit-in in the waiting room.

Someone to hold space for your story.

WARNING. If you hire a doula, you’re going to hear this phrase time and time again. But there’s good reason for that. Most of us are birthing in environments where things may move fast, a nurse’s shift may change and we may never have the chance to connect in a meaningful way with the details or even broad strokes of our birth stories. It is incredibly powerful to look during birth to meet the steady, calm gaze of a person who is there, in it with you and who will meet you there until you are steady enough to move through it to the other side on your own. When you see your doula after your birth, she’ll be able to hold that space once again, walking you through the moments, celebrations, questions and doubts that may be important to hear and say out loud. Worth noting- while many of us have certainly tried it- your 6 week check-in at your OBs office does NOT double as a therapy/birth unpacking/100 questions opportunity for a freshly postpartum mom.

So there you have the basics, for more info and resources explore our site or reach out anytime- we love to make the perfect doula/client match!