My baby spent her first 10 days in the NICU, so I had to really work to get my milk to come in before I was able to get her home, and feeding off the boob reguarly. Whether you've got a happy, healthy baby at home with you or not, establishing your milk supply can be challenging. Here are some of the things that helped me do so successfully!
Create a Relaxing Environment
One of the most important things to establishing a healthy milk supply is a low-stress environment. If there are a lot of stressful triggers, such as bright, harsh lights, loud noises, needy relatives, or other kids and pets that are stressing you out, you have to find a way to minimize those until your supply is established.
Yappy dogs can go to the kennel or stay with a friend. Grandma can come help with the older kids. Your partner / co-parent can be enlisted to help with chores and keeping things in order while you take a few days to work on your supply. This is a very, very short time in the grand scheme of things. If you have to put aside other priorities for the sake of successfully establishing your milk supply, it may be worth it in the long run.
To promote relaxation, keep the lights low. Take a long, hot shower. Play soothing music. Wear comfortable clothing. Lounge on soft surfaces and stay cozy. Sip tea, eat yummy, nourishing foods. Drink tons of water. Nap, especially with your baby on your chest. All of these things produce oxytocin and promote a healthy milk supply.
Nobody enjoys pumping, but it's one of the keys to get your supply up if it's lagging. I rented a hospital-grade pump for 3 weeks after Sammi arrived so that I was getting extra good stimulation. Your home pump is great for extracting milk later on, but you really need a hospital-grade pump to stimulate your supply in the early stages. Ask a lactation consultant about options.
Here's the schedule I maintained while my baby was in the NICU to ensure I was pumping frequently, but also staying on top of self-care and being a good care giver to my baby:
Being skin-to-skin with your baby releases loads of oxytocin and is one of the best stimulants for a strong milk supply. In our case, Sammi had so many cords, tubes, and wires attached to her that skin-to-skin was difficult and often stressful in the NICU. But one of the lactation nurses at the hospital advised that I take some of Sammi's blankets home with me, so I could smell them while I was pumping and simulate a skin-to-skin experience.
My husband teased that I was a "baby huffer" as I sat there pumping with her blankets over my face. But this really did help me feel a sense of closeness with my baby even when she wasn't with me at home. Take advantage of every second of closeness with your little one! And if you have to pump when she's not around, use her blankets or clothes to help tell your body, "my baby is here and needs milk!"
Not everyone is able to succeed at establishing a milk supply. Some moms just plain don't want to, and that's fine. But if you're determined to breast feed, and you want that supply to come raging in, hopefully these tips help you get there. All I know is you've got to take amazing care of yourself and consult with the experts on your particular situation, such as pediatricians, lactation consultants, and postpartum midwives. If I could do it, so can you, Mama!