I have recently gotten a lot of questions on how/why I intentionally induced a breastmilk over supply with my third baby, so I will compile it all together, into a very basic story/ list of what I did to achieve that. I use my oversupply to feed both my youngest and my middle child. I did not do this for the sake of having a giant freezer stash or anything like flexing on social media - I have my reasons, and they are very good ones.
I'll put a short summary here at the top, and you can read through if you'd like to. There will also be a list of products I enjoyed using down at the bottom.
WHY I gave myself an oversupply with my third baby? Because when we has born, my middle kid wasn't two yet. My original goal was to feed her breastmilk until she was at least two years old, I had exclusively pumped for her and my supply dried up when she was 14 months old and I got pregnant again. I wanted to make enough to share with her.
How I gave myself an oversupply with my third baby? Plain and simple, from day one, increased the demand to convince my body I needed double the amount my baby was taking from nursing. Essentially letting it know, "hey, I need enough for two kids here." I did not take any special lactation supplements, eat any special foods, or do anything like that. I pumped 7x a day on top of nursing the new baby, which was a lot less daunting than it sounds because I'm so used to pumping while doing other things from being an exclusive pumper for over a year.
I would like to start off with a disclaimer: An oversupply is not something that you need in most cases. In fact, it’s not the norm. A lot of new moms see these pictures online of huge freezer stashes, and think that that’s what everybody has and that they really badly need one. In my opinion, it is not necessary for everyone. You may want some frozen if you plan to go back to work, if you think you might want to wean from the pump early, if you need to take some time away from the baby and you won’t be there to offer anything fresh to them, etc.
But the truth is, not everybody does need one and a lot of it is social media hype. Please do not take this post as me telling you it is a necessary thing to have, I’m simply sharing my experience, and what happened for me.
Spoiler alert! If you came here looking for a quick fix like lactation cookies or tea, you will not find it! That had nothing to do with my supply being what it is. This is all from hard work, and there is no get milk quick scheme here.
At the end of this post, I will make mentions of pumping products that I personally like to use, but these products alone, I do not attribute to my oversupply. I think that they all helped me to be able to pump as much as I did comfortably and conveniently, but they are certainly not magic in themselves. That said, if you buy crappy supplies you may get a crappy result. That's one reason I like to invest in my breastfeeding/pumping supplies, so I have what I know works well for me and will last a while.
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I am a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. However, the advice and tips on my pages is not personalized individual medical advice and you should always discuss concerns with your healthcare provider or seek the help of a lactation professional. I do not currently offer consults or counseling, just general information.
For starters, I knew exactly what I was doing. I am a certified breastfeeding specialist, so I know all about supply and demand, and how important it is to get that demand going from the moment you give birth. The first few hours hours and days after the baby is born, are crucial in laying the groundwork for what your milk supply will be.
They say that the first hour, 'the golden hour', is one of the most important starting points. I knew that going into the hospital, but I actually ended up letting the time pass by too quickly and totally missed it. I did nurse the baby but I did not pump or hand express as I had planned. I originally planned to exclusively pump with this baby as well as I had with my second because that’s what was familiar to me, but at the last minute, I decided I would just give it a shot to see if I could make it work because I think he’s my last baby.
Once I was moved to the recovery room after having him in the laboring room, I got everything settled and asked my husband to hand me my manual pump. I actually did not take out my electric pump until the next day, I used my Medela hand pump overnight to pump every few hours and top off the baby by cup feeding while also practicing nursing Pumped every time that he fed so it ended up being maybe every hour if not more frequent, the time is honestly a blur to me. I wish I had written it down. By the way- see my post here on the pumping supplies I packed in my hospital bag.
The next morning (he was born at around 7 PM) I got out all my pump stuff, and asked the nurse if I could use the Medela symphony as well, because I do not have one of those at home. I tried out my own pump with my flanges that I’m familiar with, and then I used the same flanges with the Medela symphony. I ran that on the "initiate program" I believe seven times during the day, both days I was in the hospital. It should be noted I was by myself with the baby, my husband was not there to help me with any of the pump supplies, washing, etc. It can be done alone.
The Medela Symphony's Initiate program is designed specifically for helping to bring milk in, this is one reason why they have these pumps in the hospital.
So to sum it up, the first two days after my son was born, I nursed around the clock and also pumped in addition to that, seven or eight times. Had I been only pumping I would have done a little bit more, but considering that I was doing both I found the number to be acceptable. If I was going to exclusively pump just for the new baby, I had planned to pump every 3 hours, for 30 minutes each time. Double pumping (both breasts at the same time). That would be a total of 8 times in a day. I will say colostrum is very hard to pull out with a pump, I found using my manual pump and hand massaging to be the most effective for me. Hand expression is supposed to be a lot better for moving colostrum (it's thick like honey!) but I cannot do it no matter how hard I try.
This photo is from before the baby was born- I used my pump exactly like this to collect colostrum prenatally. That was the most I got, under 10mL at a time. I would recommend replacing the membrane with a duckbill if you use the Medela hand pump (same as pictured)
I will say that the first two days, there was not much to be seen in the bottles. I don’t think I ever got more than 5 mL at once. Babies have very small stomach capacity for the first two days, so I was not worried about not seeing anything in the bottles because I knew that the demand was what was going to make a difference. I was also nursing him so I knew he was getting some that I wasn't seeing. I paid attention to the number of wet and dirty diapers, and if he seemed satisfied. I topped him off between feeds with anything that I had pumped, which was mostly just drops.
After I went home, I continued nursing, and I also supplemented feeds with a syringe using colostrum I had stored at home and milk that I pumped when it started to come in on the third day.
By day four, I had enough that I could start offering to my middle child as well, it started off being just one or two bottles a day, but once my full supply came in at about 40 ounces a day on top of nursing, I was able to offer her as much as she wanted, and then add one or two bags to the freezer. For reference, she was under two years old when I had the baby. I had originally planned with her, to feed her breastmilk until she was at least two years old.
To sum it up short- how did I induce an oversupply of breastmilk (on purpose!) to feed my newborn and toddler? I put on twice the demand I would have if I was just feeding one baby. Doing this from the start, I did not “take away” from the newborn, I hit the ground running and had enough from the start.
Now, keep in mind I do know how to manage an oversupply, and how to treat clogs and mastitis if they come up, and I will say that not every over supply comes with recurring clogs and mastitis. A lot of lactation professionals will tell you to avoid one for that reason, but if you know what to do in the event, that something like that happens, it can be managed. In my opinion, I wanted to start off with more and wean down to less, rather than start off with less and struggle to bring it up to more.
I did not struggle much with engorgement, it lasted maybe two days this time around and when it was uncomfortable, I used an ice pack. I pumped on schedule and personally did not experience the same pain with engorgement that I had with my previous babies.
I am not sure if it is correlated, but I did collect colostrum from 36 weeks onward in my pregnancy, there are some sources that will tell you doing this benefits, your milk supply, but there are some sources that will tell you it does not. For recording purposes, I will note that I did collect for the last few weeks, but I did not get crazy huge amounts. I will put a photo below of the box of syringes that I had collected before my son was born. I only used a few of these the first few days home, the rest I still have in my freezer for a sick day.
do not collect colostrum without approval from your primary care provider.
Something that I think is very important to mention are using proper equipment. If I were to do all this pumping on top of nursing with a flange size that was too big, I would probably have some nipple damage and pain. It’s important to make sure that you have proper fitting flanges, and that you are not using the suction too high on your pump.
Here is a free download for a printable nipple ruler you can use to find your proper flange size. Please note your size can change during pregnancy, so measuring towards the end is best. It can also change postpartum, so I recommend remeasuring if you feel pain.
I also recommend a hands-free bra to make things easier, and a lot of patience. There may be times where you need to pump, and the baby needs to be held, you can sit crosslegged and hold the baby on your lap while having the flanges on with your hands-free bra. There are ways around The difficult times, you just have to get creative. Lots of moms love a bouncer chair to hold the baby as well. I personally have had the same pumping bras since my second baby, and the same bouncer chair since the first baby.
Something important to remember if you do this, is that you have to maintain it. A little something about how milk production works, when milk sits unmoved it builds up a protein called feedback inhibitor of lactation (FIL for short). The longer that you let it sit there without removing it, the more this protein builds up and send a message to the body that you did not need so much. Frequent emptying prevents this protein from building up, and production is increased. Like a factory, if there are a ton of orders they will ramp up the pace. If there are little to no orders, they're not going to keep making more.
I see too often moms posting online that if they wait longer to pump, they can yield a larger amount than if they did it more frequently. For example, "I waited 4 hours to pump instead of 2, and I got 4 ounces instead of my regular 2 ounces! Taking longer between pumps increased my supply." When in reality, the amount was exactly the same but looked like more all at once. Always go by the total at the end of the day.
In most cases, this is not true. Some moms will be so stressed with frequent pumping, however, that they may actually see a small increase from not worrying about having to pump so much, but scientifically that is just not the case across-the-board.
Another thing to remember is that milk production can be inhibited or decreased with certain health conditions- if you have issues please reach out to a lactation professional to assess you. Additionally, I would like to note that typically you produce more milk with subsequent babies, and this is my third baby. I think that combined with the demand that I put on my body contributed heavily to what my supply was able to get to.
Overall, the real "secret sauce" here is that I just pumped more from the beginning and so my body knew immediately how much it needed to make. There is no special drink, or food or tea that causes something like this, milk is literally produced by supply, and demand not buy some special lactation beverage.
Here is a gallery of the first few days postpartum, how much milk I pumped. This is in order- first day home, second day home, third day home. I arrived home two days after my son was born.
As promised- here are the items I used in the early days that provided me convenience and comfort while pumping/nursing to bring in my oversupply to feed two kids. There really isn't much here.
My trusty hands free nursing/pumping bras - The Amelia Cami by Davin and Adley. TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD saves 10%.
The Medela hand pump was very handy (pun intended) in
Once I got out of the smaller bottles, I used these glass mason jars with pour spouts.
Patience. This is free. Hard work pays off when it comes to milk supply!
Here for more pumping info? Check out these posts!
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