Breastfeeding provides amazing nutrients for your baby. It helps boost your baby’s immune system and is great for bonding.
Knowing if you have enough to satisfy your baby can be tricky. Many mums would happily wish a way to know how much their baby is getting but unfortunately it’s a bit of a guessing game.
Weight gain, plenty of wet nappies and a good feeding and sleep pattern can suggest your baby is getting plenty of milk.
For us mums the feeling of fullness, leakage and knowing we can express a certain amount helps us feel more at ease about our milk supply
Sometimes though whatever we do or how we feel our supply may not be enough.
Often signs that are associated with low milk supply are unsettled babies, low weight gain, and babies with colic and mums intuition that something isn’t quite right.
There could be many reasons for low milk supply. The sooner you recognise your supply isn’t enough for your baby the easier and more success you will have to boost it.
Reasons could be –
Medical reasons for both mum and baby
Sleepy babies, especially those who may have jaundice, which can lead to not enough feeds, or short or interrupted feeds.
Not emptying one side before offering the other side.
Pain interfering with your breastfeeding.
So lets look at a few of these possibilities in more depth and how you can help your milk supply.
Make sure your baby is feeding efficiently, is latched on correctly and positioned well at the breast.
Often I meet mums that haven’t had the best start in the first few hours or days of their babies birth. They have struggled from the beginning. Breastfeeding itself doesn’t come naturally. It is a learned skill with lots of positive guidance and personal support. It’s not uncommon for mums to be left to fend for themselves, sometimes for hours. The better your baby’s latch, the better they feed, the better the stimulation which will then help to increase your milk supply.
Anxiety related to pain and lack of support, in my experience, are the number one culprits for low lactation.
With pressures of breastfeeding, judgement and very little guidance with lots of push to breastfeed can actually be counter-productive.
Your lactation and the ease of producing milk is very dependent on how you are feeling. A more relaxed mum with no pain while feeding and enjoying the experience will produce more milk than a mum who has had a rough start, sore nipples, engorgement, sleep deprivement and feeling like a failure.
Get help from a trusted person who makes you feel confident, lifts you up and helps you along your breastfeeding journey plus someone who is a very good listener.
Yes, absolutely there is no doubt that when you feed often helps with production. Making sure you feed every 3 hours during the day and night is a good start especially in the first 2 weeks. Sometimes though this may lead to a very exhausted mum and an overtired baby. If this scenario continues for several weeks you may not have success increasing your supply at all because your wellbeing has been compromised. Keep up with the 3 hourly feeds during the day, however, make sure you get more rest during the night. as your baby gets older the night time feeds can be less frequent.
I personally feel a mum needs her sleep at night just as much as her baby and this is the reason why I personally wouldn’t wake a baby to feed in the night to increase your supply unless it is for medical reasons. If you are still struggling after 2 weeks with not much improvement then instead of increasing your babies feeds, there are other options you could try.
Pumping or Expressing
This can be a great way to increase your milk supply.
The best way to do this is to pump on one side while you are feeding your baby on the other. This helps both with time management and having the hormonal exchange needed to help the let down and milk flow. You may also find a good time is after you have finished feeding your baby and while they are having mat time or while your baby is sleeping. Pumping while watching your baby sleep, looking at baby photos or videos also helps to release oxytocin. Hand-held pumps tend to be better and more manageable plus a little more personable.
To help you get the most out of expressing, find times of the day you are not rushed.
Remember pumping isn’t the same as your baby feeding so sometimes it takes a little time.
Teas and Herbs
Both lactation teas and herbal potions are a great way to help increase your supply.
There are many brands on the market and it’s just a matter of what you like to drink or recommendations from other mums. You could even dunk a lactation cookie in your lactation tea.
Herbs such as Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Nettle, Raspberry, Goats Rue and Shatavari are also great additions to a good diet. All included in the lactation teas but you can also buy them individually or combined in capsules or tinctures. Looking for organically grown ingredients is best.
Some of the herbs can also be found as essential oils.
I have become more and more interested in the benefits of essential oils and how they work.
It’s important when using essential oils that you find good quality and are 100% pure.
Never apply essential oils straight to the skin. They should always be diluted with a carrier oil such as almond oil, fractioned coconut oil or olive oil.
Apply over the upper portion of the breast being careful not to go near the nipple area where your baby will be feeding from. Massage the area gently with either your hand or you could use a small comb to stimulate the ducts in a downward motion, this also helps blocked ducts.
Essential oils that are great for lactation are Clary Sage, Basil, Geranium and Fennel. Caution with Fennel – only use for up to 10 days. Generally you would only need to use these oils for around 2-5 days to see a result.
Tiger’s Milk or Smoothies
I still don’t know why it’s called Tiger’s Milk but it’s definitely the smoothie that I recommend for any breastfeeding mum.
Smoothies are a great source for a nutritional boost in one drink to add to your food intake.
The magic ingredient in Tiger’s Milk is brewer’s yeast.
Cup of milk (or you can use whatever you like such as almond milk, rice milk or coconut milk)
Protein powder (use one that is ok for breastfeeding)
Tbsp of Brewer’s Yeast (more or less depending on your taste buds)
Optional is a Tbsp of peanut butter, flaxseed or other nutritional ingredients.
Sometimes your midwife or your GP will prescribe Domperidone. Discuss this with your health professional if you have exhausted all other options.
Happy Mum, Happy Baby