For many, the biggest fear when it comes to breastfeeding is not having enough milk. False teachings have lead us to believe that most mothers will not be able to satisfy their babies with breastmilk alone and that alternative forms of baby milk or even solids must be introduced.
In reality, majority of moms will have a supply large enough to feed and satisfy their baby. What is important to note is that there is so much more to your milk than just supply, and while the quantity of milk may be sufficient, the quality of your milk plays an equal role in nourishing and satisfying your baby.
There are many factors that determine the amount of milk that you will be able to produce and breast size is NOT one of them. Large breasts do not equal more milk, just as small breasts are not an indication of low breastmilk production. The breasts are made up of fatty tissue AND milk producing glands called alveoli and so one may have large breasts that are made up almost entirely of fatty tissue or small breasts which contain mostly alveoli. Either way, you will most likely have a good amount of alveoli which means that you will be able to produce enough milk to feed your baby.
Milk production follows a supply and demand model. This means that the more you feed your baby, the more milk you are going to make. The mistake we often make when our supply is low is that we offer an alternative feed which satisfies the baby, but does nothing for our supply. While offering a supplement feed may be necessary for a short period of time, it is important that we focus on upping our supply during this time as well so that we can eventually drop that supplement feed.
Tips for upping your supply:
Focus – for the next few days, this is your only job. Stay at home, minimise activity and focus on feeding your baby. If you have older children, you may want to organise a few play dates or an outing with Granny.
Check Your Latch – an incorrect latch may result in inadequate milk removal which in turn will cause a low milk supply. If you suspect that your baby is not latching correctly, contact your nearest lactation consultant immediately.
Eliminate stress – while stress may not reduce your supply, in can hamper the let down reflex
Share your concerns – speak to people who you trust and know are going to support you.
Feed on demand – drop all feeding schedules and feed your baby as and when he wants to feed for as long as he wants to feed
Drop the bottle – unless your baby is needing supplement feeds, drop the bottle and feed only from your breast. Do not offer (essential) top ups before a breastfeed as this will limit vigorous suckling and milk removal when you put baby to the breast.
Hydrate – water and rooibos tea are the best form of hydration for breastfeeding moms. Stay away from high sugared drinks such as jungle juice as well as caffeinated drinks like sodas, tea and coffee.
Express – 10 minutes p/side after every feed will work wonders. Even if you can’t get to pumping at every feed aim for at least 3 p/day. Certain companies will hire out hospital grade pumps so there is no need to spend a fortune on a pump if you are never going to use it again.
Massage – while feeding or expressing, massage the breast from base to tip. This will not only boost your supply but it will also loosen up all of those lovely fat cells that tend to stick to the milk ducts – thereby making your milk more nutrient-rich. Research has shown that massaging between the shoulder blades can also help improve a low milk supply due to better blood circulation.
Allow Suckling – suckling at the breast, even with no milk removal will stimulate milk production
Check your meds – some medications, such as decongestants can decrease your supply as they are made to dry up glands. Similarly, coming off certain meds (such a thyroid medication) may cause a drop in production.
Call an expert – the longer you leave a low supply, the more difficult it is going to be to get it back up. Call your lactation consultant as soon as you feel that you are not managing on your own.
Improving the quality of your breastmilk:
The nutritional demands of a breastfeeding mother are as important as what they were during pregnancy. You are still your baby’s primary source of nutrition and your milk is absolutely going to reflect what you eat and drink. While your body has an amazing ability to filter out a lot of the junk, it is important that you try to make your milk as nutritionally rich as possible.
A healthy, balanced diet is still the best way to go. Eat food in it’s purest form and be sure to include lots of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. Essential fatty acids are directly reflected in your breastmilk so choose foods such as nuts and nut butters, fish, seeds, avocados and oils.
You may very well be more hungry now that you are nursing, tune in to your body, eat to satisfy your appetite and keep taking those prenatal vitamins.
Occasionally massage your breasts during feeds (this will help to increase the fat content of your milk) and allow your baby to lead the feed. Taking your baby off the breast too soon may mean that she misses out on that lovely, nutrient dense hind milk.
Lastly, put a limit on the bad stuff. Processed foods, caffeine and sugars are not going to help you or your baby feel good.