The most stressful time postpartum is no doubt the first few weeks of nursing. Breastfeeding is painful, taxing, and nerve wracking. But it is also one of the most natural things in the world. Of all new mothers that start off breastfeeding their babies, approximately 70 percent stop either partially or completely within the first few months, according to data from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the most common reasons for this is anxiety over insufficient milk production. Often, mothers think that their milk supply is low. If your baby is gaining weight well on breastmilk alone, then you do not have a problem with milk supply. However, if you’re worried that you’re not producing an adequate supply of breast milk for your baby, you’re not alone.
One thing I understood very soon after my baby was born was that milk production was a demand and supply process. The more I nursed, the more milk there was. If you need to increase your milk supply, it’s important to understand how milk is made. To speed up milk production and increase overall milk supply, the key is to remove more milk from the breast and to do so frequently, so that less milk accumulates in the breast between feedings.
One of the most solid ways of doing this is to ensure that the baby nurses more efficiently. If the positioning and latch are not well placed, then the baby is probably not removing milk well. The use of nipple shields, pacifiers, and bottle feeding can also interfere with baby’s ability to transfer milk. Inefficient milk transfer can lead to a baby not getting enough milk, or needing to nurse almost constantly to get enough milk. It can also cause some pain in the chest, including clogged milk ducts, infection,s and mastitis. If not treated, surgical interference could be needed. Unfortunately, nurses and midwives in Pakistan aren’t trained to focus on latching, and concentrate more on other ways of increasing breast milk production such as encouraging liquid intake. Something I wish I had known earlier was to only drink liquids when thirsty, (don’t force down liquids – drinking extra water does not increase supply), and eat a reasonably well balanced diet. Here is how you can increase your milk supply.
1. Breastfeed More Often
When it comes to infants, get rid of the clock and don’t try to make it too predictable. Breastfeed often and let your baby decide when to stop nursing. When your baby suckles on your breast, hormones are released which activate milk production. In medical terms, that’s the ‘let down’ reflex.The more you breastfeed, the more milk your breasts make.
Breastfeeding your infant 8 to 12 times a day can be taxing for you, but it can help establish and maintain a steady supple of milk production. This supply will naturally increase when your infant is going through a growth spurt.
2. Consider Pumping
This is a practice I practically swore by! Adding pumping sessions after nursing can be very helpful – pumping is very important when the baby is not nursing efficiently, or frequently enough, and can speed things up in all situations.
While the aim here is to remove more milk from the breasts and to increase the frequency of emptying the milk ducts, pumping between feedings can also help you increase milk production. The key is to keep pumping for 2 – 5 minutes after the last drops of milk.
3. Nurse From Both Sides
Encourage your baby to feed from both breasts at each session. The stimulation of having both breasts breastfed from can help increase milk production. The fuller your breasts become, the slower they make more milk. Depending on how often you breastfeed, it may be necessary to offer both breasts at each feed in order to stimulate milk production and maintain your milk supply. Pumping milk from both breasts simultaneously helps to increase milk production and results in a higher fat content in the milk.
4. Binge On Super Foods
Breastfeeding moms are the sole source of nutrition for their young infants. For at least the first several months, it is more important than ever for your baby to consume a healthy and nutritious diet, packed with all the right vitamins and nutrients. Breastfeeding moms need 330 more calories of healthy food every day, versus the average non-pregnant woman. The good news is that nature has a solution for everything. There are foods and herbs that not only give you energy and essential vitamins, but also increase breast milk production. Some, such as fenugreek, have been found to take effect in as little as seven days. These super foods include, but are not limited to, garlic, ginger, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and, cinnamon, oats, whole grains and almond milk.
5. Warm Showers And Compresses
The heat from a warm compress or a nice hot shower will stimulate the bloods vessels in your breasts to open up, making it easier for milk to flow from the tissue down towards your nipples. Furthermore, prepare for a nursing session by gently massaging your breasts. Not only will a breast massage help stimulate your ‘let down’ reflex, but will also prevent you from developing blocks in the ducts, which can lead to more serious problems. The entire massage process should take no longer than 1 – 2 minutes for each breast. You may notice your breasts start to leak during the massage, which is a good sign.