When I first started breastfeeding I expected my milk to come in right away. I didn’t realize that first, my breasts would produce colostrum. It is a nutrient-rich fluid the mother produces right afterbirth. It is full of antibodies that help develop immunity in newborns. This will keep baby nourished until your milk comes in, which can take several days. At first, your baby may lose weight, which can worry most parents. However, once your milk comes in your baby will start gaining weight. They should be back to their birth weight within 10-14 days, following their birth. Your milk is customized for your baby. It passes along antibodies to protect your little one against pathogens. The protein, fat and sugar content also changes to meet your babies dietary needs as they grow. As a newcomer to breastfeeding you might worry you aren’t producing enough milk, or if you are one of the lucky ones maybe you won’t. As long as your baby is still gaining weight you have nothing to fear.
Now, as if it wasn’t hard enough trying to learn how to get baby to latch and figuring out a feeding schedule, then comes the welcome, not so welcome advice from others. I had my fair share of comments from family and friends during my breastfeeding journey. Some gave helpful advice. While others said things like “your feeding the baby too much!” or “the baby is eating again!?!”. They simply didn’t understand. Every woman’s breasts are different. You may hold 2 or 3 ounces per breast. While another’s may hold up to 4 ounces per breast. We are all unique. Suckling is how your baby increases your milk supply. Think, supply and demand! The more your baby suckles at your breasts, the more they will produce. Sometimes it might seem like your babe is constantly at the breast, but it is so worth it. Your baby should completely drain your breast before moving onto the next one. If baby is still hungry, place them back on the other breast to suckle. This increased demand will signal your body to produce more milk. You should see an increase within 1-3 days.
Building Up Demand and Boosting Milk Supply
I got scared with my first baby thinking she wasn’t getting enough milk. I thought she was starving. She still seemed so hungry after feeds and was constantly at my breast. I didn’t stop to think. I should have known I was producing enough, because she was gaining weight. Being a first time mom I just didn’t know, so I started supplementing with formula. However, by doing so, she got full and wasn’t suckling at my breast as often as she could have been. I then struggled to produce enough milk until I realized what I was doing wrong. Some mothers may have a low milk supply and that is ok. I have some tips and tricks for helping boost milk supply, however If you need to supplement with formula, don’t hesitate. A fed baby is best.
- Breastfeed your newborn baby every 2 to 3 hours, for 15-20 minutes per side. Ensure each breast is completely drained before switching sides. However, it is important they eat from both sides each feed.
- Completely drain each breast. If baby didn’t drain the last breast you offered at the last feed, start feeding with that breast first at the next feed. (ex. my baby drained my left breast. I began offering my right breast and baby was full part way through. The next feed, I offered my right breast first.)
- Pumping is a great way to increase supply. You can pump after every feed, ensuring your breasts are completely empty, or pump in between feeds. If you do this consistently you will see an increase. You can store your extra milk in a deep freezer for up to 6 months, leaving extra milk to use if you need to return to work or have someone else look after your little one.
- Feed your baby often. Even if you don’t think there is any milk. You need the demand in order to fill it. Cluster feeding happens during growth spurts. Your baby will seem hungry after feeds and want to stay at the breast. Allow them to suckle and switch between breasts ensuring they are completely drained. You should see an increase within 1 to 3 days.
- Stay hydrated! It is very important to drink plenty of fluids. Water is best. Keep a filled water bottle with you at all times. You don’t necessarily need to drink more water, but you should never feel thirsty. Thirst is a sign of dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to drink 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce of water per pound that you weigh.
- Eat a balanced diet with all five food groups. Getting proper nutrition can really help with supply issues. Make sure you are eating a well balanced diet and getting all the nutrients you need. If your body isn’t getting all the nutrients it needs, it might think you are starving, decreasing your milk supply. It can also cause your body to start storing fat. This happens to me every time I start breastfeeding. Immediately following delivery I gain a tone of weight eating all the wrong foods I couldn’t eat while pregnant.
- Stress can negatively affect your milk production. When your body produces cortisol in response to stress it can decrease your milk supply. Try to remain calm and get as much rest as you can. I know it’s easier said than done with a newborn, but try. Sleep when baby sleeps. The housework can wait!
Galactagogue Rich Foods For Boosting Milk Production
If you are still having issues with your milk supply there are many foods and supplements you can take that contain galactagogues, which are thought to help boost milk production. There is not a lot of proven research out there. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that shows these help increase production and I can personally attest that these worked for me. You have nothing to lose by trying them. If you choose to use herbal supplements, make sure to discuss this with your Physician or Lactation Consultant because even natural products can have adverse side affects. My go-to is eating oatmeal every morning. I drink Mother’s Milk Tea and take Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle supplements three times a day. I also made my own lactation cookies using this recipe, or you can buy them ready made from Milkmakers. They are a great snack when you are on the go.
- Oats contain many nutrients, they are one of natures ‘Super Foods’. They are high in iron which is very important for nursing mothers. You can eat oatmeal for breakfast. steal cut oats are the best in my opinion. They are not as processed. If you’re short on time using quick oats is fine. You can bake with them as well. Use them in your favorite cookie or muffin recipe. Or switch out dairy/soy milk for oat milk.
- Fenugreek is thought to have very potent galactagoques. You can find it in your local spice aisle or in a health food store. Make some tea or use it to add flavor to your meals. Fenugreek is used in a lot of dishes from the Indian subcontinent. Talk to a physician first. Caution should be taken with those who suffer from asthma, as Fenugreek can exacerbate symptoms.
- Blessed Thistle, often used alongside Fenugreek, helps to increase the flow of milk. It has many other benefits as it is thought to be a natural anti-inflammatory, and is used to treat fevers, colds and bacterial infections.
- Fennel is an amazingly fragrant plant. You can find fresh whole fennel, fennel seeds or fennel seed capsules at your local grocery stores. It is actually a member of the carrot family. It has a round bulbous portion at the bottom and produces seeds. Use it in your favorite dish or boil some water and make some tea. Fennel has phytoestrogens, which are similar to human estrogens and are thought to help boost milk supply.
- Brewers Yeast is considered a ‘Super Food’ for it’s high protein content, vitamin B, minerals, amino acids and chromium. They are thought to support a healthy milk supply by providing key nutrients.
I hope you have found these suggestions helpful. As always, I am not a medical professional. Just a mom sharing what works for me. Before taking any form of supplement you should always speak with your Physician or a lactation Consultant. If you like what you’re reading please share it with your friends and family.