In aid of National Breastfeeding Week, we thought a post on breastfeeding was rather apt so here we go...
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world but for some women, it can be a struggle and take some time, effort and perseverance to succeed. One of the things that comes up time and time again is “not having enough milk”; I hear it from so many new mums who felt that they had to give up breastfeeding due to a low milk supply.
Many new mums can feel anxious about breastfeeding, it’s quite common to be worried “if the baby is on right” or “are they getting enough” or maybe you are finding it painful to latch your baby on? However, if you are anxious your body produces adrenaline which can overrule the hormones that are involved in your milk supply, this can result in your production slowing down. A vicious circle can then start because as you become more anxious due to the reduced milk supply it can compound it even more.
There are several things that can support your milk supply, take a look and see if you can identify any tips that may help you if you are experiencing a low milk supply.
Position & Latch of Baby
When you are learning to breastfeed the act of positioning baby at the breast can seem a little alien – it is, after all, a new skill that you are learning. It will come with practice but if you think you have a low milk supply in the early days it would be worth getting the position and latch of baby checked out with your Midwife or other breastfeeding advisors; if baby is not latched on correctly they can be suckling but not draining the breast which will affect the milk supply.
Make sure you rest as much as possible; this is easier said than done with a baby who seems to be constantly feeding! However, when they finally sleep – you must sleep. Don’t try to multitask and do loads of jobs – your job in the early days needs to be sleep in order to re-energise your body to produce milk. Partners want to help but sometimes they don’t know how – get them involved with taking the baby out for a walk in the pram, a couple of laps around the block will get baby to sleep, whilst not being far away from you, enabling both of you to relax with the idea. If visitors want to come, let them come and take baby out for a walk whilst you and your partner both get some rest. Go to bed early in the evening if the baby is sleeping – allowing you a block of sleep before the middle of the night shenanigans begins! If you’ve had a sleepless night – have a PJ day in bed to rest and relax with baby close by.
We should all be drinking around 2 litres of fluids every day in order to be fully hydrated but this can be hard going if you’re not used to it. However, if you are dehydrated it will affect your milk supply so every time you sit to feed baby you should also have a drink to hand. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty before you have a drink – the feeling of thirst is your body’s final step in trying to let you know you are dehydrated. Clear fluids are best and avoid caffeine because this will affect the baby. There are some herbal tea blends available to support lactation or you can just buy a fennel tea.
It is so easy to forget to eat or not feel hungry when you are caring for your new-born for what seems like every hour of the day – but you must feed yourself in order to be able to feed your baby. You may be recovering from a long labour or even surgery or excessive loss of blood so your body needs fuel to mend, recharge and to be able to provide milk. Without calories, it will be like running on a flat battery and your milk supply will be the first thing to be affected. Things like jacket potatoes, beans, wholemeal toast and fruit are all quick and easy to grab. Another thing to consider is the offers of help that family & friends might be making – don’t be polite and decline! Take them up on their offer and ask them if they can bring round some home cooked meals to keep you going in the early days.
Support/positive role models
Remember I mentioned the negative role that anxiety plays in your milk supply - There is nothing like the love and support from family and friends to reduce that anxiety and help a new breastfeeding mummy through a rough patch. Women who’ve been through the same experience are sometimes the best people to learn from. Even it’s it just hearing their empathy rather than being told to “just give the baby a bottle” which isn’t always what you need to hear. Search online for “Infant feeding cafes” in your area or ask your Midwife/Health Visitor for information on suitable groups where specialist Breastfeeding supporters may also be involved.
Excessive loss of blood in delivery can result in you being anaemic so if you experience shortness of breath when walking, feeling tired, light headed and dizzy you should discuss them with your Midwife. Anaemia can affect your milk supply, therefore it’s important to boost your iron supplies if you are breastfeeding. As well as trying to increase your iron intake through your diet If you have been prescribed tablets try to take them will a small glass of orange juice as the vitamin C will help with the absorption of the iron. Also, leave it 30 minutes before drinking tea or coffee because these have the opposite effect and stop the iron tablets from being absorbed.
This is something to consider, whether it be by hand or with an electrical/manual breast pump as the theory of pumping is based on the supply and demand principle of lactation. In effect, the suction and nipple stimulation causes the release of prolactin (a hormone involved in the making of the milk) and oxytocin (a hormone involved in the delivery of the milk). The best time to pump is after a feed, letting your baby have what he needs first followed by pumping for 10 minutes on each breast. Don’t fret if you don’t see any milk or you get very little – the whole point of pumping in this situation is to stimulate your body to produce more milk. So a full session with no milk will still be beneficial because you will be stimulating the hormones to make more milk ready for the next feed. But don’t forget you need to relax, because the vicious circle of anxiety ↔ low milk will be in full force here if you’re not careful!!
Aromatherapy “Bosom Buddies” breastfeeding oils include the “Aah” blend which supports your milk supply using key ingredients such as Lemon Grass, Fennel and Mandarin essential oils. Lemon Grass and Fennel have galactagogue properties which mean they help with the formation and secretion of milk; whereas Mandarin has beneficial effects on low mood and anxiety. Use this oil blend to create warm wet compresses for your breasts to help relax you and encourage your milk supply.
Just a word about supplementing with formula...
Just to mention about giving baby formula milk – understanding the supply and demand theory of lactation; that being the more the milk is demanded, the more your body will supply, you can understand why giving your baby formula may not be in the best thing when it comes to resolving the low milk issue. Yes, it may fill the baby and allow them to settle, thereby giving you a break – but in the long run, it could well make things worse. However as already mentioned being tired and miserable will not help your low milk supply either! So if you need a break from it all then the choice is yours – however, go sparingly as a large feed will stretch your baby’s stomach and get him used to larger volumes.
I hope you find my “8 ways to support milk supply” useful and by making some slight adjustments you can have your milk supply back up and running in no time. Further support and advice can be found at these Breast Feeding Support organisations that offer telephone helplines.
Thanks for reading
Jane – The Midwife x
For more blogs on pregnancy, birth and life as a new mum please visit www.naturalbirthingcompany.com/blogs/news
During your pregnancy factors may come into play that results in you requiring different advice – in these circumstances, you should seek direct advice from you own Midwife/Doctor according to your situation.
If you are unsure about anything or have any concerns whilst pregnant please speak to your Midwife.