Breastfeeding, though it is the natural way to feed your baby, and mothers have been doing it since the dawn of time, can prove difficult for many mothers. Even if you have no problem with painful nipples, the task of maintaining your breast milk supply can seem to be a full time job all by itself. Though one of the best remedies is simply to drink more water, you can only drink so much. Here are a few more things you can try.
1. Indian food and oatmeal.
Indian food is great, it contains many naturally healthy herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, fennel and cumin. The most effective one of these specifically for breast milk production is called "fenugreek". You can pick up fenugreek tea at your local health food store, but I have seen it be much more effective when combined with protein and carbohydrate rich meals which feature a range of beneficial ingredients. I would caution that you may want to ask for or prepare "mildly spicy" Indian food, because too much heat can make your breast milk taste funny to your baby. Oatmeal is a well-balanced meal to start your day. It is loaded with carbohydrates and protein, and is also relaxing and soothing. When you have a well stocked supply of protein, carbohydrates to burn while converting the protein to milk, and are relaxed enough that your body is not using the carbohydrates to fuel your activities, it is a perfect recipe for milk production.
2. Pumping the left overs.
After your baby is finished eating, use a pump, or a hand-expressing method, to drain all the excess milk from your milk ducts. Whenever your body has to reabsorb more than a few drops of breast milk, it tries to make less the next time. But when your breasts are continuously drained completely dry, your body tries to produce more for the next feeding. You can save the milk to use at night feedings, if your baby will take breast milk through a bottle, or freeze it to use for things like mixing with cereal when your baby is older. To hand express your milk, place your index or middle finger just outside one side of your areola, and your thumb in a similar position exactly across the nipple from your finger. Press your entire hand close to your body causing your breast to flatten against your rib cage slightly. Now gently bring your thumb and finger closer together, almost as if you were trying to pinch your areola. As you do this, you should see a stream of milk squirt out. Hold a bottle over your nipple to collect the milk, repeat compressions until there is no more milk.
3. Yoga and meditation.
I think it is very helpful for a new mother to take an hour or so for herself each day to drain stress from her body. You may be tempted to just sleep if your baby is giving you a break for a bit, and while there is nothing wrong with sleep, conscious relaxation can be even more beneficial in terms of milk production. While you sleep, you process stresses by replaying parts of them in dreams, and quite often this can be quite stressful in its own right. However, if you take some time to do some deep breathing exercises, and focus on being calm and relaxed, tension can drain away much more efficiently. The sleep you will have after a good yoga routine, or a soothing meditation session is much deeper, and restful than regular sleep. This relaxed, mellow mode is perfect for milk production. Your subconscious doesn't have anything to worry about processing, except for protein, nutrients and carbohydrates into milk.
4. Breast massage.
From just below your collar bones to the bottom of your breast, there are milk ducts. Some times some of these get "lazy" or "forgetful" and begin producing less milk. A quick little massage consisting of small circular rubbing motions by your fingers slowly covering each breast from top to bottom and from one side to the other side (as if you were doing your monthly self exam), is a great way to remind those ducts to get back to work. You can also use tapping motions and brisk full-hand rubbing. Basically, you just want to stimulate the nerves in the deeper tissue of your breast. You might also try draping a warm towel over your breasts between feedings to increase circulation and stimulate production.
5. Family bed.
Having your baby near you is always a great idea for stimulating milk production, but sleeping with your baby is especially effective. There is some conflicting data about the overall safety of sleeping in the same bed with your baby, but the majority of the reliable sources say it is safe, and there is no question that it is great for milk production. The reason is that your baby can eat easily and often throughout the night, but you do not have to rouse fully to feed him. So you get more rest, your baby gets plenty of food, your milk gets drained more efficiently, and you have more energy to produce more! It is a great tactic to give your milk production a real boost.
Do not give up hope if you have to constantly struggle with low milk levels, after a few weeks it usually picks up quite well. If you are still concerned though, talking to a lactation consultant can really help you pinpoint the best way for you personally to increase your milk production. It often may seem like your baby is not getting much to eat at all, when they are really eating plenty. Also, in worst case scenarios, your doctor can prescribe an injection to help stimulate your milk production. There are some nasty side effects to that injection, so I do not recommend that new moms rush out and ask for it, but if all else is not working, it can usually do the trick. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. As always questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!
There is a NEW post from NAOMI up today (9/5/14)! Check it out HERE.