Woes of Low Milk Production
In the first year of a babies life, mommy and baby have a very exclusive bond. It's why moms "just know" what their babies want (most of the time at least.) A mothers body works in unison with the baby to make sure we produce enough milk.
It's a delicate balance of hormones and body cues, an elegant dance between mom and baby. It's one of the most amazing things about breastfeeding. Sometimes things don't work out so great though, and low milk production can become an issue.
Problem is that even after something as major as giving birth, new moms feel as though they are expected to bounce back and keep up as if nothing changed. Pregnancy and birth puts a HUGE amount of stress on our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Women often take the role of caregiver in their family and have a hard time letting go of that role, even when needing care themselves. It's as if we have forgotten how important the first few weeks are how they affect.
It's as if we have forgotten how important the first few weeks are how they affect our milk supply in the long run. Many cultures have some variation of a tradition called "sitting-in." Which typically ensures the mother has restricted activity after birth.
While researching these various traditions, I have mixed thoughts. However, the intention seems to be in the right place. After giving birth a mothers body needs time to heal and bond with the baby.
We forgot how to have a good postpartum
Many cultures have some variation of a tradition called "sitting-in." Which typically ensures the mother has restricted activity after birth. While researching these various traditions, I have mixed thoughts. However, the intention seems to be in the right place. After giving birth a mothers body needs time to heal and bond with the baby.
This leads me to this one fact about breastfeeding. Those first few weeks, mothers need to focus on nothing else but rest and nursing. If we are given permission from not only our support team but also ourselves, then I think that would solve a lot of the milk production issues. Which leads me to the first 'increase your milk supply' tidbit.
*These tips will only help if you have an actual supply issue. Make sure that if you are concerned with your output due to a decreased amount during pumping, make sure it's not the pump! So many things can go wrong with those darn things.
Troubleshoot your pump first and look for signs that your baby is asking for more milk during actual feeds. Also, make sure that there isn't a latch problem. This often is a source of unnecessary pain and breastfeeding problems. Consult with a lactation consultant ASAP if you suspect your little one is having trouble.
How to Increase your Milk Supply
Get Good Rest
Not just some rest, but get a lot of rest. Your body is gearing up and using a crud-ton of calories to both heal and produce a concentrated food source for your small human. You need to let your body shut down all the other unnecessary processes and focus its attention where it needs to be. If you want to seriously increase your milk supply, tell everyone that you and the little one are gonna go hang out in bed and do nothing but watch Netflix and surf the web.
The first Le Leche League meeting I ever attended was hosted at the birth center where my first was born. My midwife was running it, and this was the single most important piece of advice she gave us. Rest! Without it, she said, we were setting ourselves up for frustration and failure. Good words to keep in mind when your thinking about all the things you 'should' be doing.
Which leads me to my second tidbit.
Skin to Skin
Yes, strip baby down to his diaper, and take your shirt and bra off. This is a must. Skin to skin cuddling during all your resting will signal to your body that it's time to make lots of milk. Not only that, but it feels amazing. Trust me, your baby is loving it too.
Offer the boob, all the time
Offer anytime there is a possibility that he may be interested. A lot of mom's worry about getting baby on a feeding schedule, but if you're genuinely concerned about your supply, then now is not the time. Increase your supply first and ensure it stays steady. Then you can worry about that other stuff later.
If you're in bed and working on your skin to skin thing, your baby will be encouraged to nurse more often. While you're lying in bed keep your breasts easily available to baby. Let him wake up and latch whenever he so desires. Nursing often will encourage your body to produce more milk.
I personally have always fed on demand. I honestly don't know how moms who don't breastfeed do it. Every time my baby is fussy, my first intervention is offering to nurse. I know he's not always hungry, but he's content nursing so I'm good with that.
He's happy, I'm happy. This has a lot to do with the feel-good hormones that are produced during breastfeeding. For more information read this awesome article about all the positive benefits breastfeeding has on a mothers brain.
Blood-loss, fluids shifting in your body, milk production increasing all can lead to dehydration. Sometimes this is all it takes for your milk supply to drop. This is an easy fix though, keep lots of water easily accessible. If you need to keep it interesting add your favorite juices and teas into the mix. I'm always a big fan of nutritious teas while breastfeeding. Nettle is an excellent tea to drink for super nourishing milk.
Your calorie needs are not as high as they were during pregnancy, but you still need more than normal. Make them count too. Eating lots of healthy fruit along with high calorie, healthy snacks (like nuts) will make sure your body has enough energy to heal while producing high-quality milk. Calories can have a big impact on milk supply.
I personally craved lots of chocolate oatmeal and bananas those first few weeks with both my babies. I hadn't had chocolate oatmeal since I was a kid, and I never crave oatmeal. (who craves oatmeal?) But oddly enough oatmeal is supposed to increase your supply as well. There are lots of recipes for lactation cookies. If you're freshly postpartum ask someone to make them for you. Or find a source online that will bring them to your door.
Reach for tea
I drank a lot of mothers milk tea with my first one. There's quite a few on the market. I drank this one alot, but you can buy an awesome loose leaf variation here. Or, buy the herbs separately and make your own mix.
Herbs that great for a breastfeeding mom
- Red Raspberry leaf (read about all the great benefits here)
- Blessed Thistle
- Hops (This is why you hear about beer being a milk booster)
These can help by not only increasing milk supply, but they are also nutrient dense making your supply extra nutritious.
Try to stress less
It's so difficult not to feel stressed when you're postpartum. Between your pain, lack of sleep, worries about (finances? family dynamics? everything?), and adjusting to this new little bundle in your life, of course, you are going to be under loads of stress. This makes it even more important that you find a system that works for you and to find ways to alleviate your stress. This means letting go of a lot of guilt too. Its okay to take this time for yourself and your baby. You want your relationship to thrive. Find ways to decrease stress. Put on soothing music, put a little lavender essential oil on the diffuser, watch your favorite comedy shows. Whatever works for you. Make a conscious decision that this is your priority right now. Everything else will have to wait.
This goes for even if your baby is 6 months old and you notice a huge drop in your supply. This happened to me. I had to call into work and make the decision to stay in bed for a few days with my baby and do nothing but eat, sleep, nurse, Repeat. And it worked. Our bodies know what to do, we just usually demand too much from them at one time. We have to listen to our body and realize it's telling us when we need to slow down.
If your baby is supplementing real foods with breast milk, try pumping while baby eats. The extra stimulation mimics an increase demand. This is one I tried often. I even tried the power pumping method at night when my baby went to sleep. Power pumping is when you pump for 15 minutes, take a break, pump again for 15 minutes and take a break, etc. This method didn't work great for me personally, but I have heard of many other women having success with this method.
To amp up your milk supply
If you're serious about increasing your milk supply, hands down the best thing you can do is dedicate as many hours as possible to only breastfeeding your baby. Again, this means taking the time off, giving yourself permission to let go of your other responsibilities, having lots of stress-free, skin to skin time with your baby and breastfeeding on demand. Drink your mother's milk tea and do some of your favorite things while you're at it. This really does work and it is that simple. Plus, what a divine way to increase your supply and connect with a brand new life.
*Now, if you're truly concerned your baby isn't getting enough milk, make sure you consult with a lactation specialist or medical professional. Calories and hydration are crucial to your developing baby. Baby can become dehydrated very quickly!
Make it a bit easier & get ready for breastfeeding with these free printables!
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