One of the early wonders of becoming a mother is the bonding and attachment that comes with breastfeeding your baby. Of course, every breastfeeding relationship is different. Whether it getting a good latch, surviving cluster feedings or establishing and maintaining your milk supply, breastfeeding often takes hard work and some good old fashioned trial and error to get things rolling and to keep ’em going.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship. When feedings increase, your body responds to the demand by increasing milk production. Growth spurts coincide with cluster feedings where it may feel like your baby is constantly hungry and sucking you dry! While these periods can be tough to manage, rest assured, they are normal. During these periods, your baby is increasing demand, and over a short period of time your body will respond by increasing supply. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby and you are not spoiling your child by feeding her on-demand.
At the same time, you will notice times when your milk supply dips due to decreases in demand. This can happen when you introduce solids or if your child gets a cold. It can also happen if you are pumping – breast pumps do not stimulate production as effectively as a baby. And, of course, it can be challenging to maintain a regular pumping schedule. Milk supply can also decrease if you decide to supplement with formula.
If you are struggling with maintaining your supply, the most important thing to remember is that fed is best! There are lots of feeding options – breastfed, formula-fed or a combo-fed – there is no right way or wrong way to do it.
So let’s take a deep breath because we are here to take some of that worrying off your chest – literally, with these natural ways to support your breastfeeding journey.
Start with your own health.
Take care of your body by consuming clean, whole foods that are lactogenic. Dig into that dark leafy green salad, have oatmeal for breakfast and snack on nuts and seeds. Here’s a handy list of foods that are known to help increase your supply. Remember nursing moms need around 2,000 calories daily!
Choose your herbs and teas wisely!
Don’t just reach for any herbal tea. Fennel, fenugreek, raspberry leaf and blessed thistle are commonly known to boost milk supply. Traditional Medicinals makes a wonderful Mother’s Milk Tea that is organic, vegan and promotes healthy milk flow. We are also big fans of Momful’s supplements.
Stay away from peppermint, oregano and lemon balm which is actually used when you need to start the weaning process and decrease your milk supply. Here are herbs to avoid.
Make lifestyle changes.
Stay active! Carrying a baby around certainly counts as a workout but really find an exercise you enjoy and stick with it (even if it’s as simple as rolling out a yoga mat and reconnecting with your ab muscles or doing some gentle pelvic floor exercises). FitMama, Melanie Darnell has an upbeat personality and some fun postpartum workout videos.
Skip the coffee and try these alternatives instead.
Limit coffee to 1-2 cups per day. I know I know, you are sooo sleep deprived but seriously, instead of reaching for that java, try matcha — you can enjoy it in a stemmed almond milk latte or blend a small spoonful into a smoothie. Some dark chocolate can also give you that extra boost. A large cup of iced cold water infused with a few slices of orange, cucumbers or strawberries will always do wonders as a pick-me-up. Often your body is just dehydrated and that leads to fatigue as well.
Improve blood flow and circulation.
Regularly massage your breasts by using your fingertips, lightly massage from the top of your breast down and over the nipple. Then press firmly on your breast and massage in a circular motion to encourage milk towards your nipples. You can also try hand compressions. Here are some videos and photos of how to do this correctly.
Applying heat pads (or a hot washcloth) helps a lot, as well as having direct skin to skin contact with your little one while feeding.
Is your baby latching correctly?
Successful breastfeeding starts with a proper latch. One that feels comfortable and doesn’t hurt. When the latch is not correct, your breast may not be thoroughly emptied, which signals to your body that your baby’s demand has decreased so it should create less milk. If you are in doubt, contact a lactation consultant. Don’t just reach for the pump and bottle — learn how to let your baby naturally suck.
What is your breast milk’s nutritional composition?
The composition of your breast milk changes throughout your breastfeeding journey. Did you know that you can analyze the nutritional content of your breast milk? Doing so can help identify specific dietary changes that may optimize your breast milk’s composition. To learn how you can analyze the nutritional composition of your breast milk, click here.