Breastfeeding is pure ecstasy. A wonderful delight. The cuddling, the warmth, the nestling and that pure food – there’s no bliss for a new-born like breastfeeding. But for the mothers though, though our hearts leap with joy to see our babies well fed and content, there are numerous challenges on the way to breastfeeding. ‘Not enough milk’ is one of them. Here we reveal some tips for new mothers to increase their milk supply.
Signs that your breastmilk is low
Breastfeeding a baby is not an exact science measured at the same standard. There are gigantic variations in the spacing, timing and the number of feeds each baby needs. Because of this lack of clarity, it is very easy to resort feeling like we don’t have enough milk. New borns can cry for a lot of reasons like overstimulation, frustration, tiredness, boredom or discomfort more often than hunger, but it can be very hard for a new mother to distinguish these cries. Here are the signs that your baby is not getting enough milk:
- Your baby has less than 6 wet nappies a day.
- Your baby’s urine is smelly and concentrated, not pale.
- Constipation when your baby is exclusively breastfed.
- Your baby is not reaching developmental milestones.
- Your baby’s weight gain has stagnated for his/ her growth percentile over the last 4 weeks.
If you do not see the above symptoms, chances are:
- You probably have a very fussy baby.
- You feel like your baby is nursing all the time. New-borns aren’t like us to make do with 3 meals a day – they can even ask for a feed every half an hour, and that is normal too! They have the tiniest stomachs (the size of a marble or 5 ml when born) and can get quite ravenous when going through a growth spurt.
- Not all babies have to be chubby and round like shown in commercials. Some babies are naturally leaner right from the start. The main factor is to keep an eye on is the growth percentile and weight gain, not the outer appearance.
- You don’t get a lot of milk when you pump. Our body won’t react the same way to a machine as the way it does to a soft and squishy new-born. Many mothers do not get significant amounts of milk when they pump, but when a baby suckles, your body does its magic.
- Your breasts have begun to feel ‘normal’. Right after the baby is born, you can quite go through episodes of engorgement and a heavy sensation as your body adjusts to your baby’s needs. After the engorgement disappears, it can quite feel like there is no milk in the breast, but that isn’t true.
Starting the Supply
Right after childbirth, when we feed our babies for the first time, their lips will be dry and they will cry. If you had a caesarean, it would only make things worse. There is only one way to start your milk supply – you have to let your baby suckle as often and as long as they want. Though your little one appears meek and tiny, they are the best suckers in the world. With the right latch, they will initiate breast milk secretion in a few hours.
The rookie mistake new moms do here is to supplement their baby. It takes lots of resources to make breast milk and our bodies are very smart – our brain will keep checking the baby’s intake very regularly and adjust the supply accordingly to prevent waste of our energy. When you begin to supplement your little ones with formula or cow’s milk, they won’t be very hungry when they come to you. They will not suckle as often too, causing your milk supply to dwindle down.
The key you establishing your milk supply is to keep feeding your baby on demand at least for the first two months, without supplements.
Scarcity of Resources
Making milk for your little one is an expensive affair. It needs a good amount of your energy and resources. If the sources are not replenished, the milk supply might get affected. Breastfeeding moms should never skip their meals – you also need to keep sipping fluids throughout the day at regular intervals. Eating a balanced, healthy diet including greens (like spinach) and proteins (like fish) is very important to establish a quality milk supply. There’s a lucky catch here – your breast milk will taste like whatever you eat, so your baby will get accustomed to eating healthy food too!
Not Supplementing the Baby
If you are keen on establishing exclusive breastfeeding, supplementing your baby early on is a big mistake. The first few weeks are crucial for the body to monitor the needs of your baby and adjust accordingly; supplementing during this period might lead to a misunderstanding between your body and your little one’s needs. Since your baby won’t be so hungry, he will only take less, and your body will start decreasing your supply accordingly. Watch out for the number of wet nappies your baby is making every day – lesser nappies denote that your little one is not getting enough nourishment. In that case, consult your paediatrician to work out a good solution. Otherwise, if your baby is gaining weight normally, supplementing is usually unnecessary and hinders the supply of breast milk.
Many mothers begin producing abundant breast milk. But due to the latching issues of the baby, the babies will end up taking in less milk and this will eventually decrease the milk supply of the mother. Breast feeding should feel comfortable and pleasing. If you are feeling pain, the baby isn’t latched on correctly. Also, the baby’s mouth should cover most of the areola or the dark area of the nipple. This might not be possible in new-born infants, but a month-old baby will easily take in the whole nipple. If the baby is sucking only on the end tip of your breast, the latch is wrong. If you are engorged, your breasts will not be soft enough for your baby to make a seal. So, pump off a little milk before you begin. Right after birth, check with a nurse in the hospital if the way you are feeding is correct. Ask them to have a look at the latch and note if your baby is sucking rhythmically. When there is no proper latch, even if the milk is abundant, your little one will not be able to have it properly, deteriorating the precious supply.
If for some reason, you are separated from your little one, pumping can help. Working mothers and mothers of preemies are usually away from their precious little ones several times a week. In such conditions, the mother’s milk supply might take a hit. Such mothers should resort to regular pumping. There are several brands of manual and electric pumps available. While at work, you could pump your milk and have it delivered to your baby for his joyous nourishment. You could also safely freeze your milk in batches for thawing at night when you partner can feed your little one while you take a nap. Even if you are supplementing your baby for the time when you are away, pump and donate your milk needy babies to maintain your milk supply.
Nursing vacations are a relatively new concept to help increase the breast milk supply in new mummies. In this vacation, the rules are simple. You should devote minimum three days at least for the activity. All you have to do is cancel all appointments, eat, drink, cuddle and nest with your little one and feed her all day. You can watch movies if you are bored or knit or read, but stay close to the baby and feed her often and don’t cook or work. Imagine that she’s going through a growth spurt and is increasingly hungry. So, make it a point to feed her as often as you wish for as long as she wants. This vacation will simulate the hormones in both you and your little one and will help you boost up your breast milk supply. Since you will be resting a lot and relaxing during this time, it will help you bond better with the little bundle of joy. Stay well hydrated and eat healthy during this period.
How do you know if your breast milk is enough for your little one?
- Breast feeding should be painless and comfortable for you. Breast feeding secretes hormones which are relaxing for both the mother and baby. If you are feeling the opposite, check with your health care consultant.
- Your fussy baby should look content after a feeding session. There should be no more fussing or crying or repeatedly putting hands into their mouth (although the last symptom can be hard to distinguish from play for new mothers).
- Your breasts should feel emptier after feeds. You won’t be able to notice this early on, but after 4 or 5 weeks, your breasts will begin to feel softer after feeds. If you skip a feed, your breasts will engorge and become hard.
- If you have enough breast milk, your baby will suck and swallow in a rhythm. When he is feeding, he will actively suck, pause to swallow and resume sucking like a musical rhythm. If you hear clicking sounds, or if your baby pushes your breast away, or if he seems bored very often, then something might be wrong. Try removing all distractions, don’t talk to anybody while feeding, check if you are spraying milk very forcedly or check if your baby has a tongue tie.
- Your baby should produce at least seven wet nappies each day. The poop will likely be yellow with lumps that resemble curdled milk. If you are exclusively breast feeding your little one, then he/she might pass stools several times a day or not pass stools for even five days – both are perfectly normal for exclusively breast-fed babies.
Tips to boost your milk supply naturally
Breast massages or lactation massages are usually primarily reserved for feeding moms with clogged ducts and engorged breasts. But many new moms are now finding lactation massages incredibly helpful in increasing their milk supply.
To begin massaging, use a towel dipped in warm water or a heat pack that is mild lukewarm. Leave it on your breasts for a few minutes and gently massage the ducts. For mothers who have been pumping more than feeding their babies directly, this skin on skin contact is a very soothing experience that opens up their milk supply. Studies have also proven than a thirty-minute massage everyday increases the quality of mother’s milk, where the levels of lipids, casein and solids increased, while sodium levels went down. Although there are no specific techniques for this massage, don’t use too much heat or harsh movements or you may end up hurting yourself.
More than anything, the lack of sleep that accompanies the birth of a newborn is enough to drive any new parent crazy. Feeling stressed, anxious and sleep deprived are very dangerous conditions that can make you go from having ample supply to none at all in day. Just like physical health, your mental health is incredibly important in caring for your baby. Even a brief afternoon nap can make a huge difference in your milk supply and your energy levels for the rest of the day.
Supplementing with herbs and food can also be very useful in increasing your milk supply. Here are a few breast milk boosting food.
Rich in cumin aldehyde, flavonoids and terpenes, cumin seeds can help you maintain a good milk supply. You can sprinkle a few cumin seeds to your dal, veggies or add them powdered to curries for yummy delicacies that boost your milk supply.
Sesame seeds are rich in calcium, the main component of breast milk. Breastfeeding mothers need loads of calcium in their diet. You can try adding sesame seeds as a garnish in your snacks and food for calcium rich nourishment.
Dill seeds are a rich source of Magnesium, Iron and Calcium. These seeds are believed to improve lactation, digestion and also help ensure a good nights’ sleep. It is a mild diuretic and hence should be consumed is small amounts. In some places, Dill tea is used as a popular post-natal drink for new mothers.
Garlic is believed to boost the milk supply in breast feeding mothers. Although there are many different suggestions on how much garlic you must take, adding a clove or two to all your savory dishes will make them healthier and tastier.
Dried fruits like cashews, raisins, almonds are extremely high in calories, minerals, vitamins, proteins and provide a good amount of energy to breast feeding mothers. These could be consumed in the mornings and evenings as snacks with tea or soaked and blended like smoothies as a daily drink.
Oats make an excellent breakfast for new breast-feeding moms. Super rich in calcium, iron, fiber and vitamins, many moms swear that oats make a difference in their milk supply. You can have soaked oats with nuts and fruits for a quick and easy breakfast and as a snack to kick start your milk supply.
Multi grain porridges are a great way to reap the benefits of many grains in one dish. The collective goodness and nourishment of the various grains and nuts can help you feel energized and help your body produce more milk.
Lotus seeds or Makhane
Roasted Makhane are an excellent source of flavonoids and anti-oxidants and helps in eliminating the free radicals from the body. Food rich in anti-oxidants can bring down the inflammation in your body and help you in milk production.
Homemade pure ghee made from cow’s milk is another special treat that is served to feeding mothers. Including healthy fat in your diet is a great strength booster that can increase your stamina. Add a spoon of ghee to hot rice and as a garnish to make the yummiest milk boosting foods ever.
If your doctor determines that your supply isn’t adequate, you can get a prescription for the drug domperidone, which is a hormone boosting drug that can trigger milk supply. Never resort to supplementing without consulting a lactation expert first and never feel guilty for having to supplement your baby with formula when your supply is truly low.