Breastfeeding advocates push the idea that breast milk is better for baby for a multitude of reasons, ranging from the baby’s IQ to the bonding experience mother and baby will feel. Many women, then, want to breastfeed their children, but for a significant portion of women, breastfeeding does not come so naturally. I found out with my first child that breastfeeding is not an instinctive part of the baby’s makeup. Both mom and baby have to work at breastfeeding to make sure the baby latches on properly and is getting enough milk.
Mothers who experience intense anxiety, such as I did, from a stressful labor and delivery or because they are nervous about the baby may find that they are not producing enough milk to satisfy the baby’s needs. Instead of giving up, however, these women can learn to breastfeed baby effectively and increase the milk supply to boot.
The biggest stimulant for nursing is the baby him or herself. Putting the baby to the breast often, even every hour, and helping baby to try to latch on will help increase the milk supply. Mom’s body generally will adjust to what it perceives as the baby’s needs, so putting the baby to nurse frequently will help.
Similarly many babies, especially those born early, will not nurse enough at each feeding to empty the breasts. Mom’s body will adjust and produce less milk. Buy a breast pump and express after each time the baby feeds. Then feed the baby the excess milk. Your body will learn that the baby needs all of the milk you are producing so that you can continue producing.
When I reported to my obstetrician that my daughter was losing weight because she was not getting enough milk, I was surprised at his initial answer. Relax. He explained that the body’s ability to produce milk are connected indirectly with the mother’s stress levels. That means that more stress equals less milk. Moms who are serious about breastfeeding but are not producing enough milk should tell everyone else to go home, forget about housework, and spend time with baby trying to work on nursing.
Two herbal supplements, blessed thistle and fenugreek, are cited often as stimulants to milk production. Like all herbal supplements, these forms of medication are not researched by the Food and Drug Administration, and you should let your doctor know if you intend to take them. Doctors also may prescribe Reglan. This medication is intended for stomach problems, but one of the off-label uses is to increase a woman’s milk supply. Taking these medications is a very personal choice but can be effective if needed.
Drinking Plenty of Fluids
Producing breast milk takes a toll on the body’s resources. Drink plenty of water, milk, and juice to increase your supply. Caffeine hurts the body’s efforts and should be cut out as much as possible. If you need something with more pizzazz than the recommended fluids, try a cup of hot tea. To make sure you drink enough water, try to have eight ounces after each breastfeeding session. It will replenish your body and help get you in the groove.
These suggestions are the most common ways to increase your supply of milk. There are a number of health professionals, from doctors to lactation consultants, who can help you come up with ideas that may work for your specific situation.