Over the years, there are many studies supporting the benefits of breast milk and it is the ideal nutrition for infants. Breast milk meets the nutritional needs of your baby, and it is protective against many health conditions such as infection, allergy, respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions, sudden infant death syndrome and also linked to better weight gain and intelligence.
However, you may be worried about whether you are producing enough breastmilk for your baby and here are 12 remedies to naturally increase your breastmilk supply.
#1 Keep Nursing
Your body produces milk based on demand and supply – the more your baby drinks, the more breastmilk you will produce. To ensure a smooth nursing process, visit a lactation consultant before your delivery to understand how to position the baby properly during nursing for proper latching on. It is also good to request the hospital to have your baby brought to you after birth for nursing as the first few days are critical for breastfeeding success.
Rest is important – if your body is tired and not rested, it may reduce your breastmilk supply. Make sure that you have help during the first few weeks of birth; don’t feel bad asking for help as your body needs time to recover after birth.
#3 Express Milk
If you find that your breasts still feel full after breastfeeding, you may want to consider expressing milk. You can freeze or dispose of the milk if you do not foresee needing the expressed milk. If you find that your breastmilk supply is low, you may want to express more frequently with longer duration each time.
#4 Invest in an Electric Double-Pump
This comes in very handy and can help to speed up the process of expressing milk. When you’re tired and just want to rest, you do not want to spend time manually pumping your breasts or gritting your teeth through a breast pump that is excruciatingly uncomfortable.
#5 Nurse from Both Breasts
Nursing from both breasts in the same feeding session helps to ensure both breasts receive adequate stimulation. You can practice “switch nursing”, whereby when your baby’s sucking slows down at one breast, to switch him quickly to another breast. This can be repeated another time during the same session. Alternatively, you can also express milk after the feeding session.
#6 Eat Well
Having a balanced diet is important and a good starting point. There are certain foods that are linked to increasing breastmilk supply, known as galactagogues. These foods include salmon (which is also a good source of essential fatty acids), oatmeal, carrots, spinach, apricots, barley and chickpeas. Some staples also have been linked to increasing milk supply such as brown rice and sweet potatoes. Asian confinement meals usually have unripe papayas that are also known to help the mother to relax. Other foods to increase breastmilk are almonds and cashew nuts which are also high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Some seeds are also available in supplement form, such as fenugreek seeds and fennel seeds.
#7 Avoid alcohol and nicotine
Alcohol and nicotine are not only harmful, but researched to reduce breastmilk production. Moreover, there is no safe level of alcohol in breastmilk and thus it is best to avoid alcohol during nursing. Water, on the other hand, helps to replace the liquids lost in lactation and also prevent dehydration.
#8 Massage your Breasts
Breast massage can help to open blocked ducts and help with the flow of milk. You can ask your lactation consultant how to massage your breasts – the movements are gentle, from the chest wall and end towards the nipple. You can massage when nursing, or just before nursing to increase the flow of milk which will encourage your baby to feed longer.
Having skin-to-skin contact can increase hormones that help with milk production. It is also a great way to bond with your baby.
Make sure that you are not wearing a tight bra or a bra that is too restrictive as it may lead to clogged ducts and reduce the milk production.
#11 Limit Bottles
At least for the first few weeks, avoid giving your baby milk formula until your breastmilk supply and nursing is on track. You may also want to limit pacifier in case your baby prefers to suck on the pacifier instead of nursing. Water need not be given before your baby is started on solids.
#12 Make Feeding more Convenient
You can nurse in bed or when wearing your baby in a sling. Making it more convenient for feeding increases the likelihood that you will nurse more frequently.
While you would often hear that your breastmilk supply is definitely enough for your baby, there are certain conditions that may prevent or limit your breastmilk supply. If you are having difficulties with breastfeeding, do speak to a lactation consultant or your doctor.