As the saying goes, “Breastmilk is best for your baby.” No amount of any other milk can beat what breastmilk can give. But most moms wonder how to increase milk supply?
It is perhaps safe to say that breastfeeding is one of the major goals of every new mom. As a mother, we always want to give the best for our children – and feeding them with mommy’s milk is one of those.
Personally, the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew right there and then that I was giving my baby breastmilk. Although of course, like any other expecting moms out there, there was that part of me that doubts if I can do it. Nobody really knows anyway until it comes out of your breasts, right?
Fast-forward after giving birth, when my baby first latches on me, my worries turned into joy. I have milk! He got something from my breast! I was totally in heaven at that time.
However, things changed a few weeks after. Slowly, I found my milk to be decreasing. I did not know what is happening. All I care about at that time is to work on how to increase milk supply. So, I went to a lactation expert and had a series of sessions with her to work on increasing my milk, and as they say, the rest is history.
Today, it’s been more a year (and counting) already since I started breastfeeding, and I couldn’t be happier. To be honest, at first I was only hoping to exclusively breastfeed until six months at least, but here we are. I am just ecstatic really. Of course, there were struggles and challenges along the way, but I am just glad we were able to surpass them all.
With that said, I feel like I owe it to you, fellow moms, to share what I learned from this whole experience. I owe to you the information particularly on how to increase milk supply. After all, no one else will help mommies but fellow mommies (and experts) too!
But before we talk about how to increase milk supply, let me share with you some of the amazing benefits of breastfeeding first. I thought it is important that we, moms, know what breastfeeding provides not just to your baby, but to us too. It’s one way of understanding also why experts suggest to – as much as possible – breastfeed our babies.
HOW BENEFICIAL IS BREASTFEEDING?
It is important to know that breastfeeding does not only benefit the baby but the mom as well. Thus, here are some of the things you will get to take advantage of when breastfeeding:
– It provides essential nutrition for babies.
Most healthcare providers all around the world highly recommend exclusively breastfeeding at least in the first six months of the baby’s life. Also, continued breastfeeding is endorsed for at least a year while the baby is being introduced to different kinds of food.
If you wonder why that is so, the answer is simple – breastmilk contains everything that the baby needs (and we mean essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals) for the first six months of his or her life. Needless to say, it all comes in proper proportions.
Amazingly, breastmilk’s composition changes according to the baby’s needs, particularly during his or her first month. Just so you know, during the first few days after birth, mommy’s breasts produce a thick and yellowish fluid, which is commonly known as colostrum. Colostrum contains a high level of protein, low sugar, and is loaded with all essential compounds that the baby needs for such age. Colostrum is the most ideal first milk among babies as it helps in the development of a newborn’s immature digestive tract.
Now, a few days after, the breasts will then start producing a larger amount of breastmilk – just enough as the baby’s stomach grows.
– It contains essential antibodies.
Antibodies are vital in fighting off viruses and bacteria. Guess what? Breastmilk is loaded with such particularly the colostrum, which is the very first form of milk that the breast provides to the baby.
Colostrum particularly provides high amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA) and other forms of antibodies. Antibodies are usually formed when the mother is exposed to bacteria and viruses. As a natural reaction of the body, it will produce antibodies, which is then secreted into breastmilk, and then passed to the baby when being fed.
– It promotes healthy weight gain.
Childhood obesity is a common problem among children. Good thing is, breastfeeding particularly promotes healthy weight gain.
In fact, based on studies, it states that the obesity rate of breastfed babies is 15-30% lower compared to babies who are formula-fed. In addition to that, the duration of the length of time of breastfeeding is also vital, as studies show that each month of breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of future obesity problems by 4%.
Furthermore, experts believe that this has something to do with the development of various gut bacteria – as breastfed babies were found to have higher amounts of essential gut bacteria, which effects fat storage.
Also, experts found that breastfed babies have more leptin, which is an important hormone that helps in regulating appetite, in their bodies compared to formula-fed babies.
– It may lower the risk of developing diseases.
Breastfeeding is vital in reducing your baby’s risk of developing diseases and illnesses such as:
- Middle ear infection
- Colds and infections
- Gut infections
- Respiratory tract infections
- Intestinal tissue damage
- Allergic diseases
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Childhood leukemia
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
– It helps make your baby smarter.
There were studies conducted suggesting that there is a difference between the brain development of breastfed and formula-fed babies. Experts say that this may have something to do with the physical intimacy between mom and baby, which is associated with breastfeeding.
According to studies, breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores, and are less likely to develop problems concerning learning as well as behavior as they grow older.
– Breastfeeding moms have a lower risk of developing postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is common among new moms. This usually happens shortly after giving birth. Based on statistics, up to 15% of mothers are affected by such conditions.
However, researchers found that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop postpartum depression as compared to those who wean early from breastfeeding or did not breastfeed at all.
Based on studies, the increased amount of oxytocin produced by the body during birth and breastfeeding have something to do with it. Oxytocin was found to have long-term anti-anxiety effects, as well as it also encourages bonding between mom and baby by affecting particular regions of the brain that promotes relaxation and nurturing.
– It helps in losing weight.
Although it still is a case to case basis because some women may gain weight from breastfeeding, however other mommies seem to lose weight effortlessly because of breastfeeding as well.
Although the body requires more caloric intake daily, it has been found that after the first three months after giving birth, women particularly breastfeeding moms tend to lose more weight compared to non-breastfeeding moms.
– Breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing cancer and other diseases.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding is vital in protecting mommies against cancer (particularly breast and ovarian cancer) and other types of diseases.
In fact, it has been found that women who breastfed more than 12 months in their lifetime have a 28% lower risk of developing both ovarian and breast cancer. Furthermore, studies say that every year of breastfeeding is equivalent to a 4.3% decrease in breast cancer risk.
– Breastfeeding helps saves time and money.
This probably is one of my favorite benefits! Kidding aside, breastfeeding helps both moms and dads save a lot of time and money, which can be used for other important things. Let’s admit it, in this day and age, formula milk is really expensive, and bottle-feeding requires a lot of effort (e.g washing, sterilizing, etc.).
WHY BREASTMILK DECREASES?
Now that we already know some of the many benefits of breastfeeding, perhaps you are already convinced about working on how to increase milk supply. But, why does low milk supple happen in the first place?
Well, here are some potential reasons for that:
– Bottle preference – As much as possible, it is not advisable to bottle-feed as this may result in your baby to have problems sucking on the breast properly, or worse, it may lead to your baby preferring bottle instead of sucking from your breast.
– Pacifiers – A lot of parents rely on pacifiers to obviously pacify their babies. However, offering your baby a pacifier ca actually affect your baby’s latch, which may significantly lower the amount of time that your baby spends at the breast.
– Nipple shields – While it can be useful especially when the nipple is hurting, these too can reduce the stimulation to your nipple or may restrict milk transfer leasing to the interference on the supply-demand cycle.
– Schedules feedings – Breastfeeding is a supply-demand kind of thing, which means if you interfere with the cycle, it can lead to decreased milk production. Thus, it is highly recommended to nurse your baby whenever he or she is hungry.
– Supplementing – The more often your baby nurses, the more milk is being produced. Regular nursing signals the body to produce more milk. However, experts say that every formula, water, or other juices, that gets into your baby’s body means that the body gets the signal to produce lesser milk.
– Health or Anatomical Problems with Baby – Conditions like jaundice, tongue-ties, and more may prevent your baby from getting adequate milk from your breast, thus, leading to decreased milk supply.
– Mom’s Overall Health and Lifestyle – Unfortunately, some mommies have certain health problems that disallow them to establish their milk supply. Health conditions like uncontrolled anemia or hypothyroidism, retained placenta, postpartum hemorrhage, as well as previous breast surgery/injury, hormonal problems (e.g. PCOS), and anatomical problems. Taking certain medications as well as smoking may also decrease the breastmilk supply.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH MILK SUPPLY?
Here are some signs to watch out for to know whether or not your breastmilk production is no longer enough for your baby:
– Your baby seems fussy or irritated. Irritation usually happens when your baby cannot drink enough milk.
– Your baby does not seem to fill his or her nappy.
– Your baby rarely poops.
– Your baby nurses more often than usual, and is irritated.
– Your baby does not nurse as often as he or she used to.
– Your breast suddenly feels softer.
– When pumping, you do not get enough or you may get very little or no milk at all.
HOW TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY?
Now that we already know how beneficial breastfeeding is to our babies and ourselves, plus the common reasons why low milk production happens, it’s time to work on our milk supply.
Here are some ways on how to increase milk supply:
- Nurse your baby frequently and efficiently.
You may find it quite shocking, but one of the best ways to help increase your milk supply is to nurse your baby frequently. Offer milk whenever he or she wants it. As much as possible, avoid a long in-between period of feedings (unless advised by your healthcare provider). Ideally, the baby must breastfeed every 1.5 to 2 hours during the day, and then every 3 hours during the night. But this changes as he or she grows older.
As mentioned earlier, breastmilk production is a supply and demand kind of thing. Thus, the more your baby breastfeeds, it will signal the body that it needs to produce more milk to supply the demands of your baby.
In addition, also make sure that your baby nurses efficiently. Make sure that your baby’s position and latch are correct, otherwise, milk will not be transferred efficiently. Please take note that experts advise making sure that milk is effectively removed from the breast. That way, the breast will produce more milk.
- Make sure to offer both sides of the breast during feeding sessions.
It is important that you do not just offer one side of the breast when feeding. Moms, always make sure to offer one and then the other every breastfeeding session. This helps remove all milk from your breast and helps give a signal to the body that it needs to produce more milk.
- Take a nursing vacation.
You have probably heard about nursing vacation already. Taking your baby to bed with you for 2 to 3 days and do nothing but to nurse is one way on how to increase milk supply. Of course, along with feeding is resting. You need it for mommy. Just so you know, stress may also affect your breastmilk production.
- As much as possible, avoid offering your baby pacifiers or bottles.
Offering your little one pacifiers and bottles may lead to them choosing these over your breasts. Make sure that all your baby’s sucking needs are provided at the breast. Now, in some cases when temporary supplement medication is required, use a nursing supplementer instead or in the absence of such, you may use a cup, spoon, or dropper instead.
- Consider adding pumping sessions.
Pumping sessions after or between feeding breastfeeding can also be very helpful in increasing your breastmilk supply. Pumping is particularly important when the baby is not nursing efficiently or regularly to be able to remove more milk from the breast and increase the frequency of emptying the breast. Also remember that when pumping, make sure to ensure that you get to remove an optimum amount of milk from your breasts.
- You may consider taking a galactagogue.
A galactagogue refers to any substance that helps increase the production of breastmilk. It may be in the form of an herb, prescription medication, and many more. There are many galactagogues available in the market today. You may want to consult your lactation consultant or an expert on what’s ideal for you.
- Do not forget to take care of yourself and rest.
Mommy, do not forget about yourself too. Make sure to take a much-needed rest as well. We need to rest so our body so it can properly function. Stress, pressure, lack of sleep, hunger, and all the other stuff can greatly affect your breastmilk supply.
Take a nap every time you get the chance to. Drink lots of water (note though that drinking fluids have nothing to do with increasing milk production). Eat a reasonably well-balanced diet.
Just a simple but important reminder, it would also greatly help if you consult with lactation experts about your struggles and challenges when it comes to nursing and breastmilk production. I personally believe that an expert’s advice will greatly help to be successful in this journey.
It is almost every mom’s desire to be able to provide the best source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to her baby. While some moms are successful in their breastfeeding journey, others face challenges particularly in the production of breastmilk.
But just like any problem, there are probable solutions to this kind of dilemma. It is good to know that there are ways available on how to increase milk supply. Needless to say, there are experts who can guide and help you succeed in your breastfeeding journey.
Good luck, mommy! You can do it!