We’ve all heard the basic law of “supply and demand” when it comes to breastmilk production, but for many parents, we need to go deeper and more detailed. Supply and demand says that the more you nurse, the more you’ll produce. For families that depend on pumping, have latch struggles, have a sleepy baby, or pain with nursing, this basic rule is less than helpful. Consider these milk making strategies when just nursing more isn’t working.
Breast Drainage is Best Drainage
Removing milk from the breast frequently and completely is essential to milk production. Ill-fitting pumps and infrequent pumping can leave milk behind in the ducts, signaling your body to make less milk rather than more. Getting your flange fitting well is an excellent first step. Using heat packs to warm the breasts/chest before pumping and massage to increase milk flow will help you pump more faster. Milk flow is also influenced by how well the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates move through the milk ducts. Sunflower lecithin is a common supplement taken to help those large molecules slide through. Two traditional lactogenic foods to increase breast milk support, fennel and anise, are thought to improve milk flow as well by stimulating a better milk ejection response. You can start transporting more milk fat out of the breast immediately by adding hand expression to your pump routine. Hand expression is key to breast drainage.
Skin to Skin Sends Signals
The benefits of skin to skin in the minutes after birth are the most talked about, but babies of all ages benefit from being held in close contact with their parents. Close contact sends signals through both the parent’s and baby’s bodies to ensure adequate milk production and feeding frequency. Oxytocin, the hormone that assists milk ejection or “letdown,” is increased when the baby is skin to skin with the parent. Heat is also beneficial for milk ejection, which is generated by holding baby to the chest skin to skin. Sit back with a cup of tea for a good snuggle to get a milk boost. If you’ve got a lot on your plate, you may be able to get more skin to skin with your baby worn in a wrap. Babywearing is excellent for both you and your baby. Learning to nurse in a baby carrier can be a game changer for busy parents. You can get the feeding and skin time in while doing yet another load of baby laundry.
Night-time milk removal is critical to long-term milk production. It’s so critical in fact, skipping the overnight feeds is the fastest way to reduce milk supply. Offering your baby a midnight feed plus many other feeds throughout the night and early morning hours, is excellent for increasing milk production. Humans are designed for night feeding. Our lactation hormones peak in the middle of the night which is why we tend to have more milk in the early morning hours. Stimulating that hormone surge through night feeding increases overall milk production. Encouraging your baby to nurse frequently at night is much easier if you’re room sharing, which is recommended by most medical organizations. If your baby is having midnight snacks, you might feel hungry too. Consider keeping a nutrient rich snack next to the bed like almonds or sunflower seeds. Having well balanced blood sugar is critical to making the most milk. Avoid sugary snacks like cookies or sports drinks around the clock. Have fresh veggies and dip handy for snacking so they are an easy, healthy choice to make if a trip to the fridge is needed. Make yourself some snack containers while babywearing, and you’ll be prepared for the night munchies.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Humans are a social species. We don’t do any of this parenting alone. Remember that it’s more than okay to ask for help- it’s normal! Help might come from a partner or family member, a friend, or even another professional. In our internet age, help often comes from social networking. Meeting other mamas working on their breastfeeding journey is inspiring and encouraging.