Our Second Guest Blogger of 2011 is Donna Walls RN, IBCLC. She has had many years of experience helping mothers and babies breastfeed. She lives in Dayton Ohio and works as a nurse and Lactation Consultant. If you would like to be a Guest Blogger at Childbirth Today, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Many new mothers worry about their milk supply. Do I have enough milk for my baby? In the first days after birth¸ it’s the number one question mothers ask. In reality for the vast majority of women, the answer is yes. There is only a very small, less than 1% chance, that a woman’s breasts lack enough glandular tissue to provide adequate breast milk for her infant.
There are some issues that can create concerns; early introduction of contraceptive hormones or some anti-depressants, unnecessary supplementation in the first days of life, infant suck problems such as tongue-tie, and exposures to environmental endocrine disruptors such as plastics and pesticides.
So what can we do to ensure a good milk supply?
Nurse your baby as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first 60 to 90 minutes after birth and make sure the latch is comfortable, feeling only a tugging, pulling sensation on the nipple. If you feel the latch is not good ask your nurse or lactation consultant for assistance.
Keep your baby with you in the hospital and spend as much time as you can skin to skin. Babies love the calming closeness of skin to skin and smelling the milk in your breasts can encourage early feedings.
Nurse your newborn on demand¸ whenever they show signs of hunger such as mouthing motions, restlessness, fussing sounds. Offer the breast- if they are hungry they will eat and if not, they won‘t! Forcing feedings in the first 24-28 hours is not necessary and may interfere with the natural rhythm of breastfeeding. Colostrum is very concentrated and provides the newborn with all the nutrients they need in fewer feedings.
Most newborns will have some shorter “snacking” feedings and some longer “meals”. They commonly eat in clusters of feeds, usually followed by a stretch of sleep. This cluster or feeding frenzy period is normal and not a sign that the mother doesn’t have enough milk- no supplementation is necessary. Establishing this request and supply system of communication between mother and baby sets the stage for a good milk supply.
What if I notice my milk supply diminishing after it is well established?
First go back to the basics. Make sure you are nursing, pumping or hand expressing at least 8-10 times a day, remember milk production is request and supply, so the more you ask you breasts to do, the more they produce!
Many foods and herbs have also been shown to enhance milk supply. Many mothers notice an increase in supply with a daily bowl of oatmeal or adding brewer’s yeast tablets to food. Traditional cultures have used barley, anise, garlic, dill, caraway and alfalfa to assist mothers in making milk for their babies.
Herbal medicines taken as teas, tinctures or capsules have also been used successfully for increasing milk supply. Some of the most common herbs used are: fenugreek, fennel, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, hops, marshmallow and nutritive herbs such as nettle, spirulina or kelp.
The drug Reglan can be prescribed for increasing supply. This drug was originally used for gastrointestinal upset but has been shown to improve lactation.