Natural ways to increase and nourish your breastmilk supply
Are you Breastfeeding / Chest-feeding and want to find natural ways to support your supply and your baby?
Breastfeeding is a very personal choice and for some, it can be quite straightforward, for others, it can be hard. But what I want to look at is the way you can support breastfeeding/chestfeeding using natural methods. This is not so much for those who have an actual “low flow” as this affects relatively few people, but just anyone wanting natural ways to increase the quantity and quality of their breastmilk. There are a variety of methods or foods which can be used to aid your breastfeeding/chestfeeding journey, and here they are
Foods that promote milk production
There is a range of foods that are thought to increase the production of breastmilk, these are called Galactagogues (a bit of a mouthful!). In general, it is good to have a well-balanced diet to ensure the right nutrients in your system… But when I say balanced I don’t mean it needs to have meat and dairy in it (some babies are allergic to dairy, even when consumed by mum), just that you need to ensure you have all the vitamins and minerals required. You may use supplements for this (make sure they are ones the system can actually take on board, some are not great for this), or just a variety of food sources. Here is a list of Foods to increase your breastmilk
Feed on demand
Some people may try to convince you to feed on a schedule, but this is just not helpful to you or your baby. For you, it will limit your supply and cause you to deal with a sad baby, who probably won’t be putting on weight that quickly. Feeding on demand however will increase your milk production and increase your Oxytocin, which in turn will improve your bond with your little one. Breastmilk is not just for sustenance, it is your babies only fluid intake, so when it’s hot they will need more. It is for comfort as the skin to skin from breastfeeding is shown to reduce babies cortisol (stress hormone), skin to skin also helps to regulate body temperature which is especially useful in the earlier months, finally, breastmilk improves their immune system quicker.
Skin to skin
The hormones needed to produce breastmilk are Prolactin and Oxytocin, and to keep this short… Skin to skin stimulates both of these so hips to increase your breastmilk production. I mean it has LOADS of other bonuses, but this is what it’s all about.
Hydration and lactation tea
Staying hydrated is essential to your breastfeeding journey, for you and your milk supply. Breastmilk is about 88% water, so having enough water in your system is pretty important. So when you’re sitting down to feed always make sure you have some water or other drink in reach. Lactation teas are a good option, they work as they have galactagogues in them. Here’s a variety of options for you but if you are eco-focused too I would seriously suggest giving Hot Tea Mama a look, they have some great teas for all aspects of a motherhood
Does stress affect breast milk?
It’s not uncommon to feel some level of stress with a newborn or baby. But it can start to impact your breastmilk supply… Which in itself is likely to cause more stress and anxiety. It’s a bit of a negative cycle and one we want to help you break. Firstly if you are feeling stressed or anxious, get some support. It could be as easy as asking a friend or partner to help keep on top of household tasks, meals, etc, or for them to just come and talk so it doesn’t feel quite so intense. If you are struggling with latches or pain, I strongly suggest contacting an IBCLC consultant to talk to. They are an amazing resource and can help you on so many levels with your breastfeeding journey. Finally, an option could be Mindful Breastfeeding. La Leche League has some great info on this.
Supplements for breastfeeding
Supplements can be a great boost to a postpartum body as pregnancy can take its strain on this part of your system. I would always look at natural ways to do this first, but a natural supplement can be useful if you don’t feel you are getting enough. Many breastfeeding supplements contain galactagogues which should help your milk flow too. Here is some great info from Holland and Barrett on Food and Supplements for breastfeeding
Pumping after breastfeeding to increase supply
think this one is fairly obvious, your body will react to the amount of milk being produced. So if you pump after feeds, your body will try to recreate the amount needed. It is the same if your little one has been cluster feeding, then cuts down all of a sudden, you can often get engorged or leaky breasts. I never got on with pumping, but it totally works for a lot of people. Just don’t go too crazy or your boobs will be solid as boulders and crazy full of milk. Leaky hard bobs are not comfy for anyone!
You will find a mix of some of the above will work for you. I’m a personal fan of lactations cookies… I mean, who doesn’t like cookies!? But I also use supplements, make sure I’m eating some breastfeeding/chestfeeding friendly foods, stay hydrated, feed n demand and in the early days had lots of skin to skin. The important thing is for you to be happy with your choices and get support if you are struggling. I think as new parents we put a LOT of pressure on ourselves to be perfect and not admit difficulties as we feel it will mean we are not doing very well. But EVERYONE struggles at some point. I’ve felt isolated, stressed, hungry, negative about myself and my postpartum body, and especially with my second I worried I wasn’t showing them as much attention or love as my first…. We are human and therefore we love to overthink and worry, but we do it much better when we have a supportive community around us. So if you don’t have one, start building it. Is there a breastfeeding group near you? If not why not start one? My local one was community-led as there was no funding for it (big shock).