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Breastfeeding is hard and tiring and stressful and amazing. Sometimes new moms fall into a cycle of stress + exhaustion=low production. Then low production causes more stress, which causes less production. You see, it’s an exhausting cycle. Sometimes we need to step away and break the cycle— often with sleep, exercise and hydration. Other times, combo feeding with baby formula can relieve some of the breastfeeding stress allowing you to actually breast-feed for longer.
Wanting to give you expert info, we spoke with Jadah Parks Chatterjee, Registered Nurse, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Bobbie Medical Advisor. She shared her thoughts on how to increase breast milk supply and provided the following tips on how to boost breast-milk production, naturally.
How to know if your milk supply is low?
If you’re concerned about your milk supply, the best place to start is by talking with a lactation consultant or your baby’s pediatrician. They can help you rule out any other issues that might be impacting your baby’s feeding (such as an improper latch) and provide you with some peace of mind.
There are also some telltale signs that will let you know is your baby is getting enough milk:
- Babies should have six to eight heavy wet diapers each day.
- Your baby is not gaining weight.
- Your baby is exhibiting signs of dehydration
- No urine for several hours
- No tears when crying
- Sunken soft spot on their head
- Low energy or excessive sleepiness
Tips to support milk production while breastfeeding:
You want to do all you can to set yourself up for breastfeeding success with your newborn. This includes gathering info, working with a consultant and keeping your body rested and full of nutrients.
Study up on breastfeeding knowledge
Chatterjee says that knowledge of infant feeding is the best support you can seek when you begin your breastfeeding or chestfeeding journey. Work with a certified lactation consultant or consult references such as The Nursing Mother’s Companion.
Have an infant feeding plan
It’s also helpful for the lactating parent and family to have a written feeding plan and identify support for infant feeding, ideally before the baby is born. “A written plan highlights what your feeding goals are, and this can be shared with your provider, birth, and postpartum care team,” says Chatterjee.
Get as much sleep as possible while breastfeeding
“Having a new member of the family whose sleep pattern isn’t clear can be exhausting,” says Chatterjee. “When you sleep, your body gets a break. While you are sleeping, cortisol levels decrease and allow space for prolactin and oxytocin (milk-producing hormones) to increase in volume.”
Work in gentle movement while breastfeeding
Staying active through light exercise (walking, yoga) can help your milk supply by alleviating stress and decreasing cortisol so that prolactin and oxytocin can be released, which are essential for maintaining your supply.
Keep up with snacks while breastfeeding
Don’t forget that breastfeeding requires more calories than in the last trimester of pregnancy. “It’s a good idea to have many small snacks throughout the day,” says Chatterjee. Try protein and fat-rich foods like yogurt, nuts and nut butter, avocado, and complex carbs like brown rice cakes or whole-grain crackers.
Focus on hydration while breastfeeding
Chatterjee recommends lactating parents drink half their body weight in ounces of water a day. “Fill up a large container of water at the beginning of your day. When you move to your nursing chair, be sure to bring it with you and sip water throughout the feeding.” Caffeine is dehydrating but water is a necessity, even more so while breastfeeding.
Work with a lactation consultant
Having a few sessions with a certified lactation consultant can help you feel more confident and empowered about your decision to breastfeed or chestfeed. They’ll be able to assess your latch and determine your supply quantity and offer more tips to encourage good feeding habits.
Consider combo feeding while breastfeeding
Combination feeding is a style of feeding your baby both human milk and baby formula. Many parents choose this option so that they can feel less stressed about their milk supply and still ensure their babies are well fed.
Combination feeding can be a great solution for your family— speak to your child’s pediatrician and your lactation consultant about how to introduce formula to your baby along with human milk to ensure it’s a successful transition. Many moms use combination feeding in different amounts to extend their breastfeeding journey.
Increasing milk supply naturally
There are a lot of tips and tricks that people share online to improve milk production. At the end of the day, it’s about good rest and good health for the new mom. What’s most important is that mom keeps up her mental health so she can provide a happy and healthful environment for her newborn baby.