It is normal for a nursing mother to have fears at one time or another about whether their babies are getting enough milk. This fear is comprehensible since unlike formula milk intake where you can measure the amount taken, you can’t measure the amount of breast milk suckled.
This may be one of the reasons why some mothers wean their babies before they are six months old for fear that the baby may be starving. However, it is rare to find women who cannot produce enough milk especially if they are eating right and are in good health. Breast milk is considered the best food for babies because it meets specific nutritional requirements of an infant.
Colostrums, the first milk that comes out which is thick and yellow plays an important role in boosting the baby’s health. It has a balance of nutrients that closely match the baby’s requirements for brain development, growth and a healthy immune system. In addition, breast milk contains agents that boost the immune system and other compounds that act against viruses, bacteria and parasites.
You will notice that breastfed babies are less susceptible to respiratory infections, diarrhoea and ear infections since breast milk is uncontaminated. Breastfeeding is also beneficial to lactating mothers, as it releases the hormone-oxytocin that causes the uterus to return to its normal size and shape faster and also reduces blood loss after delivery. Breastfeeding for a longer period, say up to two years, lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as provide a great way to burn the extra calories. It also brings an emotional attachment between mother and baby.
What causes low milk production?
Despite the numerous benefits accrued to breastfeeding, not every mother is able to breastfeed her baby due to low breast milk supply. This maybe as a result of:
Lack of enough suckling stimulation. Sometimes a sleepy baby or one with jaundice may not nurse enough to empty your breasts adequately. Additionally, separation from your baby can interfere with the supply and demand system of milk production. Therefore, nursing frequently is the best way to increase your supply since limiting the amount of time your baby spends at the breast can cause the baby to get more of the lower calorie foremilk and less of the higher fat content hind milk. Typically, babies need to spend from 20 to 45 minutes nursing during the newborn period in order to get enough milk.
Illness or stress. If you are ill or under a lot of stress, your milk supply maybe low. Many mothers also find that their supply goes down when they have a cold, or when they return to work. Using formula milk regularly can decrease your supply because most babies who take formula milk will nurse less often.
If your nipples are very sore, the pain may inhibit your letdown reflex and you may also find feeding a painful experience. It is important to have the nipples treated so that your let down and frequency of breastfeeding is increased, thus increasing milk supply. A previous breast surgery can also be a cause of low breast milk supply. Breast surgery causes a risk of breastfeeding problems, especially if milk ducts are damaged. Smoking heavily can also adversely affect your milk supply.
Ways to help increase your milk production…
Eat a balanced diet: Ensure that you eat a well balanced diet so that you can get all the essential minerals. Your diet should be rich in vitamins, proteins, calcium and iron. It is important to take a lot of fluids such as fruit and vegetable juices, bone soup and water.
Give both breasts at every feeding: It is important to ensure that the baby suckles equally from both breasts. This ensures equal milk secretion. To achieve this, ensure the baby has a good latch on the breast.
Avoid stress: Try as much as possible to relax by taking a nap when the baby is asleep. It is also good to seek help from someone you trust to look after the baby as you rest or treat yourself in a spa.
Breastfeed or pump breast milk regularly: Breastfeed the baby often to boost milk production. Suckling causes the release of prolactin hormone, which starts milk production. This leads to the release of oxytocin hormone that causes the ‘let-down reflex’ of the milk glands. Frequent breastfeeding and breast pumping, preferably eight to 12 times a day, will ensure the release of these hormones and more production of milk.
Published on June 2013