For some women, the challenge of breastfeeding comes in the shape of getting over sore nipples in the early weeks. For others, it’s keeping up the calories
so they don’t feel too drained during a busy feeding regime. For others, it’s simply a question of increasing their milk supply.
Why does milk flow vary?
A woman’s milk flow is designed to increase and decrease with her child’s needs. When a baby is small, he simply does not need the volume of milk
required a few months down the line.
Babies go through growth spurts and a mother’s milk flow adjusts to this pretty quickly. (Mothers who need to be away from their baby during a period of
full-on breastfeeding should be aware that their breasts will be producing the regular amount of milk each day and that they should massage their breasts
and/or express and store milk – or express and discard milk – in order to prevent blockages or engorgement.)
Why does milk production sometimes decrease despite feeding?
Sometimes triggers like illness or stress can affect a mother’s output. If this is a temporary phase and, over a two-week period, a baby’s growth trajectory is
fairly smooth and upward, then there is no need to worry. If it seems like a longer-term trend, it is worth trying a few things before simply giving up and
turning to formula feeding or combining breast and formula (which can lead to an end of breastfeeding before you and your baby were naturally ready).
Don’t use how much milk you can express (or pump out) as a guide per se. Some women feed absolutely perfectly but just do not perform well with a
pump! Others may find they can produce oodles of milk by pump first thing in the morning and then nothing at all later in the day.
What can you do to help increase your milk flow?
- Keep up your fluids – Try to drink plenty of water (around two litres is fine but not too much more). Carry a
bottle around with you as this is a good reminder of how much you have drunk in a day. You will also find that drinking water helps keep you more focused
- Cut down on caffeine – If you are breastfeeding you can have caffeine but not too much as it can affect you and
your baby. However, it can also affect the effectiveness of the fluids you are taking in – another reason to cut down.
- Eat well – You would be amazed how many calories you can chomp through to produce enough milk for your
child. It helps produce quality milk as much as quantity! Don’t eat too many ’empty calories’ as these will make you sluggish. On the other hand, don’t feel bad about
the odd cream cake as it might be what your body needs.
- Relax – It must seem as if ‘relax’ is a mantra for every worry in the book, but stress and feeling low can affect the
way in which you are with your baby, and directly affect your milk output. If you and your baby are finding feeding sessions frustrating, find a new setting –
the bedroom or the lounge, with some cnadles burning or a favoruite old film on the telly, to take your mind off the big event.
- Get well – Infections and being run-down – often part of recovering from the birth, especially if it was difficult or
there were secondary complications – can affect milk output. Find natural cures and dietary ways to bring your own body back to health. It helps with
milk production and will also boost your confidence in yourself to pull through this difficult phase.
- Increase the feeds – If your baby is not one of those drinkers who takes an hour to feed, it might be better to feed
fully off one breast for ten minutes than five minutes on both. This way you know you’ve really drained one breast and got to the hindmilk. The
breast can also then fill up properly afterwards. Next feed, give all of the other breast, as so on, until your baby or you are ready to return to having
all the milk from both breasts again.
- Make sure you ‘burp’ your baby –
Some babies might not burp very easily and when it comes to the next feed, they might still feel bloated and therefore be uninterested in more milk. Their
half-hearted sucking will not encourage your breasts to make the milk needed and it becomes a vicious circle.
You can also talk to the people of
La Leche League who can be very supportive at times like this.