Having a newborn baby can be the most wonderful life experience, but it can also be a very tiring and stressful time. This stress is only made worse if a mother is having trouble breastfeeding. There are many things a mother can do to help breastfeeding be an enjoyable activity for both mother and baby.
The first thing to do if you are having any trouble with breastfeeding such as pain, mastitis, Candida or milk supply, is to check that your baby has a good latch. Ideally have a consultation with a lactation consultant who will be able to give you personalized suggestions and support.
Make sure you are drinking enough water. Every new mum that I’ve spoken to with a genuine supply issue also comments on how they struggle to drink water in their day. Breast milk is mostly water and is required to not only feed but also hydrate your baby. If you were struggling to drink enough water before having a baby, it will be even more important to drink more water once you are breastfeeding. Especially in the early days, water intake should be at least doubled. Have a glass of water next to where you usually feed baby to remind you to drink every time you breastfeed.
Eat healthy, nutritious foods. In order to make all the components of breast milk you need to eat a healthy diet giving your body all the nourishment and energy to do so. Ideally get someone else to make meals for you in the early days while you are recovering and learning to breastfeed your child. Have plenty of healthy snacks on hand that you can easily prepare.
Don’t worry about schedules or timing. Babies don’t work to schedules. Although there may be guidelines on how often to feed a formula fed baby, there are no such rules when it comes to a breastfed baby. Something I have learned from having 3 babies of my own is that when in doubt, put baby to the breast again. Don’t worry if it has only been half an hour. Especially in the beginning, babies may want to feed all the time and this can help with supply.
If you are still pregnant, make sure you eat healthy and exercise. Milk production is effected by insulin production during pregnancy. Women who are diabetic or pre-diabetic while pregnant have a lower milk supply. Talk to your naturopath about how you can naturally keep your sugar and insulin levels in a healthy range.
If you have done all of the above but are still having troubles, there are herbs that can help with increasing milk supply. Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle have both been found to help increase milk supply. You can often find these together in a tea or they can also be taken in capsules. Make sure you speak to a naturopath or lactation consultant for specific doses. Eating oatmeal, garlic and ginger may also help.
Remember to relax (hard when you have a newborn!) and know that you are not alone. Although you and baby may be made to breastfeed, you both still need to learn how. The International Breastfeeding Centre has lots of great information on their website (ibconline.ca) and the Australian Breastfeeding Association (breastfeeding.asn.au) even has a hotline you can call to chat with a counsellor. Give it some time, and when in doubt, get some help.
Here’s a cute photo of a baby just for fun, because what’s cuter than a baby at Christmas! Look at those little feet …