Breastfeeding: Five ways to improve your milk supply right now
Need some advice?
Jessica Bourke shares her tips on how to improve your milk supply while nursing:
1. Nurse your baby at regular intervals
Some babies like to suckle for comfort, without really nursing properly. Others have the tendency to be sleepy all the time and don’t feed for long enough to stimulate sufficient milk production before they nod off. When your baby has a growth spurt, feeding every hour may be required and your body may take a couple of days to respond and make more milk. Make sure that you are in a relaxed environment and try to have as much skin contact with your baby as possible to stimulate the release of hormones that will encourage your body to make more milk.
2. Don’t worry unduly about ‘routine’
Breastfeeding can become a very stressful experience if you are focused on rules and schedules. Babies are individuals and what works for one, may not work for another. Some babies prefer to have smaller feeds at regular intervals, while some babies ‘cluster’ feed, meaning they may go three or four hours without a feed and then demand feeds every hour, on the hour, for the rest of the evening. Given you aren’t bottle-feeding, you’re not going to know how many ounces your baby is getting and that’s okay. For thousands of years babies thrived on their mother’s milk without any knowledge of how much they were getting. As long as your baby is a healthy weight and in good health, then there's really nothing to worry about. Most babies will find their own feeding rhythm and this will change over time depending on their calorie needs.
3. Put yourself first and your baby will benefit too
This little life you have created is your pride and joy and there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for him or her, but you’ve got to make allowances for your own needs if you want your baby to thrive as well. If you’re run ragged trying to keep the house clean, are managing on four hours sleep a night and forgetting to eat because you’re too busy to cook, that’s a huge stress on the body and your milk production may suffer as a result.
- Get your partner to either prepare or buy meals in for you. As I said to one dad recently, ‘your job is to feed her, her job is to feed your baby’.
- If family or friends offer to help then please, take it. An hour of cleaning or a home-cooked meal can make all the difference to your ability to relax and some proper food (as opposed to tea and biscuits) will provide the nutrition you require for adequate milk production.
- If your baby isn’t a good sleeper, this can quickly lead to complete chaos at home. Lack of sleep puts a huge stress on the body, making you more likely to crave sugar or stimulants such as caffeine, which are not going to help your nutrient reserves. If things are really bad, consider hiring a night-nanny (if you can afford this, even once or ask relative's to pool together for one instead of buying the baby clothes) or sleep in a different room to your partner so that at least he is well rested and can mind baby while you have a siesta during the day to recover your energy levels.
- When baby sleeps, you sleep. No excuses, no using the time to get the house organised. Your rest is far more important and it'll give you a chance to recuperate and allow your body to replenish your milk supply.
4. Eat the right food, at the right times
Breast-feeding requires that mothers include an extra 500 calories in their daily diet. If you’re trying to make enough milk to feed twins, that’s an extra 1,000 calories you will need to consume every day. So this is not the time to try to lose that ‘baby weight’. The fat cells on the lower body (buttocks and thighs) are oestrogen responsive and women are physically designed to carry extra weight in this area to ensure that mother and baby survive even if food supply is scarce.
Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced is crucial for your hormone production. If you are leaving big gaps between meals and using tea, coffee and toast to keep yourself going, your insulin levels are going to spike. This can affect your hormone conversion and in turn, negatively impact your milk supply. Handy snacks such as hummus with carrot sticks, crackers with guacamole (avocados supply healthy fats for your baby's brain), fruit with nuts and seeds are easy to grab and eat when you are on the go.
5. Stay hydrated
Make sure to drink enough water. A good way to remember this is to have a large glass of water to hand when you sit down to nurse your baby and aim to finish it by the time your baby is done feeding. It’s important to avoid becoming dehydrated as this can lead to headaches, an inability to think straight and declining energy levels.
With almost a decade of experience in the field, Jessica Bourke has gained a reputation for helping women conceive where everything else has failed. Based on scientific research, she uses a combination of acupuncture and nutritional protocols alongside functional lab testing to ensure her clients have the greatest chance of welcoming a healthy baby into the world.