As a mother of a newborn, it’s always advisable to breastfeed your child. Breast milk has been proven to contain all the necessary vitamins, proteins and healthy fats that your baby needs to grow healthy and strong. Plus, it’s in a form that’s more easily digestible than formula.
Breast milk provides newborns with antibodies too, so that they’ll have a strong immune system to fight off germs and infections.
Experts suggest that newborns be breastfed for the first six months of their life at least, and then be breastfed in combination with semi-solid food. However, many mothers struggle to produce adequate breast milk and to maintain their flow of breast milk throughout this time.
Understanding some of the causes affecting breast milk production will definitely help, as well as knowing how to manage these factors.
What are the Possible Factors Affecting Breast Milk?
A mother’s ability to produce breast milk is highly tied to her physical health in general. There are several other factors that should be considered, including:
1. Hormonal Imbalances
When a mother is expecting, her hormones go through many changes, even after the baby is born. Milk production is one of these changes. The body registers that the baby has been birthed, so it proceeds to produce hormones that can stimulate the mammary glands.
However, in certain individuals, such as those with thyroid gland issues, diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), this stimulation process for the release of lactating hormones like prolactin or of the breast tissue and such can be less efficient.
One disease that affects a mother’s hormones is hypothyroidism, whereby the thyroid glands don’t produce enough prolactin and oxytocin, two hormones involved in breast milk production. Temporary postpartum thyroiditis, whereby the thyroid glands become inflamed, can also develop in some mothers.
2. Previous Breast Surgery
Breast surgery has been shown to disrupt the supply of breast milk in mothers. This is because during surgery especially in breast reduction, some of the mammary glands may be removed.
Among the types of breast surgery that may affect milk production include breast reduction and cancer surgery. The location and depth of the surgery is a major factor in determining the extent of how much milk you would be able to provide. It also depends how long it has been since your surgery too as a full recovery is ideal too.
Despite this, mothers who have had breast surgery can still breastfeed, albeit not as frequently or as much as mothers who have not undergone any procedure. Breastfeeding is still possible and very important, as only breast milk has the uniqueness of providing antibodies for the newborn to fight off pathogens.
3. Perceived Insufficient Milk Supply
In certain cases, a mother’s perception about her ability to breastfeed can strongly impact milk production as well. Although the mechanism of this is still being investigated,a recently published study on perceived milk supply in mothers found that skin to skin contact, as well as a mother’s belief in her ability to produce milk significantly affects milk production.
Some of the factors that may cause a mother’s milk supply to change and lead to feeding cessation is lack of confidence, no strong guidance, stress, depression and lack of technical knowledge.
All the above can lead to a reduction in the frequency of breastfeeding, thereby lowering the amount of stimulation and milk produced.
What Can You Do to Increase Breast Milk?
If you face any of the factors mentioned above as a mother, don’t give up. There are several ways that you can help optimize your milk production. Here are some of them that you can practice on a daily basis:
1. Feed or Pump Regularly
A mother’s breasts are programmed to produce milk when stimulated by a suckling motion, and when milk leaves the breasts.If there has been no stimulation over an extended period of time, the hormones that cause milk production are down regulated.
Very simply, if there is no demand for breast milk, the body stops supplying it. Therefore, experts suggest that you should breastfeed your baby about 8-12 times a day. That is, once every two to three hours.
This will continue to trigger the breasts’ ‘let down’ reflex, which is when the muscles contract to move the milk through the mammary glands and thereby stimulate it to produce more milk.
In between feeding, you can also use a breast pump, especially if you have leftover milk or if your baby has missed a feeding time. This ensures that there’s no long periods between breast stimulation from suckling, and that none of your breast milk goes to waste.
2. Switch From One Breast to Another
Since milk is produced from a mother’s breasts upon suckling, it is therefore important to ensure that both your breasts are offered to your child at each feeding session. It is important to ensure that both breasts are equally stimulated for milk production.
Alternatively, you can offer your newborn to feed from alternate breasts at each feeding session. Pumping from both breasts, preferably simultaneously will also help in milk production.
3. Consume Lactation Boosting Foods
There are many lactation boosting foods, known as galactagogues, that you can consider including into your postnatal diet. For example, fennel, which reduces the effects of breast milk inhibitor hormones. Another example is ginger which improves milk production by improving blood flow in your body.
It’s not a surprise that many food boost breast milk supply for moms as nutrition is tied to a mother’s health and physical wellbeing. You can easily incorporate these foods into your breastfeeding food plan by booking a lactation friendly meal from caterers that specialize in preparing such meals, just like ReLacto.
4. Rest and Stay Hydrated
There is some evidence that the lack of rest combined with stress in the early postpartum days will affect breast milk production. This is because an increase in stress-linked hormones like cortisol is thought to hinder the production of optimal breast milk.
Therefore, getting enough sleep and rest is crucial while breastfeeding your baby as is drinking enough water. Taking some time off and getting help from loved ones to tend to yourself can be one way of reducing and managing stress levels during this time.
Encouraging Lactation Through Diet
ReLacto offers many types of lactation boosting foods, from one meal trial packages and one-week packages all the way to 28-day packages. You can enjoy a wide range of Chinese and Fusion dishes, cooked fresh and delivered warm to you twice daily.
Speak to us today to learn more about our offerings and how you can benefit from them throughout your postnatal period.