When baby is on the way, it’s normal to feel a sense of panic and excitement all at once. One of the most pressing things on your mind is probably breastfeeding.
After reading about the many benefits of breastfeeding, I spent the weeks before my first baby was born, scrolling through article after article about how to do it. It was important to me to be successful at it, and I wanted to be able to produce enough healthy and nutritious milk. Fortunately, it was easier and more intuitive than I expected.
I’m here to share some things I learned that could affect breast milk supply. I’ve included a range of things that can affect your ability to produce enough milk to nurture a healthy baby.
When we experience stress, our bodies react. If you’re experiencing lots of stress from outside factors, or from birth complications, this may impact your ability to produce milk.
Fortunately breastfeeding is stress-reducing for mothers and releases oxytocin, the “love chemical” in the brain. So, you may find that nursing your baby is one of the most stress-relieving activities you can do. In addition, you can perhaps try things like meditation, yoga, walking, or many of the stress-reducing activities that may help you ease your mind.
This will ultimately benefit you and your baby, and will assist you to continue to produce an abundance of nutritious milk.
The best way to keep your milk flowing is to breastfeed often.
For a newborn, breastfeeding should occur from two to three hours about eight to 12 times a day (even through the night). If you are consistently producing milk, your body will receive the message that the milk is necessary, and it will continue to produce.
Keep in mind that taking long breaks from breastfeeding or pumping can reduce the amount of milk your body produces. In order to produce more breast milk, you need to empty your supply early and often.
Try to avoid giving formula or a pacifier in the early days not to miss any feedings and ensure a good latch.
Your diet can have an effect on breast milk supply, although it is not going to make or break your success as a milk supplier. We are designed by nature to be able to provide nutrients to our babies, even in survival-mode type circumstances.
Regardless, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is, of course, recommended for your health as well as the health of the baby.
Excessive amounts of caffeine from coffee, soda, tea, and chocolate can dehydrate you and lower your ability to produce lots of milk. Large amounts of caffeine can also pass along to your baby, and cause them sleep issues or irritability. If your baby is not feeding well, that will undoubtedly impact your ability to produce milk.
So, staying hydrated, eating well, and making sure your baby is sleeping and feeding often should make things flow more smoothly.
Some allergy and cold medications can reduce your breast milk supply. An ingredient called Pseudoephedrine that acts as a decongestant in many over-the-counter drugs is the main one to look out for.
This may not pose a problem for you if you take it once or twice and have already established your breastfeeding routine. But, if you have seasonal allergies, perhaps you should take care when using these medications, especially within the first few weeks of giving birth.
In addition, there are some other things you can do to reduce your allergies including showering after going outside, checking the pollen count, or using some natural remedies such as a saline solution or a neti pot. Although, be aware that some natural supplements may also have an effect on your milk supply.
Natural Remedies, Herbs, and Spices
There are quite a few herbs and spices that can either help increase your milk flow or decrease them. So, keep this in mind while eating and taking natural herbal supplements for any specific purpose.
A popular herb called fenugreek, which is sometimes used in Indian cooking, has been said to help increase breast milk production. It is considered a galactagogue and is deemed safe with no harmful long-term effects.
However, based on limited research, it is somewhat controversial whether it helps or not to boost breast milk supply. But, many women have claimed it has helped them, so it doesn’t hurt to try!
Other herbs and spices can actually decrease your flow, and should not be consumed in high dosages. These include: sage, peppermint, oregano, and parsley. They tend to be drying, and should not be taken in large amounts; however, some in your food should not cause any major problems or affect your supply.
There are a few health issues that might negatively impact your breast milk supply after giving birth.
If you are having problems with your breast milk supply, you may want to consider getting your thyroid checked by your doctor. Your thyroid regulates the two main hormones that are important for the production of milk, and having an imbalance may affect your ability to provide a sufficient supply.
Many mothers who struggle with thyroid disorders will need treatment to get their breast milk supply up-to-speed. Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and postpartum thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease after birth, are not uncommon, and if you are struggling with these things, don’t worry. Checking your levels and speaking with your doctor will help prepare you for any complications you may experience while breastfeeding.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can also have an effect on your breast milk supply for the same reason—the hormones are not balanced quite right. Some mothers experience not enough milk flow, while some actually experience an overflow of milk production. Treatments for this are available, and balancing your hormones can help get you back on track.
Go With the Flow
So simply, quit stressin’ and just keep flowin’! Your body is built for this, and so long as you are living a relatively healthy lifestyle and speaking with your doctor, your baby should be well-fed and happy.