5 Ways To Support Breast Milk Production
As a sixteen year old girl I was told “breastfeeding is better than sex”. This comment clearly came from a woman who loved every single minute of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding really can be a beautiful and pleasurable experience but some women aren’t so lucky; they may have low milk supply or have difficult latching or breastfeeding, for various reasons. I always recommend breastfeeding – breast is best. We know that. Breast milk is chock-a-block with nutrients and contains the perfect ratio of enzymes, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, cholesterol, antibodies, protein and fat. Breast milk is liquid gold, it really is; you can buy it from breast milk banks for about $60-$90 per day.
The World Health Organisation summarises a consensus of the extensive research stating that breastfeeding is the most cost-effective, health-promoting and disease-preventing activity that new mothers can perform. Research also shows that breast feeding drastically reduces the instance of SIDS (the risk of SIDS is 56% higher among infants who are never breastfed, compared to ‘ever breastfed’ infants).
I see a lot of women in clinic who have low milk supply and difficulty satisfying their baby’s appetite and meeting their needs. If your baby isn’t putting on a minimum of approximately 150grams of weight each week or appears to be losing weight, it may be a sign that your milk supply is low or you’re having breastfeeding difficulties so speak to a lactation consultant or health professional immediately.
An exclusively breastfed baby needs approximately 750mls of breastmilk per day. The good news is, there’s a lot you can do naturally to stimulate and support the production of breast milk; a few simple additions into your diet can make the world of difference to your supply and breastfeeding experience.
Remember, its supply and demand; the more you feed your baby, the more milk you’ll make. So if you feel you’re running a little low on milk or need to support your flow, try to feed as regularly as you can; every 2-3 hours.
5 ways to support breast milk production
Protein and Fat
Your nutritional demands for high quality protein and essential fatty acids in your diet sky-rockets when breastfeeding, as they support breast milk production and balance hormones as well as target your nervous system and regulate energy levels (any mother knows that’s a win-win!)
Research shows you normally need to eat 1g of protein per kilo of body weight, however when you’re breast feeding your protein requirements increase to 1.5grams of protein per kilo of body weight.
The easiest way to increase your protein intake is to eat protein with every meal and snack. High protein foods includes animal and non-animal protein sources such as eggs, oily fish, spirulina, nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes, chicken, lamb, beef, pork and full-fat yoghurt.
Since breastmilk and particularly hind milk are high in essential fatty acids you need to ensure your diet is rich in EPA and DHA foods, which are found in nuts, seeds, eggs, avocadoes, flaxseed oil, olive oil and coconut products.
Since over 70% of your body is comprised of water it’s no surprise your need for water increases dramatically. To support breast milk production you need to increase your water intake to at least 45mls of water per kilo of body weight. For example, a 70 kilogram women needs to drink at least 3.2L of water per day.
Research shows baby’s enjoy the taste of garlic and tend to feed for longer. Garlic also has antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant and immune boosting benefits that both mum and bub benefit from. Try to include 1-2 cloves a day in your diet.
As well as supporting milk production, flaxseeds have a high protein and fibre content to cleanse the colon, promote bowel regularity, regulate energy levels and support healthy, happy hormones. Try adding a teaspoon or two to your diet each day.
Fennel and Fenugreek Tea
Enjoy a few cups of fennel and fenugreek tea a day. These powerful herbs are galacatagogues, which promote breast milk production and they also increase digestive enzymes and have anti-spasmodic benefits, which will reduce colic in babies. You may find the tea as a blend in a local health food store or health aisle in a supermarket, often called ‘Nursing Tea’, such as Weleda Nursing Tea, which you can buy online or from most health food stores
Other galactagogue herbs include: Aniseeds, Shatavari, Nettle Leaf and Root, Lemon Verbena, Goat’s rue, Vervain, Chaste Tree, Caraway and Cinnamon.
What to avoid
Try to avoid high sugar foods and caffeine, as they may contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, cause dehydration, wreak havoc on your stress hormones and impact your bubs sleeping habits.
Be aware, there are some herbs that may decrease breast milk production, including sage and peppermint.
It’s important to remember that some women can’t breastfeed or they choose not to, for various reasons. It’s important that mum’s still enjoy feeding time, and try to give the bub as much skin-on-skin contact before or after feeding as possible. If you need to use formula an organic goat’s milk formula is most nutritionally sound. Goat’s milk has the most similar protein and structure as human breast milk, making it much easier to digest. I recommend brands such as Holle from health food stores or Karicare from supermarkets.
Do not give soy milk formula or soy milk to babies or infants, as it has a similar chemical structure to oestrogen and has a phyto-oestrogen effect, which can cause endocrine dysfunction.
For further information or support on breastfeeding please contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association www.breastfeeding.au
Written By Olivia McFadyen, Naturopath & Nutritionist
Olivia McFadyen is a certified Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist and Homeopath who loves to share her wealth of knowledge with like-minded individuals and support clients to optimise their health and reach their lifestyle goals. Olivia offers practical advice for healthy living that draws on six years of in-depth study in the Natural Medicine and Health Science domains as well as a wealth of experience in professional settings. She provides clients and followers effective, evidence-based solutions for everything from detox tips to fertility issues without the sometimes confusing medical jargon and, crucially, without compromising on the enjoyment food can bring! Olivia works with clients around the world through private consultations and group workshops in a clinic setting, and/or supporting clients through Skype / phone consultations, and through her increasingly popular blog.
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(This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional. All information is written from the experience and knowledge of the person writing the post).