It is only recently that how a mother chooses to feed her baby has become such a big issue. Women of past generations just fed their babies and moved on, but now it is always a topic of conversation. This is in thanks in no small part to social media. Every form of feeding comes with its own list of pros and cons, but today we are going to talk about breastfeeding.
A lot of women want to breastfeed their babies, but it is something that is usually done on blind faith. A mom doesn’t always know how much milk her baby is getting. This can be the most challenging aspect of breastfeeding and can frustrate a lot of women.
Unless they are speaking with a lactation consultant, moms also may not have a clear understanding of how their system makes milk: the food mom eats gets absorbed and is turned it all into breastmilk. Well, that’s the short version of it. With this being said, it's easy to understand that what a woman eats can impact her breastmilk in terms of volume, taste, and nutritional value.
There are 12 things a woman can do that can directly affects her milk supply, and she may not even be aware that she is doing them. This can leave a mom frustrated as she fears she has to stop breastfeeding. With every problem comes a solution, so we also have 8 things she can try to get her supply back up.
20 Parsley, If You Can Believe It!
Parsley is something a lot of people use on their food, it is a great garnish adding a pop of colour. Breastfeeding moms should watch out for this popular herb as it is known for decreasing milk supply. Parsley is a diuretic and it can slow the process of creating milk. Luckily, this is not normally a large concern because we don’t tend to eat a lot of parsley in our day-to-day lives.
The only real concern is if mom eats a dish called Tabbouleh, which contains a lot of parsley. If she enjoys this meal, and her milk is well established, she can partake in it every once in a while.
19 Overdo The Cabbage Leaves
This is a neat little trick for a lot of women who are wanting to dry up their supply, or even to just relieve some of the pressure. When a woman is just starting to breastfeed, it is normal for her to get engorged and full. This can be painful and could end up with a clogged duct. To help relieve this, women are told to place cabbage leaves in their bra which will help reduce the engorgement.
However, we don’t want to take this overboard as it can also dry a woman completely up. A woman should really only do this about once a day if all she wants to do is settle engorgement. Any longer and she may dry up completely.
18 Sage And Oregano Got To Go!
While we are on the topic of spices, two other spices that mom should avoid are sage and oregano as these are known to decrease milk supply. These are items that no one would think would affect your milk at all, so it is quite normal for mom to know about it. Sage tea is an item that is given to women who have an over supply and want to cut it down, so it makes sense that women who don’t want their milk reduced should avoid it.
It is always a good idea to be in communication with a lactation consultant when nursing. Their knowledge is really invaluable to a nursing mom about what she should or should not do to help her milk supply.
17 Peppermint Has To Go
It is good timing with this article being right around the holiday season, because peppermint is one thing that can reduce the milk supply. With so many candy canes and flavoured hot chocolate coming on the scene it is important that a breastfeeding mother is careful with her consumption. Drinking the occasional peppermint tea or peppermint hot chocolate is not going to really affect your supply, because mom would have to drink a lot of it.
However, moms who enjoy small candies like Altoids that contain peppermint (or spearmint) have noticed a daily drop in their milk supply so it is always better to be careful.
16 Have A Cold One
This one seems like it is in the wrong category, because women have always been told that drinking a beer will help boost their milk supply. While is has been deemed safe for a woman to have a drink and breastfeed, this may be at the risk of your breastmilk supply. Beer and other alcohol have been known to lessen your milk letdown.
This means that it is harder for the baby to remove the milk from the chest, and it could lead to mom drying up completely. A drink every now and then is not going to affect your milk, but make sure to drink after you feed your baby.
15 Birth Control
Not a lot of women aim to get pregnant so soon after their first child, which means they will need to go on some form of birth control. Breastfeeding has a lot to do with hormones, so mom needs to be careful when she is deciding what form of birth control to go on. Birth control also plays around with your hormones, so it can have an impact on your milk.
For example, the birth control pill is still a common method of contraception, however the estrogen it releases can cause a dip in mom’s supply. It is important that mom talks to her OB or doctor when going on birth control to find the one that is the most breastfeeding-friendly.
14 Not Sleeping Enough
This one makes the world seem like a very sad place. Lack of rest can interfere with milk production, but how is a new mom supposed to get any rest? It is true, childbirth and being a new mom can be exhausting and newborns do not sleep for a long period of time making it hard for mom to get the rest she needs for her breastmilk.
It is important to get as much rest as you can. When the baby is sleeping, try and nap or at the very least take a little break. The housework can wait, your breastfeeding relationship is more important than a sink full of dirty dishes. This is when you call dad in to help so that you can get the rest you (and your milk) need.
There are some medical conditions that can cause a drop-in mom’s supply. Mom’s are notorious for ignoring their own health when they have a baby. They are so focused on taking care of this tiny little human that forget to follow up on their health and wellness. If mom notices a drop in her breastmilk, she should talk to the doctor and see if there is something wrong with her thyroid.
Hypothyroidism can cause breastmilk concerns, but it is easily fixed. There are medications mom can take to control her thyroid, therefore making it easier for her body to make milk. Anemia can also interfere with milk production. Once mom takes care of her body, it can focus back on making milk again.
12 Getting Too Stressed Out
Just as it seems ridiculous to ask a new mom to get more sleep, it also seems silly to tell them not to stress too much. Having a baby is stressful. It will feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and it is. The level of anxiety in a new mom is very high and this can interfere with breastmilk. Breastfeeding can be a very anxious event, especially if mom has to feed in public and is uncomfortable.
It is important to try and stay relaxed when you are nursing. The more relaxed mom is, the easier it will be to release milk to the baby. When we are stressed, certain hormonal changes are happening in our body which can impact milk let-down and production.
11 Irish Twins!
Now, we may not plan on having babies so close in age, but sometimes it happens. If a nursing mom finds herself pregnant again it may impact breastfeeding. OB’s will normally recommend a new mom way at least 6-months before trying for another baby and this is mostly to due with breastfeeding. By the time the baby is 6-months they will be starting solid foods.
Pregnancy can cause a lot of hormonal changes in a woman’s body and since breastfeeding has a lot to do with hormones, it can all change. In some women, the milk supply will drop and in others it can cause it to have a weird taste, meaning the baby may refuse it.
10 Too Much Coffee
A new mom needs her coffee to get through the day. Life may seem unimaginable with some caffeine to get her through. Just as we do when we are pregnant, we really need to watch how much caffeine we intake when we are breastfeeding. This includes coffee, soda and chocolate as all of these products have caffeine in them.
Mom’s should be limiting them anyways as we don’t want too much caffeine getting through to the baby through our milk. However, too much caffeine can also impact milk supply. If mom partakes in too much her supply could drop. Much like everything else, it is OK in moderation, but we don’t want to overdo it.
9 Medication Intake
Breastfeeding mom’s get sick too, we only appear to be superheroes. Being sick is never fun but being sick with a newborn sound like torture (and it is). The world doesn’t stop when we fall sick, so we need to be able to muster up enough energy to still get things done and take care of our baby. This may have mom reaching for the medicine cabinet.
Mom will need to be careful because there are certain medications that can interfere with breastfeeding. For the most part, a lot of medications are safe to take when breastfeeding, but they should always be checked. Mom should make a quick call to her doctor, or she can even ask the pharmacist, before taking any kind of medication when nursing.
8 Try Drinking More Water
Now that we have covered everything that could cause an issue when breastfeeding, we have to offer some tips on how to get it back up. We don’t bring you a problem without a solution. The number one thing a woman can try when she wants to up her milk supply is drinking more water. She may be doing this anyways because breastfeeding can make you very thirsty.
It is important to drink water constantly throughout the day. Buy yourself a nice, new water bottle and carry that thing with you at all time. Staying hydrated is probably the best way to make sure your breastfeeding supply is good.
7 Try Nursing More
It really is amazing how our bodies work, their ability to conceive, grow and then nurture a human being is nothing short of miraculous. One of the best ways to improve the milk supply is to nurse your baby as much as possible. When the baby is nursing, they are sending your body a signal to make more milk.
This is why breastfed babies go through periods of cluster feeding. This is when they will nurse frequently for a day or two as a way to get your body to produce more milk. They want your body to produce more milk because they know that they are about to go through a growth spurt.
6 Try Some Oatmeal
There are a lot of things out there that are said to increase milk supply, and the world has gotten creative. Lactation cookies are one thing that will always make its rounds on social media, claiming to be a great (and yummy) way of increasing milk supply. We often wonder if any of these social media tricks work and this one does.
The reason lactation cookies work is because they are normally a variation of an oatmeal cookie. Oats are a great way to boost milk supply. If mom likes oatmeal, it is always a good idea to start each day off with a bowl of hot oatmeal, or cold by the time mom gets to eat it. The good news is, hot or cold, it will still work the same.
5 Try Some Barley Instead
The reason many people tell nursing women to have a beer to boost supply is because of one ingredient; Barley. They will often be told to drink a darker beer, like Guinness, because the darker the beer, the more barley it has in it. While we already discovered alcohol can deplete your milk, barley can boost it.
That is because of what Barley has in it. Barley is the richest source of beta-glucan, which has been shown to increase prolactin in a woman’s body. Prolactin is the hormone needed to create breastmilk. The more of this substance we have in our bodies, the more milk it will provide. Barley is great in soups and salads!
4 Try Fennel
Fennel is another substance that a lot of moms are told to eat when they want to try and boost their milk supply. It is often made into lactation tea as well, or in multivitamins that mom can take. Fennel is a vegetable and it contains phytoestrogens which is thought to increase milk supply. Fenugreek is an herb that is also very helpful.
While Fenugreek may be relatively new in North America, it has been used for centuries in India and Asia by nursing mothers. However, this must be used properly, or it won’t work and could even cause some health concerns. It is always important to discuss this with your doctor or lactation specialist to make sure you are taking the right amount.
3 Try Avoiding Bottles
It may sound appealing for a woman to want to use bottles with her breastfed baby at some point. Exclusively breastfeeding is a big commitment and it can be exhausting. It seems nice for a woman to be able to pump milk and have someone else take over a feeding every now and then. If you want to boost your milk supply, try and refrain from doing this.
When our baby eats directly from the source, they are sending your body signals to make more milk. A pump does not do this, or at least not very well. Your body may miss a signal or two from your baby and will therefore think it does not need to make as much milk.
2 Try A Nursing Vacation!
Don’t be fooled by this title, a nursing vacation is not like the vacations you took before you had a baby. It is a vacation to increase your milk supply. If mom is worried that her supply is dropping, she should go on one of these rights away. A nursing vacation is when mom takes baby in her bed with her and stays there for three days. Just stays in bed and nurses as much as she can for however long as baby will nurse.
This is a great way to bond with your baby as well as increase your milk supply. Grab some snacks, drinks, a good book or roll a TV in the room and just relax and hang out. You may want to get a little bell, so you can ring for dad when you need something.
1 Try Seeing A Lactation Specialist!
At the end of the day, your best friend when nursing is going to be a lactation consultant. Doctors and nurses are wonderful, but they are not educated and trained like a nursing consultant is. They can be beneficial in making sure the baby is getting enough milk. They can check the latch and can provide a lot of tips and tricks on how to make sure there is enough milk there.
Breastfeeding can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be, and mom definitely does not have to do it alone. There are always people there to help her if she just asks. Ask your family doctor for the nearest lactation consultant to you, you will be happy you did it.