Many mothers have the desire to breastfeed their newborn baby. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. You’ll hear stories of mothers struggling to give their baby the goodness of breast milk but giving up after a few months. What is the recommended length of time for breast feeding a baby? According to the American Association of Pediatrics, it should be at least for 1 year. The World Health Organization encourage mothers to breast feed exclusively for the first 6 months. After which solid food is introduced. A mother should try to continue breastfeeding up to 2 years.
How many mothers are following this recommendation? According to the Breastfeeding Report Card 2013 that is published online by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), 16.4% of American babies (born in the year 2010) were exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. 27% were still breastfeeding at 12 months. These numbers are actually higher than in the year 2000. Government and global efforts made to support breastfeeding mothers seem to be helping.
However, we cannot disregard the fact that many mothers still feel that they are unable to produce enough milk for their baby. It is a very common fear. The best way to know if a baby is getting enough milk is to count the number of wet diapers. When a mom pumps out milk but only gets very little out, they start to think that that’s all their baby is getting. In reality, baby is more efficient at sucking out milk than a breast pump. So, how much a mom pumps out is not a good indicator at all of how much a baby is drinking.
It is important to establish a good milk supply early. Pediatrician Dr. Deborah Bain from Health Kids Pediatrics in Frisco, Texas, list out reasons why that may not happen. She says, “Some reasons a strong breastfeeding relationship is not established include not getting a good latch in the beginning; baby continuously falling asleep due to under stimulation or the medication the mother may be on making them sleepy; jaundice or premature babies that lack muscle tone.”
A mother may also experience a drop in milk supply when they go back to work, become highly stressed, go on a diet or over-exert themselves. Bain points out that hormonal imbalance can also interfere with milk production. Another symptom of hormonal imbalance is hair loss.
Here are some things mothers can do to improve their milk supply.
- Nurse on demand. When your baby sucks often, it triggers your body to make more milk.
- Make sure baby is latched on properly. Doing so allows the baby to remove milk more efficiently. More importantly, your nipples won’t hurt if baby is latched on right.
- Eat fruits and vegetables such as carrots, dark leafy greens, asparagus and dried apricots that are rich in phytoestrogens. They will aid in lactation and promote healthy breast tissue.
- Add to your diet essential fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids and coconut oil. They will help your body produce hormones that regulate milk production. It will also make your breast milk more fat and nutritious.
- Eat a bowl of warm oatmeal. It will help you relax and that may lead to a boost of oxytocin in your body. You may find it easier to have a letdown that way.
- Switch to whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, rye bread, and brown rice. Linda M. Hanna, IBCLC, program coordinator for Lactation and Prenatal Education Services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles highly recommends eating complex carbohydrates. She reminds mothers to cut down on the sugary foods and junk foods. In support for eating brown rice while breastfeeding, Abbie Yabot, a lactation counselor Yabot says, “Expanding food, or those that are packed with nutrients and fiber such as brown rice, help greatly in the expansion of health. These then expand the breast milk supply.” It helps if you soak the grains overnight. This will make them more easy to digest, thus becoming more beneficial to your milk production.
- You can turn to supplements such as fenugreek and blessed thistle.
Adding these lactogenic foods will help mothers struggling to increase their milk supply. If you need more help, contact a local La Leche League Leader in your area for support.