By Tamara Roe L.Ac *Tamara has been practicing acupuncture and Chinese medicine since 2004. She focuses much of her practice on women’s health care, specifically fertility and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
As TCM practitioners, we have in our therapeutic tool belt a number of ways to encourage lactation with acupuncture, herbal therapies, and nutrition, however, nothing we do can substitute for what you can do at home. Here are some important steps that moms need to do at home to encourage milk production and improve their breastfeeding, by Tamara Roe
1. Nurse. As much as possible.
Nothing will encourage milk production like your baby sucking on your breasts. There is a symbiotic dance that happens with mother and baby during those early days and weeks when milk supply is established. The more a baby sucks, the more milk a mama will produce. Often that means very long nursing sessions (do not look at the clock), and throwing away the pacifier (the nipple should be used as a pacifier). Feeding on demand is key at the onset of establishing milk supply and flow. Forget the feeding every 2-3 hours rule. That is a feeding schedule framed around formula-fed babies, not infants who nurse. Breast milk digests more quickly, therefore, feedings need to be more frequent. Don’t worry, this won’t last forever.
Also, nurse skin-to-skin. This works into the same symbiotic storyline. Something beautiful and rare happens hormonally between a mother and her baby as they snuggle together, and this results in an increase in milk production and flow.
2. Try to get enough sleep (yeah, right?!)
Seriously, try to sleep when you can. Make your partner take the baby for a couple of hours in the morning after you’ve had a good nursing session. Close the bedroom door, and try to sleep unbothered for a bit, even if you get 90 minutes in, it will go far to boost your energy reserves, reduce your stress level, and support milk production.
3. Water, water, water
I can’t stress this enough– drink water. Constantly! Have a glass of water sitting at arm’s reach all of the time. Make that your partner’s number 1 duty, to have you water glass always full. You can’t make breast milk if you are dehydrated, and chances are, after a long labor, you’re dehydrated. Drink up. And then fill that glass, and drink again.
4. Eat nourishing, milk producing foods and herbs
What you are eating is key for milk production. As a rule of thumb, you need protein and blood-building foods to stay nourished. Eat lots of warm, lean meats and green leafy vegetables. Eat lots of meat stews and stewed vegetables. Find dishes that are hearty, yet easily digestible.
Also try to incorporate galactagogues in your diet. Galactagogues are foods that support milk supply. These include: fenugreek, fennel, milk thistle, alfalfa, barley, oatmeal, red raspberry, nettle, and marshmallow root. These are available as supplements or in tea form.
Finally, because breast milk comes from your blood, eating foods or supplements that support blood production also support milk supply. My favorite blood/ milk supply building supplement is Floradix. It’s available at health food stores or online. It’s a plant-based iron and blood builder, and I’ve witnessed it kick milk production into high gear after only a few doses.
5. Make sure to give equal time at each breast
This is pretty self explanatory, but it’s important to drain each breast equally. Some babies prefer one breast over the other because one may flow better than the other, or one nipple may be easier to latch on to, but try encourage nursing from both breasts. If you find that your baby completely refuses breastfeeding from one breast, experiment with different positions and holds. If your baby still refuses, then make sure to pump from that breast. You’ll want to make sure that you are still able to drain the less desirable side so that milk production doesn’t halt on that side. And while we’re at it…..
6. Pump Between Nursings
Let your baby get his or her fill of milk, and then when you’re done breastfeeding, pump. This stimulation will build up your milk production.
*It is very important to remember that no matter if you pump right after you nurse, or pump 2 hours after nursing, the amount of milk pumped is in NO WAY indicative of your milk supply. Your baby is infinitely more efficient at getting milk from your breast than a breast pump. So, use a pump to stimulate your breasts, but don’t use the amount of milk pumped as an indication of your supply. Some women can only pump ½ to 1 ounce at a time, but they have completely nourished and satisfied babies who take in much more than that each feeding.
7. Finally, ask for help.
Breastfeeding may just be the most difficult thing you do in your life. It IS natural, but it may NOT come naturally to you. Sometimes the latch is a bit off, sometimes the position needs adjusting. Many babies are born with a tongue tie that goes undiagnosed. You may be unnecessarily dealing with nipple pain. We are here to assist and support you. We have a lot of tools at hand to help you.
At Reproductive Wellness we work with a vast referral network of amazing lactation consultants and educators that will bend over backwards to make sure you have a wonderful experience breast feeding your baby for as long as you and your baby you want. If you feel you need support, please give us a call 858 381 2281, we offer complimentary phone consultations. If you are in San Diego, we would be more than happy to sit with you for a consultation.
We have a Postpartum eBooklet on our collection of Women’s Health eBooks. It’s free, and very helpful for new moms trying to have an easy recovery and amazing time during their postpartum. If you don’t have it yet, you can download it here for free. http://bit.ly/1fKDgbC
Finally, I can’t recommend a couple of resources enough:
-The Le Leche League’s book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”
-Robin Kaplan at the San Diego Breastfeeding Center sdbfc.com
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