Let’s be honest, this subject matter has been written about many, many times before…but how accurate is all the information we see? Has someone qualified written or contributed to it, or is it just a random blog post you’ve found somewhere with no author’s name to be found? Hmmm…be wary.
It’s way too easy to find information in regards to what women should/shouldn’t be doing and what they should/shouldn’t be eating to encourage a healthy supply of breastmilk – but how can we trust what we read? Especially when a lot of it is contradictory! It can be overwhelming.
Here at Cadenshae we decided to take the guesswork out for you and with the help of a qualified nutritionist we’ve cut through the confusion to give you some easy to follow tips for your nursing journey, no matter what that may look like.
Chantal Cuthers is a Registered Nutritionist who specialises in infant and women’s health. Chantal works with women who’re experiencing fertility issues, pregnant women and new mothers who want to give their babies the best start possible.
Chantal has offered some easy to follow tips on how to get the most out of your individual supply, knowing every woman is different. I’m a mother of two boys and I breastfed both until they were 11 months old (just before I went back to work), so by working together, Chantal and I hope you’ll be able to take what you need from this piece.
1. Firstly, stress is a huge risk factor in milk supply and nursing success. Having support is the number one most influential reason mamas can be successful in their breastfeeding journey. So, whether you're doing this alone, with a hubby, with an epic mother on hand etc., be kind and patient with yourself. It can take TIME and it needs a strong support network around you - however that may look.
2. Skin-to-skin with your infant is crucial to boost oxytocin and help milk supply and breastfeeding success. The closer you have your baby in those first few weeks and months, the higher chance you'll breastfeed successfully. Make sure if it’s possible, that your birthing team prioritise skin-to-skin in those golden hours.
3. Dieting, restriction and lack of nutrients are linked with low supply and difficulty nursing, so it's really important to honour your hunger. Eat as well as you can and be weary of skipping meals or snacks if you’re trying to control your intake. Now is not the time for a diet!
4. You should be taking a breastfeeding multivitamin if possible. It should contain vitamin D, iodine, choline, selenium, iron, B vitamins (ideally activated forms) and vitamin A at least. Usually best prescribed through an experienced women’s health practitioner, but you can stop by your local drugstore for some basic options if you’d prefer.
5. Oats, fennel, fenugreek, brewer's yeast, fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and healthy fats all assist, but aren’t the golden ticket for milk supply. Don’t overthink the ingredients in everything. Often a bowl of warm oatmeal in the morning with some nuts and seeds, honey and coconut cream can work wonders! Lactation cookies are a nice thing to have alongside a breastfeeding tea, but don’t panic if you can’t afford the high price tag.
6. Supply and demand rules do apply to nursing for most. The more you feed, the more you make is the general rule. Pumping after feeds can also help assist milk supply long term. This is where adjusting to your own routine and your newborn can be helpful to find what works best for you.
7. Ill-fitting nursing bras (especially ones that are too tight) can hinder milk production. Wearing a comfortable and well-fitted nursing bra can assist greatly. Cadenshae’s complete range of nursing sports bras have been endorsed by several medical professionals as they have no pesky underwire, and because there’s a bra to suit and support almost all body types and breast sizes. A breastfeeding bra that fits well will also help in the prevention of blocked milk ducts and mastitis, thus contributing to a healthier supply.
8. Smoking and some medications can inhibit milk supply. If you’ve started smoking again post-birth, then try to quit. In regards to medications, talk to your doctor about what you’re taking and if they’re known to affect breastfeeding. Remember, if you have to take prescription medications to be well, don’t stop taking these, it’s crucial you remain healthy for you and your baby. Just know a few medications may slightly hinder your supply, so adjusting for this expectation can lower the anxiety and guilt. It is not your fault.
9. Stay hydrated - always get yourself a cup of tea or glass of water as you sit down to feed. Dehydration will affect supply, and mass production of milk will cause dehydration also. If you’ve got some good support people around you, then let them know that breastfeeding time is 'cuppa time' and have them bring you a warm cup and glass of water while you bond with your baby.
10. Fatty fish or quality fish oil supplements are beneficial for baby's brain development and are passed through breastmilk. Aim for two servings per week of salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines if you enjoy them, and if you’re a plant based eater, it’s worth taking a supplement while also boosting your intake of flaxseed, walnuts, hemp and chia.
11. Sometimes it's completely out of our control whether we're able to breastfeed. Some women just don’t (for reasons unknown) have the supply needed for their hungry baby, or they experienced a traumatic birth which affected their milk production. Try everything you can, but also know there are many other crucial things you can do for your baby if breastfeeding cannot be a part of your journey. No one can tell which child was breast or bottle fed when they start school, so do whatever is completely right for you and your family.
These are 11 simple things you can action immediately, but if you’re still struggling to feed, or you feel your supply dropping off, Chantal recommends you get in touch with a respected lactation consultant earlier rather than later. Their advice combined with the above may give you what you need to get across the line and they can offer more tailored support for your situation.
Do not feel guilty if you're struggling to nurse. It is NOT your fault. All you can do is your best, and if nothing is working and you have to switch to formula, so be it…your baby will be absolutely fine, and so will you! Fed is best, 100%.
Good luck mamas! May the oxytocin and prolactin be with you!
Written by Ellen Chisholm and Chantal Cuthers.