Sustaining Breastfeeding

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Support System
Breastfeeding is more than a way to feed a baby – it becomes a lifestyle.  Fathers and other special support persons can be involved in the breastfeeding experience, too.

Partners and family members can support the breastfeeding relationship by:

  • Being kind and encouraging.
  • Showing their love and appreciation for all of the work that is put into breastfeeding.
  • Being good listeners when a mother needs to talk through breastfeeding concerns.
  • Making sure the mother has enough to drink and gets enough rest. She also needs help around the house and help in taking care of other children at home.
  • Giving emotional nourishment to the baby through playing and cuddling.

The bond between mother and baby is important, but so is the bond between father and baby. Babies need cuddles and hugs from their dads, too! In fact, skin-to-skin contact helps baby and father bond much like it does for mother and baby.

Increasing Milk Supply

Frequent stimulation of the breasts, by breastfeeding or by using a breast pump, during the first few days and weeks, is essential to establish an abundant breast milk supply. If you are consistent you will likely see an improvement within a few days. Although it may take a month or more to bring your supply up to meet your baby’s needs, you will see steady, gradual improvement. You will be glad that you put the time and effort into breastfeeding, and so will your baby!!

  • Make sure you hydrate yourself with a glass of fresh juice, milk or water. Staying hydrated will help you produce milk.
  • Breastfeed more often, at least 8-12 times per 24 hours.
  • Avoid nipple confusion. Avoid using pacifiers, bottles, and supplements of infant formula in the first few weeks unless there is a medical reason to do so. If supplementation is needed, try to give expressed breast milk first with a cup or spoon. But it’s best just to feed at the breast. This will help you make milk and keep your baby from getting confused while learning to breastfeed.
  • Try to get in “one more feeding” before you go to sleep, even if you have to wake the baby.
  • “Burp & Switch”, using each breast twice or three times, and using different positions.
  • Ensure that the baby is completely ‘emptying’ your breasts at each feeding. When a breast is “empty” it feels soft and pliable as the breast does not completely dry out.

Avoid these things that are known to reduce breast milk supply

  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Combined Hormonal Birth control pills and injections that have Oestrogen as it inhibits milk production.
  • Decongestants, antihistamines.
  • Severe weight-loss diets.
  • Excessive amounts of mints, parsley, and sage.
  • Giving baby other breast milk supplements e.g. porridge, Formula, milk, glucose water, etc. that fill up the baby’s tummy and thus baby feeds less.
  • Stress. Try and relax, as stress decreases the body’s ability to produce the hormones needed for breastfeeding.

Expressing your milk

  • Use a hospital-grade breast pump with a double kit if you can afford it. If not, a normal breast pump will still do.
  • Pump after feedings or between feedings.
  • Rest 10-15 minutes before pumping, eat and drink something.
  • Apply warmth to your breasts and massage before beginning to pump.
  • Try “power pumping”. Pump for 15 minutes every hour for a day. Or try pumping 10 minutes, rest 10 minutes, pumping 10 minutes and so on, for an hour.

Condition your let-down reflex

  • Play relaxing music.
  • Imagine your baby, look at pictures of your baby, smell baby clothing or baby powder.
  • Always pump in the same quiet, relaxed place. Set up a routine.
  • Do slow, deep, relaxed breathing, and relax your shoulders.
  • Reduce stress and activity; get help.
  • Increase fluid intake.
  • Eat nutritious meals, and continue to take prenatal vitamins.
  • Back rubs stimulate nerves that serve the breasts (central part of the spine).
  • Increase skin-to-skin holding time with your baby; relax together.
  • Take a warm bath, read, meditate, and empty your mind of tasks that need to be done.

Herbs, foods and medications

  • Eat a bowl of cooked oatmeal daily.
  • Brewer’s yeast 3 Times daily, increase by ½ teaspoon daily until results are seen (or equivalent in capsules). Non-alcoholic malt drinks have also been used to increase milk with some success.
  • Fenugreek preparations help many women increase supply. Doses of 3-5 capsules (580-610 mg), three times per day are commonly recommended. Discuss this with your physician. Avoid fenugreek if you are diabetic, hypoglycaemic, asthmatic or allergic to peanuts or other legumes. Fenugreek is available at most vitamin shops or health food stores. Taken as directed, it may cause a faint maple body odour.
  • Blessed thistle or other herbs like hibiscus tea, Moringa Tea, Fennel Seeds and Dill seeds are also known to increase milk production.
  • Traditional Green leafy vegetables which are locally known as Dhabai and Sagaa.
  • Lactation cookies. Search the internet and you will find sources for packaged cookies and recipes to make your own.
  • Prescription medications sometimes help increase milk supply. Metaclopromide (Reglan) has been used with limited success. Domperidone (Motilium) has been used with more success but only use this as prescribed by your doctor.

If your milk supply continues being low

  • It is important to keep a daily log with the number of pumping sessions, the amount obtained, the amount you are having to supplement your baby and the 24-hour totals – this amount is more important than the pumped amount at each session. This will help you see your progress over the days.
  • Keep in touch with your health care provider so they can monitor your progress and modify/advice where necessary.
  • Retained placenta. If you are not seeing improvement and you are still having very heavy vaginal bleeding after 2 weeks, discuss the possibility of retained placental fragments with your doctor. Small bits of the placenta can secrete enough hormones to prevent the milk from coming in.
  • Low thyroid. Have your physician check your thyroid levels. Low thyroid can affect milk supply. If you have been taking thyroid medication, have your levels rechecked after delivery. You may need your thyroid medication adjusted.