August Is Breastfeeding Awareness Month - Part II: Improving/Increasing Your Milk Supply
August 22, 2014
Many moms have asked questions regarding milk supply. Why does supply change so much? It can become very frustrating for a mom who desires to feed her child with her breast milk, and yet have her supply decrease instead of increasing. Unfortunately, this only puts mom into the stress cycle that contributes to further decreasing her supply.
First, let’s talk about supply and demand. It is a basic concept that when the female body is functioning at its fullest, it works perfectly in sync with baby’s feedings and needs. To put it simply, the more baby feeds, the more mom’s body makes milk to keep up with her child’s needs. This is why it is so important to pump, express, etc. if you are going to miss a feeding instead of just “skipping” it. Stress also plays a factor in this. If mom’s nervous system, specifically the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest system) is not being allowed to function properly due to stress, the supply and demand cycle may appear to not work, as the body is “too stressed” to keep up with baby’s needs. It is crucial for moms to take time to rest and relax during a part of their day. If there is a neuro-spinal shift occurring in mom’s nervous system, it can also alter the parasympathetic responsibility of producing sufficient milk for baby’s needs.
When this happens, moms feel discouraged, and of course want and need to be able to feed their child in some other way if the supply is being altered. Here are some ways you can increase milk supply, remembering that these may not work as well as they can if there is an unresolved neuro-spinal shift affecting your parasympathetic nervous system.
Mother’s Milk Tea is one of the most popular ways moms try to increase milk supply. Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, and Brewer’s Yeast are all also common supplements, but it is advised to seek a health practitioner to help determine if it is specifically safe for the particular mom. Increasing pumping length and frequency can help as well. Pumping even when baby is not hungry can kick-start the supply/demand cycle as discussed above. It is important to note milk production is usually at its highest between 1:00-5:00 AM. When pumping, continue for 5 minutes after milk stops flowing to elicit the second let-down. Pumping after you shower, nurse, or apply a heat pad also elicits this response. Massaging your breasts while pumping or nursing can also help.
Lactation cookies and eating oatmeal (non-instant) have also been shown to help continue the increase or steadiness of your milk supply, but it is often times not sufficient to rely solely on these.
Mom’s health and stress levels greatly affect supply. It is important for mom to stay hydrated, get enough sleep (sometimes easier said than done!), and to manage stress. Again, all these factors affect their parasympathetic nervous system. A Neuro-Spinal examination is the best way to detect if mom has any Neuro-Spinal shifts affecting her parasympathetic nervous system.
Lactation consultants are also extremely helpful as far as making sure baby is latched on and emptying the breast effectively. They can also help determine the correct nipple shield size if it is something that is warranted. As stated in the previous blog, tongue-ties are important to rule out as well if you are having difficulty breastfeeding your baby. Most importantly, lactation consultants offer support to mom and baby during this sometimes stressful time.