At the very start breastfeeding is not only painful but can be difficult because of milk production. This can become a problem at any stage of breastfeeding which I have personally experienced. A lot is happening in those first couple of weeks for baby but especially for you too. So I thought I would start with some background information:
After our bundle (or bundles) of joy come into the world, what we produce is a special milk called colostrum. Colostrum is full of immune boosting ingredients for bub. Your newborn doesn’t need a lot to fill up its small tummy, so lots of small, short feeds and skin-to skin contact in those first 48 hours makes good colostrum producing progress at the start. You will produce colostrum for about 3-4 days. Most women will experience their milk “coming in” around day 4, but this isn’t always the case. The timing is purely hormonal and it’s important to remember that it’s a gradual process… the milk will slowly change in consistency from the golden colostrum to thinner, white breastmilk. You will feel your breasts get fuller, warmer and heavier, all signs milk production is changing. Skin to skin contact does help for these hormonal signals to be released so lots of hugs and kisses for bub at the start can be very useful. By the first week all this has happened you have hopefully started producing breastmilk for your little one, who will feed every 1.5-2 hours. However, some mums struggle to produce enough milk for their little one. It’s also hard to tell how much you’re producing when you cannot see it, so if bub is gaining weight well then don’t stress! And as always there are experts you can be referred to, so see your GP for a referral to a lactation consultant. Another good source of information and support is the Australian Breastfeeding Association Helpline 1800 686 268 – expert mums with information and advice to assist you 7 days a week!
So here are a few tips I have come up with that have helped me when I didn’t feel I had enough milk, and will hopefully help you too:
1. Look After Mum!
As I have already mentioned, breastfed babies tend to feed every 1.5-2 hours, and its important to feed on demand and have lots of skin to skin contact. Then there’s the nappy changes, washing, naps, visitors and I’m exhausted just thinking about it! So it’s very easy to forget about YOU. You need rest, you need to eat well and drink water to produce enough milk for your little one.
Now is the time to call in all the support you can muster. Make sure if you’re up all night feeding little one you’re getting a nap with them during the day. I would keep a bottle of water handy always because it’s so easy to forget to drink water. Make sure you are eating… I know it’s hard when you’re on the go to make yourself a well thought out and healthy meal but keep lots of healthy snacks and quick meal options available to you. If you don’t think your getting all those vitamins and minerals in, then taking a suitable breastfeeding multivitamin such as Elevit Breastfeeding may help.
2. Expressing Breastmilk
If bub isn’t successfully emptying out the breast, it wont refill. This can be due to a number of issues including if bub is not latching onto the breast properly or if baby gets sleepy before finishing a feed. If you don’t feel your breast is getting empty after feeds (i.e. softer, less heavy breasts) emptying them out with a breast pump after or in between feeds can help to improve breastmilk production. I can personally recommend the Medela Freestyle Double Electric Pump. You can use this as a single or double. It’s compact and lightweight for when you’re on the go and has a rechargeable battery. It mimics your babies sucking by offering a 2-phase system, where it produces short faster sucking at the start (to stimulate let down) and then longer sucking for pumping out the milk. It also has a let down and pumping suction level so you can select what level suits you for both.
3. Breastfeed more and more
If bub is under 6 months then this might help you:
- Keep offering the breast every 2 hours during the day and 3 hours at night
- Make sure you offer bub both sides at each feed
- Only give breastmilk and avoid solids and other fluids to increase supply
I also found trying different breastfeeding positions improved Isaacs latch and my own comfort. This can be trialled at any age or stage. The Australian Breastfeeding Association have more information about the different positions, including pictures and videos on their website: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/attachment-breast
If you have tried all of the above and are sure that you just aren’t producing enough milk, you may want to consider Fenugreek. Fenugreek is a herb that has been used for centuries to increase milk supply in women. I personally have not tried it, but it does have great reviews in working for some mums. Nature’s Own Fenugreek Tablets can be found in pharmacies and I would recommend speaking to your pharmacist before purchasing this to make sure that it is suitable for you.