The human body truly is a marvel. After creating and delivering a new, little human, a woman’s body then has the ability to produce the perfect cocktail of nutrients to sustain this new life as it grows.
Breast milk, says Johannesburg dietician Abigail Courtenay, who has a special interest in women’s health, is the perfect food for a baby and is tailor made to meet a growing infant’s needs.
But, sometimes, new mothers’ bodies can struggle to keep up with demand. “Not having enough milk is a common concern for new mothers, and is in fact the most cited reason for breastfeeding failure,” adds Courtenay.
To help increase and improve your milk flow, follow these top tips might help, says Courtnenay.
1. Feed more
Breast milk production works on a supply and demand principle – the more you breastfeed, the more milk your body will create. Feed your new-born on demand, about 8 - 12 times in 24 hours. If you’re separated from your baby, empty your breasts using a pump (or you could pump manually) every two to three hours.
2. Eat right
Following a healthy, balanced diet and staying hydrated is essential for milk production. Some foods are known to increase milk production, though more scientific studies are needed. These foods include oats, barley, brown rice, beans, sesame seeds, almonds, apricots, dates, figs and dark green leafy vegetables.
If you’re battling to take in enough calories, a supplement such as Similac Mom is a convenient snack that can help you reach your calorie and nutrient goals, says Courtenay. “Also don’t try to lose baby weight immediately. Rather wait until breastfeeding is established, then visit a dietician.”
3. Grow herbs
Though their effects are largely undocumented, some herbs have a reputation for increasing milk production, says Courtenay. These include fenugreek, anise, black seed, caraway, coriander, dill and fennel. Don’t overdo it, though. An overdose of fenugreek (the recommended limit is 6g per day), for example, can lead to diarrhoea and shortness of breath.
4. Supplement if needed
Milk thistle is one of the most widely-used lactation supplements, but, again, more scientific studies are needed to prove its efficacy. If you opt for herbal supplements, do so with caution and buy brands you know and trust, as herbal supplements don’t require rigorous testing, warns Courtenay. Consult your Clicks pharmacist for advice.
5. Get a check-up
It’s important to rule out medical problems if your supply is struggling. Some conditions that can influence production include thyroid disorders or retained placental fragments, while alcohol, antihistamines and even fatigue can play a role in low production.
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