Breastfeeding is no easy feat. From mastering positioning, proper latch, timing, plus questioning whether or not our little ones are getting enough milk, there’s much to consider in what can already be a stressful and overwhelming time.
While there’s often a lot of trial and error in the beginning, it’s important to know that you’re not alone in your journey and eventually, you’ll find a routine that works for you. Read on for our top tips and tricks for breastfeeding, plus helpful tips for producing more milk naturally.
Getting a good latch
A latch refers to how your baby attaches to your breast to breastfeed. Getting a good (and comfortable) latch is vital when breastfeeding, and is also needed to help build and maintain a good supply of breast milk.When your baby attaches properly, the movement of their jaw and tongue works to squeeze your milk ducts to remove the milk from your breast. A poor latch can mean that your baby might not get enough milk, plus it can also cause your milk supply to go down. Pain can sometimes be a sign of a poor latch, so if you are experiencing breast pain or sore or damaged nipples, check in with a lactation consultant who will be able to help you with a technique and positioning that works for you.
Other signs include clicking or smacking noises as your baby tries to suck, no sign of your baby swallowing, sucking in their cheeks and weight loss or poor weight gain in your baby.
How often do you need to feed?Frequency varies so much in the first week as well as from baby to baby. Newborns have small tummies – roughly the size of an apricot – that grow week by week along with your growing milk supply. You may be feeding every 2-3 hours during the day, and at night sometimes longer, but it’s important to know that feeding patterns vary extremely.
Cluster feeding sessions become common around 3 and 6 weeks of age, where babies start to feed more frequently. These back-to-back nursing sessions can mean that you’re on call every 20 minutes or so, and as exhausting as it is, these frequent feeds mean that your little one is getting all the nutrition they need as they go through one of their many growth spurts. Plus, it’s a great way to help boost your milk supply to continue to nourish your growing baby.
While you may have a hungrier newborn on your hands, keep in mind that the constant feeds are temporary. As your milk supply increases and your baby grows, so will your breaks between each nursing session.
Helpful signs your baby is hungry:
A good way to find the right breastfeeding balance is to watch out for hunger cues. These include:
- Sucking their hand
- Sucking on their lip or tongue or sticking their tongue out
- Turning their head and opening their mouth when something touches their check (known as “rooting”)
- Making lip smacking sounds
- Starting to get grizzly or whining
Breastfeeding tips for producing more milkMaking sure that you have the right latch, technique and are breastfeeding often are the most important factors when it comes to maintaining a healthy milk supply. But, if you’re still struggling, there are some other helpful things that you can try:
Stimulate your breasts.Try using a breast pump or hand expression to continue stimulating your breasts after a feeding session. This extra stimulation helps to signal to your body to up your supply.
Alternate breasts.Breastfeeding from both breasts, especially during the first few weeks of newborn life, will help your body to build up a strong supply of breast milk. For some, alternating each breast at the start of a feeding session can be helpful, but find what works for you.
Drink plenty of water.It’s important to stay hydrated to support your milk supply. Breastmilk is naturally made up of 90% water, so aim to drink around 8 glasses of water throughout the day, or a glass after each feed. Thanks to the hormone oxytocin, which is released during breastfeeding, this results in an increased feeling of thirst, so don’t be surprised if you’re thirstier than normal. It’s just our bodies natural way of ensuring we’re getting enough!
Eat often and eat well.Breastfeeding and maintaining a good milk supply requires a considerable amount of energy. It’s estimated that nursing mums need an extra 500 calories per day, though the exact amount will depend on your activity level, weight, plus your baby’s age and appetite. Fuel your body with healthy meals and snacks, focusing on protein plus healthy fruits and vegetables.
Other milk-boosting foods such as oats, fennel, garlic and pumpkin seeds may be a helpful addition to your diet. If you’re short on time (and let’s face it, life with a newborn is time consuming!), a protein powder supplement is a great way to get in some extra protein.
Foods to avoid when breastfeeding.Some herbs such as sage, peppermint and parsley, may have the potential to decrease milk supply, but only if consumed in large quantities. While adding some of these herbs to your usual meals is fine, we suggest avoiding any supplements that may contain these in higher amounts. Alcohol should also be limited, as this can have an effect on oxytocin release and can reduce the amount of milk let-down.
Consider supplementation.Galactogogue (a substance that increases milk supply) herbs such as Fenugreek, Fennel and Goat’s Rue can help to support healthy milk supply and volume in breast feeding mothers. We suggest trying Two Islands Milk Maker, which is a convenient, one-a-day capsule formulation to quickly and effectively support optimal breast milk production for busy mums and thriving babies.
Other breastfeeding tips for new mothers.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.Consider seeing a lactation consultant who can offer specialised care and advice. Lactation consultants are available for free via Plunket and through your local DHB or other primary healthcare provider. Private services are also available such as at Birth Care and the New Zealand Lactation Consultants Association.
Consider taking a breastfeeding class.Get a head start during your pregnancy by taking a breastfeeding course with your partner, or a family member or friend. Some courses are free to attend such as through your local DHB otherwise private courses are also available via Birth Care and some private lactation consultants.
Watch and learn.
If you have a friend who is breastfeeding, it may be helpful if you can watch and ask any questions about the process. You can also get support through your local La Leche League who offer mother to mother trained breastfeeding support in New Zealand. Their experienced leaders can offer their help over the phone, via email and you can also attend their local meetings for extra support.
At the end of the day, remember that fed is best, and no matter how you choose to feed your baby, whether breast or formula, a happy healthy baby and a happy healthy Mum is the most important thing.