My second baby is due in April, and for those of you that followed my journey the first time around, you’ll remember the heartache I experienced over my struggle to breastfeed my daughter. My issues did not concern the usual problems: latching or positioning, pain and mastitis (although I experienced those in turn!) but a lack of breast milk supply, direct from breast to baby and breast to pump.
This time around, I’m going in with a positive attitude, armed with everything I need to know to give myself the best possible chance of success. I drew up a list of questions and confided in breastfeeding specialist Geraldine Miskin. Geraldine’s book Breastfeeding Made Easy will be my loyal companion on this next journey. I hope you won’t find yourself in my shoes, but if you do – I’m sure this Q&A with Geraldine will help.
I’m planning ahead of time to boost breast milk supply before my baby is born – what key things should I be doing?
It would be good to consider what happened with your first baby. For instance, were you taking advice from too many sources, getting confused and not sticking to one plan long enough? What would your second breastfeeding experience be like if you could determine what could have been done differently? Create an action plan from there. I find that when mums do an emotional and physical MOT on breastfeeding, their results second time round are so much better. Mums feel more empowered about the choices they make.
Practically, it would be great to be prepared so that you understand how to tell that your baby is getting enough milk from the breast, and what to do if he or she isn’t.
Hiring a hospital pump – if I know historically my supply is limited, should I start pumping straight after baby is born, and what patten should I follow? (i.e. every two hours 24/7?!)
Milk supply is driven by drainage so provided that there are no medical factors which could inhibit milk supply, you don’t need to start pumping early. However, as milk supply is driven by drainage, you can start pumping as early as needed if your baby isn’t draining your milk efficiently. You can start pumping earlier as a back-up plan provided you know how to recognise when you are in a state of overproduction and how to manage that, so that you don’t develop lumps or infections.
What supplements can I take to boost supply and what doses should I take of each?
Fenugreek boost the production of prolactin, the milk producing hormone when it is low. If your prolactin levels are where they should be, you won’t necessarily notice an increase in milk production and it will be pointless taking them. Instead, I’d suggest that you have them to hand and use them in conjunction with pumping if you find that your supply is low. Start with the lowest dose and build up to the recommended dose if your supply doesn’t respond.
Lecithin is a fat emulsifier and helps to clear away fatty blockages. If taking lecithin, I would suggest considering the sunflower lecithin over the soy lecithin. There is no need to start taking before your baby arrives or before you have challenges as they work really quickly but definitely worth having to hand for when your baby arrives so that you are prepared and can act quickly.
Do brewers yeast cookies really help and are there any other foods I can be eating before baby arrives and post baby’s arrival to boost supply?
Many mums swear by the lactation cookies as well as other natural options like taking brewers yeast etc. They work well for some mums and not very well for others. If you are considering having the cookies, I find that making up the cookie dough and freezing it before baby arrives is really helpful. That way you can simply defrost and bake once your baby arrives.
How much water should I be drinking and how important is this?
Your body needs water to ensure that not only are you hydrated but that you have additional water to make milk, so it is important. Keep an eye on the colour of your urine. If it is dark or concentrated, you need to increase your water intake.
How bad is alcohol consumption in relation to supply?
Everything in moderation is absolutely fine, including alcohol. Alcohol is constantly metabolised and removed from your system, so when only having small amounts, it is fine. As every mum and baby is unique, you need to find your limit. Typically a glass or two interspersed with lots of water seems to be fine once in a while.
How important is skin to skin in promoting milk supply?
Skin to skin is lovely and the quickest way to calm your baby. The more skin to skin time with you, the easier it is for your baby to navigate breastfeeding and learn to do what he or she is meant to do, so it is pretty important and a quick way to get your baby on track with feeding. In the winter months, you may find that skin to skin is not very practical with each feed, so do it when you are chilling with baby rather than at each feed if it’s easier.
Positive thinking, thinking about baby, smelling baby’s clothes – do these things play a role in milk supply?
Mental preparation for breastfeeding is essential as there are so many stories that we’ll tell ourselves and that others will tell us. These can get in the way and sabotage breastfeeding before baby even arrives. Stories like ‘breastfeeding is just hard to start with’, ‘I couldn’t feed my first baby so I won’t be able to feed my next’, ‘I’m not that bothered whether I do or don’t’ are very common stories we tell ourselves so that if it doesn’t work, we have a kinda buffer zone protection layer built in.
I work with mums before their babies arrives to debunk these stories and help them recognise what actually happened. Not only that, I empower mums to consider that there is more to breastfeeding than just positioning and attachment and that breastfeeding could actually be easy.
Any athlete will tell you that mindset is equally, if not more important than the physical aspect of getting prepared. I find this to be true for breastfeeding mums too.
Smelling baby’s clothes creates a chemical trigger, enables milk let down and gets your body ready for feeding. It’s much like the loveliness you feel or experience when you bury your head into your partner’s worn shirt and smell his aftershave or scent.
What are the key things to remember when putting baby to breast to enhance supply on both sides?
I like to keep it simple. Ensure that your baby is getting enough milk by tracking the number of wet and dirty nappies as well as weekly weight gain. Offer both sides to allow baby access to as much milk as he or she wants. Always bear in mind that supply is driven by drainage. The more you drain, the more you produce, it really is that simple.
What are the advantages of double pumps over singles?
It saves you time, giving you more to do the other things you want to.
What are you tips on how to keep breasts clear of blockages?
Massage away any lumps you find in the breast as soon as possible so that you start the recovery period as quickly as possible. Be aware of how much you are producing and be careful not to over stimulate supply just because you are insecure about producing enough. Lecithin capsules are essential to have to hand as mentioned earlier.
Are there any other supply limiters to watch out for – i.e. blebs?
Milk blebs, blocked pores and ducts only limit supply as they prevent milk draining from the breast efficiently. By being aware of any lumps developing in the breast or any white dots on the nipple tip, you can take action quickly to resolve and move forward.
What can I do if I have a c-section and/or my milk takes time to come in?
Make the choice to feed your baby via other methods if needed to ensure that baby gets enough milk and stays hydrated. Boost your supply simultaneously by getting baby onto the breast as quickly as possible.
Does having small boobs limit supply?
The size of your boobs determines how quickly you fill up and when you are full to capacity, your body releases a chemical to stop production. When small boobs are full for long periods, the body get a strong message to stop production. Small boobs as such aren’t the cause of low milk supply if that makes sense.
I’ve done all of the above but my supply is still low. Where do I go from here?
Get help before it all goes pear shaped or tits-up. There are many incredible free and private services available for you to access. Find the help you need to take you to the next level. You may want to save yourself a few quid however it would be good to consider the true cost of not getting help early on if you are having difficulties.
Do you have any other handy tips or advice?
- Be prepared. Know how to feed according to your unique MumBo (mum and baby combination) – something I created to ensure tailored help.
- Know whether your baby is getting enough milk and make changes to feeding patterns quickly where necessary.
- Get help as soon as possible so that you enjoy being a mum.
My unique approach enables mums to find feeding solutions in line with their MumBo. Whilst I recognise the importance of getting the practical elements right, I also respect how important the mental well-being element is too. Breastfeeding is enjoyable and empowering for many mums and can be equally devastating and disempowering when it doesn’t work. My mission is to help as many mums as possible consider (and experience) that breastfeeding can be easy and disassociate from negative limiting stories when it doesn’t.
I am available for one to one, in-person and online breastfeeding consultations, as well as practical and emotional breastfeeding preparation before baby’s arrival.