Set Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success With These Simple Tips
by Stacy Thomas | August 20, 2020, updated about 1 month ago
Having a new baby is hard! The sleepless nights alone are enough to make any new parent feel overwhelmed. Now, imagine how much worse you’d feel if your new baby refused to feed.
Many believe that breastfeeding just happens—apply breast to baby’s mouth, and voila! Right? But many parents struggle with supply, flow, and technique, and that’s normal.
When this happens it’s tempting to turn to pharmaceutical galactagogues—pills to help induce breast milk—but before resorting to synthetic agents, consider engaging a lactation consultant. They may suggest a more holistic approach.
How Can a Breastfeeding Consultant Help?
A breastfeeding consultant is going to look at your situation, and see if there’s something they can help you adjust in order to achieve success.
Breastfeeding and pumping on a regular schedule lets your body know when and how much milk it needs to produce. Pumping or feeding on a regular schedule of every two to three hours can really help.
If scheduling isn’t the problem, the experts often look to make sure that your baby is latching properly. If she isn’t latching well, you might see a reduction in your milk supply. Smacking sounds when you are nursing are a sign of poor latching.
And then there’s self-care... Pretty hard when you’re a new parent.
The building blocks of breast milk production are diet and lifestyle. Are you eating a balanced, healthy diet? Are you sleeping when possible? Are you feeling supported? Unhealthy diet, and added stress can get in the way of milk production.
Okay, the consultant has helped you figure out some of the lifestyle, and mechanical issues, but you’re still struggling. What comes next?
Consider Natural Supplements aka Natural Galactagogues
There are synthetic galactagogues, and natural galactagogues. When possible, natural food based galactagogues are preferred to synthetic. Your consultant might recommend natural supplements. Here are a few lactation support supplements that may be recommended to you.
Make sure you discuss any supplements you want to try with a naturopath, or other wellness provider.
1. Stinging nettle (Urtica Dioica)
This dark, green, leafy plant is a nutritious addition to any diet. It’s also a traditional breast milk stimulant. You can use it in place of spinach in green pasta dishes, soups, or make a delicious pesto out of chopped nettle. You can also buy dried nettle to make an herbal tea, or take it in capsule form.
2. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Fenugreek is used around the world to increase breast milk supply. While not conclusive, one study found that fenugreek increased supply due to its stimulation of the sweat/mammary glands. Some people find that while using fenugreek, their sweat smells a bit like liquorice.
- They contain saponins, which have a positive effect on breast milk hormones.
- They contain beta-glucan, which is thought to increase levels of the hormone prolactin. More prolactin can mean more breast milk production.
- They contain plant estrogens, which are associated with milk gland stimulation.
Oats are easy to add into your diet. Eat them for breakfast as hot cereal, in bread, or in specially made lactation cookies. A nutritionist or dietitian can provide you with healthy oat-based recipes.
4. Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare)
This anise flavoured plant has estrogen-like qualities, and is considered a safe natural breastfeeding aid. The best way to consume fennel is by eating it. Fennel is wonderful in salads, soups, and stews. You may also want to make a tea from crushed fennel seeds. Alternatively, you can chew the seeds raw, which is also helpful for digestion.
5. Milk thistle (Silybum Marianum)
Several studies point towards milk thistle’s effectiveness in improving breast milk production. In one trial involving fifty healthy lactating women, those who were treated daily with 420 mg of micronized milk thistle showed a daily milk increase of 85.94%, compared to 32.09% in the placebo group.
6. Garlic (Allium Sativum)
Garlic is a powerful plant. It’s used around the world in cooking, and medicine. It contains high levels of amino acids, and other nutrients that are great for breastfeeding mothers. It can also help breast milk production. Studies show that babies whose mothers consumed garlic, stayed at the breast and fed for longer which, in turn, led to higher rates of breast milk production.
Not all babies love the taste of garlic though, and it can be an irritant for babies with colic. Be careful when experimenting with this remedy.
A Fed Baby is Best
Some bodies just don’t produce a lot of milk. Some bodies can’t produce any milk at all. Some people choose to not breastfeed. The most important thing is to feed your baby in whatever way makes sense for you. If that means breast milk from a milk bank, or formula, it’s okay. A breastfeeding consultant, or a postpartum doula will help support you with these decisions.
If you want to introduce galactagogues into your diet, check out Which Doctor’s roster of holistic nutritionists who can help you get started.
Stacy Thomas was born and raised among the orchards of the Okanagan Valley. She studied journalism in Vancouver, B.C., and has worked as a reporter in places such as Germany, Ukraine, Northern B.C. and rural Alberta. Passionate about nature, she now lives in Squamish with her partner Nicki and her rescue dog Harley. She is currently a student of creative writing at the University of British Columbia, where she draws comics and writes poetry.