Breastfeeding? Here’s how to maintain your milk supply

May 30, 2022 12:00

author:
Health Communications at the University of Utah

Information in Spanish

Breastfeeding is the best way to give babies the right nutrients and antibodies they need. Decades of research have shown many benefits to the development of breastfeeding. But breastfeeding can sometimes be a challenge. Because newborns and infants are constantly learning and changes in their mood are unpredictable, a breastfeeding mother may experience many changes in the amount of milk.

Supply and demand

Frequent feeding is the key to maintaining a breastfeeding supply for most breastfeeding mothers. This begins in the hospital within the first hour of birth with colostrum removal. This helps to start the journey to breastfeeding for both mother and baby.

The newborn will be fed frequently – about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours – but inconsistently. They can eat every hour or two for a few meals, but then take a break. When babies grow up, their feeding will become more regular and distributed – every 2 to 4 hours. This will gradually change over time as other foods are included in their diet, which should not happen until the child is at least six months old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for at least six months and then continue to be breastfed by introducing other foods until the child is at least 12 months old.

Development and well-being

The development and well-being of the baby can affect the delivery of breast milk. A baby who is going through a growth phase can consume more milk. This can make the breastfeeding mother feel that she is not producing enough because the baby needs more milk. Eventually the body will catch up.

The opposite can happen if the baby or mother is not feeling well. A sick baby can suckle less, which can slow down the mother’s milk production. Maternal illness can also negatively affect supply. If the mother has concerns about the supply of the baby or breast milk, she should contact her doctor.

“It’s important to see what happens to both the baby and the mother.

Elizabeth Curts, MPH, IBCLC, ICCE.

The breastfeeding mother may experience conditions or infections that could affect breastfeeding, such as:

  • Cracked or damaged nipples can lead to infection. There are many causes for cracks or blisters, but the most common is due to improper fastening.
  • Clogged milk ducts can cause pain or discomfort in the breast, which can lead to infection if not treated immediately.
  • Breastfeeding mastitis is an infection of the breast caused by internal inflammation of the breast, which can lead to chest pain, swelling, fever and chills.

Diet and nutrition

The mother’s diet and hydration play a significant role in breast milk production. A well-balanced and nutritious diet is important during breastfeeding. The rule of color diet remains the same. One plate should include half of the fruits and vegetables, and the remaining portions contain protein and carbohydrates. In addition, you need to add another 500 calories a day.

Drinking the right amount of water is the key to proper hydration during pregnancy and after childbirth. But don’t overdo it! Drinking too much water is a myth. “A good rule of thumb is to drink for thirst, not a certain amount,” said Elizabeth Curts, MPH, IBCLC, ICCE, breastfeeding consultant and business operations manager for the Utah University of Women’s and Children’s Health Services. “Drinking too much water can potentially reduce milk supply.”

Stress and postpartum depression

Other factors, such as stress or postpartum depression, can affect breast production. The birth of a child can cause many changes for the mother and her family. For example, new procedures and return to work can cause more stress and potentially affect breast milk supply.

There are also major hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and after childbirth. This can sometimes lead to baby blues or postpartum depression. Up to 85 percent of women experience baby blues in a week or two, but if it lasts longer, it could be postpartum depression. Postpartum depression affects one in eight new mothers.

If you are not breast-feeding

Not all babies and nursing mothers are the same. While most women can breastfeed, there are circumstances in which some breastfeeding mothers are unable to breastfeed, such as:

  • Low amount of milk
  • Health conditions
  • Physiological causes
  • Psychological reasons
  • Medications
  • Babies with anatomical problems
  • Babies with medical conditions

“It’s important for a family to have a good eating experience,” says Kirts. “This can be partial breastfeeding, adapted feeding or adapted feeding with an additional breastfeeding system.

The good news is that there are other options to help babies get the proper nutrition they need. If you have problems with breastfeeding, you are not alone. Your doctor, breastfeeding consultant and other women’s health services can help you with your breastfeeding journey.

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