I always thought breast feeding would come naturally, an instinctive behavior that both my baby and I would pick up with ease. Boy was I wrong!I assumed that if my daughter was on my breast that it automatically meant that she was feeding and fueling her little body with my milk.What I didn’t realize is that I had to teach her how to nurse properly to ensure her latch was correct so that she was getting the most milk possible per feeding. I also needed to make sure that my baby was not just soothing herself, or falling asleep snuggled up nice and close.Another struggle was that my daughter wasn’t gaining weight at the rate the doctors wanted. In fact, she dropped down several percentile lines on the growth chart with a possible diagnosis of “failure to thrive”. It was apparent that my daughter wasn’t consuming enough calories from my breast milk. I wasn’t going to give up on breast feeding, so I worked closely with a lactation consultant, doula, naturopathic doctor, family doctor, pediatrician and even a chiropractor who specializes in pediatrics. As a registered holistic nutritionist, I knew how much I could do from a dietary perspective to enhance my milk flow – I was eating like a machine!With how calorically demanding breast feeding is on a woman’s body, eating anything you want without concern for serious fat gain seems appealing. However, it’s tough to find time to prepare meals, let alone eat them when you are nursing, changing diapers and soothing a baby every 2-3 hours around the clock. FYI – the 2-3 hours between feedings starts when your baby begins a feeding leaving you with minimal time in-between to take care of yourself.I was on a serious mission to put weight on my baby girl. I wasn’t about to throw the towel in on breastfeeding, despite the many challenges, including mastitis. Mastitis is an infection caused by blocked milk ducts and feels like the worst case of the flu you’ve experienced in your life. I had a high fever with aching muscles & bones, combined with loss of appetite and profuse sweating. I was feeling robbed of the limited energy I had.Thankfully, I have an AMAZING partner and support from my family and my in-laws who were ready to help take care of me, so I could give what little energy I had left to my daughter. They prepared meals, helped out with diaper changes and rocking my baby to sleep. As the proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR BREAST MILK
If you’re a concerned mother and you want what’s best for your baby, then you’ll want to make sure your breast milk is as nutritious as possible. Nutritious breast milk helps fight disease, such as diabetes and leukemia. Asthma and eczema rates are also reduced in breast fed babies. When you breastfeed you get lots of important bonding time with your baby. This makes the newborn baby feel secure, warm and comfortable. Breast milk is easier for the baby to digest. It’s also great for the mother’s health because it’s linked to lowering risks of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, breast cancer and postpartum depression. Breast feeding moms also lose their baby weight faster than moms who don’t breastfeed. The convenience of breast feeding is an added bonus. You can feed your baby anywhere any time without the hassle of preparing bottles; particularly in the middle of the night when you are super exhausted.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SUPER CHARGE YOUR BREAST MILK
Breast milk is gold-rich with nutrients and antibodies that protect your baby from tummy bugs, colds, ear infections and urinary tract infections. Supercharged breast milk ensures your baby gains weight and develops properly, this is because of the abundance of nutrients breast milk has. It boosts your babies’ immune system by providing probiotics, good bacteria from your body. Babies that are breast fed have fewer allergies than babies who are not, this may be because many formulas have a lot of garbage in them that irritate the baby’s newly developing immune system. The benefit mom gets is a great immune system boost too, because she is eating well. All the good food a mother eats provides her with amazing energy that’s needed for the demands of motherhood. Breastfeeding builds a closer bond with your baby because they are snuggled up against you.
WHAT KILLS MY BREAST MILK?
Make sure you avoid stressful situations. Stress will interfere with your milk production. It’s imperative that you surround yourself with support during this already stressful period. This is not a time to concentrate on getting your pre-pregnancy body back. Rather, concentrate on allowing your body to recover from labour. After all, labour is like an Olympic event in terms of the chaos it creates on your body. Forget about trying to keep up with the laundry or other household responsibilities. There simply is not enough time for this, and setting unrealistic expectations will only add unnecessary stress. Learn from my mistakes, I learned the hard way!
Avoid alcohol & drugs, they will impair your judgement and disrupt your sleep, which is already compromised. Alcohol also causes additional stress on your body and pollutes breast milk which will be passed along to your baby.
I strongly encourage avoiding caffeine, it may potentially exhaust your already stressed adrenal glands while suppressing your appetite at a time when you need to be consuming additional nutritious calories. Although there may only be trace amounts of caffeine in your body it can impact your baby. Depending on how sensitive your baby is to stimulants, you may have a hard time getting them to sleep. A gram of caffeine for your body is much more for a baby’s small body.
Certain herbs can also inhibit lactation, such as sage and peppermint, so avoid them while breastfeeding.
HOW DO I SUPER CHARGE MY BREAST MILK?
I had to make sure I was consuming a ton of calories. Each feeding demands approximately 400 calories. I was eating nutrient dense food and avoiding junk food. There needed to be enough nutrients for both baby and I. Loading up on healthy fats such as avocado, coconut milk, nuts, seeds, nut butters, olive oil, butter and omega 3’s from fish oil are essential for a baby’s brain and nervous system development. I consumed these fats like they were going out of style.
Drinking your food in the form of a shake is a super easy way to consume a ton of nutrient dense calories and is quick to prepare. I was making shakes with ½ cup greens (kale, spinach, collards), 1 scoop of sun warrior protein powder, a banana & ½ cup of mixed frozen berries, ½ cup coconut milk (almond, rice or quinoa milk work too) and ½ of filtered water.
When you do have the opportunity to prepare a meal on your own always prepare multiple servings at a time to ensure you have leftovers that can be refrigerated or frozen for additional meals. Chili, stew, hearty soups, gluten free pasta dishes and steel cut oats are great options.
Today, eating a clean diet rich in fruits, veggies and animal protein is simply not enough to reach optimal daily intakes of vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. Supplementation is a must, especially while your baby is relying on these nutrients also. After all, baby will take what they need and leave you depleted. I made sure to take Usana’s “My health Pak”; loaded with a multi vitamin & mineral, omega fats, extra vitamin D calcium, antioxidants and probiotics.
I was pumping after every feeding to stimulate my milk production and topping my baby girl up with my milk so we could monitor how many ounces of milk she was consuming. I was making sure the feedings were scheduled every 2-3 hours around the clock even if that meant waking a sleeping baby – which sucks, by the way.
I was taking blessed thistle which is a supplement that increases appetite and promotes milk production. I also took fenugreek, which is another supplement that enhances milk production. But, unfortunately it makes you smell funky, like maple syrup.
I took herbal teas which promote milk production. The specific tea I used was “Organic Milkmade Tea by Earth Mama Angel Baby” www.earthmamaangelbaby.com
Using a herbalist is another route you can take to super charge your milk production. Here is the formula:
2 parts fennel
3 parts fenugreek
1 part goat’s rue
1 part vervain
and 1 part asparagus root, if they have it.
You can make tea using 2 tablespoons per tea cup. Pour boiling water over the tea leaves, and cover for 10 minutes before drinking. Drink 3 cups per day.
Seeking advice from a chiropractor who specializes in pediatrics is another avenue I strongly recommend. We were fortunate enough to have a chiropractor make two visits to our home to thoroughly assess our daughter’s spinal alignment. Turns out, she had some tension in the right side of her neck as a result of labour that was alleviated with two treatments. Voila! Suddenly my daughter was able to powerfully draw milk from my breasts while nursing on her left and right side.
Skin to skin contact in your arms is another way to let your baby feel comfortable, safe and enables them to breast feed more effectively. After all, the babies going through transition, too. Coming from being nestled up in your belly like a little football, to suddenly entering the real world is pretty traumatic for your newborn.
WOW, WHAT DO I DO NOW?
My advice is to take one or two of these tips and incorporate them into your daily routine immediately. Once you are comfortable with this new routine, incorporate a couple more helpful tips and continue building from there. It may take a few days or weeks before you are comfortable with these new strategies and that’s totally fine. Integrating too much too soon will work against you by adding additional stress. Be patient with yourself.
MY PERSONAL WISH TO YOU
Whether you’re a new mom feeling lost and overwhelmed or a veteran mom looking to improve her dairy supply I believe that eating better, reducing stress, supplements, and bonding with your baby will make the whole experience of motherhood that much more rewarding. Enjoy!