For some women, breastfeeding is easy, convenient and wonderful. For others, it is frustrating, painful and debilitating. We know breastfeeding is not easy but we also know that when mommies master the right techniques and with a good understanding of the basics, you will surely overcome the challenges! With perseverance and the right support, you are well on your way to having a fulfilling and successful breastfeeding journey for yourself and your baby.
How Breastfeeding Works
Many of us would assume that all we need to do is to put our baby to our breast and we can start to breastfeed. However, it is not as intuitive as it seems. Breastfeeding requires a lot of practice and a deep understanding of the mechanisms of the human body. For example, when your baby latches or when you start to pump, your breasts receive stimulation. This activates your hormones which helps in milk production and to release milk out from your milk ducts – more commonly known as ‘letdown’. Some mothers may experience a tingling sensation while others see their milk start to leak from the breasts when letdown happens.
Breastfeed Baby Frequently and On Demand
Do you remember the concept of “Demand = Supply” that we learnt in school? This is how we often shared about this concept in breastfeeding too! Mothers often doubt if they will ever have enough milk but the body is so amazing that when babies drink from the breasts, the body refills them up. If you constantly breastfeed your baby on demand, or anytime your baby needs, your body will automatically produce more milk. Don’t doubt or stress yourselves, trust your body’s abilities to be able to nourish your baby with the best!
The same idea works for Exclusive Pumping (EP) mums. You will need to pump regularly throughout the day and night, ideally at every 2 to 3 hours. Just like how babies need to latch frequently to ensure mummies’ supplies are maintained, EP mums need to pump no longer than a 3-hour interval for a maximum of 20 minutes to ensure a regular supply of milk.
Benefit of Breastfeeding
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast milk is the ideal food for infants, as it has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat – everything your baby needs to grow healthily. And breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
It’s also worthy to note that the WHO’s research shows that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life. Women who breastfed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
When should you start Breastfeeding?
Mothers can start breastfeeding as early as possible, within an hour of birth or first feed, as this will help you with a good start in your breastfeeding journey and also provide a signal to your body to produce breast milk for your baby.
How often should you nurse your baby?
It’s important to understand that your baby’s tummy grows as they grow. You will need to feed your baby 8 – 12 times a day depending on your baby’s feeding schedule.
8 Tips to Increase your Breast Milk Supply
Although breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, it doesn’t mean it is easy or even that it comes naturally to most new mothers and babies. It often takes time and practice to get the hang of it and here are 8 tips you need to know about breastfeeding your newborn baby and increasing milk supply. We hope that it will help ease you into a smoother breastfeeding journey and as they say, being prepared for what to expect is half the battle won.
Skin to Skin
There are lots of benefits for both the mother and her baby with skin to skin contact. It can be a daily bonding time with your baby during breastfeeding sessions. It helps to stimulate your motherly instinct and will increase your breastfeeding confidence. At the same time, it also helps to release prolactin, stimulate the production of oxytocin and will increase breast milk production.
Deep & Correct Latch
Getting a latch and positioning of a newborn right can still be a bit confusing and frustrating in the early days. For breastfeeding to work well, it is important to know what is a good and deep latch to minimise initial pain and discomfort during the start of breastfeeding. Sometimes, we hear from mothers that latching is painful. Breastfeeding should never be painful, and when it does, it means that the latch is poor. It is important to correct this early. Without a proper latch, your baby will not get the milk he or she needs and your breasts won’t be stimulated to produce more, initiating a vicious cycle of poor milk demand and poor milk supply. What’s more, your breastfeeding nipples may become cracked and might be painful when the latch isn’t right. Do note that some babies may have conditions like a lip or tongue-tie and can make it painful to breastfeed or frustrating for your baby to latch. These conditions can be solved by getting it checked by a paediatric dentist.
Get Comfortable While Breastfeeding
Some mothers get tired from long hours of breastfeeding and we understand this can be very challenging. To be able to breastfeed for an extended period, you need to find the right breastfeeding position that suits you and your baby. If your baby is positioned improperly, your breasts might not be stimulated to produce more milk, and he or she might not be getting enough breast milk..
Some positions allow mums more room to rest such as the side-lying position which can be a preferred choice when you’re breastfeeding in the middle of the night. A laid-back nursing position can be particularly helpful for moms who have smaller breasts, for newborns and for babies with super sensitive tummies or excess gas. You may also want to consider using the breastfeeding support pillow or simply propping more pillows to help yourself get more comfortable during nursing.
Empty Breast Well
Not being able to tell if you have fully drained your breasts is not only worrisome for most mothers but it can quickly lead to milk supply troubles and serious problems, such as clogged ducts and may lead to mastitis. Hence we cannot reinforce enough that emptying your breast well is important to ensure a smooth breastfeeding journey.
You can try this method called breast compressions. A breast compression is when you apply pressure to the outside of your breast to help continue the flow of milk. This is particularly useful when your baby is only sucking at the breast and not actually drinking milk. A slow trickle can sometimes make your baby fall asleep while feeding, so do breast compressions to start the flow to ensure that your baby is taking in the breast milk. Continue this until your baby feels very full and some signs to watch out for is when the baby seems content and happy after a feed, releasing the breast on their own. Their hands may be in fists before feeding, they will then often relax and open.
For mothers who express their milk out, it is important that you get a good pump that fits well and which your body responds optimally, too. A good-sized flange (not too tight or too big) can help you to express your milk effectively. Some mothers also hand express at the end of a pump session to reach spots where the pump could not reach.
Remember Point #1, when the breasts are empty, they get filled up again. But if your breasts still contain lots of milk, the hormones in your body will tell your brain not to produce more milk as it is still full.
Frequent Nursing and Offers Both Sides
If you are looking to increase your breastmilk supply, it is important for you to nurse frequently and to offer both sides, as this will send signals to your body to produce more breast milk to fit your baby’s needs. A mother’s body makes a “supply” of milk in response to the “demand” of stimulation, usually provided by a baby or a breast pump. Both breasts need to receive the “make milk” message frequently in order for a good milk supply to be established.
Because breastfeeding works by demand and supply, one of the effective ways to increase your supply would be to have at least one power pump session a day. Power pumping breast milk is just your pump staying at the breast and trying to get more milk, instead of your baby.
Power pumping starts by using your breast pump to pump for 20 mins, rest for 10 mins, pump for 10 mins, rest for 10 mins and pump for the last 10 mins.
This regime mimics cluster feeding and ‘tricks’ the body to produce more milk as less milk accumulates in the breast.
Avoid Pacifiers and Bottles
It is recommended to avoid pacifiers and the use of bottles to feed your newborn in the early days before your breastfeeding or your milk supply has been well established.
Latching your newborn and feeding your expressed milk or with formula from a bottle can cause nipple confusion or bottle preference. This is because sucking from a mother’s breast and from a bottle are both different techniques and the flow of milk is different. Some babies who have been fed from a bottle may refuse to latch and nurse later on.
As mentioned earlier, more skin to skin and breastfeed frequently will help increase your milk supply.
Stress-free Mood, Eat and Rest Well
We understand that taking care of a baby can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Having a good and nutritious diet, plenty of rest and managing stress plays an important role in achieving a smooth and successful breastfeeding journey.
Having a good diet, especially one that is filled with warm and nutritious foods, plus plenty of fluid or soup which encourages pro-lactation, can help you produce an abundance of milk for your precious baby. When you are in good health and relaxed, you will be able to produce more milk!
We hope the above tips will provide the support and motivation for all mothers to continue and persevere in breastfeeding! We understand that breastfeeding can be challenging but with the right knowledge and techniques, coupled with a positive mindset, we know that you will do well in their breastfeeding journeys and it is going to be rewarding!
Additional Tip to Increase your Breast Milk Supply
Other than the tips mentioned above, mothers can also adjust their dietary plan to increase their breast milk supply. From a TCM perspective, the common causes of low milk supply are Qi & Blood Deficiency, Liver & Qi Stagnation and Phlegm Dampness, and there are TCM herbs to help you improve your body constitution to increase your breast milk supply.
TCM Herbs to Increase Breast Milk Supply
There are different TCM herbs that can help promotes breast milk production, such as 黄芪，党参，麦冬，当归，通草，桔梗. These ingredients are all curated and ready packed in our Black Chicken Enhanced Pro-Lactation Soup.
Another alternative is our Milk-Saver BOOST herbal supplement, an all-natural, tried and tested Traditional Chinese Medicine formula to promote healthy lactation and increase your breast milk supply naturally.
Stress Affecting your Breastfeeding Journey
When a mother is stressed, it can affect breastfeeding by inhibiting the production of prolactin and secretion of oxytocin, therefore affecting your milk production.
Stress can also inadvertently affect the breastfeeding relationship that you have envisioned and wanted to have with your baby.
What am I Stressing Out?
It is not uncommon for new mothers to experience the highest highs…but also the lowest lows. While it’s an amazing season of life, it can also be tiring and downright emotionally draining. And while some days we know it can feel next to impossible to put your own needs first, finding ways to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with a newborn is important not only for your mental and physical health, but for your baby’s well-being too.
There are many factors that could cause stress, and all these might affect your breastfeeding journey and your breast milk supply. It’s a good idea to be aware of these conditions and what the symptoms are so that you can identify these conditions early, and seek timely and appropriate help from the professional.
Tips to Relieve your Stress
It’s not uncommon for new mothers to experience a range of overwhelming emotions in the postpartum period. Here are a few simple things you can do to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety after bringing baby home.
1. “Me” time
As mothers adapt to their new role, it’s overwhelming when you are handling different responsibilities, so we encourage mothers to take some time out from their day to get some “Me” time to read a book, have a cup of your favourite drink or get a massage! Do things that you enjoyed before your baby came along, for yourself and with your partner. This will help restore some balance in your life. It can also remind you of the person you are, as well as being a parent.
2. There is no comparison
Stop comparing yourself with others. Everyone’s situation is unique and not comparable. This is not a competition. There are no winners. Back yourself.
3. Lose yourself in the Music
If music is your groove then put on your best headset and indulge in the beat of the music and allow the stress to melt away!
4. Talk it out
When things get tough, don’t go it alone, reach out. Make contact. Sometimes it’s about venting out what’s making you feel stressed, and you could talk to your partner about your day or a good friend to gossip about anything other than breast milk, sleeping schedule or having to wake up at 3am.
5. Build your support system
This can make you feel at times like you are the only one who is struggling or not coping. This is not the case. You are not alone. Everyone has good days and bad days. It is all part of the journey of parenthood.
You should always make time to get some self love to reward yourself, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you need it! Always remember, there is help available if you start reaching out, and lastly, breastfeeding is not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it!