Breastfeeding is one of the greatest talents our bodies are capable of.
If you really think about it, it is amazing that we can literally continue to sustain our babies life with our breastmilk outside the womb until they are ready for solids. That being said, one might assume something so natural would come easily, but it does not.
If breastfeeding were easy there would be no market for formula. It requires a lot of patience and complete dedication. Here are some tips to help you be successful in your breastfeeding journey.
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The Basis of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is solely a supply and demand mechanism. You baby nurses (demand) and your breasts give her breastmilk (supply).
The more your baby demands, the more your breasts will supply. Our bodies are just so smart like that!
There is a system of hormones that are responsible for this process, but I will spare you the details of that. Just know that the physical connection with baby is what sparks the release of these hormones. That is also why skin to skin contact is so greatly encouraged.
In the beginning of life the baby receives colostrum, which is a type of substance full of antibodies and nutrients pertinent to the newborn. Over the next several days your body will begin to produce true milk. You will begin to overproduce until your body evens out and regulates to meet your baby’s needs.
This is why the first month or so is a critical time because your supply is establishing itself. (It does not fully establish for about 3 months) This is also the most difficult time, and when most people quit. If you can get through the first month of breastfeeding, you will be so glad you didn’t give up.
Are you looking for more information on the fundamentals of breastfeeding?
It is full of information you need to start your breastfeeding journey on the right foot!
Maintaining your breastmilk supply takes dedication.
First and foremost, to nourish your baby you must nourish yourself. If you continue to take water from a well, but there has been no rain to keep it supplied, it will eventually dry up. The same goes for your breastmilk. If the baby keeps eating from you, but you aren’t putting the right nutrients into your body, your supply will eventually dry up.
What do I need to eat for a good breastmilk supply?
Proper caloric intake.
Lactating mother need to consume additional calories per day, that is, additional calories from a nutritional source.
Breastfeeding can burn 500 calories per day depending on baby growth at that time (Murkoff, 2014.). That does not mean it’s okay to splurge on a large hot fudge sundae (even though it may be delicious). I would recommend looking at a food chart for what it means to have a balanced diet.
The best resource I would visit is this website created by the United States Department of Agriculture. It is a great tool for learning about what it means to have a healthy diet. It has information for children, adults, older adults, pregnant women, and lactating women.
You just insert a few thing such as age, weight, level of activity and method of feeding (ie: exclusively breastfeeding, no formula), and it creates a food plan for you based on the information you provide.
So for example, it told me my daily goal is 2200 calories. I can then click on that link and it shows me how much from each food group I should be consuming, ie: 3 cups of vegetables and 7 ounces of whole grains. It also has printable work sheets for your convenience!
Drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day.
It actually is recommended for every healthy adult, but when you are breastfeeding you will feel the effects of even mild dehydration much quicker.
I have heard some people don’t like the taste of water, which I have never understood, but if that is the case for you then I would try adding fresh fruit to the water to add some healthy taste to it! Avoid those water additives you can buy from the supermarkets. They are usually either pure sugar or some kind of artificial sweetener. Neither of which do you want to overly consume.
Be aware that manufacturers have become wise to the consumers knowledge of the dangers of aspartame, an artificial sweetener. They use many different names for equally bad artificial sweeteners now such as sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Be cognizant of what you are putting into your body. You are what you eat, and your baby is now eating from you.
Maintain a healthy weight.
This is probably one of the most challenging for many people. You recently gave birth and are trying to lose the baby weight. You may have been a little over weight even before you were pregnant. You are already constantly fatigued from just caring for the baby and don’t see how you could muster up the energy to exercise.
There could be a lot of factors working against you, but it can only benefit you and your baby if you have some sort of routine. It can be something as simple as doing 10 sit-ups while baby is doing some tummy time. Start thinking like that and you will gradually build up to more! Exercise will release endorphins (the feel good hormone) and promote relaxation, which will subsequently only do good things for your milk supply.
These simple things are the foundation to building and maintaining a good breastmilk supply for all the months (or years) to come.
Without a strong foundation your temple (aka your body) cannot withstand the demands that breastfeeding will encompass.
Take these few quick tips and own them! You will only feel better physically if you do.
When you feel better, you will be able to do better. Happy breastfeeding!
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Murkoff, Heidi. What to Expect The First Year. New York: Workman Publishing Co., Inc. 2014. Print.