There are multiple factors that have influence on your breastmilk production:
1. Water: Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do while on you are on your breastfeeding journey. The amount of water that you put into your body does affect the amount of milk that you can produce. Be sure to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. This means at least 8 oz of water 6-8 times a day. In order to produce breastmilk, you need to stay hydrated. (Pearls of Wisdom: Prepare a large container of water at the beginning of the day and keep in mind that you need to finish it by the end of the night). I’m not telling you to chug a gallon of water all at once, but sip on a jug of water throughout the day. This may sound like a lot in the beginning, but you will notice that every time that you sit down to feed your baby you are thirsty too! Do not ignore that feeling, your body is telling you what you need. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! So, before you sit down and get comfy with the baby, grab your glass of water. This is a great way for you to relax with your baby while you both have a “drink.”
2. Food: Breastfeeding requires lots of energy and nutrients for healing (yes MaMA, you are still healing for many months after childbirth) and the healthy growth and development of your baby. Dieting is tempting in order to lose the extra weight that was gained during the pregnancy, but eating at least 1,800 calories a day will ensure adequate milk production. Eating multiple healthy meals and snacks will give you the energy you need to function as well as your body to produce milk. Your body is actually burning calories to make milk, therefore if you are cheating yourself, you are cheating the milk production also. Often times we forget to eat with all of the things that we have going on throughout the day, but it is essential that you find time to grab a snack. Also meal prepping a few times a week, will help have already healthy choices available. It does not take much to eat 1,800 calories, but there is a big difference in the types of food you eat. Post-natal vitamins are also important, but they do not fulfill your daily nutritional requirements. Therefore, it is up to you to take in enough protein, iron, healthy fats, minerals, and fiber. (See my next post for easy breastfeeding meal prep ideas)
3. Relax: Breastfeeding is not only physical, but it is very emotional. There are so many hormones that are being released during the entire process from milk production to actually breastfeeding the baby. In order to have a good “let down,” you have to be relaxed and in tune with your body. Tension and stressful thinking will not allow your body to release the necessary signals to your brain that release oxytocin. If the oxytocin does not release, the muscles around the milk making glands will not contract and allow the milk to come through the nipples. When you are feeding your baby this is a time for you to be stress free and bond. Take in the moment and share that special time together. You may be thinking of the next ten things that you need to get done, but while you are breastfeeding your baby, you are providing them with something so special that no-one else can provide them with. So, take that time to relax and look at your baby, smile and think of the happy thoughts and allow your body to release what it has worked so hard to produce from them.
4. Be Flexible: Breastfeeding is an on demand activity. No matter how you plan the day to go or what you want to do, you are the primary source of nutrition for your baby. This means that if the baby is hungry, you stop what you are doing and you feed them. When you listen to the baby, you are allowing your body to learn the amount of milk that it needs you to make for the baby. If you do not pay attention and try to extend the times between feedings, you will put yourself at risk for low production, and evening unintentional weaning. It is very important from the moment the baby is born that you latch them and allow them to suckle. You may feel as though you are not making enough, but you have to be patient with your body. The baby will suckle and your body will react. This is what we are made to do. You may be latching the baby ever 1 hour in the beginning or every 2 hours. Every baby is different, so do not base one breastfeeding experience on another. Strong MaMa, you got this!
5. Support: Breastfeeding is not easy. There will be times that you are feeling discouraged, down, alone, and defeated. DO NOT let this overwhelming feeling take over! Seek support, whether it is from a friend, a Lactation Consultant, a post-partum Doula, a breastfeeding support group, or ME! This is a precious time and opportunity for you and your baby, and in order to be successful, you have to develop a support system to help balance your emotions. When you are able to talk through certain things, your stress level will decrease. When you have decreased stress levels, you are able to relax, and relaxing leads to improved nursing and milk production.