This information is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Please seek appropriate advice from your health-care provider.

For more information about the products mentioned in this article, or to order them at a discount, use this link.

We have known for many years now that breastmilk is the most perfect first food for babies. It has the perfect chemistry, is at the right temperature, is always ready, and has components that baby formula doesn’t have. It doesn’t get any more natural than this!

Breastfeeding MotherI preface the rest of my comments with the acknowledgment that some women cannot breastfeed due to past traumas, previous surgeries, or medical conditions, and that some infants are not able to breastfeed due to physical limitations, such as cleft palate, that make suckling impossible. My purpose here is not to pass judgment, only to provide information that may help some new moms solve some of their breastfeeding challenges.

I was surprised to learn at the birth of our first child that infants don’t ‘know’ how to breastfeed. They have a sucking reflex, but that doesn’t always guarantee that they can figure things out to have the best breastfeeding form. That may sound odd, but if mom has never breastfed before, she probably doesn’t know what good form is and what it isn’t. It used to be, in pre-formula days when women tended to live closer to extended family, that there were many older, more experienced female relatives around who could coach and support a new mom. Indeed, way back then it was most likely that the new mom probably had someone stopping in to prepare food and help out for at least a couple of weeks. That is not often the case now. This, actually, can lead to a few problems.

How to Tell if Baby is Getting Enough Milk

If a new mom has never experienced successful breastfeeding, she may not know that it’s not supposed to hurt, and that her nipples are not supposed to crack and bleed. She may not know that the best way to tell how much the baby is getting is by what is in his/her diaper, and that a baby should be having at least eight heavy, wet diapers per day by the eighth day of life. She may also not know how to tell if she really has enough milk. It’s good to consult a midwife, lactation consultant, or La Leche League leader, or a health provider who has training in breastfeeding, to assess how well the baby is ‘latching on’ if there are any doubts. If the latch is good, milk supply and other discomforts are easily addressed.

Baby should start with one heavy, wet diaper within the first 24 hours of life. After that, until about the eighth day the baby should be adding one more soaked diaper per day. If the baby is not producing that many wet diapers by the eighth day, he is probably not getting enough milk. This begs some questions. Is it a supply problem? Or is the baby not nursing long enough? Could it be a poor latch that is not allowing the baby to properly draw the milk out of the breast?

When I had my first I was instructed to breastfeed only five minutes per side. Some babies can efficiently suck back the milk and get plenty in that short 10 minutes. Some are more laid back, and if they are allowed only 10 minutes in total, they’ve only just finished the appetizer and they will miss out on dinner and dessert.

Allowing more time per side may solve the lack of wet diaper problem.

How to Increase Milk Supply

If, after allowing ample time to suckle with a good latch, the baby is still not soaking enough diapers, chances are the baby is also either losing weight or not gaining well. This may indicate a supply problem. What can a mom do to boost her supply? Lots!

The most basic rules of thumb are: Eat for two. Drink for two. Sleep for two.

A lot of young moms want to ‘get back into their skinny jeans’ right away. I remember how shocked I was when I had to wear maternity pants home from the hospital after the birth of baby #1. It didn’t make sense to me - and I had had two full sets of prenatal classes. Somehow I missed (or chose not to hear) the part about it taking six to eight weeks to get my body mostly back. This is not the right time to be thinking skinny jeans, ladies. Both calorie restriction and excessive exercise will cost you your milk supply. You need to eat healthfully, including good fats and carbohydrates with enough protein, to make milk and to keep your energy up. Delivering a baby, recovering, and then mothering 24/7 is intense work that requires optimal nutrition.

Drink Water and Herbal Tea

You need to drink lots of water and herbal tea. You need fluid in your system in order to make milk. Some midwives I spoke with many years ago said they tell their clients to drink a full gallon of water/herbal tea every day, starting during pregnancy and continuing through breastfeeding. One snappy trick is to add liquid chlorophyll to your water. Chlorophyll is an excellent milk stimulant.

Herbs to Increase Breastmilk

Other herbs  that have been used traditionally to increase milk supply are red raspberry leaves, marshmallow root, blessed thistle, and alfalfa. While there are even more herbs that work, these are the ones I’ve found work the best for most women. Each can be used separately or in combination, in capsules, teas, or tinctures.

These excellent herbal products are available from Nature’s Sunshine Products.

In Canada

  • Liquid Chlorophyll
  • Red Raspberry Leaves
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Alfalfa

In the USA

  • Liquid Chlorophyll
  • Red Raspberry Leaves
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Alfalfa
  • Blessed Thistle

For more information about these products, or to order them at a discount, use this link.

Getting Enough Sleep Helps Make Breastmilk

Sleep is the third component of making milk. Experience with my clients has shown that the more fatigued a mom is the less likely she is to eat well, and when her nutritional status is down her milk will not be as plentiful. I know there are lots of studies on the internet that disagree with me on this, and that’s fine. I have seen it repeatedly. When we call in help for the mom and let her rest enough and eat enough, her milk supply issues resolve.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is important. We know it protects both mom and baby from many health issues. We know it offers the perfect balance of nutrients in the most digestible form, and we know that it costs less than formula.

We also know that women with less formal education or who have a low income often do not initiate breastfeeding or do not breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. They may receive little encouragement from loved ones to make breastfeeding successful, may not know about the benefits of breastfeeding, or may not know where to look for support. Mothers who discontinue breastfeeding within the first four weeks often say they had sore nipples (which means a latch problem that could probably have been resolved had they had access to support) or that they felt the baby wasn't getting enough, among other reasons for quitting.1

While herbs and nutrition can solve some of the challenges some women face with breastfeeding, other challenges need to be met by supportive people around them. Simply put, new moms, young moms, and first time moms need support and encouragement and sometimes education in order to make the breastfeeding commitment.

If you are having challenges breastfeeding and would like some help correcting them, contact me by email or phone to book an appointment. Skype, phone, and face-to-face appointments are available.

For more information about the products mentioned in this article, or to order them at a discount, use this link.