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Most, if not all, breastfeeding moms probably have at least one of these questions in mind when they begin their breastfeeding journey:
“Will I have enough milk?”
“I’m a working mom — how will I maintain my milk supply?”
“I want to breastfeed till my child is at least one year old, maybe even up to two years, as recommended. What should I do to keep my supply up?”
The list of questions can go on and on.
Fortunately, when it comes to maintaining one’s milk supply, the answer to most questions is “yes” — you can definitely keep up your supply of breastmilk. Abbie Venida-Yabot, a lactation counselor certified by the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), La Leche League Leader, mother of four and currently pregnant with her fifth child, shares some tips on how you can do so.
1. Latch baby when you can.
Abbie emphasizes the importance of establishing your milk supply first, above all else. “The first 6 weeks is key to a stable milk supply as it stabilizes at this time,” she explains. “Latch baby 24/7 so your body feels the actual demand of the baby.”
Abbie also says that breastfeeding moms should remember that all babies have different feeding behaviors, quantities and patterns, “which will sum up to be almost the same in a 24-hour period.”
“Your body needs to be programmed the way your baby feeds,” she continues. “After the 6th week, direct feed whenever you are with baby.”
“So, if and when you return to work, latch before you leave, upon arrival, all throughout the night, all through weekends and holidays. Direct stimulation should never be lost,” she advises.
2. Use a cup to feed expressed breastmilk when you are away.
While feeding milk to babies via a bottle is usually the norm, Abbie advises against it.
“The mechanism of drinking from a teat and bottle is very different from breastfeeding,” she explains. “If baby gets used to feeding from a bottle, this may result in a wrong suckling motion at the breast, which drains milk ineffectively.” This may lead to a cycle: ineffective milk draining leads to a frustrated baby leads to a frustrated mom leads to a lessened milk supply, until such time milk may run out.
“It is a cycle you would not want to start,” Abbie says. “Cup feeding is easy, cheaper and assures that the breastfeeding relationship is more stable.”
3. Express milk regularly when you are away.
If you are a working mom or simply need to be away from your baby for one reason or another, Abbie suggests that you express your milk while you are not with your little one.
“As breastfeeding works on the law of supply and demand, it is important for your body to feel the demand even when baby is not around,” she explains. “It is ideal to express milk every 2 hours or as often as baby feeds, regardless of your output.”
She also says that moms can make the most out of technology these days: “You can set an alarm to remind you that it is time to express.”
“Never use engorgement as a signal to express your milk, as the body has already sent signals to your brain that it has produced milk but it was not needed, resulting in a decreased production of milk the next time around,” Abbie cautions.
Related: What is Engorgement? Overcoming Breastfeeding Obstacles
For moms who find pumping every 2 hours to be a challenge though, Abbie says that they should remember to never let the fourth hour pass without pumping. “This will assure you of good milk supply,” she adds.
4. Eat healthy food.
Contrary to what many people may think, Abbie says that there are no special diets when you are breastfeeding.
"However, when you feel a dip in your supply, avoid all the bad stuff: foods that are rich in sugar (which means most desserts), salt (sawsawan and junk food aka chips) and fat (deep fried and fast food)," she advises.
Instead, breastfeeding moms would do well to eat more greens, soups and everything home-cooked.
When it comes to their fluid intake, Abbie says nursing moms should drink water to thirst. "If you are the type who gets as busy as I do, set an alarm every hour so you'll remember to drink water," she adds. "There's no need to overhydrate as this may also lead to lower milk supply."
5. Rest well and avoid stress.
A mom's state of mind (and body) is probably one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to maintaining one's milk supply. However, Abbie emphasizes that it is as crucial as the others.
"Relax. Breathe in and out. Think of a bountiful milk supply. Stay happy," she advises. "Even if breastfeeding is so natural your body will produce milk no matter what, if a mom is stressed, angry, in pain, doubtful, sad, etc., the milk won't flow to your baby."
"So, like Peter Pan said, 'Think happy thoughts,' and all will be well," Abbie assures nursing moms.
Breastfeeding can be challenging for many women but with the proper guidance and thoroughly researched information, the journey can be a whole lot easier. Hopefully, these tips would help you in your breastfeeding journey, because, after all, breast is truly best.
Want to learn more about breastfeeding? The Breastfeeding Club, which Abbie founded in 2008, offers a series of seminars which tackle many topics related to breastfeeding. They are held at No. 29, 1st Street, New Manila, Quezon City. For more information, text 0917-8110821.