Top 5 Tips to Encourage Breastfeeding Holistically:
Katie Reitsma, RHN
(1)Set your structure up for success - consider a chiropractic adjustment.
If we think about our spine and the messages that travel up and down it, it begins to seem more like a highway. If that highway suffered a big earthquake or sloping, it would naturally make it more difficult to drive along. The same goes for you and your body’s messaging system. Even if you’ve never been in a car accident or played contact sports, simply looking at a computer or phone while leaning forward, you can put 10lbs of added pressure to your spine (the highway) for every inch that you are leaning. Given the amount of time spent at a computer or on social media via phone, this strain could apply to many women and could possibly compromise one's messaging system. If your spine is out of alignment, it could make it difficult for hormones like prolactin to send messages from your areola to your brain saying “hey, we need milk”!
(2) Eat a variety of healthy food until you’re satisfied.
A breastfeeding diet should mimic a pregnant one. Protein requirements, for example are almost identical for pregnant women and for lactating women. A woman’s nutrients will ultimately be used to nourish her baby via breast milk but her body cannot supply in the milk what it currently doesn’t have. This is why it’s important to keep up with a plentiful, nutritious diet. Macronutrients in mature mother’s milk, for example, require 59.1% carbohydrates, 34.1% fat, and the rest protein. On a plate, this would translate into roughly one half of the meal being plant based carbohydrates, one quarter or more as healthy fats, and one quarter of it as protein. Coincidentally, the balance of macronutrients in breast milk for babies is also what’s recommended to pregnant and postpartum women. Some examples of carbohydrates are: rice, sourdough bread, oats, steamed vegetables, raw vegetables, fruit. Protein and fat are often found together. An egg is half protein and half fat, for example. Here are some examples of proteins and fat to fill the other half of the plate: free range eggs, antibiotic free meat, wild fish, butter, nuts and seeds, quinoa, olives, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil.
(3) Eat foods or take supplements that help with breast milk production.
“Lactogenic foods” or “galactagogues” are foods that have been studied and used throughout history to increase a woman’s breast milk supply. Barley, oats, and other whole grains such as whole grain flour for bread or even pizza dough are all high in dietary beta-glucan, which is a polysaccharide that has been shown to increase one’s levels of prolactin (a hormone needed for breast milk production). Moringa is a powdered supplement that comes from a plant in the horseradish family and it has been proven to improve a mother’s milk supply when taking between 250-700 mg per day. Anecdotally, women have experienced a heavier milk flow within 24 hours of supplementing with moringa but clinical studies have tracked a definite increase of prolactin levels by day 7 of supplementing with 250mg per day. Milk thistle can be taken as a capsule or as a tea and it contains compounds called flavonolignans that are believed to be the lactogenic part of the plant. Drinking 2-3 cups of milk thistle tea per day or 420 mg if a capsule is the therapeutic dose for increasing one’s milk supply. Clinical evidence still remains for other foods like papaya, fennel seeds, basil, etc, but while there is still no scientific evidence on these foods, keep in mind that these foods have been used as galactagogues for thousands of years in particular cultures.
(4) Avoid Foods that inhibit breast milk production and supply.
Sometimes a mama has an uncomfortable oversupply of milk, in which case, she seeks help to reduce the level of breast milk production. On the other hand, if a woman is seeking to increase her milk supply, it would be wise to avoid foods such as an excess of alcohol, caffeine, parsely, peppermint, to name a few. Don’t worry too much when it comes to alcohol and missing out on that glass of wine you’ve been eyeing for nearly a year! Alcohol has shown to have zero anti-lactogenic effects until it exceeds the following limits, which is when it should be avoided. As is, 4oz of wine, 1oz of hard liquor, and 8oz of beer is completely safe to drink while breastfeeding but drinking more then that can inhibit your breastmilk supply.
(5) Reduce your stress levels for more milk!
There are many ways to become stressed: some women become emotionally stressed when first becoming a mother or due to general life circumstances. Physical stress can happen if a new mama exercises too soon or demands more from her body than what it can physically cope with. Dietary sources of stress could come from stimulant foods like caffeine. All these types of stress raise our levels of the stress hormone called cortisol which inhibits the release of oxytocin (the hormone that encourages attachment, love, and overall bliss). Oxytocin is also essential for that tingly let-down one feels when their milk supply comes in. Out of all the supplemental herbs, adaptogens, and medications, few are actually safe to consume while breastfeeding and that’s why India’s Ashwagandha (A.K.A. Indian Ginseng) is so amazing! By taking 300 mg of ashwagandha twice per day, it has been clinically shown to reduce cortisol levels and overall feelings of stress and could, therefore, encourage your milk supply.
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