Tips for healthier breastfeeding
Aug 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, a time to bring awareness to the most natural (and free) way of feeding your baby. Breastfeeding has many benefits for all involved, especially if you have the right knowledge of proper breastfeeding latching techniques and breastfeeding nutrition.
Here are five tips for a better breastfeeding experience:
- Eat healthy and make sure you get your calories.
You know the saying: “you are what you eat.” Well, your baby is also what you eat. What goes into you, goes into baby. Breastfeeding nutrition is an important science. Foods to eat when breastfeeding aren’t much different from a regular, balanced diet. This includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and a little bit of fat. As you may find out, there are some foods that may not belong in a diet for breastfeeding. Broccoli, cabbage or beans can make your baby gassy, so you may want to back off those foods, if you find that is the case for your baby. Also, you might need more calories while you’re breastfeeding than you did before you were pregnant. Different stages of breastfeeding will dictate how many calories you need. Work with your provider to find a healthy eating routine that provides proper nutrition for breastfeeding and works for you.
- Drink more fluids, less alcohol.
When you’re breastfeeding, your body needs extra fluids to stay hydrated. A glass of water or other healthy beverage every time you breastfeed will help you be able to produce the food you need for your baby. Not drinking alcohol is the safest option. But if you choose to drink while breastfeeding, talk with your provider first.
- Get plenty of rest.
This one is easier said than done, especially if you have other kids to care for during the day. Lack of sleep can hinder milk production. If you can, try to cut back on activity, and spend your time doing as little as possible other than relaxing with your baby, resting, eating, and nursing. Some babies have odd sleeping schedules through the night and require frequent naps during the day. The best advice is to sleep when your baby sleeps and nap when they nap to stay well rested.
- Reduce your stress.
While stress may not curb milk production, it can impact your let-down reflex (which releases milk into your milk ducts) and make it harder for your baby to get what they need. Take care of your mental and physical health so that you're at your best for your baby. Ask your partner, family, or friends to help out with anything that will help de-stress you. Don’t be shy about refusing visitors or guests so you can nurse in peace.
- Let your baby eat when it wants to.
Your body is smart and knows when it needs to produce more milk or not. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your body makes. You don’t necessarily need to follow a feeding schedule. In fact, that could cause an opposite effect when it comes to increasing your milk production. Nurse your baby whenever they are hungry, for as long as they want. If they are still hungry after you’ve emptied one breast, offer the other one. A baby with a full belly is a happy, thriving baby - and can do so much toward achieving #4 above.
Not every breast-feeding journey looks the same, and sometimes it is hard. Sometimes it is hard to establish a latch, and to start breast feeding. Often times, pumping is required. Sometimes supplementation with formula is needed. Any breast milk is great, and remembering that sometimes it can be a challenge is important. Do your best, and no matter what, feeding your baby is what is best for them.
If you are a breastfeeding CareOregon member in need of assistance, we have more information and resources for breastfeeding on our Pregnancy and family support page. We also have resources and assistance for eating healthier on our Nutrition and Activity webpage.