Nursing With Ease: 10 Tips to Avoid Low Supply, Clogged Ducts, & MastitisJul 31, 2023
Breastfeeding is a precious opportunity to establish a deep bond with your baby. However, the demands of exclusive breastfeeding can often feel overwhelming, especially when faced with discomfort or challenges along the way. Sadly, many mothers reluctantly give up on breastfeeding not because they want to, but because they lack the necessary support and information to overcome discomforts. It's important that we provide new mothers with transparent insights into the realities of breastfeeding, equipping them with the knowledge and support they need to succeed in this remarkable journey with their baby. In this article, we’ll share valuable tips to help you navigate and prevent the most common discomforts, ensuring they don't hinder your breastfeeding journey..
- Prioritize Adequate Rest: I understand that rest can feel like an elusive when you have a new baby, and this advice is not meant to be obnoxious. I vividly recall the nights when my first son woke up every couple of hours for a solid two years. During that time, my sleep was consistently disturbed, and naps became my lifeline, preserving my sanity. Embracing the mantra of "napping when baby naps" became essential for me and I was able to maintain my milk supply and nurses him for nearly 2.5 years! Interestingly, with my second son, who is now just four months old, he already sleeps for longer stretches, sometimes necessitating waking him up to nurse because my breasts become as hard as rocks. I find myself much more well-rested this time around, but my second son had a few latching issues in the very beginning that my first son didn’t. It's important to note that this advice on rest is contingent on your unique baby's sleep patterns, your life responsibilities, and the support you have. However, regardless of your circumstances, prioritizing rest is an essential aspect to consider as it affects every facet of your body including breast milk production.
- Stay Hydrated: Producing breast milk demands ample hydration. A good guideline is to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Additionally, you may want to consider incorporating electrolytes and/or trace minerals into your water, as nursing depletes mineral stores too. , I always recommend using a container that measures a specific number of ounces, so you can track your intake accurately. Using a straw has proven to be very convenient for me while nursing, as it enables me to hold my baby and sip fluid effortlessly. I find that I consume a greater amount of liquid compared to drinking from a cup. Lastly, pay attention to the type of container you use and prioritize glass or stainless steel options with stainless or silicone straws. It's crucial to avoid plastic whenever possible.
- Stay Well Nourished: Breastfeeding requires more calories than growing a baby, so ensure you consume an adequate amount of food throughout the day. I once had a client, a mother of three, who shared that whenever her milk supply dipped, she would eat a whole pizza, rest, and the next day her supply would increase. While pizza isn't a cure all for low milk supply, this story highlights the impact of increased calorie intake on milk production.
- Empty Your Breasts Often: Breastfeeding operates on the principle of supply and demand, meaning the more you empty your breasts, the more milk your body will produce. This includes nighttime feedings as well. If your aim is to increase supply, emptying your breasts more frequently (usually 8-10 times in 24 hours) is recommended. However, if you're experiencing recurring clogged ducts or mastitis, you may need to reduce the overall frequency or length of sessions, but still empty your breasts at night to prevent milk stagnation. Skip the strict feeding schedules and breastfeed on demand, unless advised otherwise, as it promotes a strong connection between you and your baby and allows your bodies to communicate effectively.
- Be Proactive: It's essential to have support in place before you anticipate needing it. If you experience pain or signs of infection, seeking immediate support can greatly benefit you. During pregnancy, research lactation support groups, lactation consultants, or trusted individuals such as knowledgeable friends or sisters who can offer assistance if required. If you're in the LA area, you can email us at [email protected], and we'll provide you with a referral list of trusted lactation professionals.
- Massage Your Breasts: Use gentle self-massage to alleviate breast congestion and encourage milk flow. The key word here is GENTLE because many aggressive massage tools and techniques can cause pain and inflammation, further blocking milk flow and making the situation worse instead of better. I had so many past clients deal with this, that I finally created a lactation massage service to address this issue. At Sparrow’s Nest, our staff, trained by Ellen Steinberg—an experienced nurse, lactation consultant, and cranial sacral therapist—employs effective yet gentle techniques that give you the relief you need. We can work directly on breast tissue or through a thin shirt, depending on your comfort level. When providing postpartum massage, we prioritize your breast comfort as well with proper pillow support & also prepare ahead of time for any potential breast milk leakage, allowing you to relax without worry.
- Try a Castor Oil Pack: Castor oil packs are a wonderful method for promoting circulation in your breasts, relieving congestion, and inducing relaxation.
- Take a Warm Shower: Warm water is also helpful for relieving breast engorgement and serves as an excellent setting for incorporating gentle self-massage strokes.
- Be Mindful of Restrictive Clothing: Be cautious of binding clothing, including bras, as well as sleeping positions that compress or restrict breast tissue, as these can lead to breast congestion. Ensure that your clothes are comfortably loose, not just around the bra cup but also around the rib cage. Additionally, it may be beneficial to avoid sleeping or resting for extended periods in positions that apply direct pressure to your breasts (apologies to stomach sleepers!).
- Count on Oxytocin! Remember that breastfeeding is a mutually beneficial process. Your body functions best when you're relaxed and in close proximity to your baby. Make eye contact, snuggle, smile, kiss, and savor the sweet scent of your baby. Take deep breaths. Repeat these practices often.
If you would like a list of our lactation resources or want to learn more about our lactation massage services, please feel free to reach out to us. We are here to support your breastfeeding journey and ensure it becomes a successful and enjoyable experience for you!
Sparrow & The Sparrow's Nest Team
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