Breastfeeding can be a beautiful, bonding experience for Mum and bub. It also provides the ideal source of nutrition for your baby, as breastmilk is rich in immune factors to strengthen their health and specific, digestible nutrients to help them grow.
It’s not always easy, however, and there are times and situations where when breastfeeding is not possible or desired. And while MamaCare advocates for and supports the value of breastfeeding from birth until toddlerhood or beyond; we also firmly believe that whatever you choose is right for you.
We know each woman is doing what’s right for her, and everyone is different: your situation, body and baby are all unique.
For those who are breastfeeding, here are some of our best natural health tips and advice to give you a boost.
FOOD & DRINK
It’s really important to make sure you are eating and drinking enough when you’re breastfeeding – this is the fuel your body uses to make milk and gives you energy.
We understand that organising meals can feel overwhelming, particularly at the start when you’re wrangling a newborn. In this instance, it’s important to call on your partner / family / friends to help you out – it will make a huge difference. It can also be useful to have snacks on hand that are both nutritious and easily consumed with one hand . These can be as simple as vegetable sticks, boiled eggs, natural yoghurt, nut butter on toast, or avocado on crackers.
Steer clear of processed foods, particularly those high in sugar – such as biscuits, lollies and chocolate – as these are ’empty’ foods that provide very little nutrition for you and bub. They will also inevitably upset your blood sugar balance, often leaving you more hungry, tired and cranky once the initial sugar high has worn off.
As much as possible, opt for food that is fresh, seasonal and healthy. Aim to include good fats (avocado, salmon, olive oil, coconut oil, etc) and protein (free-range meat, fish, eggs, tempeh, etc) into several meals and snacks throughout the day and we promise, your body will thank you for it.
A word on water: if you find it difficult to keep your fluids up – too busy, forget, etc – try carrying a water bottle with you when you go out, and have a couple of bottles in different rooms around the house e.g. bedroom and lounge room. That way, you’re able to grab a drink whenever you need it – and seeing the bottles will act as a useful reminder.
Herbs are excellent for supporting lactation, whether you don’t have enough or you’re making way too much milk. I often recommend herbal teas, as not only do you benefit from the diluted herbs, drinking tea regularly also increases your fluid intake. Winning.
Herbs such as Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis) and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) can be very helpful for mums with low milk supply. These herbs are known as galactagogues and help to increase milk production. Fenugreek particularly is a very well known traditional remedy for increasing breast milk, though you do have to drink significant amounts of it to see the benefits (this is where a concentrated dose of the extract can be handy). They are often used in combination with adaptogenic herbs, such as Withania (Withania somnifera), which help to balance stress and energy.
For mums who are producing more than enough milk, herbs such as Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and Sage (Salvia officinalis) can be useful for slowing the flow.
These are just some of the simple but effective ways you can support breastfeeding naturally. There are many other remedies and tools you can use, but this is a good foundation from which to start.
If you are struggling with breastfeeding, it’s important to ask for help. The ABA have a breastfeeding helpline, which is free and available 7 days a week (1800 686 268). You can also arrange for a lactation consultant to visit you in your home, something that many women find invaluable. And MamaCare too is always available for support and advice, in home or in the clinic.