D for Diet. Thinking about maternal diet here. Unless a mum is living on the edge of hunger, then she is able to produce milk for her baby. Milk supply is not driven by particular foods, or how much a mum eats, but by her baby breastfeeding frequently enough to begin the process, and then to maintain it. It wasn’t that long ago that mums were told that they should drink cows’ milk to make good quality breastmilk. Not only that, but to eat lots of cake and mashed potatoes and gravy to make more milk. Now we know that this isn’t true, and that it is most important for babies to feed frequently and deeply attached – at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. Of course, every mum should eat enough to feel good, apart from anything else food gives energy to help get through the day and night. Extra calories are used in breastfeeding, but most mums feel hungrier, and so eat more during early breastfeeding anyway, so it isn’t a case of forcing food down, rather gobbling it up!
E for Expressing milk. This is a useful thing to know about. Expressing milk may not ever be needed or necessary, but if more colostrum or breastmilk is needed, or a baby or mum are not able to physically breastfeed at any time then it’s fantastic. Breast pumps (various) are there to buy or rent but how about by hand? Learning how to hand express is easy if mums remember that they need to reach their milk sacs (where milk is made ready), rather than sliding and rubbing their fingers over the breast skin which just makes it sore. First things; don’t be in a hurry. Spend time in some breast massage for the hormone oxytocin (more about oxytocin later) to get ready do its work of releasing milk from the milk sacs into the milk ducts. Then, mum placing her hand about 3-4cms back from nipple base where it meets her breast and where there are oodles of milk sacs. She’ll push back into her chest wall, then with some firmness but not too harshly, get a rhythm going to replicate the baby’s sucking by compressing and releasing her breast. An efficient way to express milk is for mums to use a combination of hand expressing, then pumping, then back to hand expressing to finish. This is because pumps “pull” milk out of the breast, but hand expression “presses” milk out of the milk sacs to really “capture” all the available milk for that expressing session. Most importantly; no pump or expert hands will release as much milk as a baby who attaches deeply to breastfeed efficiently.
F for Fat. This can be a minefield. Essentially; all mums have times in the day and night when they have high fat feeds, and times when they have low fat feeds. We never now when these differences occur though. So, the key here is for all mums to check that their babies are breastfeeding efficiently. If there are any concerns regarding a baby’s weight gain for example, especially in combination with a mum’s very sore and damaged nipples, and extremely frequent feeds as in consistently above 14 per 24 hours, or constant feeding. I favour both breasts being offered per feed as this helps a mum avoid lumpy breasts/blocked milk ducts and gives her soft breasts. Softer breasts have a higher fat volume too. Of course, we cannot make babies actually feed from both breasts – see “B for Breastfeed”!
I’ll post “G-K” next time. I hope you enjoyed the read.