Want more breastmilk later? Tell your body you want it from the beginning? What do I mean by this?
Biologically, it makes no sense that women who get pregnant and give birth struggle with breastmilk production. Literally this would be a bad design from nature and nature is an amazing architect. The normal progression is you get pregnant, you give birth, you make milk. It is the mammal thing to do! After growing a whole baby, making breastmilk should be a piece of cake.
So what is going on? Now if you struggled to get pregnant you might have more of a challenge to make milk but let’s set that aside. (Not because I don’t care but because it is a whole other complication hormonally.) We are talking about the bulk of the population who gives birth who don’t need help getting pregnant. From a mammal point of view they should be able to make milk!
I am lucky enough to have Lisa Marasco as a colleague and a friend. Lisa is the amazing co-author of The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk (new edition is coming so hold onto your hats!) and is fascinated with this process. We have had several conversations as to why this beautifully designed system is breaking down. One aspect of our world here in the USA that is changing is our exposure to all sorts of chemicals. In mouse and rat studies this is a big problem so I don’t know why it wouldn’t be with humans. But we don’t have all the dots connected here and what can be done about this but trying to limit your exposure to these environmental factors is always a good idea. So there is a clue but again, more nebulous.
On the other hand, there is one clear factor that can influence breastmilk production ramping up and being copious. It is simple and many people might not want to hear it. Nurse early and often. That is all. Studies show this to be true. “Breastfeeding frequency impacts initiation of lactogenesis II, which in turn influences duration of breastfeeding exclusivity. Therefore feedings should be promoted as soon as possible after birth and as frequently as eight to 12 times a day.”
What? To increase your odds of having a great milk supply later all you have to do is nurse early and frequently? Yes! So simple yet with the way we birth in the USA and our ideas about what is important after the baby is born often are in direct conflict with this idea. Birth can be more like a circus or a nightmare depending on where and who you birth with. If you give birth in a place with people who do not value and/or support this simple intervention, the odds of it happening are low. New parents don’t know how important this it and to prioritize it. Family and friends are not tuned into why this is important and how to support it. New parents, family, and friends not knowing what to do is understandable but what about our health care system? They should know this and being everything possible to support early breastfeeding initiation and frequent breastmilk removal. We love to say “breast is best” but where is the money to help support this message?
Is this a guarantee that you will have an amazing breastmilk supply? No, of course not. But it can greatly increase your chances of this and it is in your control unlike many things in our lives. If the baby is not nursing well, hand express. Get that message to your body you want more breastmilk now.
One of the reason I offer my 90 hour professional lactation course, the CCLS certificate, is that we need more breastfeeding education for the people who surround birth!
So, in conclusion, any of you who are going to birth soon or have family or friends who are going to birth soon or work in the health care field with families who are going to birth soon, scream this message from the mountain tops! Or say it gently over and over again. Want more breastmilk later? Tell your body you want it from the beginning.