The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least one year of breastfeeding as being the best for babies. While many mothers initiate breastfeeding, most do not make it to this target goal. It has been determined that the number one reason mothers wean their babies is that they perceive that they don’t have enough milk for their babies. While it is true that some women have medical conditions or anatomical differences that prevent them from having adequate milk supply, most women can produce enough milk with proper management.
So, what is the proper management to achieve an abundant milk supply? In the infant’s first two weeks of life the most important things are frequent stimulation of the breast with either a baby at breast or with a pump. This stimulation should occur at least 8 times a day. After the first two weeks of life the most important factor to achieve an adequate supply is emptying the breasts thoroughly. This means do not go too long without emptying the breasts, and do not let the breasts become overly full. If after nursing your infant you still feel full, you may need to empty further by using a pump or hand expressions , or by getting in the shower and running hot water over the breasts.
Mothers are often advised by well meaning people to drink copious amounts of water so that they will make more milk. Recent data however, does not back this up. Drinking to thirst is all that is necessary.
One very basic ingredient for a good milk supply is that the mother needs to get plenty of sleep. Many parents feel challenged to get enough sleep with the birth of their babies, but if moms can try to nap when baby does, this can be helpful. Mothers who are stressed, sleep deprived , or in pain, can find it difficult to make enough milk.
Recent breastfeeding studies have shown that women who massage and compress their breasts while nursing or pumping produce significantly more milk. Massaging all around the breast, in a circular motion will stimulate the milk glands.
Finally, it is important to remember that you will always produce more milk with a baby at the breast than you will to a pump. A baby uses suction and breast compressions when at the breast, and a pump just creates the negative pressure.
If you have made the decision to breastfeed your infant and are experiencing challenges, having friends or family who are supportive can make a difference. Once breastfeeding is well established, it is convenient, readily available and cost effective. There are lactation consultants in the community to provide counsel with specific problems. There are also support groups such as La Leche League that can offer guidance and encouragement to spur you on!