Lactation consultants help train and assist new mothers in breastfeeding difficulties such as developing a proper latch and increasing their milk supply. To help induce lactation, you may also try drinking 128 ounces of water each day, nurse on demand, implement a pumping schedule, and try herbal supplements or lactation cookies.
Becoming a new mom is thrilling, exhilarating, and terrifying. For many new mothers hoping to breastfeed, countless questions are often floating around in their heads.
Will I be able to breastfeed? What if my baby doesn’t latch? Will I produce enough milk?
Rest assured, these are all normal and responsible questions to have when it comes to inducing lactation.
Below we will provide a brief overview of lactation and provide six easy ways to help induce lactation in new mothers.
What is Lactation?
Before we discuss how to induce lactation for breastfeeding, it is first essential to understand what lactation is.
Lactation is the production of milk from breast tissue. More specifically, lactation is when the mammary glands in the breast tissue release milk so that the mother can feed her young.
A woman can continue lactating as long as the mammary glands are stimulated to release milk. Stimulation can come in several ways: from a baby suckling the nipple, an artificial pump, or the mother massaging the milk from her breast.
For new mothers, breastfeeding their baby may seem like a daunting task. One incredible resource to help a new mother better understand lactation and how their body can make and release more milk is to consult with a lactation consultant.
1. Schedule an Appointment with a Lactation Consultant
It is important for new mothers who want to breastfeed to connect with a lactation consultant early in their breastfeeding journey.
Lactation consultants are clinical health care professionals who specialize in helping women with breastfeeding their babies.
Lactation consultants are certified by The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE), meaning they have taken a certification test that meets the requirements of knowledge expected of a lactation consultant.
Who Can Be a Lactation Consultant?
Anyone who meets the requirements of the IBLCE can become a lactation consultant, though lactation consultants are traditionally nurses, midwives, nurse practitioners, and dietitians.
Hospitals, private practices, and midwife practices have lactation consultants available to help new mothers.
What Is the Goal of a Lactation Consultant?
The main goal of a lactation consultant for a new mother is to train and assist new mothers in breastfeeding difficulties such as developing a proper latch for the baby, increasing their milk supply, relieving breast engorgement, and treating sore nipples.
2. Develop a Proper Latch to Help Stimulating Milk Supply
One big topic that lactation consultants work on with new mothers is developing a proper latch. A good latch is how the baby attaches its mouth to the mother’s nipple to suckle as much milk as possible without causing sensitivity and pain to the nipple.
Once someone establishes a proper latch, this will help stimulate the mammary tissue to encourage the letdown reflex. This reflex occurs when the mammary gland releases milk.
Putting the baby to the breast and allowing the baby to spend time suckling on the mother’s nipple is the best way to induce lactation and milk letdown. It is encouraged to get the baby on the mother’s breast several times a day.
3. Stay Hydrated With Water
If the new mother is having problems producing an adequate milk supply for their baby, it might be because they are not getting enough fluids inside their own body.
While breastfeeding, you are hydrating your little one, so it is important to remember that you also need to stay hydrated yourself!
Drink 128 Ounces of Fluid Each Day
The best fluid to drink for a nursing mother is water. Nursing mothers do not need to drink more water than necessary, but experts agree that 128 fluid oz of water per day is best.
That equals 16 eight-ounce glasses of water per day. If you are breastfeeding four times a day, try and drink one eight-ounce glass before breastfeeding and one eight-ounce glass afterward.
Limit Dehydrating Drinks
Caffeinated drinks like coffee or soft drinks are not recommended because they contribute to dehydration, hindering milk production.
4. Let the Baby Nurse on Demand
To nurse on demand, give the baby the option to nurse whenever they appear to want milk. Nursing on demand has many benefits.
Nursing on-demand increases the milk supply and helps improve other discomforts from breastfeeding, such as engorgement of breast tissue.
Engorgement occurs when the milk in the mammary glands is not able to flow to the nipple.
While suckling on the nipple, the baby naturally cuddles and massages the breast, which helps break up blockages in the mammary glands which can help relieve engorgement.
Nursing on demand also programs the body into always having milk available for the baby and allows the baby to decide how long they want to nurse.
5. Have the Baby Nurse Longer
In addition to nursing on demand, nursing for a more extended period helps increases milk supply.
Average Feedings Last 10-20 Minutes
Now, every baby is different, and the amount of time a baby breastfeeds often depends on the baby’s age. However, with that said, an average feeding can usually last between 10-20 minutes.
Feedings can also range from 5-45 minutes. For babies on the shorter end of the spectrum at 5-minute feeding times, it is encouraged to help your baby nurse for a more extended period to increase milk supply.
Ideally, it is encouraged to have the baby nurse on both breasts to fully empty the mammary glands. This will tell the body that it needs to produce more milk to satisfy the baby, thus increasing the mother’s milk supply.
If the mother is having a hard time getting the baby to nurse for 20 minutes, you can always use a pump to help empty the breast of milk.
6. Use a Breast Pump and Set Up a Frequent Pumping Schedule
If a mother cannot nurse on-demand or nurse for longer than 20 minutes, an alternative is frequent pumping.
Pumping helps new mothers stimulate lactation by tricking the body into thinking that a baby is suckling at the nipple.
Hospital Grade Breast Pumps
Hospitals and lactation consultants have hospital-grade breast pumps available for use, often on a first-come, first-served, or scheduling basis.
In addition to hospital-grade breast pumps, once the new mother returns home, home breast pumps are available.
Pump Every 3 Hours
If the mother decides to use a breast pump to increase milk supply, it is encouraged to pump every three hours, even throughout the night, for at least twenty minutes.
This schedule may be demanding at first as the mother gets used to the breast pump. Because of this, it is best to start at five minutes and work your way up to twenty minutes or longer.
What If This Doesn’t Help?
Suppose she establishes a comfortable breast pumping, and the mother is still not producing enough milk.
In that case, she can talk to her lactation consultant about introducing galactagogues into the diet.
7. Galactagogue, Herbal Supplements, and Lactation Cookies
When the baby latches on to the mother’s breast, it stimulates milk production by encouraging a hormonal response.
The breastfeeding-related hormones released are prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin boosts the mother’s milk supply, and oxytocin releases the milk.
What are Galactagogues?
A way to trick your body into stimulating milk production is with galactagogues. Galactagogues are foods or supplements that increase the supply and flow of the mother’s milk by increasing the amount of milk-producing hormones in the body.
In essence, they are foods that are naturally rich in prolactin and oxytocin.
Fenugreek, blessed thistle, and milk thistle are three herbs believed to help increase prolactin levels, oxytocin levels, or both. This may help to increase the milk supply and milk letdown reflex.
These herbs can be consumed as herbal teas or through supplemental pill form.
In addition to herbal teas and supplements, lactation cookies are a fun and delicious way to increase milk supply.
Lactation cookies work by using galactagogues in cookie form to increase prolactin and oxytocin in the body.
Always Consult With Your Healthcare Provider
As with all methods discussed, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider before self-treating.
The healthcare provider knows best and is there to help you succeed in your breastfeeding journey.