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A Lactation Counselor’s Tips for Breastfeeding

As a Nutritionist and Certified Lactation Counselor, most mothers I work with have many questions when it comes to breast milk and breastfeeding, so here are some helpful tips.

How long should one breastfeed?

It is recommended that the infant be exclusively breastfed for first 6 months of life, unless otherwise advised by your physician. To benefit the baby, breastfeeding should be continued for one to two years or longer with the addition of human food after 6 months.

Foods to boost the nutritional content of breast milk

The composition of breast milk is pretty consistent, except for fats. Studies have found that the fatty acid profiles in breast milk varies in relation to the mother’s diet, particularly when mothers eat too many omega-6 fats, which are inflammatory, and not enough omega-3 fats, which are anti- inflammatory. It is therefore beneficial for breastfeeding mothers to increase omega-3 fats, by consuming foods like chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, wild-caught salmon, and egg yolks. It is also important to limit the consumption of omega- 6 fats, which are found in meat, dairy products, peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and sesame oil.

How to increase breast milk supply

Many mothers worry that they are not producing enough breast milk for their babies, and are looking for natural ways to increase breast milk supply. Low milk supply is not common, however if milk supply is low, a physician should address that. Signs of low milk supply are infants who are not gaining adequate weight, or have reduced urine or waste output. The golden rule when breastfeeding is that nursing is a supply and demand process. Frequent feedings ensure that your breasts are stimulated enough to establish a full milk supply. The more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk your body will produce. Milk supply issues may be caused by an improper latch, which can be due to sleepiness, being used to the bottle or use of nipple shields. It is important to seek advice from a lactation counselor if you think milk supply is an issue.

Galactogogues

There are certain herbs that are thought to increase milk production called galactogogues. These include fenugreek, blessed thistle and alfalfa. The efficacy and safety data regarding galactogogues use is limited, and more studies are needed to evaluate the effect of these herbs on breast milk production. Using these herbs should only be done when all non-pharmacologic recommendations have been tried and after consulting with a physician.

How breast milk affects colic

Colic commonly occurs in babies 0-3 months old, and may result in a hardened abdomen or pain for the infant. Some causes include allergies to milk or formula, foods that the mother is eating, colon spasm, or parental anxiety. The food allergies can be in the infant or breastfeeding mother, so having both change their diet is recommended.

Foods for colic

Infants who are exclusively fed breast milk tend to have less colic. If you must use formula, switch to goat or coconut-based formula. You may also need to try a predigested milk protein formula. Consuming steamed or cooked vegetables for the mother tends to cause less gas and bloating in infants.

Foods to avoid

Common foods consumed by the mother that may causes a reactions, are dairy products, gluten, caffeine, spicy foods, peanuts, and corn. Eliminating gas-forming foods like beans or cruciferous vegetables may also improve colic in infants.

You may also be interested in exploring this research study that looks at acupuncture as an effective treatment for colic. 

Helaine Schonfeld
Helaine Schonfeld, Nutritionist, MSc., CLC

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