How can I make more breast milk?

The best way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit. Choosing the right foods, protein, fruits and vegetables with moderation of carbs, sugars and starches is guaranteed for most to lose extra pounds. Sure, exercise helps. It helps burn calories, again contributing to calorie deficit. But exercise alone won’t help you lose weight if you’re still eating a high calorie diet. Sure, going vegetarian or vegan or doing Weight Watchers or Atkins or any other “diet” helps. It helps you monitor intake to be in a calorie deficit. But even on any diet plan, if you’re not following it correctly and still eating high amounts of foods you won’t lose weight. Certain people do better on certain diets or with specific exercise programs because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, movement, and all of the other factors like environment and genetics. Finding a nutritionist, weight loss coach, or personal trainer helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: calorie deficit is the number one way to lose weight.

The best way to make breast milk is to empty breast milk. Whether that’s your baby or a high quality breast pump, moving milk multiple times a day tells the body to make more milk. The more often milk is removed, the faster it is made. Sure, supplements help. They support your thyroid and blood with the extra nutrients and hormones needed to produce milk. But supplements alone is no replacement for moving milk. You can take the best lactation bars and drink all the tea you want, but without emptying the breast every few hours routinely I wouldn’t expect the majority of us to make enough milk to feed baby. Sure, hydration and nutrition are important. It takes calories to make calories and hydration help with that process. But even the research shows women who are malnourished in famine torn countries make plenty of milk for their babies when baby is allowed unrestricted access to the breast. Yes, adding in chia seed, flax seed, oats, nuts and nut butters, and coconut water helps make milk. Certain people do better on certain herbs and foods because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, hormones, and all of the other factors like anatomy and genetics. Finding a lactation consultant, peer counselor, or trained doula helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: emptying milk from the breast is the number one way to make breast milk.

Pumping while away from baby helps maintain your supply

Nipple shields

Not all nipple shields are created equal. Nipple shields are a great tool that can be used to help baby latch and stay latched, help you heal from nipple damage or trauma, or transition baby back to breast from using a bottle. Nipple shields are a great tool and can be used as long as needed. There are risks to long term use, the biggest one is a decrease in milk supply if baby isn’t able to trigger let downs or remove milk efficiently. If you weren’t given a plan for transitioning off the shield, a qualified lactation consultant can help!

Why should I see an IBCLC or lactation consultant

If you broke your foot you wouldn’t go to your local nail salon to have your pedicurist look at it. Yes, they work with feet. I just wouldn’t trust their expert opinion on whether I need a cast or some physical therapy. If my car engine was making smoke and my gauges were outside the appropriate ranges, you wouldn’t go to the car wash to have it looked at. Yes, they work with cars. I just wouldn’t trust their expert opinion on whether my engine block is cracked or not. So why when we’re having lactation problems do we turn to mom groups or even pediatricians? Yes, moms have babies. Yes, pediatricians work with babies. But neither are the experts in lactation (ok, occasionally a pediatrician will seek additional training, but honestly it’s rare). To become a board certified lactation consultant, you need to take advanced college level coursework specifically in human lactation. You need to spend hundreds to thousands of hours being directly mentored by someone who already is board certified. And you have to pass a FOUR HOUR board exam. To be board certified. IBCLCs spend thousands of dollars and years of their lives training to become experts in breasts, babies, and feeding. If you’re struggling, please find the correct help. There’s a lot of bad information out there that may inadvertently sabotage your breastfeeding journey without you even being aware.

Foremilk/Hindmilk and Making Fattier Milk

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How can I make fattier milk? I get this question a lot. Fat in breast milk changes constantly both throughout the day and as baby ages. It is predominantly influenced by how full/empty the breast is which tells your body how old your baby is. Newborns nurse around the clock and have a higher milk fat content than toddlers who may only nurse a handful of times a day and are getting their fats from table foods. Your diet does not usually have an effect on the quantity of fat present in breast milk but it can change the type- saturated, trans, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated.

I often get questions about foremilk/hindmilk as related to making a fattier milk. But what is fore milk/hindmilk? Is that even a thing? The breast only makes one type of milk, however, because of the way milk is released during a feeding, the fat content can change. Fats make up about 3-5% of the nutrients of breast milk and each ounce of contains about 1.2 grams of fat. Milk is made in the alveoli, which are grape-like clusters of cells at the back of the breast. Once the milk is made, it is squeezed out through the alveoli into the milk ducts, which resemble highways and carry the milk through the breast to the nipple. As milk is produced, fat globules in the milk stick to each other and to the walls of the milk ducts. As time passes, milk gradually moves toward the nipple as the breasts fill, pushing the thin watery milk forward while leaving the denser and fattier hindmilk behind (because the fat is sticking to the walls of the ducts). Shorter time between feedings or pumping a help keep the hind milk at the front of the breast. Think of it like turning on a faucet in the sink. 

At first, the water comes out cold and then gradually gets warmer until it is hot. If you come back a minute later and turn the faucet on again, it will still be relatively warm. However, if wait an hour, the water will be cold. You’ll have to wait for it to warm up again. Breast milk fat is similar.

When the baby first latches on, the higher-water content foremilk is released. Little by little the milk becomes fattier as fat globules are pulled down from the ducts. Frequent feedings or pumping mean the milk doesn’t have time to “get cold.” There is no switch that gets flipped – the change from foremilk to hindmilk is gradual. There is less foremilk for your baby to go through before they get to the fattier milk. Basically, the less time in between feedings, the higher the fat content at the beginning of that particular feeding.

Here are the best strategies to help increase the fat in your milk:

📌Nurse or pump more frequently. The fullness of the breast makes the most difference with the amount of fat in your milk. The fuller the breast, the more water content is in your milk because your body thinks baby is dehydrated from going a long time without feeding or that you have an older baby that is getting fats from table foods. The shorter amount of time you go between feeding or pumping, the higher the fat content in your milk. You will see a smaller volume, but a higher fat content.

📌Drain the breast. Let your baby completely finish on one side before switching to the other side. Emptier breast’s have higher milk fat content. 

📌Use your hands. Compressing and massaging the breast from the chest wall down toward the nipple while feeding and/or pumping helps push fat (made at the back of the breast in the ducts) down toward the nipple faster. 

📌Eat more healthy, unsaturated fats, such as nuts, wild caught salmon, avocados, seeds, eggs, and olive oil. 

📌 Increase your protein intake. This helps increase overall milk supply, which = more  fat for your baby. Lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds are the best dietary sources of protein. Vegetarians if you do not get enough protein from your food alone, consider adding a protein supplement in your routine.

📌Sunflower lethicin. Often used to relieve frequently blocked ducts, this supplement works by decreasing the stickiness of breast milk by mixing the fatty parts of breast milk with the watery parts to make it “slide out” easier. Some people believe that this helps increase the fatty acids in milk at the beginnings of feedings, too. 

Switching baby too quickly from breast to breast while they are still actively sucking means that they aren’t getting enough time to let the fattier hindmilk unstick from the milk ducts.

 

TAKE AWAY:

Depending on your nursing pattern, it’s possible for fat content to be higher at the beginning of a particular feeding than it is at the end of other feedings. The longer the time between feedings, the lower the fat content at the beginning of the next feeding. If feedings are closer together, you’re starting off with a higher fat content. 

Because every baby varies in the amount of time it takes him to receive his fill of the higher-fat milk at the end of the feeding, it’s important not to switch breasts while baby is actively nursing.

 

Breastfeeding advice from social media: Buyer beware

Asking for medical advise from social media forums, especially mommy groups, is like asking a mother who’s had a baby to deliver yours. Just because she has experience in the field does not make her qualified to give technical advice in that area. She can give you her opinions or share her experience, but she did never be relied on as a trustworthy source when providing care to YOUR child.

 

Breastfeeding is especially one of those areas that we need to tread wisely into when asking for help and advice. Or culture has hidden breastfeeding from the norm and made it this mysterious, murky action where myths and misunderstandings abound. So much of the information found in quick Google searches are anecdotal, antiquated, or based off formula feeding data which is completely distinct and sometimes totally opposite of true breastfeeding. We should be seeking community support for breastfeeding, but not when medical advice is being solicited.

When mothers give out advice on social media platforms, they are not taking into consideration the whole breastfeeding picture and may inadvertently give advice that could care harm or actually negatively impact breastfeeding. For instance, when a mother of a two month old asks for advice on increasing her breastmilk supply and mother start giving advice on herbs, lactation cookies, or teas, they may not be considering WHY she is needing to increase her supply. Is her baby in the NICU? Is she going back to work and stressed with the pumping process? Does she have. History of sexual abuse that she actually needs to work through? Did her pediatrician have her supplement which impacted her supply? Is she trying to sleep train and sabotaging her own supply? Is she ALLERGIC to the herbs in those teas and supplements? How often is she feeding? Does she have a metabolic or hormonal disorder impacting her supply? Does she have enough glandular breast tissue to even produce sufficient milk supply? Does her baby have a tongue tie? Does the baby simply have a poor latch? These are the questions that are crucial in giving appropriate breastfeeding advice to protect the breastfeeding relationship. The best advice a mother can give on the social media platform is to have the questioning mother contact a lactation consultant.

The gold standard for breastfeeding advice is the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). There are other forms of lactation consultants that teach and serve out of a variety of backgrounds. The IBCLC is the top most coveted professional because of the extensive education and rigorous testing they need to go through in order to be able to assist lactating mothers. In order to sit for the FOUR HOUR board exam, candidates must have extensive education in specific health science subjects, like nutrition, psychology, and childhood development; 90 college level credit hours of education in human lactation and breastfeeding, and hundreds to thousands of clinical practice in providing care to breastfeeding families. They must also maintain a high level of continuing education courses and continue to sit for the board exam every 10 years.

So when you see moms with questions related to breastfeeding in social media forums that are beyond opinions or personal experience, the best advice is professional advice.