Breastmilk is the best food for babies. And in recent years, the whole world has woken up to the fact that babies should be breastfed for as long as possible.
Most new moms who consult with me nowadays, are eager to breastfeed their babies for two years and beyond. However, unfortunately for many mothers the breastmilk supply reduces considerably as the baby turns 6 months old because of certain wrong practices adopted in the early months of breastfeeding.
In this article I offer 10 best practices that will help new mothers breastfeed successfully for longer.
How to ensure good breastmilk supply after 6 months
Avoid these myths and wrong practices to ensure adequate milk production well beyond the 6 months mark
- Do not start feeding formula milk because your baby is crying
A common misconception is that babies cry because you are unable to produce enough milk. Yes, babies do cry because they want more milk. But it is their crying that increases your breastmilk supply because your body understands that there is a demand for more milk. So don’t panic and shift to bottle feeds.
- Do not stop night feeds
It is very difficult to breastfeed babies during the night but do not start feeding babies formula in the night. The level of prolactin (the hormone that causes breastmilk production) is higher during the night. And so discontinuing night feeds can lead to early weaning
- Minimize distractions while feeding
If your baby is distracted – she/he may suckle less efficiently and that can reduce breast milk supply. So feed in a space with minimum distraction whenever possible. Switch off the TV and turn off the devices when you feed.
- Do not attempt to schedule feedings too early
Feeding on demand is exhausting – and you may be tempted to feed at regular intervals of 3-4 hours instead of every time the baby cries (which may be every 30 minutes). If you do this too early however, your milk supply will drop considerably. The amount of milk produced depends on how frequently the baby is suckling and if you don’t feed your baby when she/he asks – your milk supply will drop. Feeding on demand is always the best.
- Get help to cope with teething challenges
Breastfeeding through the teething phase is painful for both mother and baby. And this is often the time when most mothers give up on breastfeeding. Check with your paediatrician for ways to soothe your baby’s gums. Also get help yourself with feeding options if you are unable to stop your baby from biting you at this point.
- Do not panic if your baby struggles in the first few minutes of breast feeding
As you breastfeed – your breasts become more and more efficient and they store less and less milk. They start producing milk only when the baby starts feeding. That is the reason your baby may cry in frustration and latch and unlatch repeatedly for the first few minutes of a feed as he/she waits for the milk to come down to the nipple. Do not read this as a sign of insufficient milk production and start top feeds. That will lead to decreased breast milk production. Soothe your baby by talking while you wait.
- Do not worry that your baby is not gaining weight
Babies grow rapidly in the first three months and then their growth slows down. This is normal. Do not panic and start top feeds because you are worried about weight gain. If you do that your breastmilk supply will drop.
- If you have to go back to work or step out frequently – start pumping
Breastfeeding from the breast is the best – but if you are going to be away from your baby for long periods – start pumping. Pumping when you are away at work – reminds your breasts that they need to keep producing breastmilk in sufficient quantities because a demand exists. If you don’t pump your breasts get the message that they can reduce breastmilk production because the milk is required only once or twice a day when the baby suckles. A combination of feeding directly from the breast and pumping when that is not possible will help you breastfeed for longer by keeping up your milk supply. Get a manual or an electric pump. Manual pumps are less expensive but electric pumps are faster. Choose your pump based on your needs. Pumping may not be easy at first because you have to train your breasts to respond to the pump like it does to the baby – so start pumping for practice at least 3 – 4 weeks before you actually begin to need the expressed milk for feeding while you are away. Although pumping is not easy – it is worth the effort because the breastmilk keeps your baby safe from infections and results in fewer days of missed work for you. Ensure that you are offering only breastmilk until the baby is 6 months old.
- Spend time snuggling with your baby
If you are going back to work – make sure you snuggle with your baby a lot when you are home. This helps in the secretion of the hormones required for breastmilk production.
- Focus on a healthy diet
Eating a nutrient rich diet and drinking enough water is very important to keep up the milk production. Reach out for a consultation to know what you should eat and what you should avoid so that your milk production is not affected.
The anti-infective elements in breastmilk are even more important for your baby beyond the age of six months because babies are exposed to much more illness and infection as they start crawling and moving around. Be patient and follow these best practices to breastfeed for as long as you want.
Dr Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD – Parenting Consultant
About Dr Debmita Dutta – Dr Debmita Dutta is a practising doctor, a Parenting consultant and the founder of the website https://whatparentsask.com/ – a video based website that provides expert answers to parenting questions. She is based in Bangalore and conducts Parenting workshops and prenatal classes for pregnant parents in addition to her medical practice. She believes that parenting stress can be relived significantly when parents are well informed about their children’s growing brains and bodies.