After the birth of a baby, there are many new things routines that and your baby will enjoy, such as breastfeeding. Breast milk typically comes in 2-5 days after delivery and is considered the ideal food for infants, especially during their first week after birth. Lactation is the act of secretion of milk mammary glands that the baby sucks from the breasts. However, many people have issues with this postpartum phase and seek ways how to induce lactation.
Before the milk comes in, your baby will receive colostrum, a nutrient-rich fluid that contains high levels of antibodies to fight off infections as well as immune-boosting properties.
Read on to learn more about the many benefits of breastfeeding and how to naturally induce lactation.
How to Induce Lactation
Breastfeeding provides short-term and long-term health benefits to both babies and new mothers. Apart from aiding in postpartum recovery, breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of several illnesses, such as ovarian, endometrial, and breast cancer, later in life.
The first few days are challenging as the baby goes from having colostrum to breastmilk.
Physician Lin Jia Yi, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner and Associate Senior Physician at Eu Yan Sang, shares that “For new mothers, it’s normal that newborn babies don’t drink much milk in the first few days of life. Babies aren’t born hungry (though they will want to suck), and they almost always lose some weight during the first three to four days after birth. A small amount of colostrum will satisfy a healthy full-term baby’s need for liquid for the first two days. True hunger usually arrives on day three or four, around the time when milk production kicks in.”
Those who have issues with lactation or breastfeeding should seek assistance from a lactation consultant or doctor. These specialists can provide you with a plan to induce lactation. Below, we are sharing 5 common latching issues and ways to assist.
Issues with latching
A baby’s mouth is placed on the breast where it should latch on in order to nurse. At the onset, the baby will suckle and feed on its mother. Interestingly, other types of breast stimulation or skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth will cause the oxytocin levels to increase. This hormone then promotes the release of prolactin — another hormone that triggers the production of milk. Oxytocin is also known to have anti-stress effects that may prevent postpartum depression. Additionally, it can hasten the contraction of the mother’s uterus to reduce post-delivery blood loss.
If a baby doesn’t suck or latch, the process of lactation can’t happen. Common reasons for this are infection, heart disease, mother’s medications, prematurity, jaundice, tongue-tie, a cleft lip or cleft palate. A mother might also have sore nipples or mastitis (plugged breast ducts) that makes it difficult for a baby to nurse. However, reasons might not be obvious but it is important to note your baby’s feeding times so you can address this with their doctor.
Nutrition is crucial
As was the case with pregnancy, postpartum nutrition is crucial to your lactation and breastfeeding success. To increase your breast milk supply, physician Lin recommends mothers to drink clear and nourishing soups cooked with meats such as crucian carp, pork rib, pork trotter, and chicken. Mothers should consume both the meat and the soup to get better nourishment.
For mothers who want to increase their breast milk quality and quantity, physician Lin notes that herbs such as American ginseng, codonopsis, astragalus, longan, red dates, Chinese angelica, and goji berries are safe for consumption. Commonly used to replenish qi and blood, these herbs can be boiled into a tea or added to soups.
In general, physician Lin cautions nursing mothers — who consume TCM herbs or undergo different postnatal recovery plans — to avoid cold, raw, spicy, and fried foods. They “may cause stomach discomfort and change their babies’ bowel movements. It is recommended to keep a two-hour interval between the consumption of TCM and Western medication or supplements,” she suggests.
Physician Lin adds, “Every mother’s constitution and the condition is different. Taking TCM remedies can help resolve the problem, but a proper assessment of the body constitution needs to be made before a TCM practitioner can prescribe the correct herbs.”
Blocked, engorged, and sore nipples
Many new moms experience blockage in their breast ducts, engorgement of the breast (too much milk), and sore nipples when babies try to breastfeed. This can make it challenging (and painful) when nursing their babies. Some mothers find that using a breast pump can help stimulate the sucking motion, thus increasing the supply. Other methods to aid with lactation include the feeding-tube system, the use of a nipple shield to encourage a better latch, cup-feeding, syringe-feeding, eye-drop-feeding.
Additionally, If your milk supply is low due to blocked milk ducts, you can also seek treatment from a registered TCM practitioner that can aid with milk production and reduce engorgement.
Breastmilk takes time to come in
Physician Lin recommends new mothers let their baby’s natural responses unfold on their time and pay attention to the baby’s signals and their sensations to latch on for milk and practices. “A lactation consultant and the nurses in the hospital can show you how to nurse your baby and provide assistance. Ask questions and seek clarifications when in doubt,” she advises.
Anxiety over breastfeeding is a common issue among new mothers — it’s a sign of maternal instinct kicking in. Nevertheless, pat yourself on the back for bringing a new life to the world. “Emotionally, you may feel less than confident when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s perfectly normal. It takes time for you and your baby to figure out how to do it right. Learn to enjoy the process while bonding with your baby,” physician Lin reassures.
Self-care for new moms
Physician Lin remarks on the importance of self-care. New mothers require lots of sleep and the help and support of friends or family members. This can include help with cleaning, cooking, watching the baby, or simply providing company.
TCM herbs and treatment and their various properties can help to soothe the body and mind throughout the postpartum period. Some herbs that can aid in recovery include ginseng, Codonopsis root, which can be found in qi & blood nourishing tea, and Chinese Angelica, which can be found in Sheng Hua herbal soup. Even so, it’s best to consult with your gynecologist and licensed physician before taking more herbal remedies.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
The benefits of breastfeeding are quite incredible. It provides essential nutrients to babies as well as short-term and long-term health benefits to mothers. For babies, breast milk can ward off infection, reduce the risk of asthma, and lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Tragically, according to the CDC, this accounts for 3,400 unexpected deaths in the U.S.
For moms, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of several illnesses, such as diabetes, ovarian, endometrial, and breast cancer, later in life. It also aids in postpartum recovery, helps forge a physical/emotional bond, and promotes a state of calmness.
Health benefits later in life
Incredibly, there are many benefits to nursing that might be seen until later in life. This includes a reduction in the risk of ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
How Long Should You Breastfeed?
Breastfeeding length is determined by many factors. This can involve a mother’s schedule, challenges or frustrations with feeding, and/or issues with latching. If she has to go back to work, breastfeeding becomes increasingly challenging. However, many moms use a breast pump to express milk so their babies have a bottle. Other people stop due to life restrictions or difficulty with breastfeeding and transition to formula.
However, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. It is recommended that mothers continue breastfeeding for at least a year, along with the addition of solid foods into the child’s diet.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Breastfeeding
The health and nutrition of a mom and her baby are of utmost importance. TCM can aid in ensuring the mother is healthy.
According to physician Lin, “TCM believes that a mother’s breast milk is the most natural and the best food for the newborn child.” During birth, mothers lose an ample amount of qi and blood during labor. The spleen and kidneys can also get weakened after birth. Therefore, it is important for new mothers to rest. They should also eat healthy and nutritious foods during the postpartum period to regain their strength and health.
In addition, TCM believes that a mothers’ qi and blood produce breast milk. To produce a good supply of breast milk for their newborns, mothers will need sufficient rest and nourishment to replenish their qi and blood.
Evidently, breastfeeding offers vast benefits for the baby and the mother. However, it can be challenging to induce lactation and get used to the process. To ensure their baby receives ample nutrients, mothers should eat well, be patient, practice self-care, and seek professional assistance from a lactation consultant or TCM practitioner. One of the many challenges of motherhood, taking your time, and remember, good parenting is more than breastfeeding.
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- NCBI. 2013. The role of maternal self-care in new motherhood. [Accessed December 1, 2021]
- Pacific College of Health and Science. 2021. Traditional Chinese Medicine Healing Philosophy. [Accessed December 1, 2021]
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