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A Story of Supply and Demand: Breastmilk

There is no doubt that breastfeeding is the best nourishment for your baby. My own son, now a healthy and happy seven year-old boy, was born at twenty-six weeks and two days. It was frightening, but at the moment I delivered my body created the perfect food for him tailored by nature specifically to his one pound and fourteen ounce body.

As he was whisked off to the NICU the doctor entered my room with a small little tube that could hold only 3 millileters. He stressed the importance of my ability to capture the first drops of milk, colostrum, that would be made available to my son as soon as possible. I am forever grateful for the lactation consultant that spent time with me teaching me to self-express these  tiny drops of “pure gold” that would help him to develop his premature digestive system. This was my gift to him and the only way I could put my nurturing instincts to good use.

It was then that I truly understood the importance of giving my body nothing less than everything it needed to ensure I could continue to provide him with breast milk. I learned the most important things you can do to ensure your breast milk supply was:

1. Get enough rest. Your body needs to keep up with the demanding job of make milk.
2. Drink plenty of water. Breastfeeding can be dehydrating and dehydration can affect your milk supply
3. Eat enough calories. Now is not the time to go on calorie-crashing diet.
4. Eat a variety of colorful foods to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
5. Take an omega-3 and vitamin D supplement to boost your nutrition
6. Avoid decongestant medications and certain herbs because they can reduce your milk supply
7. Try a fenugreek supplement. It can’t hurt and it may give you a milk production boost.

There are a number of teas focused on ingredients that may help nursing mothers keep up their milk production. It is uncertain if they work, but they can’t hurt. At the very least, taking time for tea can help reduce stress which can be helpful.

You may have also heard that milk production is a supply and demand issue. Lactation consultant’s number one recommendation for increasing your supply is to pump or breastfeed more. For some,  the milk  will flow easily. For me it didn’t, so I was challenged to pump more and more between feedings to find that I had no time for my body to rest and recuperate between feedings. While increasing demand is extremely valuable advice, it can also create a great deal of stress for a new mother.

The moral of my story is that breast milk is a miracle food for your baby. Take care of yourself, give what you can, and now that when and if demand exceeds supply, nourishment of your baby doesn’t have to way all on your shoulders. You will both be nourished and ok.

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Nutrition Strategist and Registered Dietitian with twenty years of experience creating nutrition strategies that influence and inspire people to accomplish big things.

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