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    It Does a Baby Good {Part III}

    February 8, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    Before I actually talk about supplementation, I thought I would discuss ways of increasing milk supply. I have to supplement every day, every feeding, with every baby {so far}. However, many of these methods of increasing supply work for me, and they should work for other mothers, too.


    External Solutions

    I call this list External Solutions because they are things a mother does rather than herbs or medicines she can take. See the difference? Often, using some or all of these external solutions will increase the effectiveness of anything the mother is taking.

    • Changing the Hold: There are basically two holds that a mother uses when nursing her child {unless she is bed-ridden or attempting to sleep during the feeding, and then she would use the lying-down position}: the traditional cradle hold and the football hold. Click on that link for information on how these holds work. My point is not to instruct in the hold, but rather to encourage experimentation. I have found that my babies nurse better and longer in the football hold. Also, changing positions about halfway through nursing can help. Some moms find that different holds help keep sleepy babies awake.One thing to keep in mind is that if the milk supply is very low, the baby can easily lose interest, so changing holds or figuring out which hold Baby likes most will help keep Baby nursing for longer periods at a time.
    • Breast Compression: Breast compression helps stimulate the let-down reflex, which helps the baby get more milk and helps encourage emptiness {see Part II for why this is important}. Do this with every feeding if necessary.
    • Emptying Manually: Many women are encouraged to use breast pumps after feeding the baby if their supply is low in order to make sure that the breast is emptied. However, if the mom is giving a supplement after each feeding, this becomes difficult. Does she pump while Baby is screaming for the supplement? Does she wait until after the supplement, and then hope that waiting the 20 minutes for Baby to eat doesn’t mean that she inadvertantly pumped milk that was meant for the next feeding, compounding the trouble? Besides this, pumping requires an extensive amount of preparation for a mom that is only trying to increase supply over the long haul.I have found that manual expression works better for moms who are going to be supplementing every feeding, every day for a long time. They can simply squeeze the little bit of leftovers into the bottle they are about to give to Baby. It only takes minute or two, and though it may not be as thorough as a pump, it is cheaper and more practical.
    • Use a Timer: Emptiness is not the only trigger to “make more.” The baby must be nursing an appropriate amount of time each day. This is doubly important if one is relying on nursing for natural child spacing. The difficulty comes when the mom with low milk supply has to balance this with the fact that a newborn will only stay awake for so long, and there needs to be time for the supplement at the end. Also, it is important to train Baby to keep trying. If milk runs out after two minutes, this is not enough time spent nursing to stimulate all of those important nursing hormones that will maintain the milk supply.Since the low-milk supply mom cannot trust the baby’s judgement on when the nursing session is complete, I suggest using a timer. Figure out how long Baby will stay awake to eat, how long it takes to give the supplement, and then divide the remaining time by two. This is how many minutes to nurse on each side. Right now, we spend about 13 minutes on each side. Notice that this is within the normal suggestion to nurse 10-20 minutes on each side that is often given to normal nursing moms. This is good, because it is an appropriate amount to time to stimulate all the nursing hormones I mentioned.
    • Not Dropping Feedings: A Baby on formula will go longer between feedings because formula digests much more slowly than human milk. However, if the mother is trying to nurse, this is against her. If the supplement consists of formula, the mother should be sure to give the smallest amount possible. I have found that this encourages my babies to be ready to nurse at more reasonable intervals. At one month of age, supplementing mothers must take care to nurse at least seven times per day. Lowering the supplement {while watching for those warning signs I wrote about in Part II} should help encourage Baby to feed more often.


    Tomorrow, I will suggest all the Internal Solutions I can think of.


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