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What is Lactation
Lactation is the process of secretion of milk from the mammary glands soon after the birth of the child. Breast milk is fed to an infant by the mother which provides nutrition and boosts the immunity of the child.
Lactation is an important process since it provides all the immunity, hydration, and nutrition required for the growth of the infant. Other than this it not only improves the growth of the infant but also satisfies his/her appetite.
Key fact :- Breastfeeding is essential for the growth and development of infants. For the first few months, the infant is given no food or water. At that time Exclusive breastfeeding supplies all the nutrition , hydration and energy required by the baby’s body.
According to WHO, it is recommended to breastfeed the child exclusively for at least 6 months. Breast milk contains 80 percent water thus providing hydration to the infant when he/she feels thirsty too. It not only satisfies hunger but also provides all the water that the baby requires.
Being rich in nutrition and sufficient water content exclusively breastfed infants shows excellent growth and development. It also prevents the baby from malnutrition and infections like diarrhea.
Thus it is important to improve lactation and increase the lactation process, to get a healthy supply of milk from breasts and fulfil the baby’s needs.
Process of Lactation
The body starts preparing milk during pregnancy itself. The remarkable changes could be noticed inside the breasts. The hormones like estrogen and progesterone, play a key role in milk production.
Post-birth of the child or post-delivery within three to four days, the milk starts coming in . During this time the breasts become firmer and fuller. They become very hand and even sensitive.
Milk production could start during pregnancy itself, wherein you could leak colostrum (the first form of milk released from breasts, it is thicker in concentration and more yellow) before even the birth of a baby. But this is normal since the body is preparing itself for the lactation process.
Colostrum or Liquid Gold
It is very rich in nutrients, antibodies, antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals and plays a key role in developing newborn babies’ immune systems and healthy gut. Colostrum changes into breast milk within 3 to 4 days after the baby is born. It is the first milk produced for a baby and it remains in breast milk for a few weeks.
One of the main milk-producing hormones is Prolactin. After delivery within 3 to 4 days, milk starts coming in and even increased milk production from your breasts.
Breastfed babies are usually more active and very well-nourished. Thus improving lactation and increasing the lactation process is helpful for the baby’s growth and development.
Relevant and effective interventions help in achieving improved and good outcomes.
What are the factors that affect Lactation?
To improve lactation and increase the lactation process, firstly it is important to identify the factors that are causing low or decreased Breast milk supply.
1. Anxiety, stress, tension
Postpartum depression, anxiousness, or stress is the major factor that causes a decrease in breast milk supply. To improve lactation and increase lactation along with physical health, the mental health of new moms is equally important to be taken care of. They should be given adequate rest, help, and support along with a share in the workload of the baby and home responsibilities. This way eventually a drastic change could be observed.
2. Hormonal Issues
Hormonal disorders like thyroid issues, diabetes, and High or low blood pressure could be a factor in the decrease in milk supply. On-time and regular treatment help in increasing milk production.
3. Certain medications like birth control medicines
Hormonal pills like birth control pills cause a decrease in milk supply. One must always consult a doctor before taking these medicines.
4. Newborn disease such as Jaundice
Few newborn babies get jaundice post-birth because of which they sleep a lot and don’t take regular feed from their mothers. Irregular feeding also decreases the milk supply, thus the best way is to pump the milk if in case the infant is not nursing properly.
5. Sucking issues
If the newborn baby is born with some anatomical issues like tongue tie, cleft lip or cleft palate, the baby is not able to suck the milk properly. This is due to difficulty in sucking the milk due to these issues. It is important to check and consult with a doctor if anything like this is observed.
6. Cosmetic procedures
Breast surgeries/cosmetic procedures are in demand these days. These procedures could damage the milk ducts and affect the milk supply. However many other factors are related to it like the time of surgery and the birth of the baby, what surgery is performed, is the surgery is without any known complications. But one should try to avoid these procedures until it’s a medical emergency.
These few factors if taken care of, on time, and treated well on time could help improve lactation and also increase lactation in new moms.
How to Increase Lactation and Improve Lactation in New Mothers
Breastfeeding is a completely new journey for new mothers. Both the mother and infant are on the journey to figure out the routine. There might be a lot many questions in the mind regarding milk supply among new mothers. Thus it is advised to consult a lactating consultant to get the answers to their questions.
In case you feel your milk supply is indeed low, you are not making enough breast milk and your newborn demands are not fulfilled you could try various ways by which milk production could be increased.
Ways to Increase Breast milk supply are –
1. Exclusive Breastfeeding
Continue to breastfeed your baby as much as you can. The more you would breastfeed the more the supply of milk is increased.
During the initial few weeks, the infant needs feed every 2 hours around the clock. Don’t miss the opportunity and continue your breastfeeding sessions, you would observe the increase in milk supply.
2. Maintaining Physical Health and a Healthy Lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and physical health is very important. Refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking, and taking hormonal medicines till the time you are breastfeeding your child.
Make your choices clear, and focus on eating healthy protein-rich and fiber-rich food such as daal, khichdi, green leafy vegetables, and fruits.
YOGA – Yoga is very beneficial, it not only improves circulation but is also helpful in increasing and stimulating breast milk supply.
Yoga, a healthy diet, and refraining from alcohol and smoking increase lactation and also improves lactation.
3. Maintaining Mental and Emotional Health
Stress, anxiety, and tension these factors that cause a decrease in milk supply. A good, healthy environment and a relaxed and calm mind of new moms is must to increase breast milk stimulation.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey and experience for mothers, a calm and healthy environment makes it more enjoyable.
Find out ways to make yourself stress-free such as talking with friends and family members, staying away from negative people, spending time in fresh air, and trying to take some time for yourself.
4. Food that Stimulates Lactation
Incorporating a few foods into a diet is very beneficial in increasing breast milk supply. Food such as Oats, Fenugreek seeds, Barley, Ginger, and Papaya, Protein rich food such as Chickpea, Green leafy vegetables, and Flaxseed increase milk production.
A Lactating mother more often feels hungry thus proper diet filled with nutrition should be given to them. Also adding food and drink to the diet that increases milk production is very beneficial. This is how one can increase Lactation and improve Lactation a lot.
5. Drink a Good Amount of Water
Breastfeeding mothers should drink plenty of water and refrain from getting dehydrated. Because dehydration decreases milk production. Thus adding more water regularly also increases the milk supply.
6. Good Night Sleep
Though mothers with newborn babies can’t get a full night’s sleep it is advised to take a nap whenever possible to maintain a healthy body and healthy mind. It not only helps in increasing milk production but also helps in recovering soon.
7. Baby Latching
Do check how your baby is comfortable and can suck milk properly. The baby’s position is important for good and easy breastfeeding sessions.
Do check during breastfeeding that the baby is having coordinated sucking and breathing without difficulty.
8 . Switch sides while Breastfeeding
To maintain a healthy milk supply, the mother should switch sides while every alternate feeding session. Feeding only from one side reduces the milk supply on the other side of the breast.
For enough milk supply, it is advised to switch sides during the first few weeks. This not only stimulates the milk supply but also increases the milk supply on both sides.
Post 1.5 months you could just use one breast for feeding or whatever method suits you both.
9. Pumping Sessions
Medical science says that Pumping sessions increase milk supply. Pumping more often stimulates breasts thus producing more milk.
Fully draining the milk from the breasts during pumping sessions increases the production of milk. Professionals advise pumping for a maximum of 15 minutes on each breast. Pumping more than 30 minutes on each breast is not advised.
When to Ask for Help from Lactation Specialist
If you feel you have inadequate milk supply and your baby is not getting enough milk supply. Speak to your doctor or Lactation Specialist.
Try the above-listed methods to improve lactation and increase Lactation process but if these methods are also not helpful then it is advised to consult the specialist for better guidance.
And other than that don’t stress yourself, if you are not able to breastfeed your child exclusively. Keep in mind that Nourishment is essential. If you are feeding your child with formula milk and he/she is getting enough nutrients it is also fine.
Relax and Enjoy your Motherhood Journey.
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