Knowing these game-changing facts makes all the difference
1 The let-down reflex only works when you’re relaxed
Shutting your eyes for five seconds and taking a deep breath before you start a feed can really help. Your let-down reflex— nature’s way of turning on the milk fl ow—works best when you’re relaxed, so by letting go of any stress, you let your hormones do their job. You can give them a head start too by having a skinon- skin cuddle before you begin, as this stimulates the release. With practice, just thinking about your baby will be enough to trigger a response. Hormones also kick in as your baby starts to suck on your nipple, telling your mammary glands to produce and release milk. You can mimic this by massaging your breast gently, helping induce the tingling sensation that signals milk is on its way.
2 Breastmilk is 88.1% water
Yes, it may be packed with all sorts of natural goodies, but breastmilk is almost 90 per cent water. And this means that it’s vital that you keep your body hydrated. Have a medium-sized glass of water to hand while your baby’s feeding to rehydrate as you go. And your urine will indicate whether you’re drinking enough: pale yellow is good, but any darker means you’re not drinking enough.
3 You are right- or left-boobed
More than three quarters of mums find that their right breast naturally produces more milk than their left—and this has no relation to whether you’re left- or right-handed. So you’re not just imagining that one boob is better at this feeding business than the other!
4 Tickling his ear will keep him awake
There’s a sleep-inducing substance in your milk called tryptophan, which means that your breastfeeding baby is likely to start snoozing on the job. This is often more noticeable during evening feeds, as your breastmilk brings your baby’s circadian rhythm (his natural 24-hour pattern of behaviour) in sync with your own, stimulating him earlier in the day and leaving him more relaxed towards night-time. But nodding off can mean he doesn’t drink his fill. To get your baby to drink more in one sitting to avoid an all-night sleep-snack-sleep cycle, wake him gently when he nods off at your nipple. Try tickling his foot and ear to see which works best at keeping him awake. If he still looks sleepy, try using a different hold, or stop midway through a feed to wind him and change his nappy. Switching him temporarily to the other boob, with its faster fl ow, then back, can also keep him busy suckling to make sure he has enough before he settles to sleep.
5 Empty boobs make more milk
Breastmilk is produced on a supply-and-demand basis, so the more often and effectively your baby feeds, the more milk you’ll make. It’s important to feed your baby frequently from the start. An emptier breast produces more milk and with a higher fat content, so encourage this by alternating which boob you offer first at each feed. Check your baby’s attachment —any clicking noises he makes could indicate a less-thaneffective latch, which will affect how much milk he gets out. And make sure he finishes all the milk in one breast before he starts on the second. Gently squeezing your boob will help him drain the last drop. An empty boob is a soft one, so use a breast pump if yours still feel hard after he’s fed, or pump your engorged breasts between nursing sessions to maintain a healthy milk supply.
6 Your baby likes a varied menu
What you eat can flavour your breastmilk for up to eight hours. Studies have shown that flavours pass from mum to baby, with scientists likening the process to a ‘brestaurant’ with a constantly changing menu. So eat a varied diet, and let your little one enjoy his dining out!
7 His nappies tell you if he’s drinking well
The colour and texture of your baby’s poos will tell you a lot about how he’s digesting his milk. From the dark and sticky meconium produced for the first few days after birth, his poo should soon turn a bright or mustard yellow. It may be softer or looser and contain grains of undigested milk fat – all perfectly normal. Poo that’s lime green or frothy could indicate digestive troubles, perhaps because your baby is filling up on the highlactose foremilk and not getting enough of the richer, creamier milk at the end of the feed. Checking his latch and making sure he finishes on one boob before offering him the other should soon fix this, but ask your midwife or health visitor for advice if peculiar poo persists. Monitoring the frequency of your baby’s poos will offer more clues about his milk intake. Expect at least two poos a day for the first six to eight weeks—less could indicate he’s not getting enough fluid. | MB