New Research on How To Make More Breast Milk

Diana West, IBCLCIt's not just about pumping after feeds anymore. There are many, many things that women with low milk supplies can do to make more milk for their babies. Diana West, IBCLC and her co-author Lisa Marasco, IBCLC have outlined them in their upcoming book, The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk (due out November 2008). During a September 2008 interview, Diana West gave Suite readers a sneak peak at the latest findings.

Why Isn't Baby Getting Enough Milk?



In her experience, West says that between 95 and 100 percent of breastfeeding mothers worry about their supply at some point: "People with the chunkiest babies worry about whether their babies are getting enough." Many health professionals are not supportive of breastfeeding, friends and family are suspicious about it, and some "baby training" techniques create problems by scheduling and managing feedings. The first thing a concerned mother needs to do is assess whether or not the baby is getting enough to eat.



If the baby is indeed not getting enough, the next step is to find out why. In most cases, says West, it has to do with how breastfeeding is being managed. In a lesser number of cases it has to do with the baby (such as latch or tongue tie), or a physiological or hormonal issue with the mother.

Herbs and Medications to Increase Milk Supply

The herbal stand-by for increasing milk supply has long been fenugreek, but West shares that there are several herbs out there that seem to be even more successful in boosting lactation. Says West, "Fenugreek and blessed thistle are losing favor compared to shatavari, goat's rue and fennel."

As far as prescription medications go, with domperidone (motillium) being difficult to obtain in the U.S. and the negative side effects of Reglan (metacloprimide), there have not been many options for nursing mothers. But West gives women hope: "There is new research on the horizon using prolactin to increase milk supplies." Researchers are also looking further into how taking progesterone during pregnancy improves lactation tissue. Says West, "We are just beginning to explode with ways to help moms."

Foods that Help or Hinder Milk Production

West also talks about foods that can have a positive, or sometimes a negative, effect on milk production. Oatmeal and fibrous foods can increase milk supply, while some foods like sage, parsley or peppermint can inhibit it.

Warns West, "Sage is extremely effective in reducing milk production, as well as the parsley in tabouli. Of course, we're talking large, large quantities. The peppermint oil in breath mints and Altoids can also cause problems."

Alternative Therapies to Increase Milk Supply

In her book, West also details the alternative treatment methods proven to improve milk supply. Research studies have shown that chiropractic can be effective, and yoga may be as well. There is also quite a body of research on acupuncture and acupressure's effect on lactation.



As far as the old wives' tale about the "nervous mother" not having enough milk, West laughs a little and replies: "That's not necessarily true. We're stronger than that biologically, but there are circumstances where moms feel anxiety, and that can inhibit milk production." It can be helpful for a mother to nurture herself, to work on relaxing into breastfeeding or to use specific techniques, such as breast compression, to help with letdown.

Supplementing Breast With Bottle

In some cases, a woman with a low milk supply will need to supplement her baby with donated breastmilk or formula in order to ensure her baby gets adequate nutrition. While the at-breast supplementer has been key to many mothers' success in supplementing a low milk supply, West assures moms that there are new techniques for bottle feeding that can reduce flow preference. These techniques help protect the breastfeeding relationship at the same time allowing the mother to supplement with the bottle.



These new approaches to dealing with a low milk supply give mothers hope that they can overcome their lactation challenges and have a successful, fulfilling breastfeeding experience that lasts as long as they wish it to. More detailed information on these findings is available in Diana West and Lisa Marasco's new book, The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk, due out November 2008 [McGraw-Hill].

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