Summer Uses of Breast Milk

Breast milk is one of the purest substances on earth. Thanks to its vast nutrients, breast milk has powerful healing properties that make it an incredible summertime solution for minor ailments. We’re exploring the phenomenal summer uses of breast milk to help your baby, and entire family for that matter, heal the ouchies faster than ever before.

Insect Bites & Stings: The bugs are out big time during the summer months. If your little one gets bitten or stung, rub some breast milk on the sore area to reduce itchiness and swelling.

Summer Uses of Breast MilkSunburns: A squirmy baby may cause you to miss a spot or two with sunscreen leaving an uncomfortable sunburn. Gently massage cold breast milk over the area several times daily to alleviate the burning sensation and accelerate the healing process.

Cuts & Scrapes: When your family spends more time outdoors, cuts and scraps are bound to happen. Dabbing nutrient-rich breast milk onto wounds can help them heal faster because it has powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

Diaper Rash: Diaper rashes can certainly happen year round but they are quite common in the summer when your baby sits in sand or is exposed to chlorine and other pool chemicals. Breast milk is the best all-natural solution for soothing and clearing up diaper rash.

Ear Infections: Summer excursions and travel may cause your baby to get sick. After periods of congestion, ear infections are very common among infants. Also, pool and ocean water that gets into the ear can breed bacteria that cause ear infections. Place a few drops of breast milk in your baby’s ear canal and let it work its magic to help relieve the pain from fluid-build up.

Soap: Keep your baby’s skin and hands clean with all-natural breast milk soap. Using breast milk and just a few other ingredients like essential oils, you can create your own fragrant baby soap to moisturize and nourish your baby’s skin.

Smoothies: Breast milk is wonderful for hydrating and cooling off your baby with extraordinary nutrients. Blend fruits and veggies with your breast milk for a delicious refreshing summertime smoothie.

Ice Pops: While others are enjoying less nutritious summertime snacks your baby can cool off with a breast milk ice pop. Flavored with fruit or served in “original” flavor, your baby will learn to love popsicles from an early age.

What are your favorite summer uses of breast milk?

Sources: Mom365, Code Name Mama, and Scary Mommy

Alternative Feeding Device: Supplemental Nutrition System

Alternative Feeding Device: Supplemental Nutrition SystemEven during its hardest times, breastfeeding is a beautiful gift to your baby. When things aren’t going as you expected – as sometimes happens with breastfeeding – it’s important to remember your goals and look for solutions to meet your challenges. In certain situations an alternative feeding device called a supplemental nutrition system is a wonderful way to help new mothers continue to breastfeed while also offering expressed milk at the same time.

Here’s how a supplemental nutrition system works:

A supplemental nutrition system is an alternative feeding device where a tube connects a bottle or bag of expressed breast milk to the outside of the mother’s breast. The bottle or bag usually hangs around the mother’s neck or to her side and the tube is taped to her breast. When the baby latches onto her mother’s nipple, she also takes the small tube in her mouth. As she sucks, she receives breast milk directly from her mother and from the tube simultaneously.

Ideal times to use a supplemental nutrition system:

A supplemental nutrition system can be used at several critical times to establish healthy breastfeeding practices. Adoptive mothers and mothers who are relactating often choose this method to help stimulate their milk supply but also ensure their babies are getting the nutrition and satisfaction of breast milk through the tube.

Mothers who are trying to establish a healthy milk supply or who tend to have low milk supplies at certain times of day may also use a supplemental nutrition system. Since lactation is both a stimulation and supply-and-demand response, the more often a baby is at her mother’s breast and empties the breast, the more milk a mother will produce. By using a supplemental nutrition system, babies can help boost their mother’s milk supply while also getting enough milk through supplementation, all at the same time. It’s natural for mothers’ milk supply to ebb and flow based on her menstrual cycle (if it has returned), diet, lifestyle habits, medications or even the body’s natural rhythms at certain times of day. If supplementing with expressed breast milk is necessary, it can be done while breastfeeding using a supplemental nutrition system.

Benefits of a supplemental nutrition system:

Initiating breastfeeding and maintaining a breastfeeding routine can be challenging. All too often mothers give up due to low milk supply or other impediments. However, a supplemental feeding device can help babies learn to breastfeed and continue to breast feed despite many common issues. This type of alternative feeding device allows babies and mothers to learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding. It’s a hands-on experience for everyone! This can be especially important for preemies who struggle to latch and suck.

Using a supplemental nutrition system can often put a mother’s mind at ease because she knows her baby has access to plenty of milk. As her baby enjoys the amazing nutrients in breast milk, mom is boosting her milk supply with each feeding. Plus, it is done simultaneously so moms don’t have to breastfeed and then supplement afterwards. Other alternative feeding devices may pose a problem when shifting to, or back to, breastfeeding as babies get used to the way they are being fed pretty quickly. For example, some experts believe babies who are bottle fed can form nipple confusion when going from bottle to breast.

Additionally, a supplemental nutrition system allows mothers and babies to stay close to one another through a loving breastfeeding embrace. Skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, warmth and a secure hold are all part of the breastfeeding experience that benefit babies and mothers. Other forms feeding options do not allow the same closeness as this alternative feeding device.

Sources: Ask Dr. Sears, International Breastfeeding Centre and KellyMom

 

Breastfed Baby Weight Gain

Many moms see their baby’s weight gain as a badge of honor because sometimes it is a result of the great efforts and long hours they’ve put into breastfeeding. While milk intake alone is not the only indication of breastfed baby weight gain, it is a significant part of the picture. Today we’re taking a look at average breastfed baby weight gain and the factors that influence your baby’s weight.

One of the biggest struggles for new moms who are breastfeeding for the first time is knowing whether or not their babies are taking in an adequate amount of milk. Because there are no measurement marks in breastfeeding, you Breastfed Baby Weight Gainhave to utilize other indicators including your baby’s weight gain, wet and soiled diapers and your baby’s level of satisfaction.

Keep in mind babies go through growth spurts frequently so even babies who are getting plenty of milk may feed more frequently than 2-3 hours. The number of times your baby may want to feed in a day is not necessarily a sign of low milk supply. And of course babies may be fussy for reasons other than being hungry so sometimes using mood as an indicator of breast milk satisfaction is not a true test. That’s why monitoring weight gain is so important to moms who breastfeed.

Average Breastfed Baby Weight Gain

According to Dr. Sears, most breastfed babies gain between 4 and 7 ounces in their first week, approximately 1 to 2 pounds per month for the first six months, and around 1 pound per month from six to 12 months. These are averages and may vary from baby-to-baby. Also, it’s important to remember that a 5-7% weight loss within three to four days after birth is completely normal. Usually if 10% or more weight loss has occurred, your doctor will recommend a breastfeeding evaluation to ensure your baby is feeding properly. This may include a visit to a lactation consultant who can evaluate your baby’s latch, positioning, milk supply and other potential barriers to breastfeeding success.

Most babies are weighted at least daily after birth during their initial hospital stay. Then they are weighed again at their first pediatrician appointment, which is usually five to seven days after birth. When determining your baby’s weight gain, consistency is crucial. Go by the weight indicated on the pediatrician’s scale when your baby is completely naked including diaper-less. Different scales can offer seemingly minor fluctuations, but with a newborn, every ounce counts. If you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain or lack thereof, you can ask to pop into your pediatrician’s office for a quick weigh in as necessary.

Other Factors that Influence Breastfed Baby Weight Gain

Body type and activity level also influence your baby’s weight gain. Babies who tend to be long and lean usually gain length faster than weight, which is still an indication of growth. Other babies are plumper and gain weight faster than length. If your baby is extremely active – whether rolling, crawling, cruising or walking – she will burn more calories and perhaps not gain as much weight as more sedentary babies. That doesn’t mean she’s not getting enough to eat, but rather she’s putting the breast milk to good use right away.

Additionally, babies who are breastfed on demand and sleep near their mothers during infancy are more likely to grow faster. They are easily able to eat frequently and let their mothers know when they need milk.

If you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain, consult your pediatrician and consider visiting a lactation consultant to ensure your baby is feeding efficiently.

Sources: Ask Dr. Sears and KellyMom

 

Breastfeeding a Toddler: Truths and Myths

If you’ve made it over the one year milestone of breastfeeding, congratulations mama, you’ve done an amazing job! As you now know, every stage of breastfeeding is met with its own triumphs and challenges and breastfeeding a toddler is no exception. Many moms feel pressured to wean at one year but that should be a personal decision. Today we’re exploring the truths and myths of breastfeeding a toddler to help you make the healthiest choice for you and your baby.

Truth: Breastfeeding a toddler continues to benefit your baby’s health.

Your breast milk changes to meet the needs of your little one throughout your breastfeeding journey. That’s why the AAP and other health organizations across the globe encourage continued breastfeeding beyond one year. Your toddler is now getting more robust nutrients, especially those required for brain development and physical activity. The antibodies in your breast milk also adapt to protect your toddler from a range of foreign substances that are now in her daily life.

Myth: Breastfeeding a toddler leads to emotional and social problems.

Being a source of comfort and security for your toddler only bolsters her self-confidence. Studies show that breastfed toddlers do not form unhealthy attachments to their mothers, but rather a loving bond built of trust and respect. And they also develop a normal sense of independence within this special relationship.

Breastfeeding a Toddler: Truths and MythsTruth: Toddlers may be wiggly and touchy while nursing.

Your toddler is probably a bundle of energy so sitting still to nurse may not be in her repertoire. This can make breastfeeding difficult or uncomfortable for moms, even when both mom and toddler want to continue breastfeeding. If your little one tends to tug at your breasts, skin or hair, move her hand and ask her to be gentle with mommy. A long necklace that your toddler can play with while nursing may also be useful. If your toddler wants to do acrobatics while breastfeeding, stop the session and explain that you cannot give her milk until she can sit still. Other forms of distraction such as telling a story or singing may engage your toddler for long enough to enjoy her milk. You’ll probably notice that your baby’s positioning and latch have changed in toddlerhood. This relaxed state is normal and completely fine as long as it works for both of you.

Myth: Toddlers who nurse for short periods of time are ready to wean.

All the breastfeeding you’ve done for the past year or more has taught your toddler to be very efficient at the breast. She may nurse briefly but still be able to get plenty of milk because her suckle is stronger. Additionally, as your toddler eats more solid foods, she may not want quite as much breast milk. Any breast milk she gets is fantastic for her body though so weaning due to short feedings is not necessary.

Truth: Breastfeeding in public may be more difficult.

Toddlers are keenly aware of the world around them and may be particularly challenging to breastfeed in public due to their inability to stay still and the environmental distractions. You may find it easier to breastfeed before heading out and after coming home, or you can do it in your car. Bring along a snack to tide your toddler over until you can get to a less distracting spot to breastfeed. Also, others may be quite critical of you for breastfeeding a toddler in public. This is no reason not to do it, but do be prepared with a quick polite response for those with negative comments.

Myth: You’re well past sore nipples.

Sore nipples can rear their painful heads again while breastfeeding a toddler. The emergence of teeth is usually the culprit, not only because they may bite you but also because your baby has to latch differently with a few new additions in her mouth. Food residue can also lead to sore nipples. Use the same lanolin-based cream you used when your little one was a newborn to soothe the pain.

Truth: Using respectful words to request breast milk is wise.

When left to their own devices, toddlers may come up with their own ways to ask for breast milk, some of which may be a little crude. If you want to control how breasts and breastfeeding are addressed, start using the words you prefer early to set a positive example for your toddler.

Myth: You’ve graduated from nighttime nursing.

Teething, nightmares and separation anxiety are all legitimate reasons your toddler may wake up in the middle of the night. Nursing is a great way to calm, reassure and soothe your toddler back to sleep.

Truth: Your breast milk will fluctuate with your menstrual cycle.

It is common for your milk supply to be low just before and at the beginning of your period, and your milk may taste different to your toddler as well. Allow for extra nursing during this time to ensure your little one gets as much as she wants.

Myth: You must wean if you get pregnant with another baby.

In most cases toddlers can breastfeed throughout your pregnancy and even once the baby has arrived. Your breast milk will change to meet the needs of both your toddler and the new baby.

Sources: KellyMom and Today’s Parent

Relactation: Return to Breastfeeding

True or false, moms: Once you stop breastfeeding you lose your milk forever? The answer is False. It is entirely possible to return to breastfeeding after a lactation gap, and no we’re not talking about having another baby. Relactation is the process of rebuilding your milk supply after having a baby and taking a break from breastfeeding. (This is different than induced lactation, which occurs when a woman builds a milk supply but has never been pregnant.)

If you’re hoping to return to breastfeeding, here’s the scoop on relactation:

Relactation: Return to BreastfeedingWhile there is little research on relactation, statistics show success rates are pretty high when mothers take the proper steps. The factors that influence success are: having a baby four months or younger, having only a short lactation gap, your baby’s willingness to feed at the breast and seeking professional support. First let’s look at how relactation is even possible.

During pregnancy and childbirth, your body is preparing for breastfeeding by mixing up a cocktail of hormones that will produce breast milk. Your breasts are also changing to best meet the needs of your baby’s most nutritious source of food. Once your baby is born, stimulation of the nipple triggers the hormone prolactin, which is necessary to produce breast milk. When you have a lactation gap (and amazingly even if you’ve never been pregnant or given birth), stimulating the nipple is how relactation can occur.

As is typical of all breastfeeding, putting your baby on the breast often and draining the breast as much as possible is critical for relactation. Feeding 10-12 times a day, that’s every 2-3 hours, is usually the best way to jumpstart your milk supply. The more stimulation, the more likely you are to restart the production of milk and build a healthy milk supply. Also make sure your baby is feeding effectively with a good latch.

It is also essential to drain your breasts thoroughly with each feeding. Find your baby’s favorite breastfeeding positions and activities to keep your baby interested and engaged in breastfeeding. Breast compressions – squeezing your breasts to encourage milk to drain – may be helpful and keep a trickle of milk coming so your baby will stay on the breast. Another way to keep your baby on the breast is using a supplemental nursing system that feeds your baby from both the breast and a tube of milk at the same time.

If your baby is not willing or able to drain your breasts, pumping is the next best option. Pumping after or in-between feedings is a good idea if your baby is not feeding as often as you would like. A double electric pump is the most efficient way to express milk besides your baby himself.

Milk supply is often the issue that leads to early weaning. If this is why you stopped breastfeeding in the first place, work hard to not run into the same issue. Besides frequent and thorough feedings, spend as much time with your baby as possible and engage in lots of skin-to-skin contact. You may want to take lactation supplements known as galactagogues, such as fenugreek and blessed thistle, or drink a lactation tea.

Relactation usually takes around one month to achieve. Most moms who are able to relactate work with a professional lactation consultant to strategize the best methods for reestablishing milk supply and ensuring their babies are getting enough nourishment during the process.

Sources: LaLecheLeague, KellyMom, MotherLove and Belly Belly

 

Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 2

Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 2Your baby’s breast preference is not cause for major concern. As long as you are breastfeeding when your baby shows signs of hunger, she’s growing properly and soiling diapers, your baby is likely getting plenty of milk, even if it is primarily from one breast. Yet still, some mothers become uncomfortable in the less frequently used breast or may not like their new lopsided silhouette.

Earlier this week we discussed reasons for breast preference including milk supply, let downs, nipple differences, taste of breast milk, preferred positions, and a pain or injury your baby may be experiencing. Today we’re sharing ways to encourage your baby to nurse from both breasts and how you can even up your breasts if she continues to show breast preference.

Ways to Encourage Nursing on Both Breasts

If your baby’s breast preference bothers you, try these ways to encourage nursing on both breasts:

  • Offer the less frequently nursed breast first. Babies generally nurse more vigorously when they begin a breastfeeding session because that is when they are hungriest. This may help increase your milk supply and speed up let downs. Offering the less preferred breast first may work best when your baby is sleepy – either just after waking or before a nap or bedtime – when she is not keenly aware of which side she’s nursing.
  • Offer the less frequently nursed breast more often. Nurse your baby on the less preferred side twice per feeding, sandwiched by the more preferred side. If you only nurse from one breast at a time, start with the less preferred breast twice as often.
  • Find a more comfortable position. If your baby doesn’t like nursing on one side because you believe she’s uncomfortable, try a different nursing position for that side. Alternatively, try to switch from the preferred breast to the less preferred breast with as little repositioning as possible.
  • Distract your baby while nursing. Rocking, walking, singing or wearing your baby while nursing from the less preferred breast may help distract your baby and encourage more productive breastfeeding.
  • Work to balance your milk supply. Building up your milk supply in the less preferred breast may be the best solution to breast preference. This requires extra breastfeeding and pumping on that breast. On the flip side, if engorgement or a forceful let down is causing the breast preference, express milk from that side before a feeding to make it easier for your baby to latch and feed.
  • Use a nipple shield. Inverted or otherwise altered nipples can cause breast preference. If necessary, use a nipple shield on the less desirable side.

How to Counteract Breast Preference

So your baby is very stubborn, eh? That’s OK! As we mentioned, it is more about your potential discomfort – due to engorgement or appearance – than a true problem. The best solution for a baby who will not nurse from one breast is to pump that breast more often. This will help in several ways: First, frequent pumping will prevent you from becoming engorged, which can lead to plugged ducts that may cause mastitis. You definitely don’t want that! Secondly, pumping may increase your milk supply and help resolve the breast preference issue altogether. And lastly, pumping will ensure you have extra milk on hand if you feel your baby is still hungry after breastfeeding on her preferred side.

Bottom line: Don’t stress about your baby’s breast preference. Follow these suggestions to encourage your baby to nurse on both sides and when all else fails, pump!

Sources: KellyMom, Breastfeeding-Problems, and BabyCenter

Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 1

Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 1Breastfeeding may have you feeling a little off balance if your baby has a distinct breast preference. Preferring one side over another is common although some babies feel more strongly about it than others. While completely normal, you may be able to subdue your baby’s breast preference during breastfeeding to help prevent plugged ducts and lopsidedness.

First we should note that there is no nutritional problem with your baby having a breast preference. In fact, it may actually benefit your baby because she will likely nurse through to the fattier hind milk that is important for your baby’s growth and development. However, if breast preference causes pain or an infection in your less frequently used breast, or if a lopsided appearance bothers you, you may want to work to even things up a bit.

Today we’re exploring reasons your baby may have a breast preference while breastfeeding and later this week we’ll offer suggestions to keep your breasts more balanced and encourage your baby to nurse on both sides.

Reasons for Breast Preference

As you are discovering, your baby is an intricate being and perhaps rather opinionated. Her likes and dislikes may emerge in small ways at first including breast preference. After all, she spends quite a bit of time breastfeeding so she’s bound to exert some control of the situation eventually.

Milk Supply or Let Downs

Breast preference can be the result of the difference in milk supply or let downs between your breasts. Just like your hands, feet, eyes and ears differ slightly, the same anatomical asymmetry exists in your breasts. The internal mechanisms that help produce breast milk vary from side to side, which can cause milk supply to be higher or lower or let downs to be faster or slower. Most babies will prefer the side with more milk unless engorgement makes it too difficult for the baby to latch. Some babies prefer a slower let down that won’t overwhelm them with too much milk at once. (Mothers who have had breast surgery may experience lower milk supply in that breast.)

Nipple Differences

The means of suckling breast milk – your nipples – may also be a factor. You’ve probably noticed that your nipples differ in shape and size. Chances are your baby notices too and this may be a reason for her breast preference. Nipple differences change the way a baby latches and is able to secure milk. The easier it is for her to latch, the more she’ll enjoy that breast.

Breast Milk Flavor

The flavor of your breast milk can be altered in breasts individually if you have mastitis (an infected plugged duct) or if a capillary bursts on one side and blood leaks into your milk supply. These situations can cause milk to taste saltier, which your baby may not enjoy.

Preferred Positions

On the other hand, breast preference may have nothing to do with your body at all. Rather, it may have something to do with your baby. Babies come to enjoy being held a certain way, whether due to the mother’s holding style or simply a natural preference. Nursing in a more comfortable position for your baby may lead to breast preference.

Pain or Injury

Also, if your baby has a medical reason to prefer being positioned a certain way, she may rather lie that way for breastfeeding too. For example, an ear infection in one ear may make it painful for your baby to lie on that side. The same can be true if your baby has a neck injury or pain at an immunization site. Or an undetected birth injury or defect can also result in breast preference due to positioning.

Understanding the cause of your baby’s breast preference may help as you strategize a solution. Later this week we’ll review ways to encourage nursing on both breasts and what you can do if your baby refuses to nurse on one side.

Sources: KellyMom, Breastfeeding-Problems, and BabyCenter

Nipple Preference or Nipple Confusion

Babies were born to breastfeed. It is one of the few things full term babies know how to do the instant they are born. If you ever doubt this, watch videos of newborns who instinctively find their mother’s breasts and start suckling. It is nothing short of amazing. Nipple preference, sometimes called nipple confusion, may come into play if a baby shows more interest in a bottle or pacifier than nursing from the breast. Today we’re taking a look at nipple preference and how to avoid it.

Nipple preference usually occurs when a baby is unsuccessful at getting breast milk during nursing and instead is given a bottle where nourishment is readily available. Interestingly, it’s not that babies actually prefer a bottle nipple, but rather they are getting better results from it. Feeding directly from the breast is actually a baby’s first preference.

Nipple Preference or Nipple ConfusionThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not offering bottles – even of breast milk – for at least the first four weeks of a baby’s life. This helps solidify a breastfeeding routine by allowing mothers to establish a healthy milk supply and babies to feel confident in latching and in the comfort they get from breastfeeding. Introducing a bottle too early, whether it is because milk supply is low or out of convenience, can lead to nipple preference.

Milk supply takes time to develop. For the first few days after birth a mother produces colostrum, which is a thick paste-like substance that can sustain babies until their mother’s milk comes in. Although milk usually arrives within a few days of birth, it is not considered mature milk until three weeks after birth. Some moms experience low milk supply from the beginning, which may lead to bottle feedings earlier than four weeks. Other complications such as sore nipples and difficulty latching, or the emotional toll of having a new baby (including need for sleep and feeling frustrated that breastfeeding isn’t going smoothly), may also lead to early bottle feeding.

Bottle feedings can cause nipple preference when babies are having a hard time getting milk during breastfeeding and are better able to retrieve milk from bottles. However, bottle feedings can exacerbate breastfeeding problems because they interfere with the supply and demand process of milk supply and gets the baby out of the habit of feeding from the breast. Then breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding becomes a vicious cycle and can lead to early weaning.

Some people argue pacifiers can also cause nipple preference and should not be introduced until four weeks once breastfeeding is well-established. Like bottle nipples, pacifiers require a different mouth and tongue position than breastfeeding and may interfere with latch.

If you feel your baby is experiencing nipple preference work to increase your milk supply so your baby can get back to his instinctual desire to breastfeed. You can boost your milk supply by breastfeeding often (on-demand), emptying your breasts completely during feedings, not skipping a feeding by offering a bottle, eating a healthy lactation diet and pumping as necessary. Also ensure your baby has a proper latch so he can nurse effectively. If you run into breastfeeding problems, visit a lactation consultant right away to resolve them so you can stay on track.

Once your breastfeeding routine is well established occasional bottles and pacifier use is fine. If you are returning to work or need to be away from your baby regularly, gradually build up to more frequent breast milk bottle feedings. Be sure to pump whenever your baby has a bottle to keep your milk supply strong t avoid future nipple preference.

Sources: Ask Dr. Sears, BabyCenter and KellyMom

 

How to Improve the Quality of your Breast Milk

How to Improve the Quality of your Breast MilkAlthough breast milk has the same general nutritional make-up from mother to mother, there are some difference based on the mother’s diet, behaviors and habits surrounding breastfeeding. Surprisingly, it may be breastfeeding practices that are more effective at increasing the fat content of breast milk, but diet may change the types of fats that make up breast milk. Today we’re reviewing how to improve the quality of your breast milk.

Keep in mind that the biggest indicator of your baby’s growth when it comes to breast milk is the volume she is receiving, not the exact fat and calorie content. So even though you can improve the quality of your breast milk, for pure growth purposes, ensuring your baby is getting plenty of it is most important.

Your Diet and Your Breast Milk

Every mother’s breast milk make-up is different, which is somewhat related to your diet, and somewhat dependant upon how your body makes milk. However, moms need a wholesome diet to have enough energy to make breast milk, not to mention take care of an infant. Therefore getting plenty of protein, eating plant foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and staying hydrated are essential.

Also, eating healthy fats helps determine the quality of fat in your breast milk. Saturated fats are unhealthy and can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a variety of cardiovascular problems for you and your baby. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and essential fatty acids found in many whole foods like nuts, natural oils, avocados and fish are much better choices to improve the quality of your breast milk.

Prenatal Vitamins and Your Breast Milk

Your doctor probably advised you to continue taking prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding. That’s because it is not only a broad spectrum multi-vitamin, it also contains critical nutrients that your baby needed in the womb and still needs now like folate, iron, calcium, Vitamin D and DHA. While you are likely getting some of these in your regular diet, supplementing is a great way to improve the quality of your breast milk.

Breast Emptiness and Your Breast Milk

Empty breasts produce fattier milk. That’s why it is important for you to drain your breasts fully during feedings and to encourage your baby to feed frequently and for long enough to get to the hind milk. When your breasts are full, there is more foremilk, which contains less fat. Hind milk comes later in feedings and is packed of nutritious fats for your baby.

Breast Compressions and Your Breast Milk

Interestingly, massaging and performing breast compressions can increase the fat content of your breast milk. It helps dislodge the sticky fats in hind milk that get stuck to milk ducts so it is more readily available to your baby.

Breast milk is best for your baby no matter how you serve it. But improving the quality of your breast milk is like the cherry on top of a really healthy ice cream sundae!

Sources: Parenting Science, Kelly Mom, BabyCenter, American Pregnancy, Joyful Abode and BreastMilk

 

Breast Milk Nutrition Part 2

Breast Milk Nutrition Part 2It’s National Nutrition Month so we’re exploring the nutrition in your baby’s breast milk. As your baby’s best first food, breast milk contains a wealth of nutrients that not only help her grow and develop now, but also support her health for a lifetime. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 4-6 months of your baby’s life, and continuing to one year or beyond. Today we’re rounding out our discussion of breast milk nutrition by breaking down the most potent categories and explaining their nutritive value.

Water: H2O is essential hydration for your baby since water is a large part of her body composition and she is not getting water from any other source.

Protein: The two types of protein found in breast milk are whey and caseins. Breast milk protein typically contains 60-80% whey, which is much easier for babies to digest than caseins. In comparison, cow’s milk and formula have a higher concentration of caseins that may cause more gastrointestinal problems for babies. Protein helps build muscles and bones and is vital to a strong immune system.

Fat: Fat is crucial to your baby’s growth and development. The fat content in your breast milk changes during each feeding. The foremilk that comes first is rich in carbohydrates (mainly lactose) and water while the hind milk that follows has more fat and therefore calories. That is why feeding on one side until your baby reaches the hind milk is important. Fatty acids and cholesterol help your baby’s brain develop (as well as nervous system and eyes) and are linked to improved cognition among breastfed babies. Fats also aid the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

Carbohydrates: Lactose or milk sugar is the main carbohydrate found in breast milk. Carbohydrates are used to energize the body for all metabolic functions including growth. Lactose promotes healthy flora in your baby’s gut and can fight off harmful bacteria there as well.  It also helps your baby absorb essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Oligosaccharides are another carbohydrate that supports a healthy immune system in the gut as well.

Antibodies: Many of the other categories of breast milk nutrition have protective properties for your baby. Additionally, antibodies help prevent your baby, who has little-to-no immune system at birth, from getting sick. Secretory Immunoglobulin A is the main antibody found in breast milk. It forms a protective barrier in your baby’s intestines and lungs to keep pathogens away from these critical organs and out of the bloodstream.

Enzymes: Enzymes help your baby break down breast milk during digestion so it can be metabolized and put to good use throughout her body. There are around 40 different types of enzymes that have been identified in breast milk including lactoferrin, lipase, amylase and protease.

Vitamins and Minerals: Breast milk is rich in vitamins and minerals that help your baby with nearly every function of her tiny little body. The alphabet of vitamins including A, B, C, D, E and K are swimming around in your breast milk. Minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, zinc and chloride, among others.

Hormones: Scientists are not positive about the purpose of hormones in breast milk but there are many of them including prolactin, relaxin, endorphins and thyroid hormones, among others. Some of these are required for milk production, while others are a natural part of a woman’s body or may have helped during the reproductive and childbirth stages.

Sources: Parenting Science, Very Well, Baby Center, American Pregnancy and Rehydrate