5. Maximising Supply
Monitoring a baby’s weight gain in the early days, is a good indication of whether the baby is getting enough milk. Nappy/diaper output is also another useful set of clues for monitoring weight gain/whether baby is breastfeeding well1 (WAB).
Frequent breastfeeds and/or frequent sessions of hand expression/breast pumping, in the early days, are important for ensuring an abundant milk supply1 (WAB). Ideally, every cleft family (and indeed every family) would receive specialised breastfeeding care in the early days after birth. If the baby is not latching, is not gaining enough weight, not receiving enough milk, or the breastfeeding parent is having difficulty in expressing enough milk, then the earlier the difficulty is discovered, the easier it will be to fix or improve.
Even where breastfeeding/breast milk expression does not get off to a good start, it is possible to rebuild your milk supply, or even to re-initiate milk supply (called re-lactation)1,2.
Strategies than can help milk supply and help your milk ‘let-down’ – which may be useful whether your baby is feeding at the breast or you are using a breast pump are;
- hot compresses before a feed/pumping session (specialised gel compresses, or small gel compresses designed for athletic injuries, can be worn inside a bra or tight fitting top)
- breast massages, before or during feed/pumping session
- breast compressions1,2 (video link 3) – during a feed, some of the milk produced actually returns to the rear of the breast. Breast compression pushes fat rich milk forward, also increasing flow.
- expressing while baby nurses
- expressing after a breast feed will increase supply. Your body will receive the message that more milk is required (as if you had a bigger baby, or two babies). You can use this expressed milk to supplement your baby, or it can be frozen (label with date) for a later date.
- there are medications and herbal remedies known or believed to increase supply and you may wish to explore this possibility1(WAB, Newman)
Further reading ‘Facing surgical repair’
1. Wiessenger,D., West, D., Pitman, T., La Leche League Int.,The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Ch. 3 ‘Birth!’, 8th ed., Ballantine Books, 2010
2.Newman, J., Pitman, T., The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, Three Rivers Press, USA, 2006 p.250-251
3. Newman, J., Kernerman, E., ‘Four-day-old after tongue tie release with breast compression’, DVD, Breastfeeding Inc. http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=vid-4dayold (accessed 19.07.2013)