Breastfeeding is one of the most intimate and incredible moments for a mother. It helps to create a bond that will last forever. Nothing nourishes and builds the health of a baby like breastmilk.
Sometimes there can be some bumps on the road of breastfeeding. From clogged ducts and cracked nipples to rusty pipe syndrome, all kinds of issues can arise. We have some simple solutions to help you with all of these. Please keep in mind that if you are having any health issues relating to breastfeeding, you should always consult your Midwife or Doctor.
For some women, producing enough milk can be hard. I want to take a moment to say something to all the moms out there struggling with this: You are not a bad mom or a failure. Needing to supplement with or completely feed with formula does not make you a bad mom. Everything will be ok, do not beat yourself up. You are a wonderful mom doing what is best for your baby!
Fortunately, there are many foods that can help with breast milk production. One thing to keep in mind when nursing is that you need to take in more calories and nutrients than you normally would.
When it comes to producing enough breastmilk, fat is king, especially saturated fat. These foods are not only nutrient-rich but provide a rich source of calories needed to ensure healthy milk production. Increasing the amounts of fats in your diet will go a long way to helping you produce more milk.
Here are some of the best sources of those fats. Whenever possible, choose grass-fed meats.
Full-fat coconut milk (the kind in the cans, not the fake milk kind), oil, and cream
Fatty cuts of beef like ribeye
Eat the fat, don’t cut it off
Grass-Fed Organ Meats - Especially liver
Full-fat, grass-fed dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
Wild-caught fatty fish, fish roe, and shellfish
Eat the skin on fish like salmon
Here is a great list of low-mercury fish to choose from.
Wild Salmon Roe is an especially beneficial food for breastfeeding.
Sometimes the simplest foods have the most benefits.
Organ meats are another group of incredible foods to support healthy milk production. These foods are rich in minerals and fat-soluble nutrients, many of which are not found at all or only in very small amounts in other foods. Heart, liver, kidneys, sweetbreads, etc., provide a way to supercharge your health and your babies. There are some great cookbooks out there with wonderful recipes to make it easy and delicious to include in your diet, like this one. For those of you who want the benefits of organ meats but are never going to eat them, you can get them in pill form. If they are properly made from grass-fed cows and non-defatted, they are a perfect way to get these incredible foods in your diet. You can see them here.
There are a number of foods that can reduce milk production. It is best to avoid these foods:
Mints such as peppermint and spearmint.
Large amounts of parsley
Vegetable oils and fake butter spreads
There are a variety of herbs and herbal teas that can help with milk production. These include:
Drinking fennel tea can also help to reduce gassiness and fussing in babies.
Avoid fenugreek if you are taking thyroid medication.
When making these teas, steep them for at least five minutes, covered, before drinking. Make it a bit stronger than you would a normal tea, and sweeten it with barley malt to give it some extra milk-making bang.
Nettle tea is also rich in minerals such as calcium and silica!
Clogged milk ducts are no fun at all. Clogged ducts can result from a number of factors, such as too much pressure from a bra, feedings that are not frequent enough, and latching and sucking issues, among others. If there are latching and sucking issues, seeing a lactation consultant can help. There are a few simple steps you can take to help prevent clogs and get rid of them when they happen.
The first is to make sure that your bra is not too tight. Here is a great article on fitting a bra while nursing. The second thing is to make sure you are drinking lots of water. If you are dehydrated, you will be more prone to clogged ducts. The next thing to do is eat lots of egg yolks. Egg yolks are a rich source of phospholipids, which help to keep clogs from forming. If you are prone to clogs, special phospholipid capsules can help.
Sometimes special massages can help to remove clogs. Here is a great video on how to do that. In addition, warm heat from a moist heating pad or submerging the breast in warm water can also help, followed by a massage. If clogs persist and become very painful, make sure to call your midwife or doctor.
Rusty pipe syndrome is when breastmilk looks discolored, similar to the color of the water coming out of a rusty pipe, which happens when old blood mixes with breastmilk. It generally happens to new moms and can be in one or both breasts. It is usually the result of the enlarging of the breasts that happens with the large growth that occurs when the body prepares to begin milk production. Sometimes a bit of blood is left in the tissues, which is what is coming out. It is not dangerous and usually resolves itself in a couple of days to a week. You can continue to breastfeed safely. If it lasts longer than a week, you should speak with your midwife or doctor.
Mastitis is the inflammation of breast tissue and sometimes involves infection. These are some great tips from the Mayo Clinic on preventing mastitis:
Avoid prolonged overfilling of your breast with milk before breastfeeding.
Trying to ensure that your infant latches on correctly — which can be difficult when your breast is engorged. Expressing a small amount of milk by hand before breastfeeding might help.
Massaging the breast while breastfeeding or pumping from the affected area down toward the nipple.
Make sure your breast drains completely during breastfeeding. If you have trouble emptying a portion of your breast, apply warm and moist heat to the breast before breastfeeding or pumping milk.
Breastfeeding on the affected side first, when your infant is hungrier and sucking more strongly.
Varying your breastfeeding positions.
Avoid prolonged overfilling of your breast with milk before breastfeeding.
Apply cool compresses or ice packs to your breast after breastfeeding.
Wear a supportive bra
Rest as much as possible
If your symptoms continue or get worse, make sure to call your midwife or doctor.
Another issue that frequently happens with breastfeeding is cracked, chapped, and sore nipples. This can be caused by a number of issues, from the pulling and rubbing of the nipple during breastfeeding to fungal (yeast) infections. There are a number of things you can do to help prevent and soothe nipple issues.
The first thing is to keep the area moisturized really well. This cream works great when applied at least three times daily. It is safe and non-toxic if ingested by the baby and is petroleum-free, unlike most nipple creams. Other helpful tips:
Apply some of your own breastmilk to the area. Your breastmilk contains antibacterial and other properties that can help soothe and protect the area.
Warm compresses should be applied several times per day
After breastfeeding, place the breast in a bowl of warm water saline solution. After soaking for 5-10 minutes, pat dry. Residual salt can be removed with a warm towel. After this, apply the cream or breastmilk.
Gel or lanolin pads can be helpful, but do not use them if there is a yeast infection.
Whenever possible, keep the nipples exposed to air between feedings.
If the pain gets worse or you suspect that you have an infection, make sure to speak with your Midwife or Doctor.
We hope this article gave you some valuable information and helps make breastfeeding a little easier for you. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our pregnancy center for more great information on everything from healthy eating during pregnancy to choosing a good prenatal vitamin!
If you have questions about breastfeeding or need some prenatal support, click the button above to schedule a free call, and we will be happy to help you!