It's the early days of nursing your baby, and it seems as though every friend, neighbor, and relative wants to give you their two cents. Breastfeeding can be difficult enough without having to listen to unsolicited advice from everyone and their grandmother. But it seems as though your Grannie may be on to something, because, as it turns out, some old wives' tales about increasing your milk supply are totally true.
Modern society tends to think that most of what has been passed down from an older generation is just a bunch of nonsense created by people who didn't understand science. Today, you can Google an article backed up by research and scientific facts, and feel pretty confident that you are making the right decisions for your family's health. One of the surprising things about modern research is that it is often conducted to prove or disprove long-held beliefs.
Because these beliefs are called old wives' tales, it is automatically assumed that they are ancient myths. But when it comes to breastfeeding, a practice as old as human existence, you might want to listen to what your grandma has to say. Here are some long-held beliefs about increasing your milk supply that turned out to be totally true.
1. Nursing More Will Lead To More Milk
It's all about supply and demand, right? According to La Leche League International, nursing frequently sends a message to your body that it needs more milk, thus producing more of it. So don't worry when your baby latches on for a little longer.
2. Wake Your Baby To Nurse
No one really wants to wake a sleeping baby, but certified lactation consultant Deedra Frank told The Stir that sleeping babies under four weeks of age should be woken at feeding times, even overnight. Babies under 10 weeks should be nursing eight to 12 times per 24 hours. Not only will this keep your baby nourished and growing, but it will also increase your milk production as prolactin levels are higher when you nurse overnight.
3. Getting Breast Implants May Decrease Your Ability To Produce Milk
Breast implants are relatively new in the scheme of things, but grandmas seem to give advice about this, as well, and their warnings seems to hold true for breast implants that were inserted through the nipple.
According to What To Expect, incisions made around the areolae can mean that your milk ducts were cut and the experts at La Leche League International (LLLI) warned that cut milk ducts may affect how much milk reaches your baby. The the milk producing cells (alveoli) will continue to produce a full supply, but some of the milk may not be able to pass through the damaged ducts to reach the nipple. If your incision was made underneath your breasts or near your armpits, it's likely that you will be able to breastfeed with no significant problems.
4. Sleep When The Baby Sleeps To Make More Milk
Everyone hates this grandmotherly advice, but according to pediatrician Jay Gordon, your body needs to rest in order to create breast milk. If you can't get a good night's sleep, you should try to take a nap during the day.
5. Drink Plenty Of Water To Maintain Milk Supply
Gordon also recommends that nursing moms drink 64 ounces of water each day. Although drinking more water won't create more milk, dehydration can contribute to a lower milk supply.
6. Skin-To-Skin Contact With Your Baby Will Increase Your Milk Supply
According to La Leche League Canada, skin-to-skin contact with your baby (holding your baby, only in a diaper, to your bare chest) can increase prolactin production and will help your make more milk. Skin-to-skin contact, also called kangaroo care, can also help your baby seek out your nipple and begin to nurse on its own due to a newborn's heightened sense of smell, according to Fit Pregnancy.
7. Herbal Remedies Can Help You Make More Milk
Your grandma swore by her herbal teas, and she was on the right track. Fenugreek and fennel are just some of the herbs considered galactagogues that can be used to increase the flow of a mother's milk, according to Kelly Mom.
An earlier version of this post included drinking a beer to stimulate milk production. While a polysaccharide found in a key beer ingredient, barley, is believed to stimulate prolactin, the milk-making hormone, drinking a bunch of it won't affect your supply enough to increase it. Romper regrets the error.