Many reasons have always been advanced for why breastfeeding should never be just an option for mothers. Doctors argue that breastfeeding vitally controls post-delivery hemorrhage [excessive bleeding after birth] which could otherwise be very fatal for mothers. Moreover it is also a natural form of contraception when done exclusively.
But whereas that is all known to be true, breast milk is, more importantly, the best food for babies; in the first place, breast milk contains most of the food values that will help the baby to grow well. Additionally, milk nurtures mother-child bonding.
Despite all these benefits however, breastfeeding mothers oftentimes grapple with low milk production which leaves them rather helpless.
According to Dr. Paul Matovu, a gynecologist at St. Francis Hospital, Naggalama, there is several reasons a mother may have little or no breast milk for her baby and it ranges from stress to infrequent suckling of the baby;
Causes Of Low Breast Milk Production
- Less frequent suckling
According to Dr. Emmanuel Bukalu, a Public Health Specialist at Zziwa Medical Center, Bweyogerere, Uganda, separating a baby from a mother can result in inadequate breast milk flow due to lack of stimulation.
A baby needs to suckle a mother’s breast so as to stimulate the production of breast milk.
Bukalu explains that if a baby is not given enough time on the breast, no matter how frequently he feeds it can cut down the quantity of milk produced.
In addition, the breast needs to be emptied so that a message is sent to the brain to refill them.
Working mothers are affected due to separation from their babies while at work. When a mother is stressed, this eventually affects hormonal balance, thus reducing the quantity of milk.
- Medical conditions
These include, inverted nipples, breast surgery or a baby being born with the tongue stuck in one place, thus hindering proper suckling.
- Breastfeeding positions
According to Suzan Ssanyu, a pediatric nutritionist at Mulago hospital, failure to ensure that a baby is attached properly during breast feeding, can affect milk flow.
How To Stimulate Breast Milk
Ssanyu says the sure way to stimulate breast milk for a new mother is to initiate breast feeding in the first 30 minutes after giving birth. Breast milk is highly dependent on hormones (prolactin and oxytocin), which require stimulation.
The milk produced a few days after giving birth, known as colostrum (yellowish in color), is highly nutritious and contains antibodies, which protects the child from diarrheal infections. Diarrhea can lead to serious dehydration (loss of body fluids), resulting in death.
Ssanyu recommends night breast feeding because hormones are mostly produced at night when is more relaxed, thus easing the flow of milk. Drinking warm liquids during the lactation period also helps stimulate breast milk.
Nutritionists caution breast feeding mothers about alcohol because it finds its way into the breast milk and can, therefore, harm the baby. Besides, a mother may get drunk and forget to breast feed the baby. Bukalu advises breast feeding mothers to stay away from coffee or drink it in moderation because the mother and baby to become irritable, jittery, or agitated and contribute to sleeping problems.
The Recommended Diet For Breast Feeding Mother
Bukalu a breast feeding mother requires a balanced diet because it caters for the baby’s and mother’s dietary needs. The recommend nutritional needs for a breast feeding mother include;
Lack of it is associated with body weakness and loss of appetite, which could have negative effects to both the baby and mother.
Foods rich in iron include; millet porridge, red meat, liver, fish, beans, peas, chicken, turkey and lamb.
Ssanyu, however, emphasizes that these foods should be accompanied with fruits or fresh juice because vitamins help to ease absorption of iron. She says, for instance, millet porridge contains iron iii ferrous, which cannot be absorbed naturally by the baby, so vitamins are required to break it down.
Vitamin and minerals
According to Georgiana Nabatanzi, a nutritionist at Uganda Heart Institute, mothers should consume natural foods and not food supplements. These nutrients include calcium and foliate.
Mother needs more calcium to replace the lost one. Calcium is available in yogurt, milk, cheeses, oranges and dark leafy greens, while foliate is present in most of the dark green vegetables like asparagus and animal products like milk.
These nutrients are available in whole grain foods such as rice, millet, corn, wheat, cassava and sweet potatoes. Carbohydrates give the body the extra energy it requires to function optimally.
This can be got from iodized salts on the market. Iodine is essential for proper functioning and development of the nerves.
Nutritionists recommend that mothers drink as much as they can. Fluids keep the body hydrated. These include; water, natural juice, and low-fat milk.
The nutritionists say that nursing mothers require twice as much protein in breast feeding women.
Proteins are available in foods such as meat, poultry, fish, beans and soya.
As said by the nutritionists that breast feeding mothers should eat more frequently, in small amounts to sustain flow of breast milk.
According to Ssanyu, a breast feeding mother should eat at least have five meals a day which include the breakfast, lunch, supper and three snacks in between these meals.
Nabatanzi says a breast feeding mother needs extra 500 kilo calories and, therefore, needs to eat more frequently. The recommended snacks include; fruit smoothies, yogurt, raw vegetables, boiled eggs and fresh fruits.