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Breastfeeding is a natural way to provide your baby with the nutrients he or she needs for proper growth and development. The World Health Organization recommends to nurse exclusively until 6 months and once food is introduced, to continue breastfeeding until 2 years and beyond. Your breastfeeding efforts can be hampered by a reduction in milk supply, breast engorgement and sore nipples. There are natural ways to overcome these temporary road blocks with the support of your health care providers.

Maintaining a Healthy Milk Supply

It can take approximately 3 days for your breast milk to come in after birth. However, if you have had a baby before, your breasts may begin to feel full sooner. Your milk supply will increase based on the law of supply and demand. The amount of milk your body produces is directly influenced by how much your baby feeds. According to the La Leche League, it is important to listen to your baby’s cues. For example, if she begins to feed more frequently, she could be going through a growth spurt and trying to build up your milk supply. It is natural for your milk supply to fluctuate, however there may be occasions when your milk supply is reduced and it may be necessary to increase it.

Natural Ways to Increase Milk Supply

Your Baby’s Latch: When your milk supply is reduced, it can be stressful for both you and your baby. Make sure our baby’s latch is deep enough. If your baby is not latching to your nipple effectively, he may not get enough milk and your breasts may not empty which will decrease your milk supply. A lactation consultant will be able to assess whether this is an issue. Once your baby’s latch is corrected, your milk supply will increase.

Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle: When you have tried the above and your body still requires a boost in milk supply, there are two herbs that are very helpful. Both Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek have been traditionally used to increase milk supply. Under the guidance of your naturopathic doctor, midwife or lactation consultant, you can take these herbs as a tea or in capsule form to improve your milk supply.

Natural Ways to Manage Engorgement

Breast engorgement is a pesky issue that can creep up on nursing mothers and if it is not properly managed it can lead to a blocked milk duct and a breast infection known as mastitis. Engorgement occurs when there has been a change in your baby’s feeding pattern or in your daily or nightly routine. For example, it may happen when your baby begins solid foods which may reduce her nursing frequency. To manage engorgement, it is important to feed as soon as possible and frequently. By hand or with a breast pump, gently express your milk to soften your breast and encourage a better latch. A cold compress can be applied to soothe your breast after feedings.

Breast and Nipple Care

Your breasts and nipples can become sensitive with the hormonal and physical changes that take place during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding should not be painful. If you are experiencing pain, it could be due to a poor latch or due to the poor positioning of your baby at the breast. Invest in a well-fitting bra that is not too tight. Use non scented creams on the breast avoiding the areola and nipple area. You can express some breast milk and apply it to your nipples to treat dryness or any cracks. There are also specially formulated nipple creams and ointments that may help. You will also want to avoid harsh soaps that can dry your nipple. Seek the care of your health care professional or lactation consultant if you continue to experience nipple or breast pain.

Breastfeeding is a skill that both you and your baby learn and it takes practice to perfect. Surround yourself with family, friends and trusted health care providers who can help you through the challenges as they arise. With a good team and the above tips on your side, you will be well on your way to successfully breastfeeding your baby.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose is a naturopathic doctor and a registered acupuncturist with a family practice located in the Beaches area of Toronto. She graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences. In 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine where she completed 4 years of study and a clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic and at the Sherbourne Health Centre where she worked with patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Olivia is also the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a program that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination in Toronto fertility clinics. In practice, her special areas of interest include stress management, heart disease, digestive health, infertility, pediatrics and weight management.

In her free time, when she is not at the spa or spending time with her husband and tea-cup Yorkie, Dr. Rose guest lectures at corporate events, local groups and schools. She is featured regularly as a health expert on Global Toronto’s “News at Noon”. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and upcoming events please visit, www.oroseND.com.