A baby’s immune system is not yet fully developed and requires immune protection from breast milk. This life-saving protection is more important now during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The recommendation for babies from birth to six months is exclusive breastfeeding (feeding breast milk only).
The rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life was reported at just 32% at the last national survey in 2016.
While that figure falls far short of the World Health Organisation global target of 50% by 2025, it signals a slight improvement over the past years for the country.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from August 1 to 7, to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.
Key to successful breastfeeding is that moms are empowered to feed their babies any time and anywhere, which means they need broad-based support across society.
Dr Chantell Witten, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Association for Dietetics in South Africa , points out that moms can face significant roadblocks to breastfeeding their babies even when this delicate process went well for them after the birth of their baby.
She says: “Given the many stressors on households, sometimes mothers find themselves in hostile home environments and social circles negative towards breastfeeding. Often influential women in their lives second-guess them or encourage them to feed other foods before their baby is six months old.
“The need to earn and return to work, puts pressure on moms to give up on breastfeeding. That’s why protecting breastfeeding needs to be a “whole of society” effort to ensure that we have work and social environments that are breastfeeding-friendly.”
Even with a good support, breastfeeding may not be easy. Some women’s breasts don’t develop normally, for various reasons, and may not have enough “milk-making” ducts to meet their baby’s needs.
Catherine Clark, founder and owner of The Harvest Table is no stranger to breastfeeding. She says, “with your emotions running high due to the volatile cocktail of no sleep and raging hormones, it’s easy to feel like you’re on a roller-coaster with no end in sight. And, when it feels like your milk supply is dwindling, panic does tend to set in.”
The Harvest Table shares five tips to increase your milk supply:
Get enough sleep
A lack of sleep is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to low milk supply. Easier said than done? We all know that new moms don’t choose to skip naps, that’s why it’s vital that you try to sleep when your baby sleeps or ask a friend to babysit while you grab some much-needed oblivion.
If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, you’ll naturally be more stressed, and the subsequent release of stress hormones will have the domino effect of reducing your milk supply and trapping you in a vicious cycle.
Pump between feeds
It’s a good idea to pump after every feed to ensure that both breasts are empty, as this is a trigger for your body to start producing more milk. It’s a simple case of supply and demand – the more milk your breasts need, the more they will make.
Offer both sides during feeding
Breastfeeding from both sides during feeds is said to encourage a stronger supply of milk. Do remember to alternate the breast you start the feeding on, each time you feed your baby. As the first breast usually gets the lion’s share of your baby’s attention, wear a hair scrunchie around your wrist to remind you which breast you finished off in the last feed so that you don’t keep starting on the same breast.
Eat lots of galactagogues (foods that increase breast milk supply)
Breastfeeding is a hungry monster that requires a lot of fuel to produce quality milk. To give your body the best chance of producing great breast milk, include as many of the following in your daily diet as possible: bone broth, coconut, lentils, liver, oatmeal, garlic, chickpeas and sweet potatoes.
Avoid too much of these
New moms should avoid large quantities of sage, peppermint, oregano, lemon balm, parsley, thyme, caffeine (in tea, carbonated drinks, chocolate, energy drinks and headache medicine), citrus juice, fresh tomatoes and alcohol, as these may result in a decreased milk production.