Every creature on earth feeds their baby naturally, apart from humans. Obviously sometimes it’s needed in case there is no breast milk available. But for the most part, breast milk is the best as it contains more nutrition (and less chance of cancer for mothers later on). And the colostrum given in the first few days, sets up a baby’s immune system.
England and the rest of the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the western world. Experts say this is because there is less support from the medical world (the funding, not the doctors or nurses) and a lack of knowledge on the health benefits. Along with a negative attitude in some cafes etc, when parents wish to breastfeed.
Not being able to produce enough breast milk is rare, as it works on supply and demand, which is why most mothers can even donate breast milk to help preemies. But if you would like a little helping hand, here are a few ‘lactogenic’ (milk-producing foods). These include:
- Dark green leafy veggies help the body boost milk (check paper inserts of medications, if relevant)
- Barley, oats, brown rice and millet (not just for budgies) are all good.
- Legumes are also good (beans, peas, lentils), due to omega fatty acids
- Nuts and seeds also contain fatty acids and release prolactin
- All orange veggies are good (breastfeeding uses extra beta-carotene)
- Dried fruits are good too (organic apricots, dates)
- Asparagus has tryptophan (an amino acid to stimulate breast milk)
- Fennel (tastes like aniseed) is good raw or cooked, for the same reason
Herbs to avoid during breastfeeding (they decrease milk supply) are peppermint, parsley and sage). So does alcohol, but presumably you’re not drinking it, if you’re breastfeeding.
Fenugreek (sometimes used to boost milk supply) should not be used in supplements, as it can cause wind in babies. Never use foods with it during pregnancy, as it could stimulate the uterine (could increase contractions, leading to premature birth).
Better Breastfeeding is a book by Dr Linda Dahl who offers an overview of how breastfeeding works, why it fails and what to do about it. She takes you through the basics of breastfeeding in a weekly guide and explores solutions for little-understood issues like gape restriction and tongue tie, nipple/breast pain, issues with milk supply or abnormal nursing behaviours.
Hedgerow Spring Reusable Breast Pads are made from soft printed organic cotton, backed with bamboo towelling, lovingly tested for other purposes like post-surgery or mastectomy scar discomfort. You will receive 3 sets, with a waterproof layer. Use a Guppyfriend to wash, to avoid microplastics leaching from the machine.
Florian Botanicals Nursing Balm is free from fragrance and sold in a zero waste tin. The smooth application and quick absorption will avoid staning clothes, while providing long-term moisture. It can also be used minor cuts, burns and scrapes, insect bites and stings, itchy dry skin, or a lip balm and healing hand balm. Also good for eczema.
Natalia Baby Special Skin Balm is made from fair trade shea butter (not for latex allergies). This acts as a natural water repellent to prevent soreness, and can be used on any dry or sore skin. Fragrance-free. The only other ingredients are olive oil, vitamin E and calendula flower extract.
Find help at The Breastfeeding Network. This is the place to start if you don’t have much knowledge, and you are not getting enough info from your midwife or doctor. You’ll also find information on breastfeeding during a pandemic, breastfeeding with disabilities, and there’s a phone helpline you can call.
Medela is a device to help babies with cleft palate and other issues breastfeed, using a one-way valve that prevents air from entering the teat. Nifty Cup helps babies with cleft palate ‘lap the milk’. It’s mostly donated to developing countries, just $1 a cup.
Mamascarf Breastfeeding Cover is an award-winning one-size breastfeeding cover that also includes a box of bamboo washable breast pads, to breastfeed on the go with comfort and discretion. Designed by a breastfeeding mum, it’s easy to use and stylish (looks like a scarf). There’s a hidden pocket to store a breast pad. In black, navy or cream.
Zero Waste Baby Bottles
Whether you choose to use breastmilk in a bottle or feed formula milk, one good thing to do is to give up bottles made from plastic. A recent report has found that plastic baby bottles shed millions of microplastics when shaken. Colleagues at Trinity College Dublin measured the microplastics released after putting cleaned bottles in a mechanical shaker, to mimic the mixing process. After filtering and looking under a microscope, they were shocked. If you are going to use a baby bottle to feed breast milk or formula, then choose a safer version.
Never heat baby milk (or things for pets) in the microwave. As well as being dodgy anyway, microwaves heat unevenly causing ‘hot spots’ that could scald the mouth and throat.
Klean Kanteen offers a good baby bottle made from stainless steel. The contoured tapered shape is designed for small hands, and the wide mouth allows for easy cleaning, pouring and filling. It has easy-read measurements on the inside and outside, and a wide base for proper latching. The soft medical-grade silicone nipple promotes correct oral development and healthy teeth, and double-venting reduces colic. Dishwasher-safe.
If you prefer to feed formula, WHO recommends breast milk for up to 1 years to prevent type-1 diabetes. Look out for an upcoming organic plant-based formula from Else Nutrition, which has just launched the first organic plant-based toddler nutrition formula, made with almonds, buckwheat and tapioca. Recommended by doctors for toddlers age 2 up. Certified Kosher, see FAQ for info.
How to Donate Your Breastmilk
Did you know that you can donate your breastmilk? It’s usually fine on supply and demand, so for most cases, you would never run out (if so, then obviously you would know about this). It works a bit like blood donation. You pump out the milk, then freeze it, and it’s collected and tested for diseases like HIV, syphilis, hepatitis and HTLV.
Breast milk is wonderful for preemies (premature babies) as they often have delicate guts. And many mothers can’t breastfeed for medical reasons. So if the mother can’t breastfeed, the next best thing is another mother’s milk (from a human). Just a few ounces can in some circumstances, save a life.
NEC (necrotising enterocolitis) is a very serious medical condition, that kills more babies each year, than childhood leukaemia. The best protection is human milk, so donating blood helps to prevent this in susceptible babies (it literally acts like NEC-prevention medicine). Preemies are at extra risk of this condition, as their immune systems are not yet fully developed. Donated human milk is mostly given to babies in intensive care, and also to mums who have cancer, so they can ‘breastfeed’ their child using another woman’s milk.
Visit UK Association of Milk Banking and Heart’s Milk Bank to find out more (there are milk donation banks worldwide, some regional and others national). You will usually be sent milk bottles (better to release the fat from the milk over bags, babies need high-fat milk to grow).
Support Breastfeeding Mothers in Africa
Nifty Cup is a $1 invention that allows the millions of babies born in developing countries with cleft palate (who often have trouble sucking) to ‘lap the milk’, therefore saving lives by increasing the rate of breastfeeding.
Baby Milk Action is a charity that is at the forefront of asking at least two big baby milk companies, to stop advertising formula to poor women in developing countries. It sounds good to give out ‘free formula’. But this is not forever. And when the mothers return home from hospital, most are too poor to buy it. So they either use less or water it down (this means less nutrition and often the impure water can cause diarrhoea which can be fatal to babies). World Health Organisation estimates that 800,000 women (who could breastfeed but are told formula is best) lose their children each year.
This worldwide network is not ‘anti-formula’. If you choose to use formula, that’s your right. And sometimes it may be necessary (for instance if a mother has HIV or AIDS). What the campaign is about, is to stop big multi-national companies telling hundreds of thousands of women (mostly in Africa) that it’s best if they use their formula. When according to WHO, most women (even if poor) can breastfeed. It says 11.6% of deaths of under-5s could be prevented by breastfeeding (that’s the 800,000 preventable deaths, mentioned above).
There is a marketing code to stop irresponsible marketing of breastmilk substitutes. The reason the charity calls for a boycott of the two companies involves, is because it says they do not comply with these guidelines. Although presumably, they would disagree.
In the USA, a political row broke out, after the Trump Presidency tried to remove pro-breastfeeding language from a WHO resolution. President Trump said that it was important for women to have access to formula, due to malnutrition and poverty. Obviously in some cases this is true. But the director of Global Health Concentration at Yale School of Public Health says ‘If the water is not clean, formula becomes a death sentence for the infant’.
Epidemiologist Dr Adriano Cattaneo says ‘carrying out studies’ on the benefits of breastfeeding, is like carrying out research of the benefits of breathing, chewing, hearing or passing a stool. He says that formula lags behind on both safety and benefits, and wants more encouragement of breastfeeding, saying that the myth that ‘poor women who are malnourished can’t provide breast milk’ is usually untrue. Breast milk still usually is better than formula. He believes formula should only be used for rare terminal disease, severe malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and some types of chemo, anti-depressants and substance abuse.
Organic Nursing Clothes from Cornwall
Frugi (Cornwall) makes lovely organic cotton clothing for boys and girls. It also offers organic cotton nursing clothing, with award-winning designs for discreet breastfeeding. Everything is fairly made in India, and sent in biodegradable packaging, made from potatoes
As well as being better for the planet, wildlife and farmers – organic cotton is also biodegradable and helps to keep you cool and comfortable in warm weather or warm for a winter pregnancy. Check out the designs. If you are on a budget, you can often find good sales bargains from this popular company.