Most new parents are aware that for their newborn to feed better they need to get them more food, either by offering the breast more frequently, offering more or larger bottles of pumped milk or formula milk or a combination of the above. But what most new parents don't realize is that baby should be able to remove the milk that they need if the milk is there to begin with. If baby cannot remove the milk they need there are a few very simple things that can be done that make huge differences in baby's ability.
1. Keep baby close. The whole point of skin to skin after birth is for baby to have easy access to the breast, to wake up and help emerge their reflexes that help them eat and to get lots and lots of practice in those early days. That skin to skin time doesn't need to stop right after birth. As a matter of fact, you can continue doing skin to skin for weeks and months! And if that is not comfortable or practical for you, just keeping baby near you helps them smell their food, and often times they will start to root and search for your milk long before they even realize they are hungry.
2. Moving baby is more than just picking them up and carrying them around the house. Moving is more than just offering more range of motion by not swaddling and keeping baby in swings, bouncers, car seats, etc. Movement is an integral part of our lives and it is vital to overall health and wellness. When babies get enough movement it matures their brain and their reflexes are encouraged to emerge appropriately, they meet their developmental milestones and they are able to feed better. Reflexes that are diminished cause restrictions in muscular range of motion and babies who don't have full range of motion have difficulties feeding well. Ask your lactation consultant about rhythmic movement activities that will benefit your baby.
3. Wearing your baby in a sling, wrap or carrier allows you to keep them close and held while also giving you freedom to carry on about your day and get some things done. It also allows baby to be included, keeping them engaged in the world around them and helps them develop neck and trunk strength so they can hold up their heads which also helps them feed better.
4. Tummy time gives baby a different perspective on the world than just being on their back. If you are not clear on this, lay down on the floor and look up and around at the things in the room, or out on your deck, Then roll onto your stomach and notice how it feels to push your chest up off the ground, pick up your head and look around at the same things from this perspective. Newborns can lift up their heads and look around too! And tummy time allows them to get stronger, feed better, and is actually quite calming to their little nervous system!
If your baby is struggling to get enough milk, these activities will not work in and of themselves. But they can absolutely help. Please speak with your lactation consultant who can tell you how to refine the above ideas to benefit your baby and how to incorporate them into a plan of care that helps you and your baby meet your goals!
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