A lot of questioning and uncertainty tends to come along with breastfeeding, with one particular concern topping the list: Is my baby getting enough milk? In a survey we conducted of over 500 moms, 57% were concerned their babies weren’t getting enough milk, and 29% reported suffering from low milk supply. Research shows that parents who are worried about their babies not getting enough to eat might decide to supplement with formula. In fact, supplementing is usually only necessary in rare cases, and it’s proven that exclusively breastfeeding is the gold standard when it comes to positively affecting the health of babies and their mothers. Research shows that exclusively breastfeeding helps babies’ health in childhood and into adulthood.
Concerns over milk supply are certainly valid and should always be taken seriously. But don’t become discouraged and give up on breastfeeding! Low milk supply is common and with appropriate measures you will be able to increase your supply. A woman’s body is miraculous in that it adjusts breastmilk supply according to the needs of the baby, but several factors ultimately impact how much milk your baby gets from you. A few things that could affect milk supply are:
Adjusting to postpartum body
Slow milk let-down
Clogged ducts and mastitis
How Moist Heat Helps Increase Breastmilk Supply
The very best way to increase milk supply is to breastfeed or pump often. You should aim to breastfeed or pump 8-10 times per day with a new baby, and be sure to completely empty the breast each time. Milk left in the breast is a signal telling your body to decrease milk production. But when you’re dealing with any of the above named issues, maintaining breastfeeding can be hard or even seem impossible. Here’s where moist heat comes to save the day! (Buy Rachel's Remedy Breastfeeding Relief Packs here)
When it comes to resolving breastfeeding pain and discomfort, moist heat is a nursing mom’s best friend! It’s safe, natural, and most important -- it’s effective. If you’ve suffered from any of the problems above, chances are your OBGYN or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) recommended you use moist heat to help resolve your problem, as moist heat is the most widely recommended remedy to help treat breastfeeding issues. Moist heat is a miracle for breastfeeding moms as far as we are concerned, and we have the research to back it up.
If you’re wondering how and why moist heat is so effective at battling these common breastfeeding problems and increasing milk supply, the science behind it is quite simple. Heat improves blood circulation because heat prompts blood to rise to the surface of the skin. Stronger circulation means more oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to the targeted area, and heat also helps relax veins and arteries to reduce or prevent constriction. Moist heat is especially effective because the moisture allows heat to penetrate the skin on a deeper level and more quickly than dry heat alone. If you’ve ever dealt with any of the above named breastfeeding discomforts, you know you want relief delivered as quickly and easily as possible!
When it comes to breastfeeding, moist heat does more than improve circulation. Research shows that moist heat enhances the body’s natural let-down reflex by helping to increase circulation and stimulate oxytocin, the hormone responsible for the let-down reflex. This means your body will respond to your baby sucking more quickly, and the milk will flow more freely. So if delayed let-down is a problem for you, moist heat application right before breastfeeding can help.
Many of the other common breastfeeding issues listed above can impact milk supply, and moist heat helps resolve those as well. Studies focusing on engorgement have found that applying moist heat to engorged breasts before breastfeeding helps increase circulation and soften the breast, allowing babies to latch more easily and empty the breast more thoroughly. Similar studies show how moist heat application helps prevent and resolve clogged ducts, as well as prevent and relieve mastitis by helping milk ducts relax, allowing clogs to clear. Clogs are unlikely to appear if moist heat is applied regularly, so if you’re prone to mastitis or clogs, moist heat application should be part of your daily routine for as long as you are breastfeeding.
As for painful milk blisters - while they can take weeks to go away on their own, using moist heat softens the blisters, helping them to clear much more quickly. Also, moist heat soothes the pain caused by milk blisters, helping moms continue to breastfeed even when a blister is present.
For some moms, low milk supply is their only issue - they don’t suffer from clogged ducts, engorgement, blisters, or slow let-down. Moist heat helps in these cases too! Studies have shown that there is a significantly greater amount of milk produced from breasts that have had moist heat application prior to breastfeeding or pumping versus breasts that have not. The reason for this is that moist heat increases circulation and improves vascular tone (meaning it allows the milk ducts to open rather than constrict). Additionally, because moist heat stimulates oxytocin, milk is able to flow more easily. Moms concerned with low milk supply will certainly benefit from moist heat.
How to Use Moist Heat for Breastfeeding
Moist heat is incredibly helpful for breastfeeding women, but until now there just hasn’t been an easy solution. Doctors, IBCLCs, midwives, and doulas widely recommend moist heat to help resolve breastfeeding issues, and typically suggest using warm, wet washcloths or taking baths and showers. These solutions are difficult - if not impossible - for a busy, nursing mom to sustain. Warm, wet washcloths get clothing wet, they cool down within a few minutes, and they require holding a hand to the chest (most moms wish they had extra hands - one arm down is tough to deal with!). Taking several warm baths and showers per day is not something any mom can rely on - especially a breastfeeding/pumping mom.
Fortunately, with Rachel’s Remedy Breastfeeding Relief Packs, there is a simple, natural and effective way for moms to improve their milk supply and resolve breastfeeding discomforts so that they no longer have to worry whether their baby is getting enough food, and they do not have to resort to supplementation if they prefer to exclusively breastfeed. Rachel’s Remedy Breastfeeding Relief Packs are the only FDA-cleared moist heat/cooling relief pack that fits right into any bra, stays warm for around 20-minutes at a time, and best of all - they are hands-free and keep clothing dry so that busy moms can treat their conditions and improve their milk supply without having to stop their lives.
Buy Rachel’s Remedy Breastfeeding Relief Packs here.
As with any breastfeeding concern, be sure to consult your doctor or IBCLC first, especially if you are experiencing a fever or you are concerned about your baby's health.
Neifert, M., Seacat, J. Medical Management of Successful Breast-Feeding. Prevention in Primary Care, Pediatric Clinics of North America. 33(4) 1986, August. 743-63.
Resmy V, Nalini S.J., Sumathi, G. Effect of Lukewarm Water Compress On Prevention of
Nipple Pain and Breast Engorgement Among Primiparous At A Selected Hospital In Chennai.
Journal of Science. 2014. 4(10). 620-624.
Photo: Aurimas Mikalauskas