Many moms worry about low milk supply and may be looking for tips to increase milk supply when breastfeeding. Most of the time, however, your body makes exactly what your baby needs, even if you don’t realize it. In fact, as early as month 3 of pregnancy, your breasts start to prepare for breastfeeding, developing the glandular tissue needed to produce milk and increasing the number of milk ducts in your breasts.
Still, some women have low milk supply, particularly during the early weeks of breastfeeding. This is the main reason some mothers start weaning or move to formula feeding. However, it’s rare for a mother to produce less milk than her baby needs.
There are ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk. If you aren’t making enough, there are also ways you can increase your milk supply if you aren’t proving enough.
In this article, you’ll find further information to help you increase your milk supply when breastfeeding.
Things you should NOT worry about:
- How your breasts feel. Your breasts will feel softer and less full as your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs. This does not mean you have low supply.
- If your baby nurses for shorter periods of time, such as only 5 minutes on each breast.
- If your baby’s feeds are bunched together. This is called cluster feeding and happens when your baby starts nursing more often and for longer. This can happen in the evenings or because of growth spurts.
- Not getting much milk when you express. Your baby is much more effective than a pump or hand expression at getting out milk.
If you are still concerned, talk to your baby’s doctor about their growth.
What Causes Low Milk Supply When Breastfeeding
While most moms make plenty of milk, some do have low milk supply. This might happen if you:
- Limit your baby’s breastfeeding sessions. Remember, the more you feed on demand, the more milk you make.
- Give your baby infant formula instead of breastfeeding.
- Introduce solid foods before the baby is 4-6 months old.
- Take certain birth control pills or other medicine.
- Don’t get enough sleep.
- Drink alcohol or smoke.
- Have had breast surgery.
Talk to your doctor if you have hepatitis B or C, herpes, or diabetes. These conditions may also affect milk supply.
Increasing Your Milk Supply
Try these tips to help you make more milk when breastfeeding
- Breastfeed every time your baby is hungry. Your milk supply is based on supply and demand. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you’ll produce (theoretically). In the early weeks, your baby will eat 8-12 times every 24 hours. It’s best not to put your baby on a strict feeding schedule. Follow your baby’s cues, and let your baby tell you when it’s time to eat.
- Make sure your baby is latching well. When your baby is latched onto your breast correctly they will maximise the drain on your breast which will, in turn, increase future supply.
- Offer both breasts at each feeding. Let your baby finish the first side, then offer the other side.
- Empty your breasts at each feeding. Hand express or pump after feeding to draw out all the milk and signal your body to make more. If you’re already exclusively pumping, you can achieve this by pumping more frequently and for longer for 2-3 days.
- Avoid bottles and pacifiers in the early weeks. Feed your baby from your breast whenever you can.
- Get plenty of sleep, and eat a healthy diet. A good nights sleep or a great nap can do wonders for your milk supply. When you’re burning the candle at both ends, your body gets worn down. Making sure you are as rested as possible can help your body operate at it’s optimum and can help boost milk production.
- Pump or express your milk. Pumping or expressing milk frequently between nursing sessions, and consistently when you’re away from your baby, can help build your milk supply.
- Relax and massage. Relax, hold your baby skin-to-skin, and massage your breasts before feeding to encourage your milk to let down. Massaging and compressing your breasts before feeding will help push more milk out with each nursing session. This also applies well when pumping to help you fully empty.
- Allow your baby to drain the breast at each feeding (don’t look at the clock; let him decide when the meal is over).
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, eat well, drink plenty of fluids to ensure you remain hydrated and let others help you.
Signs your baby may not be getting enough milk
The clearest indicator of a problem is lack of weight gain. While most infants lose weight immediately after birth, full-term babies should lose no more than 7 percent of their birth weight in the first few days after birth.
Other signs include an increasingly lethargic or sleepy baby. Babies who have low energy may not be getting enough milk. A baby who is not feeding well may fall asleep shortly after beginning to feed, If your baby sleeps 4 or more hours on a regular basis at a time, it may be an early sign that your baby is not getting enough milk.
Also, if your baby is not pooping often (they should have 3-4 stools per day by four days old), your babies urine is not pale, and/or you see reddish-brown “brick dust” in the diaper then you may also need to double-check that your baby is getting enough milk.
Signs your baby is getting enough milk
Signs your baby is getting enough milk include.
Your baby is nursing frequently, 8-12 times per 24 hour period.
Baby seems content and happy after a feed, releasing the breast on their own. Their hands may be in fists before feeding, they will then often relax and open.
Weight gain is as expected, about 155-240 grams or 5.5-8.5 ounces per week until four months of age.
Baby has periods of obvious gulping of milk during sessions. This is where baby is getting larger mouthfuls of milk because mom is having a letdown. Baby’s rapid sucking encouraging the letdown slows during these periods to one suck per second as larger volumes of milk fill their mouths before they swallow, and watching their throats will show the rise and fall that occurs with swallowing.
Baby’s poops transition to yellow with a loose and seedy texture by day five. Baby should have 3-4 stools every day by four days of age.
Your baby may not pass much urine at first but this increases each day. By day two look for two wet diapers (nappies) over 24 hours, days three and four look for three or more wet diapers every 24 hours. By the time your baby is five days old, wet diapers should be more frequent, usually six or more over 24 hours. It can be tricky to tell if disposable diapers are wet – after five full days, when copious milk comes in, they should be heavy. Many disposable diapers have a faint line down the middle which changes colour when wet.
Baby is alert and active when awake, and meeting their developmental milestones.
If your baby is showing signs of not getting enough milk, please do not hesitate to seek help from a lactation peer or professional and also your baby’s health care provider. Remember, you are the expert on your baby. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your intuition and reach out for help.
Do you have your own tips to help increase your milk supply when breastfeeding?
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