Stop worrying about your milk supply. Learn which are the true and the fake low milk supply signs. Discover proven and simple tricks to increase your milk supply.
Is my milk enough? Is my baby well-fed? Every mother asks these questions at least once. Yes, you’re not alone in this. Many moms have doubts about their milk supply. It’s is reason number one for giving up breastfeeding. Most moms have enough milk, or there’s a temporary problem that is easy to fix. After reading the article, you will know how to identify the low milk supply and easy ways to sort it out.
How you make breast milk?
Everything starts at the beginning of your pregnancy. Your body prepares for milk production. Milk ducts and milk making tissues begin to grow, so the breasts. You could notice this before you even know that you are pregnant. Veins of the chest become more noticeable as there’s and increased blood flow. Your nipples and areola will get bigger and darker. Your body will be able to produce milk during the second half of your pregnancy.
Once your baby is born, and the placenta is out of your body levels of estrogen and progesterone fall. At the same time, levels of the hormone prolactin raise. This transformation is a sign for your body to start producing more breast milk. Breastfeeding activates the release of oxytocin and prolactin. Once the milk reaches your breast, it goes to the ducts. Then your baby’s suckling creates pressure, and milk goes to his mouth. Remember that frequent breastfeeding or/and pumping is the way to have a good milk supply.
Signs your baby is getting enough milk.
It is always hard to tell how much milk your baby got when you breastfeed. There’s a way to find this out, but it’s annoying, and I don’t recommend it. Remember, this is not an exact science. Look for the following signs that your baby is getting enough food.
1. Baby is gaining weight
Babies lose weight after birth. Breastfeed babies lose even more. So don’t worry. Your baby will start gaining weight after the first week. Until the end of the second week, it should be back to his birth weight. To be exact, your baby should gain around 150g per week for the first three months. If your baby increases his/her weight well only on breast milk, then your milk supply is excellent.
2. Diapers never lie
Keep track of the wet and dirty diapers. You should get around six well-soaked diapers every 24 hours. Urine should be colorless or light yellow. Your baby should have a poo in the diapers at least once per 24 hours. The stool should be soft and yellow.
3. Baby gulps and swallows
Listen to how your baby feeds. If there are gulps and swallows, it’s a good sign that baby is eating the right way. Some babies are silent while they eat. If they are gaining weight, don’t worry.
4. Baby is calm between feeds
After feeding, your baby should be calm. If the baby is angry and cries a lot, this could mean that he/she wants more food. But don’t take this as 100% accurate. Baby could be in a bad mood for so many reasons – dirty diaper, stomachache, a growth spurt, or because of growing teeth.
False signs of low milk supply
1. Baby lose weight after birth
While you are still in the hospital, the baby loses weight. Many moms start to think about a low milk supply. They start supplementing with a formula which often leads to less milk production.
2. Fussy baby
Your baby fell asleep, and you want to put it in the bed. Right before the “landing,” baby wakes up. Is that familiar? Or maybe you need to carry him/her all day? Unfortunately, we all had those moments. Babies could be fussy for various reasons – dirty diaper, colic, uncomfortable cloth, or many more. Yes, the lack of food is also a possible reason. If the baby has a healthy weight gain, look for other causes of the fussiness.
3. Growth spurt
During a growth spurt periods, babies are getting sour. They want to eat all the time. And it looks like they are not getting enough. It is easy to mistake this with low milk supply. But this is the time when your baby grows fast so your milk supply should increase. Remember – demand and supply. These periods usually last two to three days, and then everything goes back to normal.
4. Baby takes a bottle after a feed
Eating from a bottle is way easier than from the breast. When you put a bottle in the baby’s mouth, it gets instantly full of milk, that triggers a reflex, and your baby starts to eat even he/she is not hungry. It’s not an issue if it happens only on a rare occasion.
5. Baby is waking in the night
Night feeding is something good and natural. During the first months after birth, babies usually eat every 3-4 hours during the night. Night snacks help you to develop your stable milk supply.
6. Short nursing sessions
Breastfeeding sessions become shorter. Usually, this happens during the second or third month. Eating takes less time as your baby is getting experienced in breastfeeding. If your baby is gaining weight, this is not a problem.
7. Frequent nursing sessions
Breastfeeding is a game of demand and supply. Do not create eating schedules. If your baby wants to eat, don’t make him/her wait. Usually, they eat 8-12 times for 24 hours. If your baby goes through a “growth spurt,” he/she could want to eat even more often. This period will pass for a couple of days. It is the natural way to develop your milk supply.
8. Expressing less milk
Expressing after breastfeeding is a good practice. You should always fully empty your breasts to help you increase your milk supply. The amount of expressed milk after nursing could decrease. And that’s normal. Your baby is getting better at getting your breast milk, and your supply matches the demand. As the baby grows, the milk demand is increasing, so there’s less spare milk to express.
9. My breasts are softer
Often between the 3rd and 12th week after birth, breasts are getting softer. Milk production aligns with your baby’s needs. You no longer feel that your breasts are full as at the beginning. Your supply simply adjusted to your baby’s needs.
10. Breasts don’t leak milk
Your breasts stopped leaking, or they don’t leak at all. It’s not related to low milk supply. It’s just a sign that your milk supply is matching the demand of your baby.
11. No let-down feel
Don’t panic if the feel is not as strong as before. The let-down feeling has nothing to do with the milk supply. Some women never experience let-down, and it’s normal.
12. You have small breasts
Small breasts have nothing to do with the milk making. Don’t listen if someone tells you the opposite. If you still have doubts, you can always talk with a professional on that matter.
How do you know if you have a low milk supply?
All babies lose weight after birth. Breastfed babies lose even more than those who take formula. After the first week around the 10th day, your baby should return to birth weight. From that moment, the baby should gain at least 150-200 grams per week. If your baby is not increasing or even losing weight, it’s a clear sign that he/she is not getting enough milk.
Causes of low milk supply
1. Baby is not latching the right way
A poor latch is one of the most common reasons for low milk supply. If your baby is not latching right, he/she cannot get the right amount of milk from your breasts. Your baby is demanding less, so you are producing less. A wrong breastfeeding technique or a health/anatomical problem with your baby could cause a poor latch. If you suspect a poor latch, go to your doctor or check with a breastfeeding consultant.
2. Not breastfeeding often enough
Newborns need to feed every 2-3 hours(during the first months). Don’t try to make an eating schedule. Baby will show you when its time for a snack. Demand and supply is the right strategy for a good milk supply.
3. Baby is not nursing long enough
Newborns should feed for around 10 minutes per breast. Breastfeeding is not an exact science. All babies are different, and all data is approximate. So don’t panic if your baby is little above or below some values. Although, if your newborn eats for less than 5 minutes in total, he/she won’t be able to get enough milk. It is too little time, and your breast will remain full. Let the baby decide when lunch is over.
Do you sometimes feel that your baby uses you as a pacifier? You are right. Baby calms down when suckle – heart rate decreases, as well as the blood pressure and stress. Moms are getting annoyed when the baby is attached to their breast and not eating. Pacifiers become logical steps. They are not a bad thing, but some babies tend to spend less time feeding when you introduce the pacifier. They could also affect the baby’s latch. In both cases, there’s a possibility of a decrease in your breast milk.
5. Bad influence
People close to you know when you worry about something. Most of the time, they want to help, but sometimes their help has the opposite effect. Don’t allow other’s opinions to make you doubt in yourself. Concentrate on your baby and read the messages he/she sends to you.
6. Giving your baby formula
Supply and demand. Remember? Supplementing will replace your milk, and the baby will demand less. And less demand means less milk supply. If you consider giving your baby other than breast milk, always ask a professional first.
7. Feeding with bottle
It’s way easier to eat from a bottle. Milk is easily accessible, and babies like that. The difference between suckling from a bottle and a breast is significant. Baby could start having problems suckling from your breast. And that could lead to low milk supply.
8. Breast surgery
Most breast surgeries don’t impact milk production. Some cosmetic medicines around the areola could cause a loss in the sensation of the nipple. The feeling itself triggers the let-down reflex and could introduce a risk for decreased milk production. Piercing
During breast tissue infection, your milk supply could temporarily decrease. Start feeding more often and express to get back to your normal levels of milk supply.
A lot of medication could decrease your milk supply. Contraceptive pills that have estrogen or some cold/flu tablets could reduce your breast milk. Always consult with a doctor and read the leaflets for the side effects of the medication.
11. You are a smoker or drink alcohol
Drinking alcohol and smoking is not recommended when you breastfeed. Both activities have a direct relation to lowering your milk supply.
12. Medical condition
Several rare medical conditions could lead to low or no milk supply. It happens on rare occasions, but it’s not impossible.
13. Solid foods and water
Introducing solid foods before the baby is 4-6 months old could affect milk production. Solid food will replace the demand for milk, and this will result directly in lowering the milk supply. Water doesn’t have any.
14. Stress, not enough sleep
To look after a newborn is not an easy task. Often it involves sleepless nights and stress. Being mentally and physically healthy is essential for milk production. Don’t be shy to ask for help from friends, family, or professionals.
15. You sleep on your chest/stomach
Putting pressure on your chest during the night could slow down the milk supply. If you are a chest/stomach sleeper, you may need to change your habits temporarily during the time you breastfeed.
16. Nipple shields
In certain situations, nipple shields are handy, but they could decrease the stimulation of the breast or act as a barrier for milk transportation.
17. Baby sleeps a lot
Some newborns tend to be sleepy. The time between feeds is longer, and feedings are short. To build a stable milk supply, you need to feed your baby every 2-3 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night.
Boost your milk supply
You need to remember the two basic rules of boosting milk supply. First, stimulate your breasts by letting your baby suckle or by using a breast pump. Second, make sure your breasts are empty after each breastfeeding session. You will need a breast pump for this. These were the basics now let’s dive into the details.
1. Switch breasts
Offer each breast at least 2-3 times during breastfeeding. Once you notice that the baby suckling is slowing or baby is sleeping, move him/her to the other breast. It will help your baby to empty your breasts.
2. Express after breastfeeding
Your baby won’t be able to express all your milk every time. You need to be sure that your breasts are empty. Express every time after breastfeeding. Once there’s no more milk left, your body will have to produce more.
3. Pumping between breastfeeding
Increase the milk demand by pumping between breastfeeding sessions. You will start producing more milk to fulfill the need. Get a double electric breast pump so you can express fast. Turn the pump and take a rest. It will do all the hard work.
You can compress and massage your breasts while you breastfeed or express with a pump. It will increase the milk flow.
Give your baby expressed milk if he/she is not getting enough with breastfeeding. Express with a pump and feed your baby with a bottle. Give your baby formula only a by a lactation consultant or baby’s doctor.
6. Nurse frequently
To increase milk supply, you need to breastfeed often. Every 1.5-2 hours during the day and every 3 hours during the night. Regular breastfeeding will stimulate the production of breast milk.
7. Get rest and eat well
You need to have a good rest. Forget about everything but the baby. Sleep when the baby sleeps. If you cannot sleep during the day, just lay down with your eyes closed. If you are tired, you won’t be able to make milk effectively. Along with the rest, you need to eat healthily and take liquids(stay well-hydrated but don’t overdo it).
8. In touch with your baby
Make sure there’s close skin contact with your baby while you breastfeed. I will keep the baby awake. And at the same time, the close contact will boost the release of the hormones responsible for milk production. Two birds – one shot.
9. Power pumping
Boost your milk supply by simulating cluster feeding. Try pumping an hour a day by pumping and resting one after another.
10. Pumping vacation
Frequent nursing but onto the next level. Take the baby in your bed and often breastfeed for 2-3 days. You will rest and, at the same time, increase your milk supply.
11. Herbs and foods
Many foods and herbs could increase your milk supply. The most popular ones are fenugreek, galactagogue, oatmeal or oat milk, and many more.
In some cases, prescription medicines could help to develop your milk supply. You must take these only if suggested by a health professional.
A lot of moms worry about low milk supply. You won’t be the first either the last. When you have questions concerning your baby, it is always better to talk to a professional. Contact her/his pediatrician or other health specialist corresponding to the questions you have. If you suspect having a low milk supply, you can talk to a trained breastfeeding counselor or a board-certified lactation consultant. If your baby is not gaining weight at the right pace or losing weight, you need to look for professional help.