Do you find yourself worrying about the amount of breast milk you are producing? While this is a common concern among breastfeeding mothers, the good news is that it’s actually pretty rare to not produce enough milk. However, we understand it can be hard to know for sure on your own and can lead to discouragement — this is the top reason mothers give for why they weaned their babies off breastfeeding before they planned to.
Low Milk Supply
There are two key things to look for to determine if you’re making enough milk to meet your baby’s needs. The first and strongest signal is diaper usage. From birth until eight days of age, newborns usually go through a number of diapers equal to their days of age. If your baby is going through fewer diapers than this, he or she may not be getting enough breast milk. Additionally, if your newborn baby isn’t having at least four bowel movements a day, it’s time to make an appointment to see your doctor — bowel movements after the first month tend to decrease in frequency.
The other factor to consider is birth weight: After the first week of life until month four, babies should gain 5 to 7 ounces of weight per week. On day 5 or soon after, have your baby weighed; babies lose weight during the first few days of life but should start gaining weight by this point. Speak with your doctor to determine how often your baby should be weighed going forward.
If you have a true low milk supply, consider visiting a board-certified lactation consultant. There are also some things you can try on your own to raise milk levels:
1. Proper Breastfeeding Technique
There are many online resources to help you get comfortable with your breastfeeding technique. Proper latching is essential as babies who aren’t latching correctly might not get enough milk, and an improper latch can also lead to sore nipples and other breastfeeding issues.
2. Nurse More Often
Milk supply increases in response to nursing and emptying your breasts, and babies need more food than you might think. If you don’t nurse often enough, your body won’t make enough milk to support your baby’s needs. Shoot for at least eight feedings every 24 hours in the beginning. As your baby grows, the number of feedings may lessen as your baby becomes more efficient and takes in more milk. Ask your doctor for more information on what to expect.
3. Don’t Switch Breasts Too Soon
It’s common for women to want to switch breasts during the same feeding, especially if their breasts are engorged with milk and feeling uncomfortable. However, this can interfere with proper milk production. Try to drain one breast as much as you can before switching to the other one.
Watch your baby for signs that he or she is finished with the first breast — falling asleep, taking long breaks between sucking, or letting go of your breast are all signs you can change breasts. If your baby is completely done feeding, you can use the other side to start the next feeding.
4. Pump on the Go
Using a breast pump is a convenient option to maintain your milk production and provide breast milk for your baby while you are apart. A good rule of thumb is to pump as often as your baby would normally feed; you can also pump between feedings to further stimulate milk production.
5. Avoid Alcohol and Smoking
You already know not to use tobacco or alcohol while pregnant, but you may not be aware that both of these substances can lower the amount of milk you make. It’s better for your health to limit these whether you’re pregnant or not so if you’ve stopped while pregnant, consider keeping that in place until you’re past the breastfeeding phase.
6. Examine Your Diet
You must eat and drink enough so your body will have what it needs to make milk. Don’t skimp on eating healthy meals or enough calories during this time — now is not the time to try that special diet! Grains like oatmeal and greens like spinach are especially good at helping your body make milk.
Exploring these tips can help increase your milk supply; however, in some cases, women can’t make enough milk due to genetic reasons. Speak with your doctor for specialized advice on what you can do, as certain herbs or prescriptions can help in these cases. Three commonly used herbal galactagogues, or substances that increase milk, are blessed thistle, fenugreek, and alfalfa.
At Tri-City Medical, we are happy to help solve your health problems, including those related to breastfeeding. Make an appointment to see us today!