Are you not able to provide enough milk for your baby? The way that milk supply works is all about supply and demand. Learn about milk supply and how to increase it down below.
It’s a common concern for breastfeeding mums that they aren’t producing an adequate amount of breastmilk for their babies.
In fact, one of the most common reasons that mums wean their bubs prematurely or before they planned too, is that they don’t feel like they are making enough milk for their baby. Before giving up, consider seeking help from a lactation consultant.
You may not even have a low supply, but even If you do, there are things you can do to bring your supply back up to the needed amount to adequately meet your baby’s needs.
How Milk Supply Works
The way that milk supply works is all about supply and demand.
Your body pays attention to how much milk you’re using and then produces an amount of milk to match the amount being used.
So, if less milk is being removed from your breasts, your body will slow down production.
If more milk is being removed from your breasts, your body begins to produce more milk.
Are You Sure Your Milk Supply is Low?
It’s important to understand if you even actually have a low breastmilk supply.
Many women tend to think they have a low milk supply for various reasons when they actually have a great milk supply.
There are many things that can lead a breastfeeding mum to thinking she has a low supply when she actually doesn’t.
1. Low Pumping Output
Many breastfeeding mums pump milk at least occasionally.
It’s easy to look at the amount of milk that you get from pumping and assume that it’s a reflection of how much milk you’re making.
However, the amount of milk that you are able to pump does not indicate how much milk that you’re producing. A baby is much more efficient in removing milk than a pump and pumping is a skill that must be learned overtime with practice.
Some mums that have great supply aren’t able to get much milk at all when they pump.
2. Soft Breasts
When your baby is first born, your body produces a specialized milk called colostrum that is highly concentrated in nutrients and antibodies.
At birth, your baby’s stomach is only about the size of a marble, so they don’t need much milk to fill their tiny bellies. About 3 to 5 days after birth, your body starts to produce mature breastmilk. As this occurs, your breasts will likely become engorged, or very full and firm.
This is because your body doesn’t know how much milk your baby will need yet, so it makes an abundance of milk.
As your baby nurses over the first few weeks, it teaches your body how much milk your baby actually needs and adjusts your supply to meet your baby’s needs.
When your milk regulates, it can cause your breasts to feel less full and be much softer. Some feel like that means they aren’t producing enough anymore, when in fact they are producing the exact right amount for their baby.
3. Baby Always Seems Hungry
Many mums find that their bubs seem to want to nurse constantly which makes them think that their baby must not be getting enough milk during nursing sessions.
This is actually completely normal and does not indicate that you aren’t making enough milk.
Remember that your baby’s belly is tiny when they are first born and that means that their belly empties quickly and needs to be refilled often.
Additionally, babies suckle for comfort and want to be connected to mum as much as possible.
4. A Lack of Milk Leaking
Most women find that their breasts leak milk after, or even before their babies are born.
Sometimes, this leaking will slow down or subside completely as your milk supply regulates to meet your baby’s specific needs.
It can be normal to feel like you aren’t making enough milk when this happens, but every woman is different, and whether or not your breasts leak has nothing to do with the amount of milk that your body makes.
Reasons Your Milk Supply May Actually be Low
Even though low milk supply isn’t as common of a problem as many women think, it definitely does still happen. There can be multiple causes of a low milk supply.
Anytime baby takes a bottle rather than nursing, it takes away from the amount of suckling baby does at the breast.
Since milk production is all about supply and demand, reducing the amount of nursing baby does by supplementing, also reduces the amount of milk being made by your body.
This can become a cycle that leads to premature weaning because when less milk is produced, it often leads to further supplementation which leads to even less milk production.
#2 Scheduling Feedings
The way a baby eats can be unpredictable.
This unpredictability can be very inconvenient at times, and you may be tempted to try to put your baby on a nursing schedule rather than letting them nurse on demand.
This can be detrimental to your supply, however.
Not allowing your baby to nurse on demand will affect the supply and demand process of nursing and lower your milk supply.
#3 Cutting Nursing Sessions Short
Sometimes you may find yourself wanting to end a nursing session before your baby ends it on their own.
Doing this occasionally shouldn’t cause any serious problems, but if you start to make a habit out of it, you may begin noticing a drop in your milk supply.
By not allowing baby to finish nursing, you’re reducing the amount of suckling they do at the breast and therefore reducing the amount of milk your body will make.
#4 Using a Dummy
A dummy can be very helpful at times, but it can also negatively affect your milk supply in a couple of ways.
First of all, anytime your baby is suckling on something other than your breast, it means that your breast is not getting that stimulation signaling your body to make more milk.
Using a dummy can also negatively impact baby’s latch which can lower the amount of milk they are able to successfully transfer which signals your body to slow down the milk production.
Signs of Low Milk Supply
Signs that you may have a low milk supply don’t come from your body so much as baby’s body.
The number one thing to look at that will help you to determine if your baby is getting enough milk is if baby is gaining weight well or not.
If your baby is consistently gaining weight, it’s a good sign that your milk supply is just fine.
You may not be able to weigh your baby all of the time though. If you have any concerns, you can pay attention to the number of wet and dirty nappies your baby is having.
Your baby should have at least 5 wet nappies a day. The number of dirty nappies your baby has may vary with your baby’s age.
When your baby is first born, you should be seeing at least 3 bowel movements each day, but this will likely decrease as your baby ages.
Tips for Increasing Your Milk Supply
If you suspect that you may have a low milk supply, it’s a good idea to seek help from a lactation consultant. They can help you determine if you do indeed have a low milk supply and if so, what the cause of it is.
If your milk supply is low, there are things you can do to increase it.
#1 Nurse Your Baby on Demand
If you’re not already, you should definitely nurse your baby on demand.
This means that you nurse your baby every time they want to nurse for as long as they want to nurse. Your baby will nurse just as much as they need to which will help your body know how much milk it needs to produce.
#2 Make Sure Your Baby Has a Good Latch
If a baby isn’t latched properly, it can make it difficult for them to efficiently remove milk.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s latch, it’s a good idea to see a lactation consultant. They will be able to evaluate your baby’s latch and help you correct it if needed.
#3 Pump In-Between Nursing Sessions
One good way to increase your milk supply is to add pumping sessions in-between nursing sessions.
The more milk you remove, the more milk your body makes. Some people worry that if they pump, they won’t have any milk left when their baby wants to nurse again, but your breasts never completely run out of milk.
The baby may just have to nurse longer to be satisfied which is actually also good for your supply as it stimulates your body to produce more milk.
#4 Supplement with Your Own Milk
If your supply is so low that you must supplement, try to use your own milk instead of formula or donor milk.
Make sure that you get in a pumping session for every time that baby takes a bottle to help stimulate the right amount of milk production.
If possible, have your partner or someone else feed the bottle to your baby so that you can pump at the same time.
#5 Take Proper Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself can be an important factor in making sure you are producing an adequate amount of milk for your baby.
Make sure that you’re getting plenty of rest and are eating a healthy diet. Water intake is very important too.
Make sure that you are always drinking to satisfy your thirst – there is no reason to force yourself to drink more than you are thirsty for.
Also, choose water over other things like soda pop.
#6 Switch Sides During Feedings
Try to let baby nurse from both breasts at each feeding.
Each time your baby starts to lose interest or gets sleepy, try to switch them to the other side.
This encourages both sides to produce more milk and helps encourage baby to remove more milk as well.
#7 Consuming Specific Things
Many breastfeeding mums swear by certain foods or drinks to increase their milk supply.
There are tons of lactation recipes floating around the internet claiming to boost your milk supply.
These things aren’t harmful and may provide some benefit but it’s more important to identify the reason you are struggling with your supply and to nurse your baby as often as possible.
Enjoy Nursing Your Baby
It can be easy to become obsessed with worrying about milk supply.
Obviously, you want to make sure that your precious bub is getting plenty to eat. However, the best thing that you can do during this time is try to relax and follow your baby’s lead.
Your baby’s body knows what they need and they will nurse just the right amount when allowed to. This will signal your body to make just the right amount of milk for your baby’s needs. I
t can be overwhelming spending so much time nursing your bub, but remember that this is only a short time in your lives and do your best to enjoy every fleeting moment.
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