Being a mom is surely a daunting task. And really, moms cannot be blamed when they look into every nook and cranny to make sure that their child is growing healthy and strong.
If you are breastfeeding, you probably worry about not making enough milk for your little one. Perhaps you also think that you have to increase your milk supply.
Your worries will hopefully be dispelled after reading this article, as we discuss common misconceptions about the need to increase milk supply along with practical tips.
In this article
- How much milk should I make?
- What are NOT signs that my milk supply is decreasing?
- What are the TRUE signs that my milk supply is decreasing?
- Why do I have a low milk supply?
- How do I increase my milk supply?
- What are home remedies for increasing milk supply?
How much milk should I make?
Let us briefly go over how milk production works. Your milk production initially relies on your hormones. Later on, it works on a demand-and-supply basis.
Do not expect to produce much milk at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. You baby’s tummy is really small so he does not need much milk. Following the thought of supply and demand, the more you breastfeed, the more milk you make. The less you do, the less milk you make.
Babies consume 25 ounces of milk for the first six months of life on average.
What are NOT signs that my milk supply is decreasing?
More often than not, a mother’s worries about having a low milk supply are false. The following are some of the most common misconceptions about milk supply:
- My breasts have returned to normal – It’s normal for your breasts not to feel full and hard anymore as your body eases into your breastfeeding routine. It will learn to produce just enough milk to feed your little one.
- No more breastmilk leakage – This is actually great news! You do not have to worry about embarrassing yourself in public anymore as your breastmilk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs.
- My baby feeds too fast – Your baby will learn how to breastfeed more efficiently in the long run. This means that he will need less time to get the amount of milk that he needs.
- My baby wants to be frequently fed – Chances are, your baby is going through a growth spurt, which may last from several days to a week. Your baby will have to feed frequently through this time. Plus, babies do not nurse just to be fed, but also for comfort.
- No milk comes out when I pump – You may not know how much milk your baby is getting from you, but his suckling is actually more effective at drawing milk than pumping.
What are the TRUE signs that my milk supply is decreasing?
If the above are not sure signs that your milk supply is dropping, then what are? The following may be more reliable indicators:
- My baby is not gaining enough weight – It is normal for babies to lose some of their weight a few days after birth, but they should regain that in a couple of weeks. Afterward, it is normal to gain 1 to 2 pounds every month for the first six months.
- Breastfeeding jaundice – Breastfeeding jaundice is observable with the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. This happens when the baby is not producing enough waste to release the buildup of bilirubin in his body.
- Fewer wet and soiled diapers – Normally, babies wet 6-8 diapers every day, while they poop 2-5 times a day. Their urine should be light yellow or clear, while their poop is mustard yellow and soft. In the first few days of life, expect dark and hard stools called meconium.
- Less activity – If your baby is not getting enough nutrition, she will be lethargic and will lose weight.
- No pattern when breastfeeding – Be observant if your baby shows signs of frustration and fussiness when feeding. If she is getting enough milk, you will notice a pattern in her suckling, pauses, and swallowing.
Why do I have a low milk supply?
There are many possible reasons why your milk production may be dipping:
Improper breastfeeding practices
- Improper latch – If you are new to breastfeeding, it is normal to feel discomfort. However, there must be something wrong about your baby’s latch if you constantly feel pain. Try to make some adjustments and see what works for you.
- Scheduled feeding – Breastfeeding requires really long patience, and even more so if you are looking to increase your milk supply. It is important that you breastfeed on demand, letting your child decide when to stop. Otherwise, your body would think it does not need to produce much milk.
- Offering only one breast per feeding – Offering only one breast per feeding gives your body signals not to produce much milk.
- Bottle-feeding – Feeding your baby through the bottle is not the same as suckling on a breast. It may cause nipple confusion and so your baby may even reject to feed from your breast because it is easier to draw milk from the bottle than from the breast.
- Using pacifiers – Similar to bottle nipples, pacifiers are not the same as breastfeeding and so it may affect your child’s latch. It also reduces the time that can be spent on your breast, thus also reducing simulation to produce milk.
- Using nipple shields – Nipple shields may affect the let-down of your milk and also reduce simulation of your breast.
Baby’s behavior and medical condition
- Sleepy baby – Sleep is really important for your baby’s growth, but there may be times that your baby would sleep through feedings. Not only will he miss extra nutrition, but this also gives your body signals to produce less milk.
- Tongue tie – Being tongue-tied restricts the movement of your baby’s tongue, thus affecting his latch, suckling, and swallowing.
- Lip tie – This happens when a small piece of tissue connects your baby’s upper lip to his gums, thus restricting movement.
Mom’s physical and medical condition
- Anatomy issues – Flat or inverted nipples can cause difficulties in breastfeeding. A lack of mammary tissues in your breasts may also cause a shortage in milk supply.
- Monthly period – Your milk supply normally decreases when you are on your period, and there is nothing that you can do about it. Do not lose heart, though, because this only lasts about a week.
- Medications – Birth control pills that have estrogen may cause a dip in your milk supply. Other medications may also affect your milk supply, such as aspirin, and meds for cancer and heart problems.
- Medical conditions – Postpartum bleeding, polycystic ovary syndrome, and diabetes may all affect your ability to produce enough milk for your baby.
How do I increase my milk supply?
While there are many possible causes for a decrease in milk supply, the good news is there are also a lot of ways of increasing them!
- See your healthcare provider or lactation consultant – It is always best to consult the experts before taking measures on your own. It may be that they can see the underlying problems right away and save you a lot of time and effort. Moreover, you can avoid doing things that may actually be bad for you.
- Adjust latch and position – Your baby must be suckling not just on your nipple, but on your areola and a part of your breast tissue. Your nipple should be hitting the soft palate of your baby, too. Also consider different breastfeeding positions such as the football hold, and cradle hold. Also use a nursing pillow for comfort, if necessary.
- Nurse on demand – Do not put restrictions when breastfeeding and allow your baby to decide when to end each session. Ending sessions early may tell your body that you already have enough milk.
- Breastfeed frequently – The normal frequency of breastfeeding sessions is 8-12 per day, on 2-3-hour intervals. Also, have the extra patience for night feedings because your baby still gets around 30% of his daily calories from night feedings. True, you may not be able to achieve that 8-hour sleep you have been longing for, but keep heart.
- Breastfeed longer – Aside from frequent breastfeeding, try to extend each session for a couple of minutes for more stimulation.
- Skin-to-skin contact – Skin-to-skin contact helps stimulate oxytocin and prolactin, the hormones responsible for milk production and release. It also helps you bond more with your baby. To do this, simply remove your top and your bra while feeding your baby with only his nappies on.
- Do breast compressions – You can try massaging and gently squeezing your breast while your baby is breastfeeding to help you express more milk and to keep nursing for a longer period of time.
- Warm showers – Before nursing or pumping, take a warm shower to help promote blood circulation. You may also use a warm cloth instead of showering.
- Nursing vacation – Consider taking a couple of days off with your little one. Spend most of this time nursing and breastfeeding. This will send your body a lot of signals to make more milk.
- Switch nursing – Offer both of your breasts when breastfeeding. Switch between your breasts at least 3 times per feeding, when you notice that your baby is falling asleep, losing interest, or just merely sucking for comfort.
- Double nursing – Also another way of offering both of your breasts is to do double nursing. This is done by offering the other breast when your little one is done with the first one. Remember that only offering one breast per feeding will trick your body into thinking that you do not need more milk.
- Always think about your little one when pumping – Being around your child can help induce the let-down reflex. Even just hearing your little one cry can actually trigger this reflex. You can also look at a photo of your baby if you are away from home.
- Pump after nursing – Babies do not completely drain the milk off your breasts when they feed. Following the supply-and-demand principle, empty breast sends signals to your body to make more. Consider pumping for around 20 minutes after sessions.
- Hand express after pumping – After pumping, you may also want to hand express for five minutes. While there may be no leftover milk coming out, this extra stimulation helps your body make more milk.
- Power pumping – You can also commit an hour each day to power pump. Yes, power pumping requires dedication. This is done by pumping for 20 minutes, resting for 10 minutes, pumping again for 10 minutes, resting for another 10 minutes, then pumping again for 10 minutes.
- Consider medications – This should be your last option when trying to increase your milk supply. There are two kinds of medications used: Reglan and Domperidone. Between the two, Reglan has more side effects such as fatigue and depression. However, for some reason, Domperidone has been banned in the US. Do talk to your healthcare provider when considering taking medications.
What are home remedies for increasing milk supply?
Again, taking medications to increase milk supply should be your last resort. Here are some other things you can do to before that:
- Drink a lot of water – Perhaps drinking a lot of water is what is most taken for granted when it comes to building a good milk supply. Consider this: 88% of breastmilk is composed of water. Be sure that you take around 100 ounces of water every day. If you struggle about drinking more water, you can try infused water or drinking an additional 20 ounces of electrolytes (e.g. Gatorade) per day.
- Have a healthy balanced diet – Breastfeeding takes up around 500 calories per day so be sure that you replenish on good calories every day. Do not consume below 1800 calories per day if you are breastfeeding or else you may experience a dip in your supply. Consume a variety of healthy foods from different food groups.
- Consider galactagogues – There are supplements, teas, and food that are called galactagogues because they help increase milk supply. Some of these are:
- Fenugreek seeds
- Alfalfa seeds
- Fennel seeds
- Blessed thistle
- Green papaya
Lastly, do not forget to relax and take a breath! Stress actually inhibits milk production so rest, steal naps, and sleep whenever you can. Breastfeeding is hard, but its rewards are far greater than the troubles. Enjoy this precious time of bonding with your little one and when you think your breastmilk supply is taking a dip, know that there are a lot of ways to increase your milk supply.