When you think about it, breastfeeding is an amazing process! For starters, breastfeeding is the only way to give your baby the unique rich blend of nutrients and immune-boosting elements that provide life enhancing benefits. Even the process of breastfeeding is fascinating. For example, did you know that your breasts have the ability to respond to how much milk your baby needs? This means that, for the most part, your breasts will always make “enough milk,” contrary to the ridiculous breastfeeding myths that are still out there.
That said, given the complexity of the human body, not everyone’s experience with breastfeeding is the same and some women do encounter challenges. One of the most common is feeling like your breasts are not producing enough milk. While there are a few things that can legitimately affect your milk production, such as stress or medical condition, more often than not, mothers are worrying about nothing. In other words, moms often worry that their milk supply is low, even when it isn’t.
It may be helpful to keep in mind that breastmilk production is a matter of “supply and demand.” Even if your breasts don’t “feel full enough” to you, as long as your baby is gaining enough weight on breastmilk alone, your milk supply is not a problem. Also, keep in mind that it is perfectly normal for a new mother’s breasts to feel less full, or even “empty,” after the first 6-12 weeks of breastfeeding. This is part of the natural adjustment that your body makes from the first days of breastfeeding.
If you are still concerned about whether you are producing enough breastmilk, here are a few additional steps that you can take.
Understanding Your Own Cycle of Supply and Demand
Several factors impact your breastmilk supply, including how often your baby is feeding, your stress level and whether you are taking certain medications. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new prescription medicine, just to make sure it is safe.
How to Tell if Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
Even if your breasts don’t feel full, the chances are pretty good that your baby is still getting what she needs. As long as your baby is producing wet diapers (with colourless urine) and is having normal, regular bowel movements, it’s almost certain that your breastmilk supply is perfectly fine, no matter how your breasts feel.
Also watch how your baby responds during nursing times: is your baby gulping and swallowing? Is your baby happy and peaceful after nursing? These are good signs that your baby is getting plenty of breast milk. If you are still concerned, check to make sure that your baby is gaining weight. This is actually the best way to make sure that your breastmilk supply is at a sufficient level. It's important to know that babies will often lose around 10% of their body weight after birth and it'll take around 2 weeks for them to regain it. So don't be surprised and overly concerned when this happens.
How to Boost Your Milk Supply
If your baby doesn’t seem to be urinating or pooping normally, or you are seeing other signs of low milk supply, here are a few breastfeeding solutions to try in order to increase your breastmilk supply:
- Double-check the baby’s latch: If your baby doesn’t have a good latch-on to the nipple, then your baby might not be getting enough milk. In addition, she might not be stimulating your breasts to produce enough milk.
- Breastfeed your baby on demand: Don’t try to put a baby on a strict schedule for breastfeeding. Remember, it is not possible to “spoil” a baby by nursing them too much. Often, feeding your baby whenever the baby is interested in nursing can help boost breastmilk supply. Also some moms have a smaller storage capacity, so you might need to empty your breasts more frequently than others to trigger more production.
- Don’t use formula or pacifiers. Some moms supplement their breastfeeding with formula, or use pacifiers to calm a fussy baby – but both of these can be a problem if your breastmilk supply is low. Keep the baby focused on getting all of his nourishment from breast milk. This will tell your breasts that it’s time to produce more breast milk.
- Try double pumping between feedings. According to research, pumping both breasts simultaneously can increase the volume of milk pumped by 18 percent.
- Take care of yourself: Your well-being is an important part of your breastmilk supply. So, make sure you reduce stress, get plenty of sleep, eat well, and drink lots of water.
If your breasts don’t feel “full,” this is usually not a sign of low breastmilk supply. For most breastfeeding problems related to breastmilk supply, the answer is: “more breastfeeding.” Keep nursing, keep pumping, and that will keep stimulating your body to produce more milk.
Are you a breastfeeding mom who thought they had low milk supply? What advice would you give to the other members of our community? Please add your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on the Medela Facebook page.