Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby. However, even though it is natural, it can still be difficult for many mothers. One of the greatest struggles to overcome is low milk supply and increasing your production.
When possible, breastfeeding is important because your body is designed to provide the right nutrients and antibodies for your baby. All breastmilk is not the same. From birth until you stop breastfeeding, your breastmilk changes to meet the needs of your child.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for children include a decreased risk of:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Lower respiratory disease
- Ear infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea/vomiting)
Health benefits for the breastfeeding mother include a decreased risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
How Do I Know if My Milk Supply is Low?
Most mothers produce enough milk to feed their babies. However, underlying health conditions and lifestyle choices may contribute to lower breastmilk production. Keep in mind that your baby will go through growth spurts when it may seem like your supply decreases, but your child is actually drinking more milk.
Signs that your baby isn’t getting enough milk include:
Growth. Your baby may lose more than 10% of their weight following birth. Alternately, they may not gain enough weight over time, indicating that you have a lower milk production than they need.
Diapers. Not producing enough wet and dirty diapers each day is a sign that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat. By three days old, your baby should have at least six wet diapers and three dirty diapers each day.
Hunger. Your baby may still be fussy after nursing and shows signs of hunger, like sucking on hands. Usually when babies are hungry, they ball their hands up into fists. As they nurse and feel full, their hands relax. If your baby is still tense after nursing, they may be hungry.
How Can I Increase My Milk Production?
There any many products available for purchase claiming to increase milk supply. While nutrition does play a part in how much milk you make, you don’t need to buy any specific products to increase your supply.
Breastfeed on demand. The more time your infant spends latched to your breast, the more milk you will produce. Breastfeeding sends signals to your body to produce more milk.
You’ll hear that you should nurse a newborn every three hours, but babies don’t follow schedules. Instead, feed your baby when they are hungry. Eventually, you will develop a routine.
Ensure a proper latch. If your baby doesn’t have a deep latch, they won’t get enough milk. Over time, your body will begin to produce less milk since there is less of a demand. Some babies have lip and tongue ties that restrict movement in their mouth. This reduces their ability to draw milk from your breast.
Once you address an incorrect latch, your production may increase. Nurse your baby frequently and be patient as your body adjusts to produce more milk for your baby.
Maintain a healthy diet. Your body uses what you eat and drink to fuel breastmilk production. Some foods, like oatmeal and coconut milk, have a reputation for increasing milk supply.
Remember, you’re still eating for two! It’s normal to be more hungry than usual during breastfeeding since your body is working overtime to feed another human. While snacks and processed foods are okay, try to fill up on fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins first.
Pump in place of feedings. If your baby sleeps longer or skips a nursing session for some reason, be sure to pump. While pumping is not as effective as breastfeeding, it still lets your body know that there is a demand to produce more milk.
Speak to a lactation consultant. If you’re still struggling to produce enough milk and don’t know why, seek out professional help. Look for a lactation consultant who is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).
A lactation consultant can watch you nurse your baby and even do a weighted feed to see how much milk your baby gets while nursing. They do this by weighing your baby before and after a feed.
As you try to increase your supply, supplement as little as possible with bottles and formula. However, if you’ve tried all of these tips and your baby still isn’t getting enough, you still have options. You can continue to breastfeed on demand and supplement following each nursing session with formula.