Advice Column, Pregnancy & Baby

Perception vs Reality Of An Insufficient Milk Supply

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  • Category Advice Column, Pregnancy & Baby

There are many reasons that a mother may believe there is a problem with her breast milk. You may worry that your milk is not rich or satisfying enough. Perhaps it is causing excessive gas or even an allergic reaction in your baby. But by far, the most common concern when it comes to breastfeeding is that you simply do not have enough milk. This is universally the most typical reason for a mother to give up breast-feeding just a couple of weeks after her baby’s birth. But, studies show that a very limited number of women who terminate breast feeding for this reason actually have a low milk supply.

One may suspect a low milk supply when you lose the feeling of ‘fullness’in your breasts or when your breasts stop leaking. This usually happens at around 6 weeks post birth and is simply a sign that your breasts are adapting to meet the demands of your baby. Often, this coincides with your baby’s first growth spurt. A baby who is going through a growth spurt will want to feed more frequently leaving your breasts feeling less full than normal. This again may cause a mother to believe that she does not have enough milk for her child and she may want to supplement feeds.

The key to determining whether your baby is getting enough milk or not is learning about and recognising normal newborn behaviour.

Breastfeeding is going well and your baby is getting enough milk if:

  • By day 4 your baby is producing at least six wet nappies in a 24 hour period
  • Your baby is producing pale, diluted urine
  • By day 4 your baby is producing three or more stools in a 24 hour period that are yellow or at least turning yellow
  • Your baby is feeding 8 – 12 times in a 24 hour period
  • Your breasts feel softer after a feed
  • You are not experiencing pain during or after a feed
  • Your baby regains his birth weight after 10 – 14 days
  • Your baby is gaining 150g – 240g per week
  • You can hear your baby swallowing during a feed
  • Your baby is alert during awake times
  • Your baby is content between feeds

Genuine Low Milk Supply

A genuine low milk supply does and can occur at any time in your breastfeeding journey but can usually be corrected. This is often caused by an incorrect latch, limited time at the breast, improper positioning, illness, a baby’s inability to suck properly or supplemented feedings. A mother may also notice a drop in her milk supply if she is particularly tired, stressed or simply not consuming enough calories in her daily diet. Many second or third time moms will experience a low supply at some point and this is largely due to the fact that life is much busier than it was when you had just one baby to look after.

The first thing that one must look at when it comes to increasing your supply is to find the cause of insufficient production and to fix it. Many mothers may be able to increase milk production by simply altering your pattern of feeds and increasing the number of times that you feed in a 24 hour period. However, if your baby is not latching correctly or if she is unable to remove milk from your breast optimally, this will need to be corrected before you can begin to breast-feed successfully. It is a good idea to visit your local well baby clinic or to contact a breastfeeding consultant if you are at all worried that your baby is not getting enough milk.

Once you have eliminated causes such as an incorrect latch or illness you can focus on upping your supply.

Actions for increasing milk production:

  • Rest as much as possible. relax during feeds as this will encourage milk flow
  • Take a ‘baby break’and spend 100% of your time with your baby for 48 hours. use this time to focus on increasing feeds and resting.
  • Take special precautions to prevent sore nipples (use a pure form of lanolin, check latch, air dry nipples)
  • Use galactagogues – foods, drinks or herbs used to increase production
  • Use a hospital grade electric breast pump to provide additional stimulation for your breasts – pump for 10 minutes per side after each feed
  • Improve your diet – focus on eating protein with every meal and snack of the day and try to include a breastfeeding or pregnancy specific shake in every 24 hour period
  • Feed your baby at a time when he is alert and hungry to optimise milk removal
  • Resume night feeds if they have been dropped
  • Nurse for comfort if your baby is fussy
  • Encourage your baby to feed more frequently and for longer time periods

On the rare occasion even after trying all of the above, a mother may still be struggling. In this case, it may be worth asking your doctor about various drugs that one can safely take to encourage milk production.

 

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