How to increase your breast milk supply
One of the only certainties of motherhood is the constant uncertainties. Have I bought the right buggy, is my baby developing at the same time as every other baby, and is my baby getting enough milk? Just a few examples of questions that occupy the minds of moms everywhere. More often than not, you don’t need to worry. Especially when it comes to breast milk. It’s produced on a supply and demand basis (you can thank mother nature for being so damn smart) and should be sufficient, but, if you’re concerned that your milk supply is insufficient, you can start monitoring the key indicators of your baby’s development.
Signs your baby is getting enough breast milk
It can be hard to determine what’s the right amount of breast milk for your baby. But as time goes on you’ll become more confident in recognizing the needs of your little one and fall in synch with each other. But to help you out in the meantime, here are some key signs that indicate your baby is getting a good feed.
- Steady weight gain – this can be effectively tracked by using a growth chart to see development on a weekly basis.
- Regular nappy changes – a wet nappy might not make you happy, but it shows your baby is a satisfied customer. It’s estimated that 6 wet nappy changes per day are a good amount, with two of those including poos.
- Regular mood patterns – if your baby seems relatively happy and alert between feeds then this is also a good sign. They’ll become fussy when hungry (just like you when you’ve not had time for lunch).
- They know when they’re full – your baby comes off the breast on its own at the end of feeds.
- Obvious gulping during feeds – your little one’s cheeks should remain round and full (not hollowed) as they rapidly suck and follow with long, rhythmic sucks and swallows with occasional pauses.
Factors that may affect milk supply
There may be some lifestyle factors that are impacting your ability to produce an adequate milk supply. Equally, there may be health issues impacting milk supply that might require professional input. It’s useful to consider the factors below throughout your breastfeeding journey.
- Poor attachment and positioning.
- Irregular feeding (more feeds result in more milk production) because like we said at the beginning, it’s all about supply and demand, baby.
- Drinking alcohol to excess and smoking whilst breastfeeding.
- Previous breast surgery.
- Hormonal birth control – progestin-only birth control is recommended for nursing mothers. So that means Mirena IUD, Depo-Provera, Implanon, and the mini-pill.
- Introducing pacifiers/dummies too early – as tempting as it is to use them, it’s recommended that you avoid them until mama and baby are happy with breastfeeding as it can affect how the baby learns to latch on.
- Scheduled feeding interferes with the supply and demand cycle of milk production, so it’s most effective to nurse your baby whenever they show signs that they’re hungry.
- Health or anatomical problems with your baby like jaundice or tongue-tie can affect their ability to withdraw milk effectively from your breast.
Tips to boost milk production
Before you start frantically worrying about your milk supply, remember that every breastfeeding journey is different. While these tips have been proven to increase breast milk supply in some women, it’s not necessarily the case for everyone. If these methods don’t prove successful it’s recommended that you consult your doctor or midwife for advice.
- Breastfeed as soon as possible – waiting too long to begin breastfeeding can lower milk supply.
- Brace yourself to be tired because it’s recommended you breastfeed eight to twelve times a day, approximately every two to three hours.
- Check your latch method and ensure that your little one is latched on and positioned well.
- Don’t skip breastfeeding sessions and pump your breasts each time you miss a breastfeeding session to protect your milk supply. A wireless pump like Elvie Pump makes it easy to pump on the go and carry on with some semblance of normal life while breastfeeding.
- Be cautious of medications – certain medications can decrease milk supply so always check with a doctor before taking anything when you’re feeding.
- Try to refrain from formulas – the more formula you include in your baby’s diet the less milk you will have to naturally produce, lowering your milk supply.
- Offer both breasts to your baby when breastfeeding and ensure to distribute feeds between each evenly.
Trusting the process
Whilst it’s often talked about as the most natural act in the world, breastfeeding can also be very daunting and frustrating. The premise surrounding “breast is best” is undoubtedly true but is sometimes not possible for many mothers, so it’s important to remember that the process may not be plain sailing. All you can do is your best mama.
The best and most important advice we can give mothers concerned about their milk supply is do not worry. A few small lifestyle changes can increase your supply and stressing yourself out about it will only make it worse. So trust the process. Easier said than done we know.
If after trying these changes your milk supply doesn’t increase, consult a health professional. You may find that there is nothing to worry about and that your milk supply is a perfectly normal amount for your baby. If not, a health professional will help you on your breastfeeding journey. But remember, 12-15% of women experience ‘disrupted lactation’. It’s perfectly normal.