There’s a common assumption that you will naturally have a breastmilk supply that is adequate for your baby.
I’m here to tell you from a professional and personal standpoint that that is not always the case.
I had one heck of a time getting enough of a breastmilk supply to exclusively feed my babies. Despite doing EVERYTHING that the midwives, doctors, pediatricians, and lactation consultants were telling me to do my body just didn’t seem to want to cooperate.
It took quite some time to be able to establish my breastfeeding supply and provide my kids with enough milk to grow with.
How do I know if I have a low breastmilk supply?
Please note that I am not a medical health professional. The information provided here is based on personal experience and knowledge that I have acquired from research and training. If you are at all concerned please see your midwife, doctor, or lactation consultant.
One of the first indications that your baby is not getting enough milk is a slow weight gain. Weight gain is closely monitored in the first few weeks of life, so if there is a concern your health care professional will pick up on it quickly. In general, a baby should regain her birth weight by the age of two weeks old. If this is not happening the doctor will consider your breastmilk supply as being a component in your baby’s slow weight gain.
Another sign that your baby is not getting enough milk is in his diaper. After the initial meconium nightmare (if you don’t know why I call this a nightmare you will find out soon) your baby’s poop should start to lighten up in color. Between days 2-3 the poop will be green and by day 5 it should be a mustard yellow color with “curds”. After day four, your baby should be having at least 3 poops a day.
Wet diapers should occur at least 5 times a day and should be odorless and colorless. Diana West and Lisa Marasco, lactation consultants and authors of the book: “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk” provide this practical tip:
To understand what a “wet diaper” is, pour 2 tbsp of water into a diaper and let it soak in. If your baby is over 8 lbs do 3 tbsp. Keep this diaper in a Ziploc bag and use it to compare your baby’s soiled diapers.
It is not possible to see how much milk your baby is getting like it is when fluids are being taken out of a measured bottle. However, when there is an indication that baby is not getting enough (dark urine, lack of stools, slow weight gain) it is assumed that this is the case.
How do I increase my breastmilk supply?
Hey! There are some affiliate links in this post. That means that if you order through the links provided I may receive a commission at no cost to you. You get to increase your breastmilk supply and I get to keep doing what I love. It’s a win-win!
First of all, take a big, deep breath. It can be really discouraging to find out that you’re not yet making enough milk for your baby. Believe me, I cried many tears over it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible for you to establish and maintain a healthy supply that will provide everything that your baby needs.
Ensure you have a correct latch
One of the main issues that women have with breastfeeding is developing an effective latch. When you have a good latch baby can take in big gulps of milk compared to having a poor latch, which is like baby drinking a pool from a straw.
As a general rule your baby should be breastfed every 2-3 hours. Keep one eye on your baby and one eye on the clock; if your baby is exhibiting signs of hunger but it’s before 2 hours you can still feed baby. If baby hasn’t eaten in 3 hours it’s a good idea to wake her.
**At nighttime try and maintain a healthy balance between making sure you’re nursing enough and also getting enough sleep. If you go 4-5 hours without nursing your baby that isn’t likely to jeopardize your breastmilk supply.
Warmth promotes milk ejection. If you have a warming pad try to keep it on your breast as you breastfeed (make sure it’s warm and not hot).
If you’re comfortable with it try having a bath with your baby. The warmth will not only increase milk but will also provide a relaxing experience for both of you which also adds to increased breastmilk supply.
Of course, you need support from friends and family, but you also need the physical support of a decent bra like the ones here.
You don’t want something that’s going to be restricting as pressure against your breasts can cause issues, but you want something that’s going to be comfortable for you while being supportive.
Massage and compressions
Massaging your breast in a circular motion with your fingers can help stimulate milk ejection. You can do this while breastfeeding or in between feeds. Take your fingertips and gently massage in a circular motion working from your chest to your nipple on each side of your breast.
When you’re nursing and your baby stops swallowing (because she fell asleep, most likely) you can use breast compressions to help push milk through the ducts. This is done with gentle squeezing while your baby is nursing. Once they start swallowing again you can stop the compressions and then start them up again as necessary until it doesn’t seem to be helping anymore.
The more you tell your body to make milk, the more it’s going to make milk. The most effective way of creating this response is by nursing your baby frequently, but sometimes that’s not always possible. For example, if your baby is ill, taking a bit longer to establish nursing, or only drinking when milk is flowing you may need some extra stimulation to keep your breastmilk supply up.
Often times it’s helpful to pump at the end of each feed to fully drain each breast. Even when there is no milk coming from the breast it’s important to keep pumping for around 10-20 minutes regardless. It’s the stimulation that is most important!
You’re in the first few days of being a new parent and it’s hard! You’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and now you have one more thing you have to worry about.
Give yourself permission to take a break.
Go for a walk without your baby. Do some meditating without your baby. Have a cup of tea and read a book.
Find something to do for yourself that will allow you to recharge a bit.
When you’re ready to go back to your baby make sure that you are physically comfortable when you’re breastfeeding. Keep a water bottle handy, have pillows close by, make sure snacks are plentiful, and maintain a comfortable position when you’re nursing. Many women complain of back pain when they’re nursing, which is often caused by their shoulders being hunched forward while they’re nursing.
If you are experiencing pain make sure to take some time to see your chiropractor, massage therapist, or acupuncturist.
Fun word to say, right?
If you’ve been focussing on the above-mentioned strategies to increase your breastmilk supply then this might be another tool you add to your toolbox.
A galactogogue is a food, herb, or medication that can help stimulate milk production.
This is a conversation that you need to have with your health care professional, but we will cover a few of the more popular suggestions:
There are some medications that can increase the prolactin in your body, which will help increase your breastmilk supply. Of course, there are other considerations that need to be made when opting for this method so your medical history and comfort will need to be discussed with your healthcare professional.
Some of the more popular herbs that are known to increase your breastmilk supply are Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, Goat’s Rue and Fennel. These are available at health food stores or online, however, you need to discuss dosage with your healthcare professional.
Sometimes these herbs come in the form of tea which is already pre-dosed and can be combined with that suggestion of relaxation that was made earlier.
There are also pre-made blends that combine the best herbs in one pill that you can take with a bit more ease. I used the Motherlove More Milk* Special Blend and found it to be quite helpful in increasing my breastmilk supply.
There are some foods that are thought to increase your milk supply. The main ones are oats and brewer’s yeast. The beauty of these two ingredients? They can be made into delicious cookies that are JUST FOR YOU! Okay, so there’s actually no reason why someone else couldn’t indulge, but c’mon….you deserve them to be only yours:)
Work closely with your midwife, doctor, and/or lactation consultant when it comes to establishing your breastmilk supply. They will likely suggest many of the things in this post.
One thing to realllllllly remember, though, is to take care of you. Yes, your whole world is your baby but if you’re struggling it’ll be even harder to make that milk for your beautiful baby. Take breaks. Enjoy a healthy, well-balanced diet. Drink plenty of water. Most importantly, remind yourself frequently that you are doing an amazing job.
Well done, Mama!