It is common that a breastfeeding mom becomes concerned about her breastmilk supply. If you are worried you are running low, these signs of low milk supply and information on breastfeeding in general, might help you be more informed and put your mind at ease.
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Signs of low milk supply
It’s important to know that just because you may think your supply is low, it might not be. If you’re overproducing and your milk supply starts to adjust to fit your baby’s needs, it might feel like you’re losing your milk supply entirely. You should always consult your doctor or a lactation consultant and discuss it with them. But, there are a few signs that could indicate low milk supply:
The most accurate signs you have a low milk supply:
1. Your baby is having fewer wet or poopy diapers than the normal amount
- This is one of the most effective and accurate ways of determining if your milk supply is low. The average amount for a newborn in a 24 hour period is 5-6+ wet diapers, and 1+ poopy diapers. However, after six weeks, babies can begin to poop less often, even once a week can sometimes be normal.
2. Your baby isn’t gaining as much weight is recommended, or is losing weight.
- However, it can be normal for newborns to drop in weight right after birth, but they should start gaining weight shortly after that drop.
Things that (usually) don’t have an effect on your milk supply, but they are worth discussing with your doctor
1. Your baby is feeding more often than usual
- It’s important to remember that newborns feed VERY frequently, and babies will have patterns of suddenly feeding more as they go through milk supply. So frequent feedings aren’t are a super reliable determining factor for low milk supply.
2. Your baby doesn’t seem content after a feeding, and doesn’t unlatch on their own.
- They might possibly be still sucking mildly aggressively, and then unlatch and begin to cry or fuss as if they are hungry, but this can be for many reasons.
3. You aren’t getting very much milk out when you pump.
- While this could be a sign of low supply, it’s important to remember that if a baby has a proper latch, they are much better at getting milk out than a breast pump is.
Things that may cause you to lose your milk supply
1. Supplementing with formula
- Because breastfeeding works by supply and demand, by doing fewer feedings (or pumping sessions) you are telling your body to produce less.
2. Bottle feeding
- Using a bottle might cause your baby to prefer the bottle over the breast, causing frustration from your baby towards breastfeeding. If you decide to bottle feed, we loved the NUK bottles, they are shaped the same as a nipple is while the baby sucks on it, flat where their tongue sits. We also loved the NUK pacifiers for this reason!
3. Your baby has a poor latch
- This can sometimes be because of a tongue or lip tie, or an ineffective feeding position.
4. Taking birth control
- Birth control that contains hormones can lead to a drop in milk supply.
5. Certain medical conditions you might have
- There are quite a few issues that can affect milk supply, such as hormonal disorders, inverted nipples, problems with your milk ducts or mammary glands, etc.
6. Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or taking medications known to lower supply
- Flu & allergy medications are both known to affect supply.
7. Using pacifiers
- Using pacifiers might create a less efficient latch or fewer feedings. It’s not recommended to give a breastfeeding baby a pacifier (or a bottle) right after birth, as it can cause nipple confusion.
8. Not feeding on demand
- Trying to feed on a schedule, rather than on demand could lead to fewer feedings than your baby actually needs.
9. Your baby is going longer periods of time without feeding
- Whether your baby is sleeping more than normal, causing you to skip feedings, or you’re bottle-feeding at times. If you skip a feeding, you can still pump at the same time you would be feeding, to tell your body to keep up the production.
How to increase your breastmilk supply
1. Eating correctly
- Eating healthy and having the correct balance of proteins, carbs, and fats are important in maintaining (or increasing) breast milk supply.
- The Postpartum Cure is a program designed to help women get back in shape after having a baby through proper nutrition (and optional light exercise). It is SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED for breastfeeding moms, because it’s full of recipes that are great for milk supply.
2. Including foods known to increase milk supply in your diet
Certain foods can increase milk supply, here are a few:
- Lactation cookies or teas
- Leafy green vegetables
- Brewers yeast
3. Power pumping
- Power pumping has shown to be really helpful in increasing low milk supply. Read more about how it’s done here!
4. Feed on demand
- Don’t try to feed on a schedule, let your baby tell you when they’re hungry. However, if they’re feeding less often, you can pump in place of a feeding.
5. Take supplements/herbs
Make sure you discuss this with your doctor first, but there is a list of supplements that are often taken to increase supply. Here are a few:
- Blessed or milk thistle
6. See a lactation consultant
- A consultant can help you determine if and why you have a low supply, which is extremely helpful in knowing how to increase it.
7. Pump on both sides at once
- Often times your let down happens on both breasts, not just the one you’re pumping. You don’t want to miss that letdown, so use an electric double pump to pump on both sides simultaneously.
8. Offer both breasts at each feeding
- After the baby unlatches, offer them the other breast and let them feed on it if they choose to.
How long does it take to increase milk supply
This can be hard to determine because it depends a lot on what is causing your supply to drop. Typically, if you’re taking recommended action to increase your supply, you can notice an increase in as little as a few days.
It can be hard to determine if you have a low milk supply, or if your body is just adjusting to your baby’s needs.
When in doubt, always contact your doctor or lactation consultant. We would love it if you could let us know in the comments of any other tips you’ve heard to increase breastmilk supply.
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