Breast feeding challenges: dealing with low milk supply
If you are concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, there are some things you can try to boost supply.
As a breast feeding mum, do you worry about whether you are producing enough milk for your baby? You’re not alone – many new mums voice concerns about their supply.
It can be hard to work out whether you have a low milk supply, because there is no accurate way to measure the amount of milk in your breasts. Instead, you have to rely on instinct and your baby’s cues – yet these can often be false alarms, too.
There are two clear signs that your baby isn’t getting enough milk. The first is their weight gain, or lack thereof. It is completely normal for newborns to lose weight in the first three to four days of life, but they should regain their birth weight within about two weeks.
Also take note of how many nappies you are going through each day. Babies should produce several wet and dirty nappies per day – this is a good indication that they are getting what they need from you.
How to improve your milk supply
If your baby isn’t gaining weight or producing enough wet and dirty nappies, here are some things you can do to help improve your milk supply:
- Relax – easier said than done, but your ‘let-down’ reflex works best when you are relaxed.
- Frequent feeds – to boost your supply, feed your baby more frequently. In the first few weeks after birth, your goal should be 8 to 12 nursing sessions in a 24-hour period. Once your baby becomes more efficient and can drink more milk in a feeding session, they will feed less often.
- Offer both breasts – this will help your baby get enough milk and ensure that both breasts are stimulated frequently to produce more milk. Remember, your body makes milk based on how much is removed from the breast.
- Try breast compression – squeeze your breast firmly (but not to the point of pain) with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other (like you’re holding a sandwich) to help increase milk flow. Wait until your baby is not actively sucking, release her from your nipple, and rotate your fingers around your breast and squeeze again. Switch breasts and repeat twice on each breast.
- Schedule a breast feeding holiday – cuddle up in bed with your baby and do nothing but rest and breast feed – and, of course, feed yourself as well.
- Eat well – you need an extra 450-500 calories each day, ideally nutrient-rich foods including vegetables like spinach, to help keep you feeling energised and healthy. Drink plenty of water, too.
If you are concerned about your milk supply, contact your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for assistance. She or he can check your baby’s positioning and latch, and suggest ways to improve nursing sessions so you and your baby both get what you need.