The conception of having a “low milk supply” is very relative because most mothers will produce just enough milk to sustain a healthy diet for their babies.
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However, your milk supply is considered low if your baby doesn’t get enough breastmilk and needs a formula on the side to complete their nutrition requirements.
Mothers tend to worry about their milk supply in the first weeks of breastfeeding. However, this phase is normal to produce less milk as your body adjusts to your baby’s needs and eating habits.
Causes of a Low Milk Supply
Several situations might indicate or generate a decreased milk supply. However, all these situations can be improved or eliminated so that you can offer your baby just as much milk as they need to thrive and gain weight.
- If your baby is not latching well, they will not eat well enough: This will slow down your milk production and make you think that there is a problem when you need to make sure that your baby is eating the right way.
- Your baby doesn’t frequently feed enough: If your baby eats less than other babies, you will produce less milk as well. All babies are different, so your baby may feed less frequently. If this is the case, you can make up for the longer breaks between meals by using a breast pump. Babies tend to eat on average between eight and 12 times in a 24-hour time frame.
- You are not breastfeeding exclusively: If you are mixing nursing meals with formula meals, you might notice a decrease in your breastmilk supply as well. This is not happening because your body produces less milk than it should produce but is not stimulated enough.
- You had Mastitis or breast surgery: If you had any type of health condition that affected your breasts directly, it could happen that your milk supply will be lower. This is more common during the recovery phase. Once your breasts are completely healed, your milk supply should be back to normal levels.
- Smoking or unhealthy lifestyle: If you smoke, don’t rest enough, and don’t consume nutritious calories each day, your body will not have the support to produce the breastmilk your baby needs. A healthy amount of breastmilk starts with a balanced lifestyle, making sure you don’t lose sleep and eat a diet rich in lean meat, fruits and veggies.
- In rare cases, a medical condition could prevent milk production or significantly reduce the milk supply. But this happens in less than five percent of mothers. However, if you suspect such a condition, it is best to talk to your doctor.
Ways to increase your milk supply
Just as some poor habits can negatively affect your milk supply, there are things you can do to increase it as well. Here are a few ideas that you can apply right away!
- Feed your baby often and pump your milk between meals: Frequent stimulation is often the immediate solution to a low milk supply. Your baby should eat between eight and 12 times per day, including night feedings as well. If your baby eats less, you can use a breast pump in between and make sure you empty your breasts several times a day. Doing so will give your body the signal to produce more breastmilk for future meals.
- Make sure your baby is latching the right way: Some babies have no problem latching naturally, while others need help. Your baby should suck and swallow correctly to get the nutrition they need and keep your breasts stimulated enough to produce milk. If you have trouble with latching your baby, make sure you seek the help of a lactation consultant.
- Switch from one breast to another: Pay attention to the way your baby is feeding, and when you notice that they struggle to swallow, switch to the other breast. Doing so will help them empty both breasts, and your body will produce more breastmilk as a result of that.
- Massage your breasts in between nursing sessions or pumping sessions to stimulate milk flow: In addition, you can simply massage your breasts with your hands throughout the day to increase blood circulation and avoid breast engorgement as well.
- Have your doctor prescribe you a lactation supplement: There are situations when getting a lactation supplement can help increase milk supply.
How to know your baby eats enough?
As we mentioned, your body will produce as much breastmilk as your baby needs. So, one of the best indications of enough milk supply is the way your baby eats if you nurse them exclusively. So, here are some signs that your little one gets all the breastmilk they need!
- If they have between six and eight wet diapers in 24 hours, this is an excellent sign that they eat enough and they stay hydrated.
- A baby that eats well will also be calm and satisfied after each meal. Some babies even tend to take short naps after a satisfying meal.
- Another indicator that your baby eats well is weight gain. If they seem to gain about 150 grams per week for the first three months, that means that they eat enough to develop health.
- As relative as low milk supply is, you should still pay attention to your baby’s needs and make sure the nursing diet covers those requirements.
If you are still concerned about your breastmilk supply, talking to your doctor will help you identify a problem and the best treatment for you.