Nearly all nursing mothers worry at one time or another about whether their babies are getting enough milk. Since we can’t measure breast milk intake the way we can formula, it is easy to be insecure about your milk supply.
The first thing to determine is whether your supply is really low or not. Know that it’s normal for your baby to lose some weight in the first couple of days after birth. Babies normally lose 5-7 % of their weight in the first couple of days as their bodies excrete the extra fluid (for the average baby, this is close to a half a pound weight loss).
Some common concerns mothers have are if:
- The baby nurses often, or seems hungry soon after being fed. Remember it is normal for babies to feed often. They love being held close and have a strong need to suck. Also, breast milk is digested faster than formula, so nursing babies tend to eat more often. Nursing 10-12 times or more in 24 hours is not unusual.
- They compare their baby’s nursing patterns, weight gain, or sleep habits to another’s baby. Know that each baby is different; therefore their nursing patterns will be different.
- They worry about their baby’s growth spurts. Growth Spurts normally occur at around 10 days to 2 weeks, at 3 weeks, at 6 weeks, at 3 months, and again at 6 months. Your baby will nurse more frequently during this time. After nursing for a few days, your supply will increase to meet your baby’s demand.
- The baby spends less time at the breast In the early weeks of nursing your body is still adjusting and your milk supply is still being formed to meet your baby’s needs. You may find your baby will take one breast rather than both at a feeding or your breasts feel softer and don’t leak as much. These changes are normal.
If feel you aren’t producing enough milk here are some reasons that can contribute to a low milk supply:
- You’re not getting enough sucking stimulation. Your baby may not be nursing vigorously enough to empty your breasts adequately or he/she may not be giving you the stimulation you need if he/she is sucking weakly or ineffectively.
- Being separated from your baby or scheduling feedings. It’s not always possible to be there every time your baby is hungry; whether you are at work or you just need a break. This can interfere with your milk supply as nursing often is the best way to boost your milk production.
- Returning to work/sickness. When returning to work you may find that your milk production decreases. The stress of being back at work and/or being away from your baby for long periods of time can make it difficult to maintain your supply. Also, if you are sick you may find that your supply will also go down.
- You limit the amount of time your baby spends at the breast. As a new born, your baby needs to spend 20-45 minutes nursing in order to get enough milk. Offering both breasts at a feeding not only stimulates the breasts but gives your baby the chance to get more milk.
- Using formula supplements or pacifiers. “This can regularly decrease your supply. Babies who are full of formula will nurse less often, and some babies are willing to meet their sucking needs with a pacifier rather than spending time at the breast. If you need to supplement with formula, try to pump after feedings to give your breasts extra stimulation. “
- Sore Nipples. If your nipples are sore the pain may inhibit your letdown reflex, or the reflex that releases the milk from the breast. You may find that you want to delay feedings due to the pain as well. Often positioning changes will correct the problem.
- Previous breast surgery. “Anytime you have breast surgery, there is a risk of breastfeeding problems, especially if milk ducts have been damaged.”
- Birth control pills. Taking birth control pills that contain “estrogen and progesterone while nursing can alter your hormone levels and cause a decrease in your supply. Smoking heavily, and taking certain medications can also adversely affect your supply.”
Remember – some trouble breastfeeding is normal. However, if your baby is losing weight or not gaining rapidly enough, you should consult your doctor to make sure your baby is healthy, and that a medical problem is not causing the low weight gain.
Source: Breastfeeding Basics, Increasing Your Milk Supply, https://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/articles/increasing-your-milk-supply