At some time or another, many new moms like you have worried, “Why am I not producing enough milk?” Even though it’s a really common question, rest assured: most of the time, mamas are making just what baby needs. To put your mind at ease, here are a few ways to tell if you’re making enough milk—and some reasons why, in rare cases, a woman might not.
Mama, here’s what you need to know on milk supply
Before we talk about how to tell if your baby’s getting enough milk, let’s first take a sec to acknowledge this: our society romanticizes pregnancy and the postpartum period. None of us find it as easy and effortless as TV, movies, and the media make it look. Really, these periods of our lives come with heightened stress, fluctuating hormones, and a ton of intense emotions we may or may not be be prepared for. Your love and concern for your baby is amazing, and you’ll also want to let someone in your life care for you too.
Signs your baby is getting enough milk
We know that part of caring for your baby is making sure they’re getting plenty of nourishment. With breastfeeding, it’s hard to know. But there are some clues that can tell you whether or not your baby is drinking enough. Registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Jennifer of Latched Eternal Consulting says, “Ensure your baby is latched deeply and you can hear your baby swallow. You want your baby to have periods of feeding and calm throughout the day and shows signs of fullness after feeds (relaxed arms/legs, suck is weaker, and your baby unlatches). Baby should be content at the breast while feeding. Monitoring your baby’s poos and pees can help you to know if your baby is taking in enough milk.”
Why leakage and a fussy baby aren’t generally signs of low supply
Many new mamas are hyper-aware of anything to do with feeding. You may worry that, since you’re not leaking from your breasts, you may not be producing enough milk. But leakage isn’t actually a reliable sign of low supply. Every woman is different. That means the amount (or lack thereof) of leakage will vary widely. In fact, most leakage gradually declines in the first few weeks as it is. Other times, you may worry that your baby is extra fussy and wants to feed a lot. So, does that mean they’re not getting satisfied each time at the breast? Nope. Remember that your baby could want to feed as many as 12 to 14 times a day, even when they get enough milk during each feeding. The best part? Breastfeeding often is great for your milk supply.
Want some more advice from Jennifer on breastfeeding? Here’s how to fix your pain during breastfeeding, top questions she gets on lactation and her answers, and when you could benefit from a lactation consultant. You can connect with Jennifer at latchedeternallactation.com.
Still not sure if you’re producing enough milk? These can be a few reasons behind low milk supply (+ here’s what to do)
Not making enough milk isn’t common, but it can happen for some women. If you’re truly having a difficult time with supply, you’ll want to connect with your physician, your baby’s physician, and a certified lactation consultant who you feel comfortable with. It’s also a good idea to accept emotional support from those in your life who you trust. Low milk supply can make many new moms feel like they’re not enough—but, no matter what your supply, you absolutely are a great mama to your baby.
A late start to breastfeeding and incorrect latches can be behind low milk supply
The earlier you start breastfeeding, the easier it will be to encourage your milk production. Some babies will breastfeed soon after birth simply by being held to their mother’s chest skin-to-skin. Incorrect latches can also be a contributor to low milk supply. “When babies are latched shallow, it is like biting the tip of a straw. They get some milk, but not enough to keep them full between feeds,” Jennifer says. “This means less milk is being pulled out of the breast. When this happens, your body starts to reduce milk supply,” she adds. “Ensuring deep latches lets baby pulls more milk out of the breast, which ensures more milk is made by your body. If you are experiencing nipple pain or a creased nipple, this means the latch may be shallow. Speak with an IBCLC to fix the latch sooner.”
Medications, alcohol, and smoking can all decrease your supply
Alcohol and smoking are best avoided during pregnancy and postpartum for a variety of reasons—including the health of your milk supply. Some medications can make it harder to produce enough milk too. This can include hormonal birth control. If you’ve been prescribed a medication by your physician, don’t stop taking it without speaking to him or her about your concerns. Together, you can weigh the risks versus benefits of medicines. They can bring up alternatives that can help. You’ll also want to avoid over-the-counter meds that are antihistamines or that contain the decongestant pseudoephedrine.
Insulin-dependent diabetes can affect milk supply
If you have insulin-dependent diabetes, you may question if it’s why you’re not producing enough milk. With this condition, milk production is slower to start and can be a little less than what you’d expect. While it’s okay for women to breastfeed with diabetes (no, you cannot give diabetes to your baby), it’s good to know that your diabetes management may need some extra effort beyond even what you’re used to. Blood sugar levels are key to how much milk you produce. Keeping a close eye on yours will help, and so will talking about it with your doc.
Premature birth can lower your milk supply
Having a preemie can add some extra stress to your birth experience—and your milk supply. But don’t worry; this usually is only true at first. “In the early days your milk is really thick like honey and pumps are not great at removing the thicker colostrum,” Jennifer explains. “A pump can help stimulate your body but may not remove the milk.”
Sometimes, this can make moms panic… but there’s really no need. “This doesn’t mean you don’t have milk!” Jennifer adds. “Hand expression in the early days can help remove 80% more milk [than pumping] and increase long-term milk production. Incorporate hands-on pumping technique, hand expression, and breast massage in addition to early and frequent breast stimulation. Starting pumping or hand expression within the first 1-3 hours after birth can help get milk production off to a good start.”
How long will it take to see improvements? “Be patient with the process,” Jennifer advises. “It may take a few days to see higher volumes of milk, but with consistent breast stimulation and milk removal, most women can see higher volumes of milk within 4-7 days.”
Can a lactation consultant help with milk supply?
In our opinion, lactation consultants are for new moms and their partners—regardless of whether or not there are breastfeeding challenges. Just having the support of an IBCLC can make your nursing experience less stressful and more rewarding. That said, yes—along with many other things, lactation consultants can help diagnose low milk supply and also work with you on ways to improve your supply.
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