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Breastfeeding can be downright difficult and intimidating. You are filled with joy after the birth of your child, but everyone has heard of breastfeeding horror stories. Friends will tell you that their nipples bled or they never created enough milk to satisfy their baby. You are downright nervous upon the birth of your baby.
Most breastfeeding mothers will wonder if their milk supply is low at some point. After all, breasts don’t provide handy ounce markers to let us know how much our babies are consuming. Pumping isn’t a trustworthy way to determine how much milk you create. So, how do you know if you make enough breastmilk?
What Might Cause a Low Milk Supply?
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. The more milk your baby demands, the more your body will create. Things that hinder this system can lead to a low supply. Some culprits are:
- Supplementing: Supplementing tends to be the largest culprit. Someone tells you that your newborn MUST drink formula until your milk arrives in a few days. You offer a few bottles of formula, and things start to go downhill. Drinking formula means your baby is drinking less from your breasts, which means your body will create less.
- Infrequent Feedings: Breastfed babies eat often. At times, you might think all your baby does is nurse! Stretching the time between feedings seems like a great idea, but your breasts won’t be stimulated Most newborns and infants need to eat every two to three hours, typically around the clock!
- Cutting Sessions Short: If you only allow your baby to nurse five minutes at one breast, your child won’t receive the fatty hindmilk. Also, your breasts won’t drain completely. When breasts aren’t emptied, they won’t produce more milk!
- Pacifiers: Babies love to suck; it is comforting to Using a pacifier means your baby spends less time suckling at your breasts, reducing the stimulation needed to produce milk.
There are also real reasons that you might have a low supply. Women with hormonal issues, insufficient glandular tissue, previous breast surgery or who are taking hormonal birth control might face issues. Speak to a professional if you are facing any of those issues.
Don’t Judge Your Milk Supply on These Factors
Before we jump to how to tell if your milk supply is adequate, let’s talk about how NOT to judge your supply. How much you pump is NOT an indicator of your milk supply. I tandem nurse a two-year-old and a one-month-old baby. My supply is impressive, but I can only pump one to two ounces. My breasts prefer to letdown for a baby.
You also shouldn’t judge your supply based on how your breasts feel. Some women don’t get as engorged as much as others. If you are this way, feel thankful because engorgement hurts!
The length of your feeding sessions isn’t an indicator either. Some babies are more efficient at the breast than others. My second child would nurse for 30 to 45 minutes, while my third and fourth child only spends about 10 to 15 minutes on the breast. All babies are difficult.
Other factors that mean nothing are the lack of a letdown sensation, the lack of leaking, and if your baby takes a bottle after a nursing session. Remember, none of these are reliable indicators!
How to Tell If You’re Making Enough Breastmilk
Now that we covered what not to look at let’s take a look at reliable indicators that will tell you if you’re making enough milk.
- Amount of Poopy Diapers: You should see around five diapers with poop each day. Some babies do create a stretched out schedule. Breastfed babies can go days without pooping, so if that is your child, check out the other indicators!
Remember that your baby will go through transitional stools the first few days of life. For the few weeks, they should have however old they are in diapers. So, a three day old should have three dirty diapers. Poop goes from the black, tar-like meconium to an army green color. Finally, your baby will have the mustard to seedy yellow-orange poops.
- Amount of Pee Diapers: Your baby should have a wet diaper each time you child her. If you are seeing at least eight to ten wet diapers per day, your baby is far from dehydrated and is consuming enough milk.
- Colorless Pee: On top of the recommended amount of diapers, her urine should be colorless or light yellow.
- Gulping and Swallowing During Feedings: Pay attention to your baby’s jaw and throat. You should see her often swallowing while nursing. That means breastmilk is going into her belly!
- Content After Feedings: A full belly typically makes for a content baby. However, colic and the dreaded witching hours can make a full baby rather unhappy. So, don’t make this your only indicator.
- Baby is Gaining Weight: The BEST indicator of good milk supply is that your baby is gaining weight. A normal breastfed baby gains around 5.5 to 8.5 ounces per week for the first three to four months. Make sure your pediatrician is using a breastfed growth curve, not formula fed one!
Mothers often worry that they don’t have enough milk because of growth spurts. If your baby has been feeding fine and suddenly seems unsatisfied, you are probably dealing with a growth spurt.
All babies enter their growth spurts are different times, but some ages tend to be more common for spurts. Around ten days, three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months of age you can expect a growth spurt!
During a growth spurt, expect your baby to want to breastfeed more often. Camp out on the couch and watch Netflix for a day or two. Babies breastfeed more to stimulate the milk production. She wants your body to increase the supply to meet her needs, so let her nurse as often as she wants during these times!
Simple Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply
If the indicators say you have a low supply, there are several things you should try to increase your milk supply.
- Feed baby on demand, going no longer than three hours between feeds. More frequent feedings will increase your supply. A schedule isn’t your friend right now.
- Have an LC check your baby’s latch.
- Have an LC check your baby for a tongue and lip tie.
- Make sure you switch breasts to encourage suckling time at both.
- Limit pacifier usage.
- Avoid supplementing with formula.
- Try pumping between feedings to increase your supply more.
- Start well hydrated. The less you drink, the more your supply will dip.
Breastfeeding can be scary, but it is easy once you get the hang of it! Remember to find a lactation consultant in your area. An LC can be a lifesaver for all of your breastfeeding questions. Trust your body to create the milk your baby needs and keep your baby at breast!