A very common concern among the mothers I know and work with, is whether or not they are making enough milk. Although there are a handful of medical conditions that can contribute to production issues, I’m pleased to tell you that the vast majority of women are absolutely capable of producing all the milk their baby could need.
There are however, a few ways (even in the absence of medical issues) that a mother might unwittingly compromise her milk supply:
- Scheduling Feedings. There are women who can nurse every three or four hours without compromising their supply, while others need to breastfeed much more frequently to maintain the supply they have. It comes down to breast anatomy and the way that milk is produced by demand and regular emptying of the breasts. While it’s not possible to tell beforehand which category you will fall into, allowing your baby unrestricted access to the breast will ensure that you have an ample supply. The saying goes “watch the baby, not the clock.”
- Cutting Calories. Ladies, I know the temptation. I never gain much during pregnancy, but I pack on the pounds once my babies are born. The first year after birth is a struggle for me, because the moment I cut back on calories, I notice an immediate drop in my supply! There are women who can absolutely lose weight while they’re nursing and still maintain their supply. There is a very real risk though, of compromising your production if you suddenly cut the number of calories you are consuming in a day. If you are going to try and reduce your calories, do it slowly and over a period of weeks to reduce the impact it might have on your milk supply.
- Pacifiers. If you are a woman who needs to nurse regularly to maintain your supply, then any sucking that your baby does away from the breast, has the potential to affect how much milk you are making.
- Sleep Training. Back to point number one. If your baby is going long periods of time without nursing, your breasts are going a long time without being emptied. Another interesting fact is that our bodies produce more milk during the early hours of the morning, than they do during the day, so this is a great time to nurse if you’re trying to maintain, or increase your supply!
The very best way to make sure you have a robust supply is to nurse early (as soon as possible after birth) and to nurse often (as often as your baby wants to). It is important to make sure that your baby is latching well, so that you can nurse often without any discomfort. Take advantage of the hospital Lactation Consultants after birth and make sure that you have contact information for your local La Leche League, or Breastfeeding USA group. Having this kind of support in the early days will help to get you off to a great start.
If you are concerned about whether or not your baby is getting enough milk, the best way to tell is by watching their diaper output and their weight gain. If your baby is wetting and soiling an adequate number of diapers for their age and if they are gaining weight appropriately, then they are getting all the milk they need. Discuss your concerns with your baby’s doctor and be sure that your baby’s weight is being compared against the World Health Organization growth charts for breastfed infants.
Did you struggle with low milk supply? Do you feel like any of these factors may have been to blame? I’d love to hear about your experience below.