During my initial phase of breastfeeding, one thought that was continuously lingering in my head was – “Am I making enough milk for my baby?” When I researched about the signs of low milk supply, I found out I am not the only mom who thinks this way but every new mother at one point of time in their breastfeeding journey will get this question in their head.
Unlike bottle feeding, in breastfeeding neither can you see how much is your body is making nor measure the quantity your baby is sucking. Many mothers even stop breastfeeding their babies as they feel their supply is very low to meet the demands of the baby. They end up substituting with formula milk which further drops their milk supply.
According to a study, only 10-15% of breastfeeding mothers show signs of low milk supply. Even if you genuinely suffer low milk supply, there are many ways to fix it. If you have self-doubt it’s important to seek medical advice early. If everything is okay then you need not worry about it and you can reassure yourself that you are not having a low milk supply. If not, you will be guided on – How to increase your supply by your lactation consultant.
Our body might not be able to produce enough milk for various reasons including botched up sleep cycles, various health issues, improper latch, mental and physical stress. So before you conclude read on to know the signs of low milk supply so that you can take precise action.
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What are the reasons for the low milk supply?
- Poor Latch – When the baby is not able to latch on to the breasts properly, sucking is not effective. Hence, neither the baby gets enough milk nor will your body be able to replenish the milk supply. Milk production in our body works on supply and demand mechanisms. Only when there is a demand, the body produces milk. The demand is created when the baby sucks milk and empties the breast regularly.
Having a correct latch is important because it also helps in reducing frequent nipple sores and nipple bites.
- Lack of Proper Sleep & Rest – Your supply might drop if your body is not able to get the rest it requires. I understand breastfeeding a newborn round the clock is not only challenging but also very exhausting. But, this postpartum tiredness is normally one of the common reasons for your milk supply to drop. You need to sneak in some time to get some sleep to feel better.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. I can understand most of us don’t get sleep once the baby’s gone for a nap but it is important at least to lie down and give your back some rest. Gradually you will fall asleep along with your baby. Provided, you are not using the phone.
- Ask the caretaker to take care of the baby for a while so that you can get an hour of proper sleep.
- Breastfeeding your baby in the side-lying position can help you to relax your aching body.
- Mental stress – When you have a high level of stress, your body’s milk ejection reflex reduces (generally called a letdown). This can amount to a sudden drop in milk supply. Mental health is as important as your physical health. Post-Partum Depression (PPD) or baby blues can keep you stressed and if you feel dis-oriented then please don’t hesitate to consult a counselor to get back to your normal self.
- Health Issues – Your supply can drop if you have underlying medical conditions like thyroid, anemia, PCOD, postpartum blood loss. Few of them have a rare medical condition like hypoplasia which can result in a low breast milk supply. You need to meet your medical practitioner or gynecologist to understand your body condition and do the needful to increase your milk supply.
- Food habits – Every other person will have a suggestion about what to eat and how to increase your supply while you breastfeed the baby. Sometimes, these herbs and spices which are assumed to act as galactagogue can act reversely and reduce your milk supply. So, it is important to have a balanced meal, adequate amount of water. As mentioned, the Indian food to increase breast milk should be always balanced with essential nutrients to meet the body’s calorific demand.
- Taking birth control pills – Keep it as a thumb rule, till you breastfeed your baby any medication you take for pain, contraception, or allergies should be approved by your doctor. Specifically contraceptives you take which may contain estrogen has been linked to low milk supply in many women. So it is important to make sure you use non-hormonal methods or use the breastfeeding-friendly medication.
- Irregular feedings – Having long gaps between feeds, letting the baby sleep for long hours could also be a reason for low milk supply. During the initial phases of breastfeeding, when your body has not established the supply, you need to put your baby to the breast as often you can. Because that’s the only way your body understands the need to produce more breast milk.
The newborns usually lose about 10% of their birth weight on the second day. It takes almost a week or 10 days to regain their birth weight during this phase; you need to feed the baby every 2 hours or whenever the baby shows hunger cues. This way you will be able to produce enough milk for the baby. Even if the baby is sleeping, you need to wake up the baby and put the baby on your breast every 3 hours.
- Growth Spurts – If your baby seems to show hunger signs just after a feed or looks to clinch your breast just after 15 minutes of feeding or cluster feeds or if you see a behavioral change. It is a growth spurt and doesn’t mean your supply is low. To say otherwise, you will produce more milk based on your baby’s growing demand and your body is working towards it.
Experts say a baby gets its first growth spurt in between 1 to 3 weeks and another between 6 to 8 weeks. The happy news is – it will settle in few days. A baby grows three times its weight and height by the first year.
- Supplementation – The breast milk production in a mother’s body works on demand and supply. WHO suggests breastfeeding should be the only source of nutrition for babies till 6 months and the primary source of nutrition till the age of one. After 6 months, when you are trying to wean your baby, you need to strike a balance to make sure your supply is not dropping.
- Bottle preference – Introducing a bottle before 6 weeks can cause nipple confusion in babies. It is easy for babies to suck from a bottle but it takes more effort to suck the milk from the nipple. Hence the baby resists the breast which can lead to the body producing less milk.
- Pacifiers – Anything other than the breast which is introduced to the baby can affect the baby’s latch. When latch gets affected, they are unable to empty the breast and your supply could reduce.
What Are The Signs Of A Baby Not Getting Enough?
The milk production in a new mother’s body works based on the supply and demand cycle. Even if your supply is good but then if the baby is not able to latch and suck effectively baby will not be getting enough milk. Following are the ways to know that your baby is not getting enough milk.
Weight Gain – In the case of a newborn, the infant loses an average of 10% of its birth weight during the first two days and it takes a week or 10-14 days to get back their birth weight. On average baby gains around 30 gms per day. You can check the weight at home to get an idea of the same or during the visits the pediatrician can guide you whether the weight gain is good or not. If your baby is not gaining a substantial amount of weight gain then it means your baby is not getting enough milk.
Wet Nappies – They are one of the best indicators to know if your baby is getting enough milk. For the first two days, you might not get many wet nappies but around the third day when the thick colostrum is replaced by flowy milk, the number of diapers should gradually increase. Ideally after a week, on average baby should be going through a minimum of 6-8 diapers.
With pooping, every baby is different. Some babies poop 5 times a day to 5 days once and it doesn’t indicate anything about your supply as the metabolism is different for each baby. If the baby is not wetting a minimum of 6 diapers round the clock then it is important to seek medical advice as there are chances of the baby becoming inactive and dehydrated.
Dark Colored Urine – If the color of the urine is yellow or dark. Then this could be dehydration and the chances of jaundice are not evitable. In this case, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Dehydration – If your baby is not active, refuses to take feed even after 2-3 hours of feed window, seems to be tired and sleepy, has a dry mouth, vomits then the baby could be dehydrated as the baby is not getting enough milk.
Breast milk cannot be measured precisely as your pumping output can be completely different from what you are making. You can easily increase your milk supply if you can focus more on the baby’s cues than the time.
What To Do If You Genuinely Have a Low Milk Supply?
If you have any of the above signs of low milk supply or feel the baby is not getting enough milk then it is important to contact a certified lactation counselor to counsel you. Trust me these lactation counselors help you fix your latch, make you understand different positions to latch your baby, understand your body’s mechanism to help you be more confident and have a smooth breastfeeding journey.
MomInYou wants to convey:
Apart from all these things, if you truly have a low milk supply. Please don’t hesitate to supplement or even replace the baby’s feedings with medically prescribed formula milk. The baby has to be fed sufficiently whether it is from breast or bottle, it doesn’t matter. Choosing a bottle over a breast doesn’t make you less of a mom.