Low Milk Supply? Are You Sure?
Low milk supply is perhaps the most common concern among breastfeeding mothers. The reason being is that it’s un-measurable. There is no way to measure how much breast milk a nursing baby is actually getting. It’s a lot like having faith in the Creator, just because you can’t see it, that doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Now I’m not here to tell you that you’re being foolish, because I understand what you’re going through. I myself struggled with a low milk supply, or at least I thought I did. That’s the thing, it’s all about perception. It’s like a seed of fear, once planted it just keeps growing and growing, until you can think of nothing else. Well, I’m going to hopefully put your mind at ease.
Why do you think you have a low milk supply?
It’s important to have realistic expectations when it comes to breastfeeding and your breast milk supply. Mothers will often blame everything on their breast milk. Whether it’s because baby is cranky, baby is spitting up, baby is not getting enough sleep, or baby is eating constantly. All of these fears inevitably lead back to low milk supply. The truth is that more often than not, these types of behaviors are not related to breastfeeding at all. Let’s address some of the most common fears among breastfeeding mothers.
Baby eats constantly and never seems to be satisfied.
If this is the case, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a low milk supply. It’s just a fact, breastfed babies feed often. Breast milk digests faster than formula, so a baby that is nursing will tend to eat more than a formula fed baby. In fact, research suggests that nursing 10 to 12 times or more in a 24 hour period is completely normal. Also, remember that your baby is going through growth spurts, tons of them, almost one every other week for the first month or two, and again at 3 months and 6 months. Just keep in mind that during these growth spurts, your baby will nurse constantly, and it may feel like they’re never satisfied, but it’s not because you have a low milk supply. Eventually your supply will rise to meet the demand. It may take a couple of days, but you’ll eventually notice that it seems to even out.
Baby isn’t gaining weight like other babies, or even his/her siblings.
Never compare your babies weight gain, nursing frequency, or even sleep patterns to other babies. Every baby is different. On average, after your baby has gained back the initial weight lost after birth, he/she should be gaining somewhere around 5 to 10 ounces a week in the first month, 5 to 8 ounces a week in the 2nd and 3rd month, and somewhere around 2.5 to 4.5 ounces a week in months 3 through 6. If your baby is losing weight, or not gaining weight fast enough, talk to your doctor.
My breasts no longer feel full, and they’ve stopped leaking.
This is one of the biggest reasons why mothers wean their babies early, and believe that they have a low milk supply. At some point, somewhere around 6 to 12 weeks, your breast milk supply will regulate. When your breast milk first comes in your body will typically produce more than what your baby actually needs. That is why your breasts feel full during that first month, and often times leak. Around that 6 to 12 week mark your breast milk supply will even out to meet the needs of your baby. Your breasts will most likely feel softer, and often times, stop leaking. This does not mean that you have a low milk supply, it just means that your body is now in sync with your babies need to feed.
If you’re still concerned that you have a low milk supply, here are a few things that you can do.
- Consult your doctor and make sure that you and your baby are healthy. Peace of mind is price less.
- See a lactation specialist and make sure that baby is latching on properly. Often times, if you feel pain in your nipples during nursing it is due to improper positioning, and it may affect your body’s natural letdown response therefore causing a low milk supply.
- Avoid offering baby pacifiers or supplements during those first few weeks of nursing. This can cause nipple confusion and low milk supply. If supplementing with formula is a must, try pumping with a breast pump after each feeding to further stimulate your breasts.
- Try not to limit the amount of time baby spends nursing. It typically takes anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes at the breast for a newborn baby to get enough milk. Make sure you offer both breasts during a nursing session, this will ensure plenty of stimulation.
- Use a breast pump after each feeding. In order to signal your body that it’s time to produce more milk you must empty your breasts. Even if a baby nurses often, if he/she is sucking weakly or ineffectively, your breasts may not be getting enough stimulation, therefore causing low milk supply. This can happen if a baby is Jaundice or sleepy.
- Monitor your baby’s weight. Be aware of what your baby’s weight was at the time when you left the hospital, not their birth weight, but their discharge weight. On average, a baby will lose between 5 – 7% of their weight in the first couple of days. Keep a close eye on their weight as they gain it back. Once your baby starts gaining his/her weight back, they shouldn’t suddenly start losing it again. If this happens, you should consult your doctor. Lactation specialists recommend checking baby’s weight after 1 week. By this time your milk supply should have come in and baby should be gaining weight. By checking baby’s weight early, you will be able to recognize if there are any breastfeeding problems, and remedy them early. The earlier the better. The longer you have a low milk supply, the longer it will take to build it back up.
Most importantly, you need to relax. Get lots of rest, and drink lots of fluids. Remember, a woman’s body was designed specifically for bearing children. We, as a human race, would not have survived for millions of years if this were not true. So trust your body, and trust your instincts.
For more information on breastfeeding, or for breastfeeding help resources, go to http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb.html.
For more information on breast pumps, or for a list of top rated, best selling breast pumps, check out this list: Best Breast Pumps – From Manual to Electric
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