One of the most common reasons Mothers give for weaning, is that they feel they do not have enough milk for their baby. Here are some ideas to help you work out whether your milk-supply actually is low, and some suggestions that will help you make more milk, if it is low!
Your baby’s needs are simple and few: food, care and comfort. You have already grown your baby in your womb for 9-months. Your body is designed to continue doing this through breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6-months of your baby’s life and for breastfeeding to continue, with the addition of other foods, until 2-years or older. You can keep on breastfeeding for as long as you and your child wish.
In the early weeks/months, you and your baby are getting to know each other. You work together to build your milk supply. Feeding your baby whenever he needs, will help him get all the milk he needs to grow and develop. It is important to remember that every baby is different. Yours won’t be the same as your sister’s or your neighbor’s baby.
How Breastfeeding Works
During pregnancy your breasts change and develop to be ready to make milk for your baby. Milk is there even when your baby is born prematurely. The amount usually increases greatly a few days after birth (the milk comes in). The first milk in the breasts after the birth and, often before, is called Colostrum. This thick, yellowish milk is more concentrated than mature milk. It is rich in protein and antibodies that help to protect your baby from illness. Your baby only needs a small amount of food in the first few days after birth. The amount of Colostrum in your breasts is enough to meet his needs. Mature Breastmilk, which is thin and bluish-white in appearance, gradually replaces colostrum over this time.
When he sucks at the breast, your baby stimulates tiny nerves in the nipple. This causes the release of hormones into your bloodstream. One of the hormones (Prolactin) activates the milk-making tissues. The other hormone (Oxytocin) causes the breast to push out or let down the milk (Let-Down Reflex).
How Do I Know If My Baby is Getting Enough Breastmilk?
If your baby shows the following signs, then it is likely that you do have enough milk:
At least 6 to 8 very wet cloth diapers or at least 5 very wet disposable diapers in 24-hours. The urine should be odorless and clear/very pale in color. A very young baby will usually have 3 or more soft or runny bowel movements each day for several weeks. An older baby is likely to have fewer bowel movements than this. Strong, dark urine or formed bowel motions suggest that the baby needs more breastmilk and you should seek medical advice.
Good skin color and muscle tone. Does she look like she fits her skin? If you gently ‘pinch’ her skin, it should spring back into place.
Your baby is alert and reasonably contented and does not want to feed constantly. It is however normal for babies to have times when they feed more frequently. It is also normal for babies to wake for night feeds. Some babies sleep through the night at an early age, while others wake during the night for some time.
Some weight gain and growth in length and head circumference.
Your baby knows how much milk he or she needs. As long as you are confident that your baby is latching-on properly for effective milk transfer (Please see: www.lactation-911.com/how-to-breastfeed-deep-latch-technique/, and you see enough wet and stool diapers, it is okay to follow your baby’s lead.
If you baby needs more milk, such as during a Growth Spurt: These are predictable and normal and usually fall around 10-days (fondly referred to as “ten-day-itis”), 3-weeks, 6-weeks, 3-months and 6-months of age, your baby knows how to increase your milk-supply, by cuing you to nursing more frequently.
Growth spurts can be disconcerting to many Mother’s, as it can feel exactly like there is ‘not enough milk’ or the milk has ‘dried-up’. Your breast may suddenly feel softer, after the accustomed fullness. Contrary to common myth, Breastmilk does not just ‘dry up!’ Unless you are taking certain medications, such as hormonal birth control, or have some unusual health problem, your body is designed to make more than enough milk for your baby.
During a Growth Spurt, your baby knows how to increase your milk supply to meet his or her new needs. By nursing more frequently for a few days, your milk supply will ‘catch-up’ and things will return to normal.
How to make more milk: Demand = Supply
To build your supply, the following ideas may help:
Provided that your baby is correctly attached, you will find that the quickest and most successful way to boost your supply is to breastfeed more often. Offer a breastfeed every 2–3 hours during the day, for a few days, or increase the number of feeds by offering the breast in between your baby’s usual breastfeeds.
Here is an easy way to do this. If your baby does not settle after a feed, wait 20 or 30 minutes and then offer another quick little ‘top off’ breastfeed. Those few minutes of extra feeding and cuddling may be all that is needed to soothe and satisfy him.
Let your baby finish the first breast, before switching to the second breast. Some babies may take up to 20-minutes or longer to drain a breast and obtain all the calorie-rich milk. Let your baby decide the length of the breastfeed.
Or, you may find it helps to change sides several times during a feed, whenever your baby’s sucking seems to become less strong. Some people find that this encourages the baby to suck more strongly and stimulates a good let-down reflex.
You can also try massaging your breast. Stroke it towards the nipple on all sides as your baby feeds. Take care not to disturb the nipple in your baby’s mouth.
If your baby is awake you can offer little ‘snack’ feeds without waiting for baby to cry for them.
You can try offering the breast to soothe your baby for a few days, instead of other comforting strategies (eg. a dummy/pacifier).
You may find that your baby has fussy periods when he wants to breastfeed more frequently.
Although they vary greatly, many new babies need 8–12 or more feeds in 24 hours. Babies generally feed less often as they get older.
To increase your supply, you will need to fit in more feeds than is usual for your baby. Feeds do not need to be very long, just more often. In each 24-hours some feeds may be only 5–10 minutes long, others may be 30 minutes or longer, particularly when baby feeds to sleep slowly and contentedly.
Help your milk to let-down quickly. Relax and enjoy feed times. Try to remove distractions (turn your phone off, put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door), then settle with baby into a comfortable chair. Breathe deeply, relaxing each part of your body separately as you may have learned to do at antenatal classes. Have a drink on hand, a book or a magazine, listen to the radio or watch TV.
Babies vary greatly in the amount of sucking they seem to need. There is no need to worry if your baby is contented with a fairly short feed. Some babies however love to continue sucking long after the flow of milk has dwindled to a trickle. This is fine too. Your baby will let you know how long his feeds need to be.
A baby who is well attached and positioned, is more able to drain the breast well.
MORE FREQUENT FEEDING MEANS MORE MILK!
Feed your baby more often than usual.
Check that baby is well positioned at the breast.
Allow the baby to decide the length of a feed.
If you have tried these ideas, and are still finding low supply to be a problem, please speak with a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or your Health Care Provider.
Also, please see the Galactagogues (substances used to increase milk supply) article on this website: www.lactation-911.com/galactagogues-substances-claimed-to-increase-supply/
*Homeopathy is safe and effective while Breastfeeding. Homeopathy is often useful in situations of low-milk supply and/or over-supply. This is a helpful modality of healing for new Mothers, as it is completely safe while breastfeeding and for babies and children.
Please see also: www.classichomeopath.com