Moms, especially new ones, worry a lot. And I don’t blame them.
Pregnancy and giving birth are not really areas we’d ever be experts in, no matter how many times we go through it. We’d always tiptoe, always alert for anything that could go wrong.
One of the worries that plague moms during the early months of their newborn is the amount of milk they are producing. After all, we’re aware of how beneficial breast milk is for the baby. The last thing we want is to run out of it.
So let us lay down the facts about low milk supply first.
What does it mean when you have low milk supply?
There are a lot of reasons why mothers think they have low milk supply. It could be the duration of their baby’s feeding or how often. Those who breast pump also panic when they find out they can only express too little ounces of milk per session.
But did you know none of these is a valid criterion for judging milk supply?
Let me elaborate.
Your baby feeds every time he needs to. You may be worried about the shortness of each feeding but take note that babies have really small stomachs and get full easily. Furthermore, breast milk is quick to digest. So don’t be surprised if your baby demands for your breasts every a couple of hours or less.
For breast pumping moms, it is quite normal to get only around 2 ounces of milk per pump. Even less is normal. And that’s already for both breasts. This coincides to the average of 2.5 oz that a baby usually drinks every feeding.
So how would you know if you’re producing enough breast milk?
The only sure indication of low breast milk supply is the weight gain of your baby.
Take a look at the average growth rate of a newborn child.
Infographic:::::: newborn weight gain
You don’t have to strictly follow the chart. As long as your baby is showing consistent weight gain, then that’s indication enough that he is getting enough milk from you.
What if your baby is feeding more frequently than usual?
This is normal. During their first 12 months, babies will experience several growth spurts. This means there are days when they will consume much more milk than usual and it can last from 3 days to a week. There’s no exact timeline as to when growth spurts occur but they can happen in the 3rd and 6th weeks and 4th, 6th, and 9th months.
The law of supply and demand
They may need more milk supply but this doesn’t mean you should already resort to using formula milk as supplement. It can interfere with your breastfeeding. To keep up with your baby, you just have to continue breastfeeding. A proper latch will send signals to your brain to initiate further production. It follows the law of supply and demand.
What decreases milk supply?
As much as we don’t want it to happen, it’s the reality. There are moms who experience low milk supply and it can be caused by:
- hormonal problems
- birth control
- not feeding frequently enough
- poor latch
Let’s focus on the bottom three.
Mothers are not advised to use supplements because this can only interfere with the baby’s breastfeeding, and therefore, milk supply. According to WHO, babies should be exclusively breastfed until 6 months. After that, solid foods can be introduced but breastfeeding should still continue.
Frequency of feeding
How often you allow your baby to feed also affects your milk supply. You may, for understandable reasons, opt not to feed them at night. This is not advised because going back to the law of supply and demand, a baby’s latch is what triggers milk production. If your brain doesn’t receive the signal as often as it should, there’s a chance that it interprets the message as “not as much milk is needed”. So feed your baby at night, at least every 4 to 6 hours or so.
If your baby has difficulties latching days after birth, you may encounter problems with milk production. To improve this, you may try out other breastfeeding positions. Guide their mouth to your nipple. You can also do some gentle squeezes. Just don’t give up on them because they need that elixir of life. Getting help from a breastfeeding coach can also help.
If you’re sure that these three are not your problem, it could be the birth control or medications you are taking. If not, you may be experiencing endocrine problems or other medical conditions. In this case, it’s best to consult your doctor.