Am I making enough milk?

So, if you’re here you’re most likely worried about your supply.  Are you making enough, are you making too much?  You are not alone!  The number one concern among breastfeeding moms is whether or not their baby is having enough milk and of course this begs the question, “are my breasts making enough milk?”.

 

The first thing to do if you suspect low milk supply is determine whether this actually is the problem.  The majority of moms (upwards of 95% of all women) are able to produce enough milk for their babies without any help from supplements.

How to know if you are making enough milk

Most of the time with breastfeeding your baby will let you know!  Isn’t it great to have a book of answers in front of you :)?  Sure he can’t yet talk but as you get better acquainted with your baby you will learn more and more about him and his needs.

Here are a few guidelines to know if your baby is getting enough:

  • Baby unlatches calmly after a feed or dozes off to sleep after he’s finished.
  • You can see his jaw doing a rocking motion (you see movement from the ear to the jaw)
  • You can hear swallowing (this is tricky when they are very small and swallowing small amounts for small tummies!)
  • He seems calm and content after feeds
  • He is gaining some weight but also growing in length and his head circumference is growing too!

What to watch out for:

  • Signs of dehydration
    • More than six to eight hours without a wet diaper
    • Urine that looks darker in his diaper and smells stronger than usual
    • Lethargy (low energy)
    • A dry, parched mouth and lips
    • No tears while crying
  • Low output (pee and poo diapers for his age)
  • Too much sleeping (baby with no energy will tend to conserve it and sleep too much)
  • Unexplainable weightloss

Suddenly my baby is fussy and crying and wanting to nurse.. ALL THE TIME!

Welcome to growth spurts :D.  As you have heard by now this breastfeeding business is a supply and demand kinda business.  Your baby signals your body to make more milk.  Of course your body can’t start making it right that instant.  It might take a day or two to bring your supply up so don’t be surprised if baby is a little more insatiable than usual or if he seems like he is giving a lower rating to mom’s breastaurant for a few days.

As your supply increases to match his needs you should see him become a little more calm and maybe even return to a more spaced out feeding routing.  If he doesn’t, just give him some time, remember no one knows what he needs better than him and no one can produce exactly what he needs better than your body!

How can I tell if I am part of that 5%?

There are some moms with some real physiological problems who might not be able to produce enough milk but they are the minority.  If your breasts did not change during pregnancy, if you have hypoplastic breasts (tubular in shape and widely spaced), if you battle infertility or have other hormonal imbalances consult your doctor or a lactation consultant for help.

Establishing a good milk supply

The first few days/weeks are crucial to establishing a good milk supply.  Ensure a good start by having your baby placed skin to skin with you as soon after birth as possible.  It is ok to place them on your chest as soon as they come out.  Cleaning a baby is not a necessity.  Actually all that greasy substance (vernix) that they are covered with is great for protecting their young skin as it comes in contact with air and the outside world!

The earlier this contact happens the sooner your body receives the signal that baby is here and ready to eat!  Try to nurse as soon as possible, you’ll be surprised how much your newborn can do while still awake and alert!  Newborns fall into a sleepy, restorative state a few hours after birth so make the most of this active time.

Still, many moms struggle with thoughts that the amount of milk that they currently produce is not enough for their baby to thrive.

There are several options to increase milk supply:

  • More skin to skin contact
  • More frequent nursing
  • More frequent pumping
  • Staying hydrated (this means that your are going to the bathroom once every 2-3 hours, have a strong stream and you urine is pale yellow. Clear urine is a sign of too much water which can lead to other problems)
  • Diet (you can add galactagogues like oatmeal, nuts, avocados, red raspberries, flax seed, brewer’s yeast)
  • Supplements (Fenugreek, Calcium, Mother’s Milk Teas or Tonics, Blessed Thistle, Alfalfa)
  • Prescription (Domperidone) ** Consult your doctor or lactation consultant!

 Things you can avoid that impact your supply negatively are:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Some herbs (for example mint and sage)
  • Dehydration
  • A diet very high in protein and very low in carbs
If you need breastfeeding help, please contact your local support group, La Leche League or Nursing Mothers Counsel. You can also email me at melisa@ilovebreastfeeding.com.

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