How to Increase Breast Milk Supply
If you’ve just started out breastfeeding, you may be concerned that your baby is not getting enough nourishment. You may also be wondering if there is anything you can do to ensure a consistent supply of breast milk for your hungry little one. Read on to find out what signs indicate your baby is or isn’t getting enough breast milk, what can cause low breast milk supply, and how to increase your breast milk supply naturally at home.
Signs Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk
Instead of trying to gauge the quantity of your breast milk production, it’s more important to keep an eye on the signs that your baby is getting enough milk. But if you’re ever in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider or lactation consultant, who can help guide you in this process. These are some of the signs your baby is probably getting enough breast milk:
Your baby is gaining weight. One of the most reliable signs of successful feeding is your baby’s steady weight gain. Keep in mind that your baby will likely lose a little weight within a few days of birth (usually no more than about 10 percent of her birth weight), but this should be regained within a couple of weeks. Take a look at how growth charts help your baby’s healthcare provider track her growth.
Your baby is going through diapers. The number of diapers your baby goes through is a good indicator of whether she is getting enough milk. Expect to change around six wet diapers per day, and check that your baby has three to four bowel movements a day. The stool will be dark and sticky (called meconium) in those first days after your baby is born, but will become loose and yellowish afterwards. The colour of the urine should be pale yellow—not dark yellow or orange.
Your baby is breastfeeding often. Healthy newborns tend to feed at least 8 to 12 times a day, approximately every 2 to 3 hours. This demand may increase during growth spurts.
Your baby seems full after feeds. When your baby is full after a feeding, she will have relaxed arms with outstretched palms. When she wants to eat, her arms will be flexed with her hands in a fist, and she may even try sucking her fingers.
Your baby seems happy between feeds. If your baby seems satisfied, happy, alert, and active (not cranky or fussy) after feedings, chances are she is getting the nourishment she needs.
Your breasts feel soft after feedings. Your breasts may feel firmer and fuller before feedings, but afterward they may feel softer. This change will become less noticeable as your baby gets older.
Causes of Low Breast Milk Supply
If your newborn isn’t getting the nutrition he needs, it’s more likely to be because he is not latching onto your breast correctly as opposed to you not producing enough milk. Read up on breastfeeding basics for some extra tips. Nevertheless, there are some factors that can result in your breast milk supply decreasing, including:
Waiting too long to start breastfeeding (ideally, it's best to start breastfeeding about an hour or so after giving birth; however, in some cases this may not be possible)
Not breastfeeding often enough (remember, experts recommend breastfeeding about 8 to 12 times a day)
Using certain medications, such as those containing pseudoephedrine or even certain types of hormonal contraception
Your baby not latching on correctly and therefore not prompting the production of milk
Having had breast surgery
If your baby was born prematurely
If you have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
If you have insulin-dependent diabetes
Not taking good care of yourself. This is easier said than done, but try to eat healthily, drink lots of water, sleep as much as you can, and minimize your stress levels.
Smoking and drinking alcohol
How to Increase Your Breast Milk Production
Most mothers produce one-third more breast milk than their babies will drink, so there’s a little leeway. Still, if your breast milk supply isn’t where you’d like it to be, here are nine ideas you can try to increase your breast milk supply:
Breastfeed as soon as you can. If you can, try not to wait too long after the birth of your baby to begin breastfeeding. Ideally, you can start within one hour or so. However, in some cases (such as if you’re recovering from a cesarean section), you may end up starting to breastfeed a little later.
Use a breast pump regularly. Pumping may help stimulate the production of more breast milk. You can also save some time by pumping both breasts simultaneously with a double breast pump. Pumping can also come in handy if you need to return to work.
Breastfeed often. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk you’ll tend to produce. It’s the breast stimulation and the frequent removal of milk that ends up helping boost the production. If your baby finishes feeding before your breast is empty, try hand expressing or pumping and store the extra breast milk.
Make sure your baby’s latching on properly. It’s important for your baby to latch on correctly and to swallow while feeding. If your baby is latched properly, she will have flared lips, her chin will touch your breast, and her ears might wiggle slightly while nursing. If you're unsure about this, your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant will be able to help you confirm that your baby has latched on and is swallowing properly.
Feed from both breasts. Remember to alternate between breasts. As soon as your baby slows down or stops feeding from one breast, offer her the other. Both breasts need to be drained to produce more milk. Don’t forget, you can also use a pump or hand express any extra milk in the other breast.
Don’t skip feeding times. Try to keep to a regular feeding schedule, nursing about every two to three hours in the first few weeks. If you’re working while still breastfeeding and you’re pumping breast milk, try not to miss any sessions, as this can affect your milk supply. At work, aim to pump for 15 minutes every few hours.
Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you may wish to avoid giving your baby formula or cereal until your baby reaches 6 months. Your baby may lose interest in breastfeeding if you introduce formula and solids too early. This can cause your breast milk supply to decrease.
Wait before introducing a pacifier. It’s a good idea to wait three to four weeks after your baby’s birth before giving your baby a pacifier, so that your milk supply is well established.
Talk to your healthcare provider about any health issues or medications you’re using. Hormonal issues can affect your breast milk supply. Your provider will be able to diagnose any issues. Although some medications can decrease milk production, your provider may be able to offer an alternative that is suitable to take while breastfeeding.
Are There Any Foods You Can Eat to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply?
There is no specific food you can eat that can actually increase your breast milk supply. However, a healthy diet can help you maintain a good supply of breast milk. Here are some tips for eating healthily while breastfeeding:
Bump up the calories. You may need an additional 500 to 600 calories per day to keep up with your breast milk production. Ask your healthcare provider if you’re in doubt about how many extra calories are right for your situation.
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend a vitamin supplement if you’re not getting enough nutrients from diet alone. You'll need to make sure you're getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.
Eat dairy products. Eating milk, yogurt, and cheese can help you get the 1,000 milligrams of calcium you need per day. If you are low on calcium, lactose intolerant, or allergic to dairy products, your healthcare provider may recommend a calcium supplement.
Drink plenty of liquids. Aim for at least eight glasses of water, juice, or milk per day. Dehydration can affect your milk supply. Limit soda and other caffeinated drinks.
Eat fish and shellfish. Eating fish and shellfish at least two to three times per week is a great source of protein as well as beneficial vitamins and minerals for you and your baby. Just remember to limit your consumption of seafood that’s high in mercury.
When to Seek Help From Your Healthcare Provider
Even with all the steps mentioned above, you still might run into issues trying to breastfeed your little one. Sometimes, breastfeeding just takes a little time and practice. Reach out to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for advice if you’re ever unsure whether you’re producing enough milk for your baby, or for help with any aspect of breastfeeding.
FAQS AT A GLANCE
Even if you suspect your breast milk supply is on the low side, and you’re worried about how you’re going to feed your little one, there are steps you can take to increase your breast milk production. Try them out and speak to your healthcare provider. Together, you can make sure your baby is getting the nourishment she needs. When you’re breastfeeding your little one, one thing’s for sure: Your baby will be going through plenty of diapers. Download the Pampers Club app today to start earning points for all the diapers.
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