Breastfeeding: How To Increase Your Milk Supply
Lisa Wilkinson from the elbowroom gives her top tips for increasing milk supply.
Every breastfeeding mom has a little (or a lot) of anxiety about whether she’s producing enough milk at some stage of her nursing journey. Unfortunately, it’s usually an idea put in her head by a third party, rather than an instinctual feeling. To help, let's clarify what are signs of low milk supply, and what are not.
These are NOT signs of low milk supply:
- Baby not sleeping much
- Baby feeding all the time
- Baby unsettled and crying
- Hardly any milk coming out when you pump
- Baby not reaching birth weight by ten days old (14 days is a better guide, 3 weeks acceptable too)
- Boobs never leak a drop
- Baby wanting to feed longer than 20 minutes at a time
- Baby looking at your food
- Baby turning 4 months old
- Baby who had been sleeping suddenly decides not to sleep much
- Baby following your spoon with his eyes or trying to grab your food
- Baby not wanting to let you out of her sight
- Baby turning 6 months old
READ ALSO: 8 Steps to Being an Amazing Breastfeeding Partner
These MAY be symptoms of low milk supply:
- Baby failing to thrive (i.e. not gaining weight at all and unsettled, missing developmental milestones)
- Baby consistently failing to have this amount of wet/dirty nappies (6 wet after 4 days, up to 3 poos)
- Baby showing signs/symptoms of dehydration
If you and baby are experiencing any of the above three signs, you should get in touch with a qualified lactation consultant as soon as you can. Here are some of tips for establishing a good milk supply:
Understand How It Works
Make sure you understand how the supply and demand system of nursing works. Do a pre-baby breastfeeding workshop. This will help you understand how the natural breastfeeding system works. Essentially you are the supply, the baby is the demand and the only way baby can communicate the level of demand is to nurse.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice hand expressing in the last weeks of pregnancy. There are a couple of benefits here. It’s good to get familiar with how the breast works, feels and how to get milk out if you need to. It will also help stimulate good colostrum supply before baby arrives. You don’t have to keep the milk that you express unless you want to (needs to be in a sterile container and then freeze).
You can get great information about hand expressing here.
READ ALSO: 11 of the Best Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Feed on Demand
Successful breastfeeding is baby led. Feed baby whenever you see the cues (head bobbing, hands up to mouth, turning in towards the breast). This will seem like a lot of feeding in the early weeks but remember you cannot overfeed an exclusively breastfed baby. The more you allow baby to nurse at its own pace and requirement, the better your supply will be.
Feeding on demand means nursing whenever baby wants to and leaving baby at the breast as long as it wants to be there. Again this is going to feel like a lot in the beginning (and it is a lot!) but it will calm down and will establish really good supply. You should never time baby on the breast. Simply let baby latch on and latch off itself.
Skin to Skin
The more you hold your baby skin to skin, the more wonderful oxytocin will flow which will make you feel wonderful, but will also stimulate milk let down or ejection.
Check the Latch
Make sure baby is removing milk from the breast effectively. Issues like a poor latch or shallow latch, tongue-tie, inverted nipples, and others can mean baby is not transferring the milk effectively. This requires the help of a trained lactation professional asap or supply won’t match demand and this will cause problems. If your instincts tell you there’s an issue, there usually is. Don’t ‘wait and see’, get help asap and preferably before your nipples really hurt!
Wake a Sleepy Baby
Only in the beginning!!! Sometimes babies are very sleepy in the early days (can be down to medications during birth, jaundice, and other factors). If your baby is not waking to feed at least every 4 hours you need to gently encourage it to feed by unwrapping layers of clothing until it wakes and stimulate baby by inputting through the senses. Once it's awake get a feed in! You only do this in the first couple of weeks - after that, you NEVER wake a sleeping baby!!
READ ALSO: Breastfeeding Facts and Advice for New Moms
Switch It Up
Switch sides often and use breast compressions. Don’t be afraid to switch from breast to breast more than once during a feed. Switching every time baby stops actively drinking milk or losses interest is a good idea. Also, breast compressions are a great way of increasing the volume of milk ejected from the breast.
Things To Avoid
Avoid bottles and soothers at least for the first weeks. All of baby’s sucking needs should be done on the breast. Remember baby is not at the breast for food only, he/she is there for comfort, putting in a supply order and to learn about love and trust from mom. Bottles and soothers introduced too early can lead to nipple confusion and interrupt supply. After 6 weeks of confident nursing, these things can usually be introduced gradually if you want to (but it’s not necessary if you don’t). To conclude, you are feeding your baby. You are doing a marvelous job. Their mouth and tongue are excellent at getting just what they need. If they need more. You will make more. If you are anxious at all: Get support.
As always, we would love to hear your opinions. Please leave a comment below.