Low milk supply has got to be the most frequently typed Google search for new breastfeeding mothers. I certainly wore out the keyboard typing it with my second kiddo. No matter how many pregnancies we have, the uncertainties remain the same: is he eating enough? Is there enough milk in there? What if he’s still hungry? Am I not good enough for my baby?
Is Your Milk Supply ACTUALLY Low? Since you are scouring the web to find out why your kid isn’t eating enough, it’s clear you have some indications and symptoms that your kiddo may be having a problem. Check out the following list of situations which DO NOT MEAN you have a low supply issue, but which might make you think you do:
Frequent Nursing – Like a lot. No need to fret, my loves! Breastmilk is quickly digested in our bodies. Which is awesome, right? Formula contains ingredients that act as a filler, and take longer for the baby to digest, meaning longer periods between feedings. So with a breastfed baby, about every 1.5 to 2 hours, chances are you’re going to have a baby attached to your boob again. *cue eye roll* (Don’t get me wrong, I know you love being able to feed your babies – I do too!!!! But I’m not gonna lie – it gets old. Quick. Lol)
Sudden Changes in Frequency/Time. Babies grow – a lot! And since they don’t come with an owner’s manual, it could be that your baby is just temporarily increasing the amount of milk she needs in order to make all those incredible body parts get bigger. Or it could be something else…
Fussy Baby. This could literally be ANYTHING. Some babies are just grouchy (I have one of those…) You could try a million things to fix that baby, but it’s probably not low milk supply, or teething, or gas, or some strange disease. He’s probably just grouchy. 😉
Baby Will Take Additional Milk From A Bottle After Nursing. If you are working on determining a low milk supply, it can seem evident when the baby sucks down an entire bottle of formula or pumped breastmilk right afterwards. This is not always the case. Bottles are designed to keep dripping, encouraging baby to suck more. If there’s milk in his mouth, he’ll drink. With your breast, baby has to pull the milk out on his own. (Don’t take my word for it – check out what IBCLC-certified lactation consultant Kathy Kuhn has to say on why babies seem to guzzle that bottle.)
You Have Never Felt a “Let-Down.” Let down is that weird “pins and needles” sensation that happens when the milk in your breasts start moving down to the nipple. Never felt it? Some women never do! And I almost want to say count yourself lucky – my let-down sensation tends to be painful.
Pumping Milk Is Like Sucking From A Closed Straw. The amount of milk you pump is never an accurate measure of supply. Breast Pumps, no matter how amazing, cannot pull milk out as efficiently as a baby’s mouth. Just because you only get a couple of drops when you pump doesn’t mean your baby is starving. It just means pumping is going to be more of an acquired skill for you. Keep at it – ask for help – feed your baby straight from the breast as often as possible, and you will help your supply.
Even if you can’t seem to find someone qualified, attend a support group at your local community hospital and get around other women who are breastfeeding. Having a support group is seriously half the battle when struggling with breastfeeding. If I hadn’t had the support from other moms in the area, I would not have continued breastfeeding. I am so grateful for the encouragement I found at the support group, on Facebook groups, and even from random people who have read the blog.
Where have you found your greatest support system with breastfeeding? Your mom? Husband? Lactation Support Group? Tell us below in the comments!
How To Increase A Low Milk Supply
So you’ve found some support, seen a professional, and discovered there really IS a supply issue! Knowing is half the battle, ladies, so keep feeding that baby! Here are some ways that other mothers have found to increase their breastmilk supply. One method may not work for another individual, so don’t take anything on this list as gospel truth – but definitely give them a try, it’s worth the effort! I, personally, found Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle to be lifesavers!
Check The Latch – Never fails, so many supply issues stem from the baby not efficiently pulling out the milk. Make sure he is properly latched on the breast. If you can’t seem to get a good latch, change positions or try out a Nipple Shield. I used one for a bit, and it was definitely helpful to train my little’s mouth to really grab hold of the nipple.
Look For Signs Baby Is Swallowing – If the latch is good, still pay attention at feedings to see if baby is actually swallowing. Check out this article from the International Breastfeeding Centre
Natural Supplements – Like I mentioned above, Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle (NOT Milk Thistle) seem to increase milk supply in a number of women. Check with your local IBCLC before determining how many to take every day. I took 3 of each 3 times per day, based on my Lactation Consultant’s advice, which is the generally acceptable amount for increasing milk supply. You’ll know you’re taking enough if you start to smell like maple syrup. SERIOUSLY. I’m not kidding. It’s totally awesome.
Add Some Pumping – pumping sessions added between or directly after nursing sessions can help jump-start your breasts to produce more milk. This is especially helpful if your little isn’t nursing efficiently enough. The baby’s ability to pull milk out efficiently is directly related to supply. So if there are issues with latch or eating, pumping will need to be a part of your daily routine.
Warm ’em up – One of the things that seriously helped me was using a heat compress on those boobies. It helped loosen everything up in there, before feeding or pumping, as well as randomly throughout the day. After fruitlessly searching Etsy, I just made my own! This nursing cozy provides warmth and a lavender scent to relax the milk ducts, helping with supply as well as soothing clogged ducts from oversupply. Freeze them to cool off painful breasts, as well.
Avoid All Other Nipples – pacifiers and bottles should be avoided as often as possible when trying to up your milk supply. That baby should be glued to your bosom! If you are able to stay home while nursing your new little, then attach her whenever she’s hungry or in need of comfort. This will help your supply, and your relationship! Avoid all other forms of food for her until you have a good supply. If you have started solids – limit them. If you have introduced Formula , and you aren’t planning on sticking to formula, remove it from the menu all together. I hope you have found something helpful here! If so, let me know in the comments! Have anything you would add? Let me know that too. 🙂 Until next time… -Milk Mama Heather