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Breastfeeding is an natural way to nourish your baby and according to health experts is recommended exclusively for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. However, breastfeeding can be challenging and can be stressful for new moms, especially if you have low breast milk supply and you’re worried about producing enough breast milk to keep baby happy and healthy. I discuss this further in my post how often should I breastfeed and is my baby getting enough?Unlike bottle-feeding, where you can tell exactly how much your baby is drinking, breastfeeding cannot be easily tracked in terms of how much your baby consumes. Your breasts aren’t see-through, so you can’t know how much milk you have and how much your baby is taking. This leads to many moms to ask: Am I making enough breast milk? Is my newborn getting enough to eat? Unfortunately, there are some mother’s who are unable to breastfeed due to low breast milk supply due to varies reasons. Keep reading below to read 8 reasons why you have low breast milk supply.
What is the Milk Production Process?
As early as the third month of pregnancy, your breasts start to prepare for breastfeeding, developing the glandular tissue needed to produce milk and increasing the number of milk ducts in your breasts. By the end of the second trimester, your body is capable of breastfeeding.
Once your baby is born, many hormones are produced that cause milk production, and cause tiny muscle cells in the breasts to contract, pushing milk out. As your baby nurses, this triggers more hormones to produce milk. As your baby drains milk from your breasts, your breasts respond by producing more milk. This becomes a continuous cycle. The more your baby feeds the more milk is produced to meet the feeding demand.
What causes low milk supply?
There are a lot of factors that affect your milk supply. I am only going to touch on 8 of the most common reasons. Some are genetic which we have very little control over and some are lifestyle. Here are some factors why you have low breast milk supply.
1. Delaying Breastfeeding:
As described above in order for your body to produce milk your baby has to feed. If feeding is delayed due to varies reasons this may trigger a low milk production because your body thinks that you don’t need to make further milk as you are not using it. Therefore, to increase your choices in producing a healthy milk supply, feed as soon as possible.
If you’ve added formula to the menu, your baby may take less milk from your breasts, which in turn could cause your breasts to produce less milk. A solution to this is pumping to keep your milk supply or avoid supplementing unless you absolutely have to.
3. Infrequent feedings:
Stretching out the time between feeds (to four to five hours, for instance) may be easier for a new mom, but it can mean your breasts won’t be stimulated often enough to produce an adequate amount of milk. Therefore, the longer you go between feedings the greater the risk of your breast milk slowing down.
4. Short feedings:
If you cut nursing sessions short, your breasts won’t be sufficiently drained. And without sufficient emptying, they won’t be stimulated to produce more. Therefore, you may have to feed more often or pump to empty breasts.
For some babies, time spent sucking on a pacifier means less time or inclination for suckling on the breast. Less time on the breast suckling can cause less milk production.
6. Incorrect Latch:
If your baby is not latched correctly then your baby will not be able to feed properly and empty your breast. Therefore, risking low milk supply. It’s important that your baby’s latch is correct and that your baby is positioned correctly. If you are unsure, please seek help as this will be the foundation of whether your breastfeeding journey will be a successful one or a challenging one.
7. Tongue tie or Lip tie:
Up until recently I learned about lip- tie. It is not as common as tongue-tie but it can occur and cause your baby to have trouble latching and breastfeeding. If you suspect that your baby has tongue or lip tie, consult your health care provider.
Due to genetics there are some women who naturally have low milk supply and there are some women who naturally have increased milk supply. If you naturally have low milk supply please discuss with your health provider as there are things that you can do to increase your milk supply.
Signs Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk:
There are a few signs that your baby is sufficiently fed:
1. You can see and hear your baby swallowing during feeding.
2. Your baby releases on his/her own from your breast or falls asleep.
3. Your baby looks happy and content after feeding.
4. Your breasts feel soft, not hard, after feeding
Signs Your Baby is Not Well Fed:
There are a few signs you have low milk supply:
1. Having a fussy baby.
2. Your baby wants to nurse often.
3. Your breasts doesn’t leak any milk or they suddenly stop leaking.
4. You get very little when pumping.
What to do About Low Milk Supply?
Talk to your health care provider, pediatrician or lactation specialist as soon as possible if you are concerned that you’re not producing enough milk, or if your baby’s weight gain is slower than expected. Also, there are steps you can take to increase your milk supply.
How to Boost Your Milk Supply
1. Breastfeed as soon as possible:
Waiting too long to start breastfeeding can contribute to a low milk supply. Hold your baby skin to skin right after birth and your baby will likely breast-feed within the first hour after delivery.
2. Breastfeed often:
For the first few weeks, breastfeed eight to 12 times a day — about every two to three hours.
3. Check your latch:
Make sure your baby is latched on and positioned well. Look for signs that your baby is swallowing.
4. Don’t skip breast-feeding sessions:
Pump your breasts each time you miss a breastfeeding session to help protect your milk supply.
5. Hold off on the pacifier:
If you choose to give your baby a pacifier, consider waiting until three or four weeks after birth. This will give you time to establish your milk supply and prevents your baby from having nipple confusion.
6. Use medications with caution:
Certain medications decrease milk supply. Before, starting any new medications talk to your health care provider.
7. Avoid alcohol and nicotine:
Drinking moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol can decrease milk production. Smoking can have the same effect. So avoid them. These things can also be healthy for your baby so they should be avoided.
8. Hydration and a healthy diet:
When you are breastfeeding your body needs extra calories, nutrition and hydration to produce plenty of breast milk. Therefore, don’t skip on drinking plenty of water and eating well.
Maintaining your milk supply during breastfeeding is important for your baby’s health and growth. If you’re concerned about your milk supply or your baby’s feedings, talk to your doctor, your baby’s doctor or a lactation consultant.
Until Next Time,
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Interested in more posts related to breastfeeding posts? Check out this one, Breastfeeding Essentials for Nursing Moms
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