It’s difficult to determine when a mother truly has a low milk supply and needs to take steps to produce more breast milk. Often moms new to breastfeeding worry that their baby is not getting enough because their newborn always seems hungry and they cannot see the amount of milk produced. It’s important to know that newborns are frequently hungry as breast milk digests in one to two hours. Once the milk has digested, baby will need to nurse again. For some, this means breastfeeding around the clock every one to two hours and sometimes more frequently during growth spurts. For some newborns, they need to be at the breast 24/7 with small breaks in between feeding sessions. Such feeding schedules are not necessarily a cause for alarm that you are not producing enough milk.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies that do not gain weight as they should or produce enough wet and soiled diapers for their age are signs that milk production may be low. Your pediatrician can help you understand what is considered normal growth and diaper output for your baby’s age. To produce more breast milk, you may need to take several steps.
Nurse your baby more often. The nursing stimulates the breast to make more milk. The more baby nurses, the more milk you make. There are no set number of times you should or should not nurse in a day, as every baby is different. If your baby wants to nurse, then he is hungry and should nurse. For some babies this may be every half hour during a growth spurt or every couple of hours at other stages of growth.
Increase or Add Pumping Sessions
If you already pump then pump more often. If you do not pump regularly, adding a pumping session between nursing sessions will stimulate the body to make more milk. If you pump regularly, know that it takes at least two to three pumping sessions to get one nursing session’s worth of milk according to the Kellymom Breastfeeding and Parenting website. This is because pumps are not as efficient as a nursing baby is. Some moms may need to pump more than this to equal one nursing session.
Follow Your Baby’s Lead
Allow your baby to decide when she is done nursing. When she pulls off one breast, always offer the other breast. If she’s still hungry, she’ll latch on. If she doesn’t, then you know she’s done. Also, never pull her off to stop a nursing session. Babies know how much they need to eat and stopping a session prematurely lowers your milk supply.
Talk to your doctor about taking a galactagogue. These are herbal supplements and prescription medications that increase milk supply. One common supplement fenugreek can be found at most drug stores and can work within 24 to 48 hours. However, you may notice that you have a strong maple syrup smell when taking fenugreek. Prescription medications include Reglan and domperidone. Discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of each and what dosage you need.
Also, talk to your doctor about potential medical and other causes of your low milk supply. Thyroid conditions, birth control, anemia, smoking, some medications, and in rare cases breast implants can reduce milk supply.
If you find that these tips to produce more breast milk are not helping, or you feel unsure of your breast milk supply, then seek the help of a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are professionals that work with breastfeeding moms individually to provide support, education, and help solve breastfeeding problems for nursing moms. With a lactation consultant, you may find which methods work best for you, or feel reassured that you are indeed producing enough milk for your baby. Contact your doctor or hospital for a list of lactation consultants in your area.