If you were determined to be the best breastfeeding mom ever, it can be heartbreaking to find that you aren't producing as much milk as your baby needs. Sometimes supply issues are easy to address, but they could also be caused by undiagnosed medical conditions. This is the time to talk to your doctor and research what to do if you have low milk supply.
As lactation consultant Diana Cassar-Uhl tells Kelly Mom, not all moms who think that they aren't producing enough milk actually have low supply. Perceived low milk production, also called perceived insufficient milk, is when a mom who is producing enough milk for her baby, believes she has low supply because she misreads normal newborn behaviors as hunger or dissatisfaction at the breast.
Grandparents or spouses who don't understand a baby's need to nurse regularly can also undermine a new mom's attempt at establishing a solid milk supply. Insisting that a mom supplement with formula because the baby still looks hungry, or expecting a breastfed baby to go as long between feedings as formula-fed babies can make a new mom question her supply, as well.
One good way to determine if a baby is getting enough milk is to look at her diapers. A well-fed baby should have four to six wet diapers a day by the fourth day after birth, according to Dr. Sears.
If you still have that nagging feeling that you should be producing more milk than you are, here are some ways to increase supply.
1. Limit Supplementing
Kelly Bonyata, a certified lactation consultant, wrote in Kelly Mom that nursing is based on supply and demand. Breast milk is produced as your baby nurses, and how much your baby nurses determines the amount of milk that your body will produce. Every time you bottle feed, your body gets the signal to produce that much less milk.
2. Feed Baby On Demand
Bonyata warns that scheduled feedings interfere with the supply and demand cycle of milk production. This can lead to a reduced supply, sometimes after several months. It is important to nurse your baby whenever she is hungry to establish a healthy milk supply.
3. Improve Baby's Latch
According to Fit Pregnancy, baby's who do not have a good latch may not be able to stimulate and drain the breast effectively. This can lead to low production of breast milk.
4. Don't Stop Overnight Nursing
All new moms look forward to getting a full night's sleep, but if your partner is taking the night shift by bottle feeding the baby, or you are working on sleep training, this can affect your milk supply. Today's Parent explains that the amount of milk moms can store in their breasts between feedings varies. When you don't feed overnight, your milk supply starts to drop.
5. Use Non-Hormonal Birth Control
Today's Parent also explains that milk supply may be low for women who breastfeed and take hormonal birth control. Talking to your doctor about non-hormonal birth control methods can help to counter this problem.
6. Get Some Sleep
WebMD suggests taking a "nursing vacation" where you limit your outside commitments and spend a couple of days nursing, eating and resting. Moms tend to use their baby's nap time to get things done, but not resting can have an affect on your milk supply.
7. Don't Drink Alcohol
There's an old wives tale that says drinking beer will increase your milk supply. But, according to WebMD, drinking alcohol lowers milk production.
8. Drink More Water
According to WebMd, dehydrated moms produce less breast milk. To combat this, you should drink more water and also eat more fruits and vegetables that have a high water content.
9. Consider Herbal Supplements
Talk to your doctor about whether you should take herbal supplements that are thought to increase breast milk production. Fenugreek and blessed thistle are commonly used, although according to WebMD, research is still inconclusive as to whether they actually work.
10. Nurse Longer
According to Dr. Sears, your milk will increase if you don't limit the number of minutes you nurse on each side. Let your baby finish one side first, will also allow him to get the foremilk and the hindmilk before switching to the next breast.
11. Get Professional Help
If you think you have low supply, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. Some medical issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), insufficient glandular tissue, previous breast surgery, hormonal or endorcrine problems can be the cause of your low supply and may require a specific diagnosis and treatment according to Today's Parent.