Are you worried that you aren’t producing enough milk? If so, you definitely are not alone. This is one of the most common concerns that breastfeeding moms have when they start their breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding can be a difficult journey (I speak from personal experience here). It can be incredibly stressful worrying about if your baby is getting enough to eat. Unlike bottlefeeding, you don’t have a clear way to assess how much your baby is consuming. Many people think their milk supply is low, when in fact, it isn’t. So first, let’s dive into how you can tell if you are producing enough first. Then we’ll review some simple tips to increase your milk supply. These tips will help if low supply is a concern or if you are trying to store up extra milk to create a stockpile.
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How can I tell if baby is getting enough milk?
As I mentioned, it can be difficult to tell whether baby is getting enough milk, especially as a first time mom. Luckily there are a few cues you can look for to check if baby is getting enough food. The first of which is output: the numbers of pees and poos. More milk in should equal more waste out.
You’ll be looking around 6 wet diapers a day for the first 6 months of baby’s life. For a newborn baby, you will be looking for one poopy diaper for each day in age up to day five. For example, on day one they should have one poop, and on day two, two poops, and so on. One they reach 5 days old, they will average about five poopy diapers per day from there until they are a bit older. However, there can be quite a bit of variance in what is normal and some babies will only go once a day, while others will go much more frequently.
One of the surest signs that your baby is getting enough to eat is whether or not they are gaining weight. Keep in mind that most babies lose weight after they are born, and then have to work their way back up to their birth weight. Typically this takes about a week up to ten days. Keeping track of your baby’s weight and whether it is going in the right direction at the right pace is a great way to assess if they are eating enough.
Another more immediate sign that baby is getting enough food is their contentment after a feeding. After feeding baby should be content (and likely sleepy). Their arms will typically not be tense or stiff and their clenched fists will relax and open up. Often, you can even pick up their arm just a little bit and drop it and they will not stir. I used to joke that my kids were milk drunk after a good feeding session. Here’s a picture of one of my milk drunk baby.
Of course, if you have concerns about your baby gaining weight or if they are getting enough milk, you should have a chat with your pediatrician. They’ll be keeping a close eye on your baby’s weight and growth as a measure in addition to asking about output as well. Typically, they will want you to keep a diary of feedings, pees and poos until baby they can confirm that baby is gaining at an appropriate rate. If baby is still fussy and tense after feeding, that could be a sign they aren’t getting enough to eat.
Finally, if these signs point to your baby not getting enough milk, it may not strictly be a supply issue. Supply can certainly be a factor, but it may also be assessing how breastfeeding sessions are going. Some babies struggle to latch and feed properly. In these cases, I highly recommend working with a lactation consultant. Their job is to assist you and your baby with breastfeeding. They can offer advice on how to ensure a good latch, effective positions for nursing, and can offer tons of helpful tips. Many pediatricians have lactation consultants on their staff and hospitals usually have them on staff as well. If neither of those work well for you, you can also search for lactation consultants near you. Sometimes you can even find lactation consultants that will make home visits.
How to Increase your Milk Supply
The good news is establishing a good milk supply doesn’t require fancy expensive supplements. Sure, you can try some of those for an additional boost, but largely the things on this list are fairly straightforward (and many won’t cost you anything but time). Let’s start with some of the basics:
Milk Economics – Supply & Demand
Your Milk production is a supply-and-demand system. The more demand on the system (through baby feeding or through pumping), the more milk your body will produce. One of the first things to check when supply is a concern is how baby is feeding. Ensure that baby has a good latch, is positioned well and is fully emptying one breast before moving on to the other. A poor latch or weak suction can cause milk supply to be low. This is a key area where a lactation consultant can be very helpful. Additionally make sure you are feeding baby frequently enough to encourage good milk supply.
Add in Pumping Sessions to Increase Milk Supply
Another way to increase supply, is to add in pumping sessions after baby has finished eating. This will ensure each breast is fully emptied, and increase supply, which will in turn then trigger a greater milk supply. As an added bonus, you can also save the milk and begin to build some backup expressed milk for later use.
Try Incorporating a Power Pumping Session. A power pumping session is where you pump off and on for an extended length of time to mimic cluster feeding. When a nursing baby cluster feeds, they stay at the breast and eat for periods on and off frequently. This is known to stimulate additional milk production. In a power pumping session, you may pump for 20 minutes, then rest for 10, pump again for another 10 then rest again for 10. Typically you’d try to do this once a day for about a week to see results.
Breastmilk is about 90% water, so it’s important that you stay hydrated so that your body has the water it needs to produce enough milk. In fact many breastfeeding women complain of how thirsty they are! Follow those natural thirst cues and try to get about 128 ounces per day when breastfeeding.
Just like hydration is a key component in milk production, so is your nutrition. I’m sure you already know that your daily calorie needs increase while breastfeeding. Some of those extra calories are passed along to your baby in your milk. If your are eating too little or foods that are not well-balanced, you could see a drop on your milk supply. Opt for foods that are high in protein as a core staple of your diet. Foods high in whole grains and fiber (such as fruit and vegetables) are also great choices. As an added bonus, eating a variety of foods changes the flavor of your breast milk. So you’ll be exposing your baby to a variety of foods and flavors to encourage a broad palate.
Additionally, a number of foods are believed to be associated with increased milk supply:
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Brown Rice
Try adding some of these to your diet to see if you see any increase on milk supply.
Chances are with a young baby that you aren’t getting much sleep, but try to get rest where you can. Too little sleep can also decrease your milk supply. To be an efficient milk making machine, you need to get enough rest.
Telling you to stop stressing probably won’t do much good (if you’re like me, you’ll just stress about being stressed). However, it’s worth noting that excessive stress can increase levels of the hormone cortisol which in turn reduces milk supply. Additionally, if you are stressed and anxious, it may inhibit levels of oxytocin in your system. Oxytocin is the hormone in your system that encourages a milk “let-down” (when milk starts flowing freely during a breastfeeding/pumping session). In other words, stress can really kill your milk supply. If you’re incredibly stressed out, try leverage your support system wherever possible or try to decrease some of the stressors in your life.
Fenugreek is an herb that is probably one of the most infamous galactagogues (something that encourages milk production) due to it containing estrogen-like compounds. While some smaller studies suggest that Fenugreek can help with milk supply, there isn’t a broad recognized study that proved Fenugreek increase milk supply. You can find Fenugreek in teas, supplements and even these tasty MilkMaker cookies by Munchkin.
I hope that you found these tips on increasing your milk supply helpful. If these tips don’t help or if you have additional concerns, I really encourage you to reach out to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant to get the help you need. Additionally, the website KellyMom.com offers some really great information on Breastfeeding. It helped me so much along my breastfeeding/pumping journeys. Also, I have to say, you need to know that you’re a great mom regardless. You aren’t defined by your milk production or ability to breast feed. New moms face such incredible pressure (both by society and by self-imposed expectations) to breastfeed — just know that your success as a mother isn’t measured in ounces of milk.
Thanks for stopping by. Did I miss a tip that really helped you? If so, I’d love to hear from you in a comment below. You may also want to check out my post on the The 10 Best Pacifiers for Breastfed Babies.