There are so many reasons why moms choose to breastfeed, but unfortunately, it’s common for moms to stop altogether. It’s not always possible for a mom to continue breastfeeding, due in part to concerns of low breast milk supply, but medical reasons for low supply are actually fairly uncommon. By learning to recognize your baby’s feeding cues and unique needs in addition to maintaining a consistent breastfeeding routine, most perceived supply issues can be prevented and remedied.
Typically, when you first begin breastfeeding, your breast milk supply develops based on your child’s needs – it’s a supply-and-demand process. This is why it is particularly important that you breastfeed early and often. Breastfeeding as soon as possible – preferably within an hour after birth – will help you and your baby get off to a good start.
In the beginning, you may feel as though you need to breastfeed continuously in order to empty your breasts, especially if your little one comfort nurses or cluster feeds. But then, as you continue to breastfeed, you may feel like you aren’t producing as much milk. Don’t worry. Your body has just become more in tune with your baby’s needs and your supply may fluctuate and continue adjusting to their unique growth pattern. So, listen to your little one and feed whenever they seem hungry. Likewise, try not to stop feedings before your baby is completely finished – this ensures that they empty your breasts and get all the milk they need or want. A breastfeeding routine based on your baby’s needs, rather than a strict schedule, will help ensure you produce the right amount of milk for your child.
Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet and always drink enough water to satisfy your thirst. Herbal supplements like fenugreek also help some moms build and maintain their supply. If you’re interested in trying herbal supplements to increase your breast milk supply, ask for more information from a Lactation Consultant or your health care provider. You might also consider taking a nursing vacation. This means spending 2 to 3 days breastfeeding, cuddling and relaxing with your baby. The rest will help rejuvenate your body and the time the baby spends at breast will help to activate the hormones that stimulate milk production.
Maintaining and increasing your supply can also depend on the breastfeeding habits you develop. It is crucial to make sure your baby is nursing efficiently, because if less milk is removed from the breast, your supply can decrease. Check that your baby is latching properly if you are experiencing nipple pain or are having low supply issues.
Also, avoid or delay the use of bottles and pacifiers until after breastfeeding is well established. Early use of these items can cause missed breastfeeding opportunities and lead to nipple confusion for your baby, making it harder for him or her to nurse and harder for you to keep your supply up.
If your baby falls asleep at the breast often, try “switch nursing,” which means alternating breasts two or three times throughout each feeding, and even changing baby’s diaper before switching breasts. This activity keeps baby awake, alert and interested and can also stimulate milk production, encouraging your baby to breastfeed longer.
Pumping may help you increase your supply and collect a breast milk surplus. It can be beneficial to fully empty your breasts by pumping after your baby feeds and continuing to pump for two minutes after the last drop of milk comes out. Some moms pump and feed breast milk exclusively. If your baby is born prematurely or you need to exclusively pump for other reasons, talk to your healthcare provider about renting a hospital-grade pump.
When pumping, try carrying a baby blanket or something else that has baby’s scent on it in your pump bag – in order to aid let-down, some moms need a physiological stimulus or a reminder of their baby. You might also consider recording your little one’s hunger cry on your phone and playing it back before you pump, looking at photos of your baby, or catching a whiff of their unique baby scent – all are cues that signal to your body it’s time to breastfeed!
Occasionally, some mothers do have more serious supply issues that require treatment from a healthcare provider or by working with a Lactation Consultant. If you are experiencing unexplained pain or your baby isn’t gaining weight, please reach out to your doctor, search for a Lactation Professional near you, or consult with our LC one-on-one via email. They are equipped to help you breastfeed successfully and can help you determine any hidden hindrances that might be compromising your supply.
Do you have supply tips of your own? Please share in the comments below.