Increasing Breast Milk Supply
Is your breast milk supply low?
Most mothers think that their milk supply is low when it actually isn’t. So how do you know whether your baby is getting adequate breast milk? You can determine this if your baby is:
- Gulping and swallowing when feeding: The baby starts with rapid sucking of the breast which helps release milk after which it progresses into deep, slow pulling motions as the baby swallows. If the baby is not getting adequate milk, you may notice rapid sucking without swallowing. You may also realise long pauses or repeatedly falling asleep while feeding.
- Content after feeding: If your baby cries and becomes fussy after feeding, that may indicate that the baby is hungry. However, being fussy does not always indicate that the baby is hungry, it could be due to other reasons. However, if the baby is active, alert and healthy, then you do not need to worry about your milk supply.
- Filling the diaper: A reliable diaper output, at least 7 wet diapers a day, is an indication that your baby is feeding well. The baby’s first stool passes are usually black and sticky, after 3 or 4 days the stool becomes green and then yellow by the 4th or 5th day. The urine on the other hand, should be clear if your baby is getting enough milk as that would be an indication that the baby is well hydrated.
- Gaining weight: After birth, it is normal for a baby to lose 5 to 7% of their weight in the first days or week, however, if the baby loses 10% or more, there could be a problem. After 10 days, your baby should add weight which is an indication that the baby is getting enough milk.
It is important to note that having any of the symptoms listed above does not necessarily mean that either of the two cancers is present. One should seek medical advice or have a test done to be certain.
What causes inadequate milk supply?
The most common causes of low breast milk supply include:
- Hormonal or endocrine problems: Certain problems such as hypertension, diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (POCS) can lead to low milk supply as milk supply relies on hormonal signs.
- Previous breast surgery: Different breast surgeries including nipple piercing affect breastfeeding differently depending on how much time has passed between the surgery, how the surgery was done and whether there were any complications.
- Insufficient glandular tissue: Some women may not have enough ducts for milk production that can lead to inadequate milk supply which does not meet the baby’s needs.
- Taking certain medications: Some medications such as Pseudoephedrine can affect milk production.
- Using hormonal birth control: Using birth control after giving birth can reduce breast milk production for some mothers especially if they start using them before the baby is 4 months old.
- Supplementations: Using formula makes the breasts produce less milk because when less milk is needed, the breasts produce less milk.
Difficulties feeding: This can be due to anatomic problems such as having a tongue-tie which makes it hard for the baby to extract milk properly.
- Using a pacifier in between feedings: This makes it difficult for the breasts to produce more milk because the breasts produce more milk when they are empty or close to empty and by using pacifiers or by stretching the durations between feedings, the breasts are left full, thereby, less milk is produced.
How to Increase Breast Milk Supply
- Feed your baby frequently without following a routine because the more you feed the baby, the more milk your breasts will supply.
- Check your baby’s positioning during feeding; ensure that your baby is in a latch position, that the mouth is wide open enabling the baby to have a lot of breast tissue in the mouth, not just the nipple, and that the nipple is towards the back of the mouth. This stimulates more milk production.
- Do not include formula unless it is necessary because the more your baby breastfeeds, the more milk the breasts supply.
- Avoid using pacifiers because that means that you reduce the feeding time for your baby and the less the baby breastfeeds, the less milk the breasts supply because the breasts will be full most times preventing more milk production.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet which includes more nutritious calories, proteins, fats and fresh vegetables that can boost your milk production.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent constipation, haemorrhoids and anal fissures that your baby may suffer if you do not hydrate yourself.
- Be available for your baby 24/7 if that is possible because, being able to breastfeed anytime makes the breast supply increase and more skin-to-skin contact helps in oxytocin production which is involved in the production of breast milk.
If none of these methods work for you, you should consider getting help from a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding is very crucial for your baby’s healthy growth and development. Therefore, your baby having adequate breast milk is important for their health and proper development.
Children who are fed with breast milk alone within their first 6 months of life, have good immunity and their mothers get to reduce their risk of getting some conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer.