The first question to ask yourself: “Is my milk supply actually low?”.
Here are a few scenarios that signal your milk production is likely HIGH and normal:
- Your baby is cluster feeding every hour but has good diaper output, seems happy and relaxed after feeding, and is visibly growing bigger. The interpretation is that your baby may be going through a growth spurt.
- At around 6 weeks your breasts feel softer than in the beginning. You baby is nursing the same as usual, you hear and see big milk gulps, and your baby is thriving. The interpretation is that your milk production is regulating to match baby’s demands.
The following scenarios may signal that your milk production needs to increase:
- Your baby is cluster feeding constantly, they are fewer than 3 bowel movements per day by day 4 of life and fewer than 6 wet diapers per day, they seem unhappy and stressed after feeds, and you might be experiencing nipple pain.
- Your baby is gaining consistently less than 1oz per day in the first 3 months of life.
- Your pumped milk volume is decreasing at each session.
If any of these last three scenarios sound like you, know that there are ways to help increase your milk production! Here are two key priorities to start with to ensure your baby is fed and that you are protecting your milk production:
- Ensure your baby is receiving adequate breast milk, donor milk, or formula to meet growth and development. Adequate volume feeds will also ensure your baby has the energy to breastfeed and chestfeed effectively. Your milk production is increasing through the first four weeks of your baby’s life. You start out after birth with feeds of 1-2 teaspoons of colostrum every 1-3 hours. By 48-72 hours until the end of the first week, your supply grows to around 1-2 oz per feed (10-20 oz per day). In the second and third week expect increasing volumes of around 2-3 oz per feed (15-25 oz per day). By the end of the fourth week through six months old babies take in about 25-30oz (750-
880 ml) per day. This equates to about 3-4 oz (90-120ml) at each feed.
- If baby is not latching or not transferring milk well, you can protect your milk production by using hands on pumping, that is: massage breast/chest, pump, and follow up with hand expression.
What is the root cause of your low production?
To reverse low production, the underlying cause should be determined first. The following are a few questions that might give you clues as to why your milk production is low.
- Is baby transferring milk well at the breast/chest? Check out the top three videos at this link here to see the difference between active drinking (one suck to one swallow), good drinking (2-3 sucks/swallow), and ‘nibbling’, or comfort nursing.
- Is baby nursing actively at least 8-12 times in 24 hours?
- Do you have any medical conditions that might impact milk production? Does your baby have any medical conditions that affect nursing? If the first two points are resolved and you still have low production, follow up with your physician may be needed.
Tips to increase production (several or all may be needed based on your situation)
After you have figured out the root cause, the next step is to work with a lactation consultant to determine the best strategies that will help you increase your production. A few tips on where to begin are listed here:
- Breastfeed/chestfeed frequently, based on babies cues, at least 8-12 times per day. Let baby finish one side, offer the other side until finished; keep switching sides until baby seems satisfied – you are ALWAYS making milk!
- Pain during feeds will impact milk transfer and production. This video shows how to get a deeper, off-center latch to lessen pain and improve transfer.
- Practice skin-to-skin time often during, after, and in-between feeds. Often carrying your baby in a carrier skin to skin or resting in a reclined position together will help you notice his cues. This will increase production and encourage feeding on cue.
- When baby is nursing, compress your breast to encourage active sucks and swallows. Make a “C” with your hand, gently squeeze breast, baby will start active sucks, when she slows, release and squeeze in another location. This way, your breast/chest empties well.
- If you baby is not feeding well, ensure frequent hands on pumping (massage, pumping, hand expression) to protect supply.
- If you are pumping to increase production, ensure the flange fit is not too tight or too loose. A good fit will improve milk production. Check you pump regularly for any tubing holes or decrease in suction.
- A hospital-grade pump such as an Unimom Opera, a Medela Symphony, or a Spectra S3 (to name a few) may offer more effective breast/chest emptying than consumer-grade pumps.
- Consider using an at-breast supplementer to increase stimulation at the breast/chest and to keep baby ‘breast/chest’ focused.
- Avoid pacifiers and let baby suck at the breast/chest for comfort in between feeds.
- Consider using a galactagogue (milk-increasing herb or medication) to enhance production (this is in addition to frequent milk removal). Check with your physician for
Let us help you figure out the root cause of your low milk production and, together, we can develop strategies to reach your breastfeeding and chestfeeing goals. Reach out to Tara and Michelle at 281-699-8054 to schedule a consultation today!