Is My Body Producing Enough Milk For My Nursing Baby?
The most important thing to remember about breastfeeding is that it is supply and demand.
This means that the more often your baby feeds, the more milk your body is designed to produce. The reverse applies too - the less you feed, the less you will produce.
How Do I Know If I Am Producing Enough Milk?
If your baby is gaining weight and has regular wet nappies, then your baby is getting enough milk.
You should also be able to hear your baby swallowing when they are drinking milk.
Unlike formula, breastmilk cannot be measured. If you want more information about your milk supply, how your amounts may vary and other issues relating to supply, read on.
Quicktip: Many women think they are losing milk around the 2-3 week mark. Actually, this is just the stage at which your milk supply settles into its proper routine after the hormonal shakeup of birth and early feeding.
My Breasts Are Smaller
After a baby's birth, a mother produces a liquid called colostrum. This liquid is clear and ranges from a gold to orange tint.
It takes 2-6 days for the transitional milk to arrive and then another week or two before it changes to mature milk. When the transitional milk arrives, most women find it can be painful and they're very swollen for several days. This is normal - your body and your baby take time to adjust to a proper feeding routine and supply.
When your supply settles, it's completely normal for breasts to get smaller and not be as swollen - it means your supply has adjusted to the right amount to satisfy your baby.
You may also feel "emptier" in the evenings, as that is the time of day when you you have the least milk, while in the mornings you may feel swollen before the first feed.
Are you being told that breastfeeding is not an option because of low supply, reflux or weight gain? Here's a great guide on reasons you don't need to stop breastfeeding, and solutions.
I Can't Express More Than 20mls
There are three main ways of expressing milk - by hand, with a manual pump or with an electric pump.
Most women find that they may be able to get milk with one method but not another. But some women find they can never get ANY milk with any of the three methods. But don't worry - this doesn't necessarily say anything about your milk supply.
A baby's mouth is designed better than any other method of getting milk. Many women who can barely express a drop of milk have no problem feeding their baby and in fact go on to do so for many months with no problems. Although pumping is one method that can indicate how much milk you are producing, you should use a backup method (such as weight gain, wet nappies or a visit with a lactation consultant) to verify this.
My Baby Is Feeding Every Few Hours
So how often should a baby feed? In the first few months, most babies feed every 2-4 hours on average. Unlike an adult they have very small stomachs and since their diet consists of nothing but liquid, they get hungry again fast.
Also, because breastmilk is natural and can be fully assimilated by their body, breastfed babies often feed more often than formula fed babies. Formula cannot be processed as fast by their digestive system, making the baby full for longer.
My Baby Is Feeding More Than Normal
Every 4-6 weeks on average, babies go through a growth spurt. When this happens, they need more milk to help them grow. Because breastfeeding is supply and demand, your baby will go through a 24-48 hour period during which they can seem restless and have short feeds very often. This process will allow your body to start making more milk and within a day or two you should both find yourself back in your regular routine.
My Baby Is Feeding A LOT In The Evening
This is known as cluster feeding. It happens for three main reasons:
- Supply - In the evenings you have a lower supply of milk so more feeds may be required to fill the baby.
- Demand - Feeding regularly in the evenings helps milk production to begin for the next day.
- Sleep - Some resources suggest that babies feed more in the evening so their body is more prepared to sleep through for longer periods during the night without a feed.
Some babies will cluster feed as often as every 20 minutes for 5 or more feeds.
My Baby Is Pulling Off Or Screaming During a Feed
This is rarely related to milk supply but is commonly seen for three reasons:
- Teething - Teething can begin anywhere between birth and 6-12 months, depending on the baby. Some babies get gums that are so sore that any pressure on them (including feeding) is quite painful.
- Tummyache - Babies have a very simple understanding when they are born. If they feel a bad feeling in their stomach they assume it is hunger and try to feed. If the pain doesn't go away from feeding, they may get upset and begin to cry.
- Reflux - Reflux doesn't always begin at birth. Sometimes it takes several weeks before the signs become apparent. It involves the baby's stomach contents flowing back up the oesophagus, although there are different types and degrees. This can make feeding quite painful for a baby and you should see a doctor if you believe this is the issue.
My Baby Is Throwing Up All The Milk
It's quite common for young babies to throw up milk following a feed, especially if they haven't burped properly. Although it can be worrisome for a new mum, throwing up doesn't usually mean the baby isn't getting enough milk. The milk is actually a lot less than it looks in most cases, so the baby still has plenty left in their stomach.
I'm Mixed Feeding But Still Losing Milk
NB: Mixed feeding refers to feeding a baby with both breastmilk and formula. This can be in any percentage; some women feed one bottle of formula at night, while others do it all day or just all night. Most often used as babies grow older or if mother wants to return to work but can't express.
As mentioned above, nursing is about supply and demand. Starting mixed feed too early means that the milk supply hasn't fully adjusted. In many cases where mixed feeding is introduced too early, women find they lose their supply because their body thinks that less feeds mean milk is no longer needed.
If at all possible, try and avoid mixed feeding if you want to continue breastfeeding, at least for the first month, until you have talked to a lactation consultant or doctor.
What If I Really Am Losing My Supply?
Although only a small percentage of mothers have a low or non-supply it can still happen. If you're certain you don't have a good supply (baby isn't gaining weight and isn't having regular wet nappies, and confirmed with a medical professional), then sometimes formula is the only option.
But don't give up just yet - there are other things you can do to increase your supply. Some of them include:
Expressing after or between feeds, lactation cookies, drinking more water, subscription tablets such as maxalon, herbs such as fenugreek and raspberry leaf.
For some great breastfeeding support I highly recommend paying a visit to The L@@ky Boob, a place to get support from thousands of other breastfeeding women.