Breastfeeding: How To Tell If Your Baby Is Getting Enough
They Say The Breast Is Best
Everyone knows that breastfeeding is the best way to fulfill your baby's nutritional needs. Many mothers choose to breastfeed because, not only is it convenient, but it offers their baby the best possible start in life. Try as they might the major formula companies just can't quite compete with the nutrients in mother's milk. So why is it that this natural act of breastfeeding seems to be so problematic, and stressful to some new moms? We rely on our family's advice, lactation consultants, and even the internet to answer our many questions about issues such as: latching on, decreased milk supply, clogged milk ducts, etc. And last November I too found myself scouring the internet in search of answers for one question in particular: Is my baby getting enough breast milk?
Should You Be Concerned?
Many women who choose to breastfeed find themselves concerned that they are not producing enough milk for their baby at some point. Unlike women who formula or bottle feed there is simply no way to know exactly how much milk your little one is actually getting in a day. This can be frustrating, especially if you have a fussier baby, or a baby with reflux. Often when my son would cry after a meal I would think to myself that perhaps he is still hungry, and he's just not getting enough. This usually is not the case. The fact is, some babies just need to cry. If your baby is thriving, gaining good weight, and you are feeding them on demand, then they probably are getting enough. Remember, how much you can pump is not a good indicator of how much you produce because your baby is much more effective than any breast pump you can buy. However, if you're still worried, there are somethings you can do.
Ditch The Schedule
Breast milk is created on the basis of supply and demand. The more you baby drinks (or the more you pump if you're pumping) the more you are going to produce. Nurse you baby often and for as long as he/she wants. A lot of people feel pressure from families, and doctors to get their babies on a nursing schedule, but this is just not conducive to effective breast milk production. If you're stopping your baby's meal early on a regular basis, or frequently skipping feedings your body will interpret your extra milk as an oversupply and produce less. It might not always be convenient or happen when you want, but feed your baby as often and as much as he/she wants.
Eat To Feed
Your body is pulling nutrients and calories from the food you eat, and therefore you should be sure to eat lots of healthy, nutrient dense foods to support lactation. The average woman needs about 500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding, and while many women find losing weight to be a natural side effect of breastfeeding, it is not time to diet. If you go on a restrictive diet while you're trying to breastfeed your supply is going to suffer, plain and simple. As a new mom it can be difficult to find time, and even energy to cook meals, have you husband, a family member, or even a friend help you cook some healthy meals to freeze that you can eat when you're not feeling up to cooking or you're low on time.
Many herbs are said to increase your milk supply if taken in large quantities. Probably the most popular is fenugreek, which is fairly easy to find at your local GNC, and produces good results, with mild side effects. However the most effective galactagogues are medications such as domperidone, and metoclopramide, and you need a prescription for those. Other effective galactagogues include alfalfa, asparagus, blessed thistle, marshmallow root, brewers yeast, fennel, flax, and even oatmeal. There are also various lactation teas on the market such as mother's milk tea that have combinations of these ingredients to promote milk production. .
Still Think There's A Problem?
If you've tried these things, and you still think you have a low supply, make an appointment to see your doctor. If you have a low supply they might be able to identify an underlying cause, and if you don't then they can certainly ease your mind a little. Just remember, by breastfeeding your baby you're giving him/her the best start at a healthy life.