breastfeeding milk production

I don’t have enough milk” is a common concern I hear from mothers. It’s an understandable worry, between the frequent baby weight checks that can make us too focused on numbers, hearing your newborn cry half an hour after feeding, and sometimes even pressure from friends and family to supplement with formula. The good news is that only 2% of women who experience low milk supply actually have a physiological cause for inadequate supply. The other 98% can avoid this pitfall with proper management of breastfeeding starting immediately after birth. If low milk supply develops, it can be corrected. You can increase your milk supply!

From my experience as a lactation consultant, the most common reason a mom thinks she isn’t producing enough milk is when the baby cries right after coming off the breast or very soon after (within 30 minutes to an hour). Other reasons include breasts that do not feel significantly larger after the milk comes in on day 3 or 4 after birth, the baby wanting to feed or suckle for extended periods of time (over an hour), and the fact that they can’t see or measure how much the baby is getting from the breast.

All of these newborn behaviors are common. In the first month of life, a baby will often fall asleep at the breast and continue non-nutritive suckling. An exclusively breast fed baby may also become hungry sooner after a feeding than its formula fed counterpart. A baby will often take more in one feeding (and sometimes more than the stomach needs) from a bottle since it flows with little effort or correct latching on the baby’s part. 98% of cases with low milk supply are improper management. The most common non-physical causes include a poor latch, supplementation and infrequent or skipped breastfeeding sessions.

So how can this be avoided? Preparation for breastfeeding is key. Knowledge is power! Attend a class, talk to your doctor, midwife or lactation consultant during your pregnancy. It will teach you to trust your amazing body. The number one message I want all Maui mamas to remember is that sustaining adequate milk production is a supply and demand system. More milk out = more milk made. This is how to increase your milk supply.

A newborn will mostly wake only when hungry.  So as soon as they wake, put them on your breast and listen for swallowing. Remember a proper latch = more milk out = more milk made. If your baby cries for more only half an hour after breastfeeding put them back on the breast! And try and avoid bottles and pumping in the first six weeks.

Breastfeeding can have its challenges, is a major time commitment and is one of the most selfless and loving acts as a mother. Whether you are able to breastfeed your new baby for two weeks or two years, know that you are giving your baby an excellent start in life and there is help if you need it.

Image Credit: Katie Folio

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Jaclyn Kirby is a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant here on Maui since 2008. She finds joy empowering mothers and partners and is committed to integrating holistic and western practices to provide greater health care options for women. You can contact her at 808 699-1676 to discuss any breastfeeding needs.