If you're expecting, then you're probably looking forward to the powerful bonding experience that comes with breastfeeding your newborn.
Unfortunately, some moms discover that their milk is slow to come in. They've given birth, they are holding their baby, but nothing much seems to happen with regard to the production of breast milk.
While such issues are not particularly common, they do happen. The most critical thing that you can do as a new mom is to stay calm. You are not alone in this, and with the help of doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants, this is a challenge that you can overcome.
It's also crucial for you to realize that although the situation is frustrating, it does not make you a somehow "bad" or inferior mother. You and your body are doing amazing things, but not everything is going to go according to plan. Reserve making value judgments about yourself and instead focus on taking steps that may help you to increase your milk supply.
How Is Breast Milk Production Stimulated?
As you've probably noticed over the last several months, pregnancy has kept your body awash in hormones. Among these hormones are prolactin, insulin, oxytocin, and cortisol.
Each of these hormones is involved in the production of breast milk. However, while you are pregnant, estrogen and progesterone are also at work. Among their other tasks, these hormones prevent breast milk production until it is needed.
When you are pregnant, the levels of prolactin in your body increase by a tremendous amount. It's the hormone that makes mammary tissues grow in preparation for milk production. When the baby sucks at your breast, the amount of prolactin in your bloodstream immediately increases.
Oxytocin is the catalyst that makes milk flow before and during nursing sessions. It's responsible for the letdown reflex, and it may be stimulated by the baby's sucking or his cry. Even simply thinking about your baby may stimulate this reflex.
Insulin and cortisol work together to help promote the supply of your breast milk.
As these four hormones take the driver's seat after birth, estrogen and progesterone begin to recede. This allows for the production of breast milk. Typically, levels of estrogen and progesterone begin to drop significantly between 30 and 40 hours after birth.
The Beginning of Milk Production
Within one to two days of giving birth, most moms notice that their breasts feel a great deal fuller. This is an obvious sign that their milk is coming in, which is a direct result of the hormonal changes discussed above.
For a few days, new moms produce the first milk that is known as colostrum. This is incredibly rich and creamy milk that's kind of like a superfood for your infant. It provides all of the nutrition that your newborn needs while also boosting their immune system and protecting them from the various germs, bacteria, and viruses to which they are now being exposed.
Colostrum generally has a thick, jelly-like consistency. Infants may take in just a small amount at each feeding, but they will want to feed often. Within approximately five days of birth, colostrum starts to become intermixed with regular, or mature, breast milk. Commonly referred to as transitional milk, this food helps to prepare your infant's tummy for a milk-based diet.
After approximately seven to ten days, most moms notice that their breast milk is definitely coming in. But what if this isn't happening for you?
Why You Might Have Little to No Breast Milk
When moms notice that they don't seem to be producing much breast milk, it's not uncommon for them to feel anxious or to wonder if they've done something wrong.
The reality is that you are not to blame. You are doing everything you can to provide your baby with the best start in life. However, as we all know, life doesn't always proceed smoothly.
So take a breath, calm down, and consider the reasons why your breast milk supply isn't coming in. The possible reasons are many and include:
- A premature birth
- You and your baby were separated immediately after birth
- Medical issues like polycystic ovary syndrome or diabetes
- You have a thyroid condition
- The birth was traumatic or involved a postpartum hemorrhage
- You delivered via cesarean
Moms also may experience slow or little milk production if they were prescribed bed rest before the birth or suffered from an illness or infection that caused a fever. Taking certain medications and gestational ovarian cysts ca also play a role. Even delivering a heavier baby or being a mom who is 35 or older may have an effect on breast milk production.
Clearly, milk production issues can have one or more causes. Your doctor may be able to help you track down and address which one is affecting you if you are not already aware of a diagnosis. Seeking treatment for an ongoing condition certainly may be helpful in putting you on the path to greater milk production.
However, there also are other steps you can take. Remember that breast milk production largely is based on supply and demand. The more frequently and vigorously your breasts are stimulated, the more milk your body is likely to produce.
Should You Be Worried?
Given that there are so many factors that may affect how much breast milk you're producing, there's no cause for immediate anxiety. Your body might just need more time to generate a supply of breast milk. This can be frustrating, but don't get mired down by negative thoughts and feelings.
Instead, turn your energy toward frequent breast stimulation through manual massage, use of a breast pump, or putting your baby to your breast. By doing so, you are protecting your milk supply and working toward stimulating an adequate volume of breast milk.
At the same time, work with your doctor and a lactation consultant to address any other issues that may be contributing to the problem.
How Can You Stimulate Breast Milk Production?
When you stimulate your breasts, you're helping to create milk receptor sites. Use your hands or a pump for frequent stimulation.
If you are using a pump, make certain that it's hospital grade. These higher-quality pumps provide stronger stimulation and are capable of expressing greater volumes of milk, thereby stimulating more milk production.
Every two to three hours, try to hand express or pump some milk. Even if it's just a small amount, that's OK. Remember that this is a supply and demand process. The more you and your baby demand, the more your body is likely to supply.
Some moms who are having difficulty with milk production use things like heating pads, hot showers, and relaxing music to help. It's amazing how these steps can increase your milk supply.
Don't forget to take care of yourself by drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and eating a nutritious diet. All of these things can contribute to getting your milk to flow.
When Is It Time for Baby to See a Doctor?
Between breastfeeding and formula supplementation, if it's needed, most babies get the nutrition that they need. However, if your baby begins to exhibit these symptoms, then it's wise to see your pediatrician:
- Your baby is 14 days old and is not back to birth weight
- The baby seems lethargic or unresponsive
- Crying during or after feeding
- Fewer than six to eight dirty diapers each day
- The baby looks dehydrated with sunken eyes and a soft spot
All of these are signs that your baby isn't getting the nutrition and hydration that he needs, which means that a doctor's advice is in order.
Euphoric Herbals Stands By Moms
Just because your first few days or weeks of breastfeeding haven't gone well doesn't mean that it's time to give up. Instead, consult your doctor and lactation consultant while also ensuring that you are adequately stimulating your breasts.
If you want to do even more to ensure that you have the best chances of ensuring successful breastfeeding, then browse through the offerings at Euphoric Herbals. Our full line of organic, natural, and healthy supplements and products are designed to support moms and babies at all stages of development.