Breastfeeding is considered one of the many gifts of motherhood. It’s a chance to increase bonding with your newborn.
But what happens when that milk you are counting on runs dry?
Turns out, some mothers experience a low milk supply or suspect that something is wrong. You might be struggling through breastfeeding during the first two weeks.
Don’t worry! Low milk supply is something that you can quickly recover from with the right information and support.
Let’s have a look at how low milk supply happens and what you can do about it.
Do I Really Have Low Milk Supply?
Though low milk supply might sound like something that happens often, most mothers never have to worry about running out of milk. That said, there are some clues to keep in mind. You can suspect low milk supply if you spot or experience the following:
- Slow weight gain: Babies do lose 10-percent of their birth weight during their first few days, but that weight is regained once you hit the second week and beyond. However, if you have a low milk supply, that weight will not come back easily. Well-fed babies gain about 4-7 ounces a week.
- Fewer dirty diapers: During the first week, your baby is going to dirty the same amount of diapers as their age. Around day 5, though, well-fed babies are going to have 2-5 diapers of poop and 4-6 diapers of urine. By one week of age, your baby should be having 6-8 wet diapers in 24hrs.
- Low activity and alertness: Babies who aren’t getting enough milk are going to sleep more than they are awake, will look thin, and lose that cute chubbiness.
How Much Milk Should I Be Producing?
Parents who feed their baby breastmilk exclusively will are often okay when it comes to milk supply, because your milk production is driven by hormones. Whenever you breastfed, your nervous system reacts, sending a signal to your brain, and your body then produces more prolactin, a hormone devoted to milk production.
In the first month of feeding, your milk production is going to vary depending on your baby’s age. Around day 1, you make between 30 ml. In the second month, you will be naturally making around 900 ml. Please remember, pumping output is not a indication of true supply.
Remember, milk production is not solely dependent on you. The frequency of feeding greatly impacts how much milk you put out, so as your baby grows bigger and needs more food, you can expect to produce more milk than you did during the first couple of days.
Factors Affecting Breast milk Production
Aside from frequency, here are several factors that affect milk production:
- The baby’s weight and age
- Breastmilk only versus breastmilk and formula
- Time of feeding
- Time since last feeding or pumping
- Mom’s mental and emotional wellness
How Long Does It Take To Increase Supply?
Sadly, it’s impossible to determine how long it will take your body to respond to the stimuli and start making that milk. Every person is unique. Also, the factors that determine how fast you make milk are also dependent on the reasons you had low supply to begin with. However, most methods are going to work quickly or not at all.
What does that mean?
If you try galactagogues and they don’t work for you immediately, it's important to try each galactagoue individually and allow for at least 7 days to determine it's effectiveness for you. To get the most out of herbal supplements, please see our blog post that answers common questions and don't hesitate to reach out to a Lactation Consultant for a recommendation on supplements and medications to increase milk supply. Find what works for you, whether that is getting more rest, finding ways to relax, or increasing the frequency of feedings. But to start you off, the following methods are the best for effectively increasing milk supply:
Get Plenty of Rest
Many mothers know how sleepless the first few months with a newborn can be. Unfortunately, not getting enough rest can create the breastmilk drought you fear. Sleep deprivation can a huge impact on your milk production and supply. Therefore, if you want to increase your milk fast, try to get some rest.
You don’t have to worry about being super mom all the time. You are human, and humans need sleep. Postpartum recovery takes more than 6 weeks, regardless of what people say. That means your body needs time to recover from the birth and establish a supply for milk with your baby. If you do too much too soon, you are may to jeopardize your breastmilk production and risk other complications too, like infections, not enough of a bond with your baby, and other troubles.
So get that rest, mama.
Supply and Demand
Speaking of supply and demand, your body is an economical thing. Your breasts are naturally going to produce more milk when they are emptied out—that’s just how things work. In the beginning, every mom produces milk because of hormones. Women who don’t breastfeed will stop producing that hormone, because the demand is not there. Likewise, if you meet the demand, that initial hormone flood will continue to flow.
You can take advantage of this natural reaction by ensuring you are breastfeeding frequently then pumping to get out the dregs of milk. Empty your breasts as much as you can. Since your nervous system will think that your baby is drinking a lot, it will produce even more milk next time around to keep you from running out again. The most important thing you can do is to allow your baby to nurse on demand as much as possible the first month, this will help establish your long-term milk supply.
Yes, the breast pump is a mighty tool in your arsenal. A pump fools your breasts into thinking that there is more demand, so you can use it to keep the breast milk flowing. Just remember that the amount of breast milk you pump is not a reflection of how much you are really producing. If you just finished nursing and then pump to get out the last of the milk, you are going to pump much less than if you pump after missing a feeding. Additionally, no breast pump is as effective at removing milk from the breast as a baby's suckling is.
In fact, when you pump between feedings, you are going to collect a mere 45-60 ml of breast milk. When you miss a feeding, you might get 90-120 ml of milk.
Master Proper Breastfeeding Technique
One of the most common issues with breastfeeding is not how often the feeding is happening or even low milk supply—it’s the how. As in, how well is your baby latching onto your breast? Poor latches are the number one reason mothers experience pain with breastfeeding and why babies struggle to put on weight. Since a poor latch results in less milk removed from the breast, your body gets confused and starts producing less milk.
To ensure your baby is getting the best latch possible, you need to learn proper breastfeeding technique. Use the tips below to help you get into a comfortable position and to get the ideal latch:
- Find a position with excellent back support. Some moms like to have their feet propped up on an ottoman or stool. Others like lying down.
- If you have one, use a breastfeeding support pillow.
- Place your baby tummy-to-tummy with you. Make sure to bring your baby to you. Don’t learn towards the baby, because that could cause undue strain to your neck and back.
- The baby’s nose should be opposite to the nipple.
- You might need to hold your breast and guide the nipple towards the baby’s mouth. Aim the nipple towards their upper lip. Sometimes, you might have to rub the nipple against their mouth to get them to open wide.
- Make sure their head is tilted slightly back. Never let the chin rest against the baby’s chest.
- When suckling, the baby’s bottom lip should be wide open, kind of like a fish. If they are not, use a finger to pull the bottom lip down and the upper lip up.
Once your baby starts to suckle, you will know you have established a good latch when the tongue is seen if you pull the bottom lip down; the ears wiggle slightly; the cheeks are rounded; you heard the kuh-kuh sound of swallowing; and there is no discomfort.
There are plenty of lactogenic foods, also known as galactagogues, that can increase your milk supply. Some foods can be added directly to your diet while others can even be taken as supplements. Here are some foods that you can use to increase milk supply:
- Oatmeal: Any kind of oat is excellent for stimulating milk production. Some cultures even blend oats and water then strain out the grains for a milk supply booster.
- Brewer’s yeast: The main ingredient in popular brands of lactation cookies. Why not bake up some of your own?
- Flaxseed: The omega-3 fatty acids in flax seeds make them excellent for milk supply. You can mix flaxseed, chia, quinoa, oats, brewer’s yeast, and cinnamon for a delicious lactation morning oatmeal.
- Barley, hops, and fennel: These ingredients are key to lactation. While they are found commonly in beer, you need to skip the alcohol for now, so try them in other recipes by swapping out rice for barley and so on.
- Water: You need to get enough water. After all, milk is liquid, so if you are dehydrated, you won’t be making enough milk to feed your baby. If you have a hard time drinking water, many mothers find the beverage Body Armor particularly helpful when it comes to increasing supply.
- Alfalfa: Use as sprouts on your salad.
You can also try:
- Lactation Supplements: Make some oatmeal cookies and pair it with an herbal tea formulated to increase milk supply.
Don’t Skip Feedings or Give Your Baby Formula
As we have mentioned before, your body is going to produce more milk when you are more active for feedings. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you will have typically. Whenever you skip a feeding or supplement with a formula, you are decreasing the demand for breastmilk. While this won’t have an immediate impact on your supply, doing it repeatedly will. Furthermore, pumping alone is not enough to maintain the supply. Since pumps remove less milk in a session than your baby, it can influence low milk supply.
In short, if you want a high supply, just breastfeed exclusively and pump in between those frequent feedings.
Try Some Skin-to-Skin Contact
Happy moms and babies are more likely to relax during feedings and feel better during the session. In the past, skin-to-skin contact was used mainly for premature babies, but it has benefits for everyone involved, regardless of their age. Also known as kangaroo care, skin-to-skin means that your baby wears only their diaper and a hat and is placed against your bare chest. This stimulates oxytocin in your brain, and it reduces stress in the baby. They will fuss less during feedings, sleep better, and even have better body temperature regulation. Lastly, studies have proven that kangaroo care encourages babies to breastfeed longer—meaning they consume more breast milk.
Use Both Breasts During Feeding
During the first couple of weeks postpartum, you might decide to use a single breast for feedings. However, if you want to increase your breast supply quickly, it’s recommended that you use both breasts. Women who feed with a single breast will notice that the dominant breast will always produce more milk than the one that isn’t used. This can be uncomfortable for you, as well, so maintain some balance by using both. To do this, you simply alternate the breast you use every feeding. Use the left one in the morning? Then the next feeding will use the right.
Now that you know a little more about milk production and how to increase your milk supply, it’s time to see what works for you. Being a mom isn’t easy, and you might have to go through some trial and error before you find what is works best for you and your baby, but don’t worry. You got this! Remember to get plenty of rest, work on proper latch technique, and try out some galactagogues to stimulate more milk production. You’ll boost your milk supply in no time.