Many new moms who are breastfeeding their newborn baby for the first time are often worried that they aren’t making enough breast milk. And because of this, moms who aren’t sure if they are making a good supply of breast milk often turn to formula for their baby.
But the truth is that having a naturally low breast milk supply is not very common. In fact, most of the time new breastfeeding moms have other contributing factors that cause their milk supply to decrease.
So the question then becomes, “how do I know if I have a low milk supply?”
Believe it or not, there are a few really clear signs that your baby shows when they are not getting enough breast milk.
Here are the most common signs of a low breast milk supply.
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1. Baby Will Be Losing Weight or Not Gaining Enough Weight
When your baby is born, he/she will be monitored very closely by their pediatrician to watch out for any signs of weight loss. This is to help watch out for any issues that may be preventing your newborn from getting enough breast milk and gaining weight.
Most pediatricians will weigh your newborn at every visit and keep track of their weight to look for a positive weight gain.
And when your baby is not gaining weight that is a very clear sign that they are not getting enough breast milk.
2. A Decrease in Wet Diapers
How many diapers is your baby wetting per day?
Be prepared to have an answer because this is the question you will be asked for the first several months of your baby’s life. By tracking how many wet diapers your baby is having, you can ensure whether or not your baby is hydrated.
And if your baby is plenty hydrated, he/she is getting plenty of breast milk. On the other hand, if your baby is not wetting many diapers at all during the day, it’s a sign that they may not be getting enough breast milk.
3. Your Baby Doesn’t Seem Full When Getting Off of the Breast
How does your baby seem when they are finished breastfeeding? Is your baby full and satisfied or crabby and still very hungry?
Babies that are getting plenty of breast milk during a feeding will come off of the breast very relaxed and full.
And when your baby is not getting enough breast milk, they will likely come off of the breast very upset and still looking to eat.
4. You Don’t Get Much Breast Milk When You Pump
Have you tried using a breast pump to see how much breast milk you can pump in one sitting? This may be a good way to see how much breast milk you are making for your baby.
Now remember that no breast pump will ever be able to express as much breast milk as your baby can, but it can be a good visual of around how much breast milk you may be expressing.
5. Reluctance to Nurse
Is your baby reluctant to breastfeed?
Sometimes if your baby is frustrated because they are not getting much breast milk from the breast, they will refuse to try to breastfeed.
This can be very difficult, but if your baby is not wanting to latch on and try to nurse, you may need to look at your breast milk supply.
What are some of the Reasons for Low Milk Supply?
Honestly, there are several reasons that your breast milk supply may be low. Some women just have a naturally low milk supply, however, this is not very common.
More times than not, your low milk supply is caused by something else. Here are a few of the most common reasons that moms have low milk supply.
Waiting Too Long to Start Breastfeeding
When you first give birth, your body is already prepared for you to start breastfeeding your newborn, however, sometimes childbirth comes with an unexpected emergency and either the mother or baby needs some extra care after birth.
After birth, if a new mom doesn’t start breastfeeding within hours of the baby being born, the mom’s body will stop producing colostrum (the pre-milk during the first few days of breastfeeding) and then fail to produce breast milk.
So if you were unable to breastfeed your baby soon after birth it could be a reason for low breast milk supply.
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Are you latching your baby onto the breast properly?
You will not believe how many moms start to breastfeed their babies with a bad latch. It is actually one of the most common reasons that new breastfeeding moms aren’t able to produce enough breast milk.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand type of process – meaning your baby has to suck on the breast properly to express breast milk, therefore, telling the mother’s body to make more breast milk.
And when your baby is not latched onto the breast correctly, they are not expressing all of the breast milk and can also be causing lots of nipple pain for the mother.
So if you are struggling with nipple pain, you may be incorrectly latching your baby and causing your breast milk supply to be low.
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Tongue or Lip-Tie in Baby
Now, this plays a little into a latch onto the breast as well. But some babies are born with what is called a tongue-tie or a lip-tie or both even.
- An upper lip-tie is where a piece of skin under the upper lip is short or thick and is attached too tightly to the upper gum. It can restrict the movement of the upper lip. This can also cause problems when breastfeeding.
- A tongue-tie is a short, piece of tissue that is connected from the tip of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. Tongue-ties can affect many things like eating, speaking, and breastfeeding.
If your baby has either of these types of ties they can interfere with your baby’s ability to get a good latch onto the breast and then lead to low breast milk supply.
You Don’t Breastfeed Often Enough
How often do you breastfeed your baby?
This may sound silly but it is a really important question. One common breastfeeding myth that new moms believe is that you have to put a breastfed baby on a schedule to keep them on track.
However, actually the opposite is the truth. Breastfed babies are hungry more often than formula-fed babies because breast milk is able to be digested more quickly.
So if you are breastfeeding you are better off listening to your baby than some schedule and if you are breastfeeding your baby less often then they are needing to this may be one reason you have a low breast milk supply.
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Supplementing Breast Milk
Are you supplementing your baby’s breastfeeding sessions with formula?
I have heard moms say that they breastfeed their baby during the day and then give them a bottle of formula at night so that they can sleep longer.
The truth is that when you skip breastfeeding sessions – even at night, your body is slowly learning that your baby doesn’t need as much breast milk.
This later can cause your breast milk supply to go low.
Like I said it’s completely a supply and demand type of relationship. If your baby is not signaling your body that they need breast milk for every feeding, then your body will make less breast milk.
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What medications are you taking?
Some prescription and over the counter medications can actually interfere with your milk supply.
If that seems to be happening or you are concerned talk with your doctor about your current prescriptions to see it you need to make a switch.
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Was your baby born a little too early?
Premature babies often do not know how to suck. Sucking is something that babies learn to do in utero in the last few months of pregnancy.
And if your baby cannot suck they cannot latch onto the brast and learn to breastfeed. This is why premature babies are often given formula in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).
So if your baby was born premature and you were unable to start breastfeeding shortly after birth that is probably the reason for low milk supply.
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How Can I Increase My Breast Milk Supply?
Well now that you know why you probably have low milk supply, let’s talk about ways you can try to increase it.
These tips are some of the ways that I personally have increased my breast milk supply and other moms have also.
Skin to Skin
Skin to skin contact is when your baby lays (in most often just a diaper) on the mother’s bare chest. There are tons of amazing benefits of skin to skin which is why it is great to do right after birth.
However, it can also help with encouraging your baby to breastfeed when you are having difficulty.
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If your latch is not good, your breastfeeding journey is going to be a rocky one. The best way to increase your breast milk supply is to check that your breastfeeding latch is correct.
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Only Breastfeed Don’t Supplement
As I said, when your baby is not breastfeeding and getting formula instead for a long length of time, your body starts to make less breast milk. So try not to give your baby formula if you can help it.
Breastfeed your baby often and at every feeding.
Breastfeed On Demand and Don’t Skip Feedings
Along with breastfeeding your baby often try to breastfeed your baby on demand. Schedules are not helpful for breastfed babies and you should not put them on one.
When they are hungry just breastfeed them and your body will learn to make enough breast milk for every feeding.
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Offer Both Breasts at Each Feeding
Try to offer both breasts at each feeding. At the beginning of my breastfeeding journey, I would offer one breast and switch my baby onto the other breast halfway through the feeding or when he would unlatch.
Then when your baby is hungry again try to start from the breast that you left off on to make sure that your baby is emptying each breast.
Get Plenty of Sleep, Drink Plenty of Water, and Eat a Healthy Diet
One thing that many new breastfeeding moms don’t think about is that you have to take care of yourself to make plenty of breast milk for your baby.
Your body needs extra rest, water, and a good nutritious diet to give you the vitamins and minerals that you need for a good breast milk supply.
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Pump or Express Breast Milk
Are you ready to increase your breast milk supply? Give pumping a try.
I found that pumping once a day every day for a week gave my breast milk supply a really good boost. From then on out, I never had to worry about my baby getting enough breast milk.
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See a Lactation Consultant
Last but certainly not least, see a lactation consultant.
Lactation consultants are trained to help breastfeeding moms learn to breastfeed properly and can observe you breastfeeding your baby and then help you with any obstacles that may be standing between you and your breastfeeding journey.
Another huge tip is to take a breastfeeding class to learn all about breastfeeding and troubleshooting your breastfeeding problems right from your home.
I personally love the Milkology breastfeeding class that is taught exclusively by Stacey Stewart. She is a Certified Lactation Educator and also a mom of 3. She also has an extensive history of helping moms to learn how to breastfeed their babies from the start.
And by learning the ins an outs of breastfeeding by a certified lactation educator like Stacey, you’ll know that everything you learn there is vital to breastfeeding your baby and nursing your breast milk supply.
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