Let’s start off by saying you are doing a wonderful job Momma! Breastfeeding is so hard for most new moms! When pregnant, we have visions of a beautiful natural bonding experience with our baby. The reality of it is messy, exhausting and hard.
I hope to relieve many of your concerns and provide advice you can apply today to start increasing your supply right now.
How Do You Know You Have a Low Supply?
One of the best ways to know if your baby is getting enough milk is by counting the number of wet and soiled diapers your baby makes in a day. By day 4, your baby should be making 3-4 soiled diapers a day and 6-8 wet diapers a day. There are apps for your phone to help you keep track or just use a pen and paper to write it down. It’s important to keep track of wet and soiled diapers for the first 8 weeks to make sure your baby is getting enough breastmilk.
Also, it is important for your Pediatrician to weigh your baby to make sure your baby is gaining enough weight, which is another indicator of how much breastmilk your baby is consuming. We rented a hospital scale. Yes, I was that nuts! I wanted to make sure I could make enough milk to feed two babies. Newborns should regain their birth weight by days 10-14.
Speak to your Pediatrician if you are concerned. And, it may make sense to contact a Lactation Consultant to help you troubleshoot what is happening.
As for the baby’s stool, it is generally yellow in color and the consistency is soft to watery. The stool can also be seedy and curdy. You would never think you would analyze, stare, and talk about poop as much as you do as a new parent.
Why Moms Quit Breastfeeding
When surveyed, most moms will say they stopped nursing because they felt they were not making enough milk for their baby. If your baby has the right amount of dirty diapers and is growing on the curve then your baby is probably getting enough milk.
Is Your Baby Communicating He or She Is Not Getting Enough Milk?
If your baby is nursing and not crying or upset during or after a nursing session then he or she is probably getting enough milk. If your baby nurses just for a few minutes and falls asleep then your baby has a full tummy and is happy. Unhappy babies cry. Happy and full babies sleep.
If a baby is failing to thrive, he or she may be too tired and weak to cry. If your baby has a weak jaw then he or she may fall asleep on the breast without taking enough milk in.
Also, if your baby seems uptight at the breast after a few minutes and has octopus hands close to his or her face, than your baby might not be getting enough milk. Your baby should be relaxing his hands and body.
Babies can cry after eating even on a full tummy. It can be from silent reflux, colic, an allergy to something you ate that went through your breast milk, etc. Please speak with your Pediatrician to rule out any of these possible issues.
Generally, your baby will cry to tell you he or she is still hungry, but as we just read this isn’t always the case. Go back through your soiled diaper tracking and make sure your child has enough diaper output. If your baby has enough wet and soiled diapers and is gaining weight, you are producing enough milk (1). It may not seem like it, but you probably are. So yeah!
Keep reading on, if you are still worried, we have tons of advice on how to help low milk supply!
What Causes Some Women to Have a Low-Supply?
A lot of low supply issues have to do with your baby’s latch. Some babies have tongue-ties, lip-ties, while others have weak cheeks, lips, jaws, etc. The list goes on and on. A lot of low supply has to do with how your baby is emptying your breast and stimulating milk production.
Have you reached out to a Lactation Consultant or spoken to your doctor? They can evaluate your baby and see if this is the reason for your low milk supply? In the time you are waiting to see an expert, try to pump to fully empty your breasts and to stimulate your milk production. This way, if your baby has an issue, you can make up for it with the pump while the issue is being addressed.
If your baby’s latch is good, then here are a number of ways to increase your supply. I nursed twins so I have tried them all! I was definitely not an over-producer! I researched, contacted lactation consultants, and spoke to doctors in an effort to help me find ways to make more milk for my two babies.
How Do You Know if You Have a Good Latch?
Many experts will say it should not hurt. However, everyone I have talked to and from my own personal experience, I can tell you that it does hurt. Now, the question is how much does it hurt? You’ll find out if you have a bad latch. My Lactation Consultant said, “on a scale of 1-10 how much does it hurt?” Let’s say 10 is unbearable pain. Most women will say it hurts between a 1-4.5 out of 10. That is normal! It can hurt until your nipples get used to everything happening to them. If it hurts from 5-10 than please reach out to a Lactation Consultant. If you are bleeding, scabbing or just in great pain, reach out for help. They will help you.
Where to Start: How to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Your Breast Need to Be Stimulated
Some babies prefer a bottle over a breast, at first. Why? It is much easier to get milk from a bottle than a breast. A baby has to suckle for a while to activate the letdown of milk from the breast. Some babies get frustrated before this happens. This can be because the baby is too hungry and has a low frustration point because of hunger. You can help your baby by massaging your breast and (crazy as it sounds) giggling them to activate the letdown. After about a minute or two of this, my letdown happens as soon as my baby’s latched.
Don’t forget to try to keep your baby on your breast suckling as much as you can handle. The caveat, if your baby is no longer swallowing and is just sucking, then you could take your baby off your breast. If your baby is not swallowing than he or she is using you as a pacifier; while nice, your nipples will hurt even more from constant use. The pain is enough to stop many women from nursing. If it doesn’t bother you, then do what is best for you and your baby!
Breast compressions are a great way to help you get more milk from your breast into your baby. Watch this video for more information. If your baby is asking for milk often or falling asleep on your breast, then this might be a great way to transfer more milk to your baby. Your baby may be sleepy because the milk has stopped flowing.
Never use this technique at the beginning of the feed as this will cause too much milk to transfer to your baby too quickly. Make sure your baby is ready for milk. You do not want your baby to gag on milk. Try it gently a few times to get everyone comfortable with the technique.
Also, check out this video on hand expression.
You can also introduce a pumping session in between your baby’s feeding schedule. This will further stimulate your breasts.
Your body is amazing!
The more milk that comes out of your breasts, the more milk you should make. It’s supply and demand. It’s important to completely empty your breast every time!
Empty Breast Each Time
If you leave some milk in your breast, then it tells your body you don’t need as much as last time and for it to make less milk. If this happens enough times, your supply can go down. If your baby doesn’t empty your breast, then go ahead and pump off the rest and save the milk in the refrigerator or freezer.
As mentioned, you want to fully empty your breast before having your baby move to the other breast. This helps with milk production, but it also helps your baby.
The milk your baby gets at first is called foremilk and this milk can have more water than calories. This isn’t always the case. If your baby is eating shortly after a previous feed than the foremilk will have more calories than if the feedings are stretched over a longer period of time. After some time at the breast, your baby will start to get hindmilk. Everyone is different and so is everyone’s milk. See the image to see that hindmilk is more creamy. It is important for your baby to get foremilk and hindmilk. Make sure your baby empties your breast each time and this will happen naturally.
The first step is to make sure that your child nurses enough. Breast milk is easier to digest for a baby than formula so many breastfed babies need to eat more often. Frequency is important because how much your child takes is how much will be produced (1). You can put your baby on to nurse and then a little while later, try using your breast pump to further stimulate production.
Check the Latch!
You may be surprised to learn that nursing doesn’t come easy for babies either. There’s a lot that goes on between your baby and you. Your baby may not be latching onto you properly. If you think your baby has a poor latch, pop your little one off by putting your pinky into his mouth and break the latch. Use your nipple to stimulate their mouth and then your child will most likely open up (2). Watch this video from the Global Health Media for more information. A video is worth a thousand words.
Nursing Bras Can Help or Hurt
Make sure that you are wearing the right kind of bra. Nursing bras and tops can be hard to find, that’s why we have our Top Picks: Nursing Tops and Bras. If your bra is too tight then you are more likely to get an infection and your supply can go down.
Drink Lots of Water
I was never a big water drinker until I was forced to drink more during my pregnancy. While nursing, I had to drink even more! You need to practically water board yourself while nursing to make sure you have enough hydration for you. So drink up!
Eat healthy while nursing. Eat foods filled with Omega-3s like salmon, seeds, eggs, nuts, chia seeds, Brussels sprouts, hemp seeds, etc. Check out our article on what to eat while breastfeeding and our ultimate list of what to eat to produce more milk.
Also, limit empty calorie foods for a number of reasons. You want to eat as nutritiously as you can. Eating too much junk foods has shown to alter hormones in the body. If you eliminate these types of foods your body will function better, which will hopefully allow you to make more milk.
Your Baby Eats What You Eat
Check out my video on your baby eats what you eat. When you are breastfeeding, your body has a big impact on your child. The food you eat while pregnant and nursing can impact your child’s future food preferences. Your baby eats what you eat. Crazy I know!
Try Supplements to Help with Milk Production
I took tons of supplements. And since I did pump so much, I got to see how much it impacted my milk production. These supplements worked for me and are the most recommended.
The Supplements include:
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Blessed Thistle
- Mother’s Milk tea
- Steel Cut Oats and Rolled Oats
- Ovaltine Classis Malt
- Malt beer (some will say it helps, but no studies confirm it)
This is a prescription medication that has a side effect of increasing milk supply. Please speak with your doctor before taking it. My doctor was not a fan and scared the pants off me when I suggested it. This one needs to be purchased at a pharmacy outside of the US. You can read more about it. Reglan is another option some moms seek out. If you have a history of depression it can trigger it. Please read more about it before deciding.
Oxytocin Nasal Spray
I was struggling with emptying my breast. When I had a letdown, not all of my milk would come out. I was prescribed an Oxytocin nasal spray. It did help me with my secondary letdown. If you are struggling with your letdown, please try massaging your breasts or doing breast compressions and if that doesn’t seem to help, please ask your doctor if a prescription makes sense for you.
I know this one is virtually impossible when you have a new baby, but it’s so important for your body to rest to have the energy to make more milk. Ask for help. Ask people to bring you a meal, but make sure it’s a healthy one.
If you tense up when your baby latches and worry that you are not making enough milk, you may not make enough milk. Hormones are released when we are stressed. Listen to calming music. Take time to bond with your baby and do not worry about your supply! Follow these steps and your supply should increase quickly. Free yourself from worry! Meditate, sing, coo, whatever it takes to relax. Read more about relaxation techniques.
Breastfeeding isn’t easy, but it is worth all the effort.
You are doing amazing! This is really hard work! If you have questions, please ask! We started a free discussion forum to help answer all of your questions.
Additional Resources and Information
Kelly Mom: Increasing Low Milk Supply