This blogpost will discuss all the different causes of low breast milk production and how to increase its supply to ensure your baby is well fed.
How Breast Milk Supply Works
Your breasts will start producing milk during mid-pregnancy. However, it’s only after birth and when you start nursing your baby that milk will be released from the nipples.
Breast milk works as a demand and supply basis. After every feed, your breasts will start producing more milk to replace what has been drunk by your baby. This means the more your baby feeds, the more breast milk you’ll produce.
Signs Baby Isn’t Getting Enough Breast Milk
You may be able to find out you have low milk supply through your baby. Some common signs that your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk are:
- Poor weight gain: normally, newborns will lose around 7% of their weight. This will be recovered as they start to breastfeed. However, if you notice that they haven’t gained back all the weight that they had lost, you should visit your doctor.
- Their poop: if you aren’t having to change your baby’s nappies multiple times a day as they’re not peeing or pooping regularly, it may be a sign of not being fed well.
- Dark coloured pee: if you notice pee that is darker in colour or when changing the nappy, it isn’t as wet as it normally should be, your baby is dehydrated.
Although the above signs can be solved with proper feeding, we would suggest seeking medical advice as they could indicate more serious underlying health conditions.
What Affects Breast Milk Production
There are various lifestyle and medical reasons why mothers can’t produce enough breast milk to feed their baby, these include:
- Excessive blood loss during birth
- Retained placenta
- Suffering with diabetes or high blood pressure
- Although rare, suffering with mammary hypoplasia
- Previous breast surgeries or trauma
- Emotional factors such as anxiety and depression
- Medications such as hormonal birth control and allergy tablets
- Being a heavy smoker and drinker
- Using formula: the less breast milk your baby consumes, the lower the production
- Infrequent feedings: leaving 3-4 hour gaps
- Short feedings: five minutes on each breast
- Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine
- Baby not latching on correctly, resulting in low production of milk
- Premature birth
- Hormonal condition such as thyroid problems, polycystic ovary syndrome or history of infertility
How to Produce More Breast Milk
There are many natural and non-natural ways that can help you increase your breast milk production. The length of time that it will take milk production to come to its normal levels will depend on how low it was in the first place.
Breastfeed More Often
Giving baby formula and skipping feedings will signal to your body that you don't need breast milk. A newborn should be fed between 8 to 12 times a day because more frequent feeding releases hormones that stimulate breastmilk production.
When your baby feeds, it's recommended you allow them to drain your breast. If you only feed for a few minutes, milk will remain, resulting in reduced breast milk production.
Express Breast Milk
Pumping your breast between feeds can also help increase milk production. For a more efficient and comfortable pumping experience, you can warm your breasts using our TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pads.
You can also try power pumping, which mimics cluster feeding. You may start seeing an increase in milk production in a week.
Hand expressing your breast after each feed is also a great way to stimulate milk production, as it tells your body that you need more breast milk.
Correct Latching Position
If your baby is latching onto your breasts poorly, it can decrease breast milk supply. Ensuring they get a good latch is important as this is the most effective way to increase your breast milk supply.
However, if you’re really struggling to figure out how to latch your baby properly, we’d recommend seeing a lactation or breastfeeding specialist.
Take Care of Your Physical and Mental Health
Excessive stress and consuming foods such as caffeine and alcohol can have a negative impact on your milk production, so ensuring you’re well rested and avoiding certain foods will help keep a healthy breast milk flow.
Mothers often neglect themselves when caring for their baby. However, it’s extremely important to get rest, eat well, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, exercise, and take care of your mental health to ensure you can take good care of your baby. Click here to read more about looking after yourself after birth.
Keep Your Baby Awake While Breastfeeding
In the first few weeks, your newbown can feel sleepy while breastfeeding. This affects not only their nutrition, but also your body stimulation, as they will not be able to fully suckle your breast to produce enough breast milk.
Try rubbing their feet, changing their nappy, or unwrapping them to keep them awake during the nursing session.
Don’t Use a Pacifier
Hold off using the pacifier in the first few weeks after delivery as you establish your breast milk supply. Giving a pacifier in the early days may result in the baby not feeding as often as they would without one.
This will negatively impact your breastmilk production, with no milk left when you decide to breastfeed your baby.
Overall, low breast milk production isn’t a cause for concern. It’s very rare that it’s caused by a serious condition, instead is more of a lifestyle issue. Majority of these issues can be solved on your own by investing in a good breast pump to express breast milk for more production. You can also store your precious milk to be fed to your baby later.
However, if you’re still concerned, consult your doctor to find out why you are experiencing low breast milk production.