Breastfeeding Basics: Monitoring Your Milk Supply
If you’re at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, you may question your milk supply. Many new mothers worry about whether their body is producing enough milk to nourish their baby. Unlike formula feeding, where everything is carefully measured and calculated, breastfeeding is more of a mystery. Unless you bottle feed, it’s impossible to tell exactly how much your baby is taking in at each feeding. This causes anxiety for some mothers. Here are answers to some of the most pressing questions many mothers have about their milk supply.
I just gave birth! Why isn’t my milk coming in?
It takes time for milk to come in. For some women, milk production begins immediately following delivery, whereas for others, it can take up to a week! After a baby is born, a woman’s body produces colostrum, filled with essential nutrients for a newborn baby. A few days later, her body begins producing milk. If you’re worried about how much milk your body produces right after delivery, try not to stress out too much – newborn babies eat only a tiny bit at a time (usually a pea-sized amount at each feeding)! As your baby grows, your body will produce more milk at a time.
Why do I feel engorged?
Engorgement can be very uncomfortable, and even painful, in the beginning. Engorgement just means that your body is trying to regulate its milk production. If you need some relief, you can try pumping between feedings, but be warned – pumping simulates extra feedings, which may signal extra milk production, which may lead to you feeling even more engorged!
Why is my baby eating every 15 minutes? Am I not producing enough milk?
When baby eats very frequently, it is called cluster feeding. Cluster feeding usually occurs during growth spurts. Cluster feeding allows your baby to naturally stimulate an increase in your milk supply. Don’t be worried if your baby eats every 15-30 minutes for a day or two – she’s probably just growing and trying to help your body adjust to meet her needs! Cluster feeding can also occur during times when the baby feels unwell, such as during bouts of sickness or teething.
Why do I not get very much milk when I pump?
Nothing stimulates your body’s milk production as efficiently as latching a baby. A manual or electric breast pump is made to simulate breastfeeding, but it is impossible to truly match the efficiency of a real baby’s suckling motion. Many mothers fret over the amount of milk they get when they pump – but this is not an accurate representation of their milk supply. A pump is simply not as successful at draining milk from the breast as a baby.
Some women can increase the amount they pump by staying relaxed during pumping by taking deep breaths, looking at a picture of their baby, or gently massaging their breasts during pumping sessions.
How do I build a freezer stash?
Many women fret about not having bags and bags of frozen breast milk stored away, but most of the time, having a large stockpile of milk isn’t necessary. Even if you plan on returning to work, you really only need enough milk on hand for a few days at a time. By law, you will be allowed time to pump at work, so you can replenish your supply at home. You may also want to freeze breast milk if you plan on leaving the baby for an extended amount of time, such as a business trip or a vacation with a spouse.
To build up a freezer stash, try creating a pumping schedule for yourself. The easiest way to stimulate your body to produce extra milk is to pump between feedings. You can also pump right after your baby goes to bed at night, set an alarm to wake up at night to pump or pump first thing in the morning before anyone wakes up. You can also power pump – setting aside an hour in which you pump in increments of ten minutes, about every 20 minutes.
Be sure to clearly label bags of stored milk with the date and time that you pumped. Milk pumped at night naturally contains hormones like melatonin that stimulate drowsiness, so you may want to save that milk for nighttime feedings only.
What can decrease my milk supply?
Many factors can influence the milk supply. For example, many medications may interfere with milk production. Several cold and allergy medicines have been linked to lower milk supply, so be sure to consult your OB before taking any medication. Some types of birth control are not recommended for breastfeeding mothers, as the hormones may have an impact on milk production. Some women report a decrease in supply during their period. Stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on supply as well. Inadequate hydration and nutrition may also hinder milk production.
What are some common ways to boost my milk supply?
Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. Therefore, the most efficient way to boost your milk supply is to latch baby frequently. The more baby nurses, the more milk your body will produce. There are no substitutes that can match the stimulation of a baby’s suckling reflexes.
However, there are many other remedies that mothers claim help increase their milk supply. Staying hydrated and well-nourished is ideal for breastfeeding mothers. Some moms like drinking electrolyte drinks or sports drinks, coconut water, or teas. Some women report success from eating foods such as oatmeal, chia seeds, brewer’s yeast, and flax seeds. Many companies make products that supposedly help increase milk supply, usually in the form of supplements, teas, and baked goods. Some women report drinking a beer helps stimulate milk production. Other moms enjoy baking lactation cookies, and many easy recipes can be found online.
Your doctor may also prescribe you medication to help stimulate healthy lactation.
If you feel that you may have a problem with your milk supply, make an appointment with your doctor or a certified lactation consultant. They will be able to help analyze what is causing the issue. If your baby is growing steadily and producing dirty diapers, chances are, you do not have any issues with your milk supply! Don’t be intimidated by women that are “overproducers” – you only need to produce what your baby needs at that given moment. If you stay healthy and relaxed, your body will naturally produce enough milk to nourish your sweet little one so she grows up big and strong!