What is a Low Milk Supply?
Low Milk Supply
When a mother is breastfeeding her child, she can sometimes experience low milk supply. This occurs when there isn't enough milk being produced for her baby's needs. The problem can be caused by various factors and the good news is that there are plenty of approaches to take to increase your milk flow.
What causes a low milk supply during breastfeeding?
The causes of low supply are varied and depend very much on your situation and the age of your baby. For example, during the first few days after birth, your body only produces tiny amounts of nutrient-packed colostrum which is all that your new-born needs.
Once your milk 'comes in' on around day 3 or 4, it will start to produce more milk. However, this flow can take a while as everyone is different. If you aren't eating enough calories, drinking enough water, resting sufficiently or interacting with your baby while you are trying to feed, tackle these things first.
Bear in mind too that many mums think that their supply is low, when in fact it is perfectly matched to their baby's needs. In fact, most women will actually produce too much milk for their baby, it is estimated around a third too much for the baby’s consumption.
If you suddenly feel that you aren't 'keeping up', it could also be because your baby is having a growth spurt. Don't worry, persist, and your own milk supply will catch up! One final and key problem, with low supply, is if your baby has a poor latch and isn't feeding correctly. If you are experiencing pain or your little one seems frustrated rather than contented after a feed, seek help from a breastfeeding consultant or breastfeeding group. There are plenty of these around and their services are free.
There can also be a number of other factors that can affect breast milk production such as:
- Premature Birth
- High blood pressure (especially during pregnancy)
How breast milk supply works
Breast milk supply works on a supply and demand basis, so when your baby wants to feed, your breasts will produce the milk that she or he needs. Offer your breast regularly to your baby as a good latch and suckling will stimulate milk production. Remember that if you start combi-feeding with formula and a bottle, your own milk supply will drop accordingly.
How can I increase my breast milk supply?
Get your partner to do the daily household jobs and have plenty of cuddles with your baby to support oxytocin production - the bonding hormone. Look at your baby as you feed to get those hormones flowing! Drink far more water than you usually would as dehydration is usually a key factor in low supply - check the colour of your urine for a pale straw colour that says you are hydrated. Eat enough calories too as now is not the time to diet; save that until your milk is regular and breastfeeding is established.
Tips to boost breast milk production:
- Immediately start breast feeding – if you wait for a period of time before breastfeeding your new born this can cause a lower than normal milk supply. Your baby will likely begin to start breastfeeding within the first hour of birth.
- Breastfeed as often as possible
- Ensure your baby is latching on correctly
- Use both breasts to feed, your baby will likely favour one breast over the other, however by using one breast only to feed you are likely to reduce your breast milk
- Use a pump if you miss a feed, sometimes your breasts can become too sore to breastfeed all the time. To ensure that you continue to stimulate the breast milk production you should look to pump to help protect your milk supply.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine
- Medications such as Domperidone for breast milk supply can increase your volume and is usually recommended by lactation experts when no other remedies seem to work. Domperidone is a prescription only medicine.
What treatments are available for low milk supply?
You will find various recipes for lactation cookies online, which are basically packed with nutrients and valuable energy for tired mums. Speak to your doctor for advice, as you may be taking medication which is affecting your natural breastmilk production, such as hormonal contraception.
Traditional cultures supplement with oats, ginger, garlic, moringa and fenugreek. Try using a breast pump to stimulate your production and remember to book in with a lactation specialist as the vast majority of issues can be resolved quite quickly with the right support, technique and care for Mum - as well as for baby!
Above all, give yourself a big pat on the back for working so hard to breastfeed your little one and give him or her the right start in life. Breastfeeding can be hard at first, but it becomes second-nature in time and will provide your baby with tremendous benefits that will last far beyond the initial infant phase.