It is often difficult for breastfeeding mothers to know how much milk their baby is receiving and if it is enough. Mothers may question their milk supply if the baby seems frequently hungry, if there aren’t enough wet diapers in a day and if the baby doesn’t gain weight as fast as the doctor deems appropriate. If you think you have low milk supply, contact a lactation consultant or La Leche League Leader for evaluation and guidance.
Breast milk supply operates on the principles of supply and demand: the more your baby nurses, the more milk is removed from the breasts and the more milk your breasts create. When your milk supply drops, one of the best things that you can do is take one or two days to rest in bed with your baby, nursing as much as possible. If possible, enlist assistance from other family members to help with other children if needed so you can focus on nursing your baby and increasing your supply.
Nurse from Both Sides
When your milk supply is in question, nurse from both breasts at each feeding. Allow the baby to nurse from the first breast until he begins to fall asleep – then switch to the second breast. This will keep the baby from comfort sucking from just one breast -- and effectively nursing, thus removing more milk from the breasts and stimulating milk production.
Massaging the breast as your baby nurses can help encourage better emptying of the breast. Use your free hand to gently massage the breast tissue, using downward motions to encourage the milk to exit the ducts and flow toward the nipple. Massage is also highly effective while pumping to empty the breast.
Consider using an electric or hand-powered breast pump between feedings or after a nursing session. Any milk that you can pump increases the demand, therefore helping to increase your supply. Some hospitals rent breast pumps to breastfeeding mothers, if you wanted to try out a pump before committing to one.
Diet and Herbs
Breastfeeding mothers should eat a healthy diet, with a minimum of 1,800 calories per day. Depending on the height and weight of the mother, some women will require more calories than others will. Hydration is also vitally important for maintain a good milk supply. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times -- especially while nursing, since breastfeeding causes many women to feel thirsty. Some herbs may help increase milk supply. Although it hasn’t been proven to be effective, herbs like fenugreek are often used to help boost the milk supply.
Your milk supply could be low due to a poor latch or other breastfeeding difficulties related to your baby. A lactation consultant, knowledgeable nurse or La Leche League leader can help assess the situation, identify any problems and help develop a plan to resolve them so that your milk supply can increase.
- Pediatric Clinics of North America: Human Milk for the Premature Infant
- Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia: Lactation and Neonatal Nutrition -- Defining and Refining the Critical Questions
- BMC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: The Use of Herbal Medicines During Breastfeeding -- A Population-Based Survey in Western Australia