Am I Producing Enough Breast Milk?

A large number of mothers may feel that they are not producing enough breast milk. It is common for a mother to feel that they do not produce enough breast milk, in fact a study showed that up to 75% of mothers may feel like their milk production is insufficient for their baby.  Some mothers may think this because they lose the feeling of fullness in their breasts, or if milk stops leaking from their nipples, but these symptoms are actually natural and common signs that your body has adjusted to your baby’s feeding requirements. A baby going through a growth spurt may also want more milk than usual, and his/her more frequent feedings may leave your breasts less full than usual.

Using Proper Technique

The fact is that insufficient milk production is not all that common. Most of the time it is not the mothers body that is not producing enough breast milk but the technique the mother is using when breastfeeding. When a baby is properly positioned, and is well attached, the baby should be able to get enough milk. The more milk drained from your breast the more your body will produce milk. This is the single most important way to increase breast milk production. Some mothers supplement breast milk with formula. The more formula you feed your baby the less milk you will produce. This is because your baby will suck out less breast milk and your body will think that the amount being produced is sufficient.

Your diet may also effect how much breast milk you produce. If you are not drinking enough fluids and become dehydrated your body will not be able to produce as much milk. Nursing also uses up about 500 calories a day. If you are dieting and trying to reduce your extra weight from pregnancy you may not be providing enough calories for your body. This can cause fatigue and reduce the amount of calories and energy needed for optimal milk production.

Stress can also negatively affect milk production. Find an alternative way to rest and de-stress. Have a sitter come in so you can nap. Join a car pool so you can rest or sleep on the trip to and from work. Find ways to eliminate unnecessary chores, or perhaps relax your standards for tidiness and instead, sit down and close your eyes for a moment. Sleep deprivation is one of the number one causes of stress for pregnant mothers.

Caffeine stimulates milk production, but it also stimulates your baby. Caffeine finds its way into breast milk and if you consume large  amounts it can act on your baby as it does on you. Caffeine stays in a baby’s system longer than in an adults, which will prolong its effect. Also, caffeine can make your baby irritable, as well as interfere with sleep. One cup of coffee or a soda will not be a problem, but in large quantities (five or more cups of a caffeinated beverage a day), the levels of caffeine in breast milk can reach amounts that affect your baby.

How Can I Tell if I am Producing Enough Breast Milk?

First you need to rule out false alarms about your milk supply. Here’s how to tell whether your baby’s getting enough

  • Your baby gains an ounce a day in the first three months of life and half an ounce a day from age 3 to 6 months. (Newborns will typically lose between 5 and 10 percent of their birth weight in the first few days before gaining it back.) Your baby should be back to his birth weight by ten to 14 days after birth. Weight gain is the best way to make sure your baby’s getting enough milk. Some home scales will measure weight in onces. If you weigh yourself first and then weigh yourself while you are holding you baby you can subtract the two weights to get your babies weight.
  • In the first month, your baby has at least three stools a day and they lighten to a yellowy-mustard color by the fifth day after birth. After the first month, the stools become less frequent. Some babies will even go a day or two between stools.
  • Does your baby nurse frequently — every two to three hours, for a total of at least eight to 12 feedings a day?
  • Do you hear your baby swallow and do you sometimes notice milk in the corners of his/her mouth?
  • Your baby appears healthy and active.
  • Your baby wets seven or eight cloth diapers a day, or five to six disposables. Disposable diapers are more absorbent, making it hard to tell when one is wet. If you’re not sure, take one off and compare its weight to a dry disposable. A wet one should feel slightly heavier. (Note: Wet diapers alone are not enough to determine whether your baby’s getting enough milk: A dehydrated baby can still wet a diaper. Stools and weight gain are the best ways to tell how your baby’s doing.)

Increasing Your Breast Milk.

  • Feed your baby often and for as long as your baby is actively nursing.. Frequent nursing sessions stimulate your body to produce more milk.
  • Get the best latch-on possible. Check for proper positioning at the breast.
  • When your baby’s sucking and swallowing pattern slows down, use breast compression to increase milk flow to your baby and to completely drain the breast.
  • When your milk flow with compression seems to be slowing, switch sides and repeat. Keep switching back and forth between breasts until your baby is satisfied or stops swallowing. A more effective measure may be to nurse your baby for ten to 15 minutes per breast, then use a fully automatic electric breast pump with a double collection kit to completely drain your breasts and increase milk production. To make sure your baby’s getting enough, you may have to supplement the milk you’ve collected with formula.
  • A sleepy baby may need to be awakened and encouraged to nurse more vigorously (thus stimulating your glands to produce more milk). To arouse him, try switching sides frequently, alternating positions, or even undressing him. Some mothers play with their baby’s feet during feedings to keep him awake.
  • Mothers who determine that their milk output is actually low may want to have their thyroid level checked. Hypothriroidism is known to reduce milk supply.
  • If you’re not sure your baby is sucking well, or are still concerned about your milk supply, don’t hesitate to call on a lactation consultant for help.
  • Breastfeed or pump at least 8 to 12 times a day

If it has been a while since your baby was at the breast, it will take a lot of loving persistence and consistency. With patience, your baby should find his way back to breastfeeding comfortably. If the baby is having trouble latching on, you may need a refresher in positioning and latch techniques.

  • Offer both breasts at every feeding
  • Avoid timing your feedings. Instead, wait until the baby comes off the breast himself, then switch to the other side. This will ensure that the baby is getting the proper balance of foremilk and hindmilk.
  • Avoid artificial nipples
  • Elicit the milk ejection reflex first.
  • When using a breast pump only use as much suction as necessary. You shouldn’t feel any pain while pumping.
  • Massage your breast in quadrants while you’re pumping.
  • Give yourself enough time so you don’t feel any stress.
  • Give baby only breast milk.

Increasing Your Breast Milk Supply With Medicinal Herbs

Medicinal herbs used to help increase breast milk are called galctagogues. Mothers have reported overwhelmingly positive responses to herbal therapy, in addition to frequent stimulation of the breast. Here are some herbal remedies that have been shown or reported to help boost milk supply:

  • Herbal teas

Mother’s Milk Tea, is said to promote “healthy lactation.”

  • Fenugreek capsules

You should take approximately 3500mg/day of Fenugreed to get the full effect. Once milk production is at a good level you can start reducing . Mothers typically see an increase in supply within 72 hours. The most common side effects reported are profuse sweating and excretions that smell like maple syrup. Fenugreek is not recommended for women with diabetes (it may lower blood sugar) or asthma (it may aggravate symptoms). Speak with a lactation consultant and your health care provider before using fenugreek.

  • Blessed thistle
  • Alfalfa

Remember that it is important to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day to maintain a healthy supply. Oatmeal has also been known to boost supply slightly. Once again, this is anecdotal, but it can’t hurt.

Increasing Supply with Prescription Medication

A few prescription medications that, when taken while continuing frequent stimulation of the breast, have been found to raise prolactin levels. This, in turn, increases milk supply

Here are the details on two of the most common medications used for this purpose:

Domperidone

This is the option with fewer side effects; it has been approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics for use in breastfeeding mothers. Unfortunately, it is not available in regular pharmacies in the United States. It is used in Canada and other countries, but it is legal in America; a mother can obtain it by ordering (with a doctor’s prescription) from compounding pharmacies in the United States. Outside of the U.S. (Mexico and New Zealand), no prescription is needed. The typical dosage that is recommended is 20mg, four times a day.

Reglan (metoclopramide)

This medication has been shown to increase milk supply anywhere from 72% to 110%, depending on how many weeks postpartum a mother is. The recommended dosage is 10mg, three times a day for 1 to 2 weeks. Once supply is stable, dosage should drop by 10mg per week. Mothers with a history of depression are cautioned against taking Reglan. Other side effects include headaches and fatigue.

The process of relactation is intense. It is important for you to take care of yourself. If stress levels are too high, attempts to establish a full milk supply will be futile. Any kind of help, whether it’s physical, psychological (or even domestic!), will aid the process of relactation. You will be on her way to a strong supply yet again.

Beer has been touted for years as being a stimulus to milk production. However, research shows that babies don’t like alcoholic breast milk, and actually drink less of it, resulting in less stimulation to the breast. Ultimately, this means a decrease in milk production.

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