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Signs of Low Milk Supply & Tips to Increase Milk Supply

Signs of Low Milk Supply & Tips to Increase Milk Supply

Breastfeeding is universally acknowledged as a special experience that strengthens the bond between mother and child. It provides not just essential nourishment but also a deep, emotional connection that supports your little one's growth and development. It's a magical process, yet, like all great things, it can come with its unique set of challenges.

Many new mothers experience concerns about their milk supply, wondering if it is decreasing and if they’re providing enough for their little ones. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It’s a common worry, but armed with the right knowledge and support, you can navigate this path with confidence.

How To Tell If Your Milk Supply is Low

It's natural to question your breast milk supply; after all, you want only the best for your baby.  It can be particularly challenging to gauge how much your baby is drinking directly from the breast, which makes determining if your supply is low less straightforward.

However, knowing how to tell if your milk supply is low can help you spot concerns early and alleviate unnecessary stress. It's important to note, however, that having one symptom might not be completely indicative of a low milk supply — it is simply an indication to pay closer attention to your body.

So, how do you know if your milk supply is low? Here are the common signs:

1. Inadequate Weight Gain in Baby

Your baby’s physical growth is a tangible sign of their well-being. It’s normal for babies to lose a little bit of weight in the first week of life. However, most infants will regain their birth weight at about two weeks old and should continue to grow steadily.

It's crucial to remember that weighing your baby should only be done by your paediatrician or healthcare provider, as their scales are medically accurate. Home scales can often give inconsistent results and lead to unnecessary stress for parents if they notice a change in the readings.

Aside from monitoring your baby's weight, you can also recognise if your baby isn't gaining weight adequately by observing the fit of their clothes and diapers, noting if they start to seem looser or if milestones in physical development seem delayed. 

2. Insufficient Diaper Output

Another tangible sign that your milk supply is decreasing is your baby’s nappy output. In the early days, expect several wet nappies and at least three bowel movements daily. However, it's important to remember that as your baby ages and their digestive system develops, so will their diaper output. While newborns may have bowel movements several times a day, a 4-month-old may only go once per day—or even once per week—as their body becomes more efficient at digesting breast milk.

When the number of wet diapers drops significantly, it could suggest that it’s time to assess your feeding routine. For example, if you notice that your baby is producing less than 6 wet diapers a day, it could indicate that your baby is dehydrated and requires more frequent breast or bottle feedings.

However, if increasing the frequency of feeding does not improve the situation, it is highly recommended to seek medical advice promptly.

3. Fussiness and Restlessness in Baby

Fussiness and restlessness can indicate various needs, including hunger. If your baby seems unusually unsettled or unsatisfied after many feedings, it might be a sign that your milk supply is decreasing. But do remember, every baby is unique, and a range of emotions can lead to fussiness, not just hunger.

Some babies may be going through a cluster feeding period, where they require extra milk to meet thier rapid growth. This can be confusing for some parents but is a common occurrence. If you are unsure if these extra feedings are normal, you should consider contacting a lactation consultant for advice.

Signs That Your Baby is Receiving Enough Milk:

  • Consistent weight gain post two weeks

  • Adequate nappy output; many wet and soiled nappies

  • Frequent, satisfying feeding patterns

  • Baby is active and alert when awake

  • Audible swallowing during feeds

Signs That Your Baby is Not Receiving Enough Milk:

  • Slow or no weight gain

  • Fewer wet/soiled nappies

  • Lethargy: your baby is too sleepy and uninterested in feeding

  • Increased fussiness

    How To Increase Your Milk Supply

    It's crucial to understand that experiencing a low milk supply is not your fault, and numerous factors can contribute to this challenge, such as your baby's latch or simply the natural variation in milk production among individuals. Fortunately, there are effective strategies you can adopt to enhance your milk production:

    1. Establish a Healthy Breastfeeding Routine

    A regular breastfeeding schedule and a cosy environment can be useful for increasing your milk supply by providing signals for your body to produce milk consistently and fostering relaxation.

    Additionally, encourage your body to produce a sufficient milk supply to meet your baby’s growing needs, it is recommended to follow your baby’s hunger cues through the principle of demand and supply.

    In the first few months of breastfeeding, babies often need to eat at least 8 to 12 times a day. These feeding sessions can vary in length throughout the day, as a baby’s appetite may fluctuate (just like us). By feeding your baby on demand and for as long as they want, your body will quickly learn how much milk to make for your baby. Remember, breastfeeding is not always just about satisfying a baby’s hunger but also providing comfort.

    2. Ensure Proper Nutrition and Hydration

    A well-balanced diet is paramount for breastfeeding mothers. Nourishing your body with healthy foods that promote milk production and staying hydrated are simple yet powerful ways to support milk production because the nutrients and fluids you consume are directly passed on to your baby through your milk.

    This not only ensures your baby gets the best possible start but also aids in your own postpartum recovery. Remember, taking care of yourself is not just about your well-being; it directly influences your ability to provide for your baby.

    3. Adopt Effective Breast Pumping Practices

    Mastering breast-pumping methods and schedules can be a game-changer in increasing your milk supply. This is because increasing milk supply hinges on effective milk removal.Hence, to increase your milk supply, you can try increasing the frequency of your pumping. And if you are not pumping at all, you can introduce one or two pumping sessions into your current breastfeeding routine to ensure a minimum of 8 to 12 milk removals a day.
    While a baby’s latch is still the most effective at draining the breast, increasing your pumping frequency can help mimick your baby's natural feeding patterns and encourage your body to produce more milk to meet the demand.

    4. Try Skin-to-Skin Contact

    The power of skin-to-skin contact with your baby cannot be overstated. Regardless of your baby’s age, this intimate bonding experience not only nurtures your connection but can also enhance milk production. This is because skin-to-skin contact increases levels of oxytocin, the hormone that plays a key role in milk ejection and production, promoting a stronger milk flow and greater overall supply.

    To weave skin-to-skin time into your daily routine, start by holding your baby against your skin during and immediately after feedings, ensuring there's direct contact. You can also initiate skin-to-skin contact before feedings to gently wake your baby up and prepare them for feeding. This simple practice can be especially soothing for both of you, fostering a deeper bond and supporting your breastfeeding journey.

    5. Get Support from a Lactation Consultation

    Navigating the breastfeeding journey can sometimes require additional support, especially as there may be underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome or hormonal imbalances, that can impact milk supply.

    If you are still experiencing symptoms of a low milk supply despite trying the methods mentioned above, is where International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), like Hegen Lactation Centre, come into the picture, providing invaluable, personalised advice. 

    Hegen Lactation Centre is driven by a deep-rooted passion to support mothers like you through your breastfeeding journey. We offer both at-home lactation consultations and virtual consultations to fit your needs and lifestyle. Whether you’re wondering how to know if your milk supply is low or how to increase your milk supply, Hegen Lactation Centre is here to support you.

     

    Celebrating Achievements and Progress

    Motherhood is an awe-inspiring experience, and breastfeeding is a significant part of this new journey but remember, every mother’s breastfeeding experience is unique. It’s crucial to be mindful of the impact stress and mental health have on both milk supply and overall well-being, so try not to let unnecessary stress overwhelm you.

    Embrace motherhood as the profound learning experience it is, celebrating every small victory along the way. These achievements, no matter how minor they may seem, are monumental steps in your journey, marking your growth and resilience as a new parent.