Worried about your milk supply? You're not alone! Fears about milk supply, primarily not making enough of the good stuff, are one of the primary reasons that women stop breastfeeding.
While the majority of women are able to produce enough breast milk to feed their baby, a small percentage may struggle. Of those women, a smaller percentage still will have what is termed as 'true low milk supply' caused by medical conditions like insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), some metabolic conditions, retained placenta, postpartum haemorrhage, surgical inventions or from illness. These conditions may require medical intervention or the consideration of mixed feeding in consultation with your caregiver. The rest may suffer from temporary low supply due to factors that, with support and intervention, can usually be managed.
There are a lot of normal newborn behaviours that many new mamas mistake for low milk supply. A fussy, cluster feeding baby for example is completely normal and not an indication that there is anything wrong with your supply. The same goes for softening of the breasts and/or your baby feeding more quickly. These both happen after your milk supply regulates to the needs of your baby.
The below are NOT indicators of low supply:
Image source: Love and Breastmilk
The truest indicators of low milk supply/your baby getting enough milk are a decrease in their OUTPUT (poo and wee) and a prolonged period where they do not gain or end of losing weight. Remember, the majority of babies will lose weight in their first week(s) of life. Many will then start to gain but only slowly. This is completely normal. Each individual baby will have their own growth curve to follow and if they're otherwise happy and healthy, is nothing to worry about. A baby who struggles to maintain their weight and has a low output may indicate an issue with supply that should be addressed with your health care provider.
There are a number of causes of temporary low milk supply. The Royal Women's Hospital lists the following as possible causes of low supply:
The good news is that the majority of the above can be rectified and your supply can return to normal.
Product image: Haakaa Feeding Tube and Bottle Set (Supplemental Nursing System)
The first and most important step is working out WHY your supply may have dipped in the first place. If you know you suffered severe blood loss after birth and/or complications, it is a good idea to speak with your caregiver about your concerns.
If you can rule out medical issues and the more obvious concerns (smoking, medication), you will need to look at the way your baby is feeding, primarily their attachment at the breast, how often they're feeding and whether they seem to be draining your breast at most feeds. Things like tongue ties, incorrect use of nipple shields, a small mouth and/or recessed chin can sometimes make latching difficult and without a good latch, baby will not be able to feed effectively.
A qualified Lactation Consultant or breastfeeding consultant can help you with identifying what is happening and support you in rectifying the problem.
It is important to remember that milk production works on demand and supply; the more milk is removed from your breasts, the more milk your body will make. If your baby is not regularly and effectively removing milk, there won't be any need for your body to make more. Once you have gotten to the bottom of why your supply has dipped, you can start building it back up again.
Here are some suggestions to try:
Image source: Full Bellies Breastfeeding Support
If you're struggling to manage low supply, please seek the support for a qualified Lactation Consultant or Breastfeeding Counsellor.
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We spoke to Magdalena Hawley, founder and head trainer at Mums Going Strong Fitnessto get the lowdown.