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If you’re breastfeeding your little one, chances are you’ve wondered: Am I even making enough milk?
It’s a common concern for mamas, and I was no different.
When babies are little and they’re crying a lot it’s very hard to tell if they’re crying because they’re hungry, unhappy, tired, or not feeling well and this can often lead to second guessing your milk supply.
Before I walk you through how to increase milk production I want to take a step back and first go over some common signs of low milk supply.
4 signs your milk supply is decreasing
1. You’re not counting enough wet diapers
Your baby should be having between 5 and 8 wet diapers per day.
Of course in the weeks after my supply came in I was a nervous wreck about E not getting enough and let me tell you, any diaper brand that has a wetness indicator really helped to set my mind at ease.
2. You notice signs of dehydration
Well hydrated babies will have clear urine or very pale yellow. You also need to look out for dry mouth, yellowing of the skin or eyes or signs of lethargy. If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms call your pediatrician right away.
3. Your baby doesn’t act satisfied after a feeding
A full baby acts content and at peace after a satisfying feeding. If your baby doesn’t seem content after each feeding, it might be a clue that they aren’t getting enough.
4. Your baby isn’t gaining weight
A clear indicator as to weather or not your baby is getting enough is their weight. Now this indicator can be tricky in the first few weeks of their lives because they do tend to lose between 7-10% of their birth weight, but should regain all of this by the time they turn 2 weeks.
How to increase milk production
If you and your baby’s pediatrician have decided you might need to boost your milk supply, here are several tried and true methods for building up milk production.
Understand how breastfeeding works
If breastfeeding your baby is a goal of yours take the time to understand the whole supply and demand principle when it comes to feeding your baby.
Many times I was tempted in those first few nights to let my husband feed the baby with formula but after reading more about breastfeeding I decided that wasn’t the best idea.
Each time your baby nurses, your body sends a signal to make more milk. So if you skip a feeding to have your partner feed baby a bottle, your body isn’t receiving a signal to make more milk.
The supply and demand process is especially important during the first several weeks and months when you’re trying so hard to maintain your supply, so if you’ve decided to breastfeed, forgo the option to feed baby a bottle until your supply is leveled out.
Once your supply levels out it’s totally fine to pump and have baby drink a bottle, just keep in mind that your pump isn’t as efficient as your baby.
Make sure latch is correct
Before you try any methods to increase milk production consider whether or not your baby’s latch might be the culprit.
A baby that has a correct latch will wiggle her ears (sucking and swallowing causes this) and have a relaxed demeanor.
The latch was always the hardest part for me and I watched this video about 400 times until I felt comfortable.
Get off a feeding schedule
For some reason when Emma was a newborn I got in my head that she needed to eat every three hours, but when I expressed my concern about possibly having low milk supply to her pediatrician I learned that I needed to forget the clock and just look to Emma for when it was time to feed.
Some common hunger signs:
- Opening mouth and sticking tongue out or licking lips
- Rooting (turning head and opening mouth)
This is an awesome video that really shows you exactly what a hungry baby looks like. At times, I had trouble telling if E was hungry and watching this really helped.
Don’t offer pacifiers
There’s tons of research about whether or not pacifiers cause nipple confusion and regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, if you’re struggling with milk production you might just go ahead and take away pacifiers in an attempt to help your baby nurse better.
Don’t offer bottles
If you’re trying to increase your supply you definitely don’t want to be offering bottles. Even the best and most powerful pump in the world isn’t as efficient as your baby.
Do not think that just because you’re pumping two ounces that must be all you’re baby is getting. A pump just isn’t a good measure for how much the baby is recieving when they nurse.
To up your supply try to feed your baby at the first sign of hunger. Don’t worry if your baby seems to be hungry all the time, just work on feeding on demand.
Keep in mind that sometimes babies go through growth spurts (especially in their first few weeks and months) and will nurse a lot to build your supply up.
Keep baby awake during feedings
Emma loved to latch on, drink for 2 minutes and then to fall asleep so I had to work hard to keep her up and engaged during each feeding.
The nurse who led my breastfeeding class encouraged us to stroke our baby’s cheek or tap them on the bottom of the foot to keep them up.
Encourage baby to feed on both sides
I was the worst at keeping track with what side E needed to start nursing on each time until I talked to a fellow mom and she said just to put a hair tie on the wrist that I needed to nurse Emma on next– worked like a total charm.
There are tons of apps too, I just couldn’t handle one more thing that I had to keep up with!
My pediatrician said to let Emma nurse on one side for 10 minutes and then pop her over to the other side to let her nurse until she stopped.
And during the next feeding, he encouraged me to start on the side that she last stopped on.
Nursing session 1:
- Start on left (10 minutes), finish on right (until baby is satisfied)
Nursing session 2:
- Start on right (10 minutes), finish on left.
The idea behind this method is to ensure baby nurses on both breasts each time, which helps the supply and demand process.
I followed this method every single time until Emma was about 2 months. I felt like my supply was up and she was getting pretty good at deciding when she was finished on each side!
Eat lactogenic food to increase milk supply
I did a ton of research on every food known to man that was known to increase my milk supply and filled my pantry and refrigerator.
There’s so many foods that work to build up your supply, and you can read about lactogenic foods to increase milk supply in an earlier post I wrote.
Try power pumping to increase milk supply
When they’re going through a growth spurt babies will cluster feed to build up your supply.
Power pumping works to mimic a cluster feed to help milk production build. For one hour a day follow this schedule of on off pumping.
Make sure you pump both breasts at the same time using a double breast pump. If you don’t feel like your pump is working too well make sure you have the right size.
Here’s a great resource to help you get the correct fit.
Try to stick with the power pumping schedule for at least three days. You might even need to continue for a week or two to get the results you want.
Your milk supply is greatest in the morning so try to power pump then. I always fed Emma and then drank at least 16 oz of water and pumped an hour later.
Still struggling with breastfeeding? Check out these amazing tips I learned from my lactation consultant.