September 18, 2008

Breast Milk Supply Worries

Worried bride
Creative Commons License photo credit: spaceodissey

One of the most common worries of the new breastfeeding mother is having low breast milk supply. Many new Moms worry that they are not producing enough milk for their babies. This fear stems from several factors in the new mother’s environment and her own feelings of inadequacy as a mother. It is a fear that needs to be addressed because it causes many worried mothers to supplement with baby formula – which generally will not increase milk supply. On the contrary, supplementing with baby formula will cause the mother’s breast milk supply to plummet … until she is fully feeding with formula.

Causes of Breast Milk Supply Worries

Concerns about breast milk supply are triggered by:

  • expecting breastmilk to begin “flowing” immediately after birth (when breastmilk actually comes in at least two days after birth)
  • hospital workers and other health care givers giving a can of formula, or prescribing a brand, “just in case” (when in fact supplementing with formula will cause the mother’s breastmilk supply to decrease)
  • a fussy baby (when babies fuss and cry for different reasons other than hunger)
  • a baby who doesn’t sleep for long stretches (when some babies are just not good sleepers compared to others)
  • a baby who wants to nurse more often than every two hours (when breastfed babies really are hungry often because breastmilk is quicker and easier to digest than formula)
  • the mother not feeling “full” anymore (when in fact her body has adjusted to her baby’s demand and therefore no longer makes too much)

[ad#ad-2] Is There A Problem?

Most of the time, there really isn’t a breast milk supply problem. Therefore the first thing to do is to establish whether or not a supply problem exists. A breastfeeding Mom is unable to tell exactly how much milk her baby is taking in, unlike a formula-feeding Mom who can see and count the number of ounces. A breastfeeding Mom does have several indicators she can monitor to make sure her baby is getting enough breastmilk. These are:

  • the number of wet and soiled diapers that baby produces every day (this is easier if baby is cloth diapered) – Before the mother’s milk has come in during the first few days after birth, baby should have 1-2 wet diapers a day. After the breastmilk comes in, baby should have 6-8 wet cloth diapers daily. In the first few months, baby should have 2-5 soiled diapers a day.
  • the baby’s weight gain – Baby should gain 4-7 oz per week, after the first month of life. Before this, babies may actually get lighter than their birth weight before regaining weight again.
  • the baby’s behavior while nursing – You should hear the baby swallowing once you feel the breastmilk let down
  • the baby’s overall demeanor and appearance – Baby should look healthy, be alert and active

If There Is a Breast Milk Supply Problem

Sometimes, the mother’s milk supply is indeed inadequate and there is a need to increase milk supply. If this is the case, the following general guidelines should be followed:

  • Encourage baby to breastfeed more frequently.
  • Ensure that baby is latched on properly.
  • Make sure that the mother is adequately rested and nourished.
  • Get support from a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant.
  • Stop using pacifiers and artificial nipples. If supplementation is necessary, use a cup and spoon, syringe, medicine dropper or supplement nurser.

Many new mothers worry about having enough breast milk supply. Most of the time, the problem is a matter of perception rather than reality. There are objective measures that can be used to determine whether the mother is making enough breastmilk or not. Most of the time, she is. However, when necessary, it is possible to increase a woman’s breast milk supply. If supplementing temporarily is necessary, then it must be given without using bottles and artificial nipples. Stopping breastfeeding is rarely the answer.

Related Resources:

Dr. Jack Newman’s Protocol for Increasing Breast Milk Supply – How to do the compression technique to ensure that baby is getting all of mother’s milk; includes a protocol for the fussy baby

Breastfeeding Videos – Get breastfeeding answers from world renowned experts and high-quality video footages

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – One of the best breastfeeding books ever, published by La Leche League International


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Alexis Rodrigo

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