Trust Your Mommy Body: Combating Low Milk Supply

Low supply of milk? Or concerned that you aren’t producing enough milk for you baby?

This is a common concern with new-to-nursing moms, one that causes many mothers to supplement or completely stop nursing over. Let me assure you, true low supply, or the inability to produce adequate milk, is rarely the problem.

The GOOD NEWS: You DO NOT have to stop nursing, even if you do have low supply and need to supplement, which most of the time is not the case. Let me tell you why.

Your body knows when to make more milk by…and your going to be shocked *wink…REMOVING MILK!!

Okay, so baby wants to nurse ALL the time.

I understand! When Diva was new born up to about 6 months, all she wanted to do was nurse. She seemed to never quit nursing! But let’s look at the full picture and see what is going on:

  • Is baby new born? Newborns have stomachs that, at 10 days old, are still only the size of an egg, and baby is eating a perfect food that is completely digested quickly for the size of the stomach at that age.
  • How old is baby? Just like a teenage boy eats constantly, babies grow constantly and quickly. There are several – and I mean several – physical and developmental spurts that occur during certain months and times (normally about the same age for each baby). Take a look at the Wonder Weeks chart to see if your baby is either having a growth spurt or is about to have one. If they are, plan to nurse a little longer and a little more often.
  • Is baby latched correctly? Can you hear and see swallowing? A proper latch is comfortable for you, not painful, and allows baby to efficiently remove milk from the breast. If you have access to an IBCLC, have them check the latch.

Let’s talk fussiness.

This leads many mothers to thinking that baby isn’t getting milk or enough milk. This is normally not true. Why not?

  • You body naturally makes milk under a supply and demand logic. Baby demands milk – you, as mom, supply it. Fussing at the breast, beating you up with tiny hands, pop-on and off nursing, etc. are all signs to your body to make more milk.
  • Your breasts never are truly “empty” as in the milk bottle is empty. They continuously make milk. Even if you aren’t pumping but a few drops of milk, baby can ALWAYS get milk. Their suck is stronger and their saliva educes letdown.
  • Does baby need to burp? Or maybe baby is full? Baby may also be overstimulated (don’t pass your baby around to everyone in the room) or distracted. Something to do with baby may also not be the cause. Are you upset? Frustrated? Stressed? Baby can pick up on these things and be fussy.
  • Is baby getting too much milk? This is possible. If you have oversupply or a hard letdown, baby may be getting to much milk.

So you think your milk is drying up because you aren’t pumping a lot or your breasts feel “empty.”

  • Do not judge milk production on pump production. Babies are much more efficient at getting milk out than a pump.
  • Most women only experience super-full feeling breasts for a limited time. After the first few weeks or month, your body regulates the amount of milk it needs to make. You body and baby’s demands have come to an “understanding” so to say. Your body meets baby’s needs without your breasts becoming overfull and causing you pain.
  • Your breasts always make milk. When milk is removed, more milk is made. Again, supply and demand.

A common question is How do I make more milk? Here’s the answer: 

  • First, nurse your baby. Most supply concerns can be fixed my simply nursing. Spend the afternoon on the couch with baby. The house will wait, I promise.
  • Second, nurse on demand. Let baby decide when baby wants to eat. Don’t attempt to put baby on a schedule too soon.
  • Third, pay attention to early hunger cues: rooting, smacking lips, sucking hands. Crying is a late hunger cue and can cause fussiness at breast.
  • Fourth, soothe at the breast. Playing human pacifier can be frustrating and hard when you have other children, a messy house, and work. However, it is okay. Being a human pacifier is the best way to comfort baby and ensure an abundant supply of milk.
  • Fifth, nurse until baby lets go. Just like you let baby decide when baby is hungry, let baby decide when baby is done.
  • And last, don’t watch the clock while nursing. Yes, this is easier done than said. I know. But when you can, let baby nurse as long as baby needs.

What if your supply really is low? 

When baby really isn’t getting enough milk, it is important to understand why.

  • Are you really not making enough? Or are you not making enough because baby is taking enough?
  • Is baby is taking plenty but spitting it out/up?

Possible causes of baby taking too little milk are:

  • baby is improperly positioned
  • baby’s nursing time is being cut short
  • baby is being fed too infrequently
  • baby has a tongue-tie or other latching issue. See an IBCLC. 

What might be an issue with you, mom? 

  • thyroid problems
  • breast surgeries
  • not taking in enough water and nutritious foods

In conclusion, if your supply is truly low and your baby is not thriving, find your nearest IBCLC to identify and correct the problem. Most scenarios are completely reversible, so don’t give up hope. If you must supplement, it will probably only need to be temporary and you can return to being your child’s sole source of nutrition. Fed is best. But on the flip side, feed baby the best!

*Note: I am not licensed. This information comes from research, going through the problems with my own child, and talking with Lactation Consultants.

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