Breast Milk Production: Here’s Everything You Need To Know!

When you begin breastfeeding, you may wonder if your baby is getting properly nourished. If you notice your baby is not gaining weight or getting through diapers, it could be that your baby is not getting enough breast milk. This can happen if your baby is not latching on correctly or, in rarer cases, if your milk supply is running low. The good news is that most women produce one-third more breast milk than their babies will drink, so there’s a little leeway. It's always wise to talk to your doctor if you have any breastfeeding problems. If you are worried about your milk production levels, read on to discover ways to increase your milk supply naturally, and learn why you may be lactating less than you would like.

Signs Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk

Instead of trying to gauge the quantity of your breast milk production, it's more important to keep an eye on signs that your baby is getting enough milk. Think about these questions:

  • Is your baby gaining weight? One of the most reliable signs of successful feeding is your baby’s steady weight gain. Keep in mind your baby will likely lose a little weight within a few days of birth (usually no more than about 7 percent of baby’s birth weight), but this should be regained within a couple of weeks. Take a look at this growth chart, which will help you track your baby’s development along with your baby’s doctor.

  • Is your baby getting through diapers? Is your baby gaining weight? The number of newborn diapers your baby goes through is a good indicator of enough breast milk supply. Expect to change six wet diapers per day, and check that your baby has three to four bowel movements a day. The stool will be dark and sticky in those first days after your baby is born, but will become loose and yellowish afterwards. The colour of the urine should be pale yellow – not dark yellow or orange in colour.

  • How often does your baby breastfeed? Newborns tend to feed 8 to 12 times a day, approximately every two to three hours. This demand may increase with growth spurts.

  • Does your baby seem happy between feeds? If your baby seems satisfied, happy, alert, and active (not cranky or fussy) after feedings, chances are she is getting the nourishment she needs.

If your baby isn't getting enough milk, you may also notice that she is sleepy all the time or most of the time. Be sure to call your baby's doctor if this is the case. Learn about new born baby care.

What Affects Breast Milk Production?

If your newborn isn’t getting the nutrition she needs, it’s more likely to be because she is not latching onto your breast correctly as opposed to you not producing enough milk. Read up on how to get your baby to latch on correctly for some extra tips. Nevertheless, there are some factors that can cause your breast milk production to decrease, including:

  • Waiting too long to start breastfeeding (ideally you may aim to start breastfeeding about an hour or so after giving birth, however, in some cases this may not be possible)

  • Not breastfeeding often enough (experts recommend breastfeeding about 8 to 12 times a day)

  • Using certain medications, such as those containing pseudoephedrine or even certain types of hormonal contraception

  • Your baby not latching on correctly and therefore not prompting the production of milk

  • Having had breast surgery

  • If your baby was born prematurely

  • If you have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure

  • Obesity

  • If you have insulin-dependent diabetes.

How to Produce More Breast Milk

The good news is there are ways to increase your milk supply. These ideas may help avoid breast feeding problems:

  • Breastfeeding as soon as you can. If you can, try not to wait too long after the birth of your baby to begin breastfeeding. Ideally you can start within one hour or so. However, in some cases, for example, if you're recovering from a caesarean section, you may end up starting to breastfeed later. Don't worry if this is the case for you, because below we have even more tips on increasing your breast milk supply.

  • Use a breast pump regularly. The more you can pump, the more breast milk you'll produce. If you're working, try to pump for 15 minutes every few hours. You can also save some time by pumping both breasts at the same time with a double breast pump.

  • Breastfeed often. Your baby will probably want to feed 8 to 12 times a day. If your baby feeds often or you use a breast pump between feeds, your breasts will be stimulated into making more milk.

  • Make sure baby’s latching on properly. It's important your baby latches on correctly and swallows while feeding. If in doubt, a lactation consultant or your doctor will be able to help you confirm whether your baby has latched on and is swallowing properly.

  • Feed from both breasts. Remember to alternate between breasts. Both need to be drained to produce more milk. You can also use a pump to express any built-up milk. Milk build-up can lead to conditions like the breast infection called mastitis. To help fully drain both breasts you could also consider alternating breastfeeding positions.

  • Don't skip feeding times. You'll want to keep your feeding schedule up. If you're working while breastfeeding and you're pumping breast milk, try not to miss any sessions, as this can affect your milk supply.

  • Talk to your doctor about medications. Some medications can decrease milk production. Discuss your medication options with your doctor, as solutions may be available that are suitable to take while breastfeeding.

  • Seek help from a lactation consultant. If you're still unsure whether you're producing enough milk for your baby, talk to a lactation consultant or your doctor for personalised guidance.

Above all, don’t worry! Even if you feel your milk supply is on the low side, there are steps you can take to increase breast milk production. By following these breastfeeding tips and talking to your doctor, you can make sure your baby is getting the nourishment your baby needs.

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