There are days when babies want to suck the stuffing out of mom, but mama's breastmilk is not up to the task.
Mothers get worried when they start to suspect that their babies are not getting enough milk. And worse, some mothers even go to the extent of introducing supplements or solids. This problem starts when a mom has an unrealistic expectation. For example, if a mom expects her baby to breastfeed for three hours.
What such mothers don’t understand is that babies have days when they are laid back and undemanding. However, they also have days when they can get fussy. It does not always mean that the baby’s behavior is related to breastfeeding. Sometimes, a little one just needs care and comfort.
Keep in mind that moms are supposed to breastfeed for the first six months. In those early days, between delivery and six months, mom and the baby need to know each other, and it is better if they can work together to build up her milk supply. When a mom breastfeeds, the nerves in her chest alert the brain to release prolactin, a hormone that facilitates milk production.
But what if her baby has a high milk demand?
This is the time to think about increasing milk supply. Some of the main reasons that can affect mom's milk supply are scheduled feedings and poor latch. Milk supply responds to demand. This means that if a baby feeds more, more milk is going to be produced.
Most new mothers get confused and frustrated when they learn that they can't meet their children’s demands. Their worries escalate because they are not aware of the amount of milk a baby needs to consume.
But the good news is that there are ways to help mom when the baby has a high milk demand:
15 Switch Sides
Some mums have a tendency of offering one breast for feeding. This means that only a single breast gets stimulated. Offering both breasts should ensure that each breast gets equal stimulation and is an easy way of increasing your milk supply.
Once your baby has finished with the first breast, offer the second breast. But make sure the child has fully exhausted the first breast before you switch to the second. The time each kid takes to drain a breast may vary, but given the infant enough time to get calorie-rich milk. In fact, your baby should decide the time spent on each breast.
During feeding time, gently squeeze your breast (breast compression) to keep the milk flowing.
You will know you need to switch sides when the baby’s sucking becomes less intense. In most cases, your little munchkin will suck vigorously for the first few minutes then slow down after some time. If this lazy sucking continues for a long, the infant may get too tired to take the other breast. So, the best thing is to switch, even if it is only after a few minutes.
Switching breasts is also a great way of to ensure your baby gets high-calorie milk while keeping both breasts stimulated.
14 Wear The Right Bra
According to lactation experts, wearing a bra that compresses your breasts, or has a tight band, can interfere with your milk flow. Sometimes, the wrong bra can cause plugged ducts, which will make you feel uncomfortable and will restrict milk flow.
A nursing mum will likely pay little attention to the bra, but the wrong bra can lead to milk problems. Nursing mums should choose a comfortable and supportive nursing bra. Underwire bras are examples of bras that have been identified to cause this type of problem. Most of these bras are tight and can block certain milk ducts and lead to a plugged duct.
This means that the nursing mum will experience pain when milk tries to build up in that section of the breast. Though wearing this type of a bra may not necessarily cause a problem, it is better to stick to a soft nursing bra.
The best nursing bras should comfortably support your milk-filled breasts. They mostly have flaps that enable the mum to breastfeed without having to remove the bra entirely.
13 Massage The Chest, Eat Nutritious Foods And Drink Plenty Of Water
There are actions that you can take by yourself to improve your milk supply.
For example, you can give yourself a massage. Use your fingers and work in a circular motion. This massage is crucial during feeding and pumping because it stimulates milk ducts and increases supply.
Eating nutritious foods can also help in ensuring you have sufficient breastmilk. Doctors do not recommend that you go on a diet unless the diet is going to improve your breastfeeding. Nursing mothers need more calories, but they need calories from fruits, vegetables, and nuts, not from sugars or processed foods.
Water is also crucial during this time, especially because the infant has a high milk demand. Breastfeeding a hungry baby will leave a mum feeling thirsty; therefore, drinking plenty of water should be beneficial. Dehydration should be the last thing because it can lead to hemorrhoids or constipation.
While water intake may vary for every woman, the rule of thumb is that a nursing mom should drink more than before pregnancy. Drinking enough water will give you energy and will improve your focus.
12 Nurse Frequently
Babies need to nurse efficiently. In fact, as much as they want to. Nursing a baby frequently will naturally increase milk production.
Mums should ensure they have achieved a great latch to ensure milk is transferred efficiently. Milk production responds to demand, and a reduction in milk is mostly associated with a baby who does not nurse frequently. Generally, most women can make enough milk for their babies. In fact, throughout history, women have been able to nurse twins and quadruplets without running out of milk.
When breastfeeding, mums should also try breast compression as it facilitates milk flow into the baby’s mouth. This is an easy and efficient way to enable the baby get more milk. It is also a great way of ensuring the baby gets more hindmilk.
You should be able to breastfeed your kid any time because that will be optimal for the baby and your breastmilk supply. Also, have skin to skin sessions to improve the production of oxytocin. Remember, the more your little one nurses, the more milk your body is going to produce.
The whole point is to nurse frequently, and for as long as the baby wants. The baby is probably gaining weight and needs to be nursed after every 1-2 hours a day. Go for it!
11 Use A Pump
Whenever you miss feeding, it is important to pump, but you need to do this under the doctor’s instructions. Pumping sessions can be added between different nursing times. But pumping is of particular importance when a baby is not nursing frequently or efficiently. It can help to speed things up because it removes more milk from your breasts and increases the frequency at which you empty your breasts.
If you want to increase milk supply, pump for 2-5 minutes after the last milk drop to make sure you remove an optimum amount of milk from your breast. If you know you are going to be away, for example, if you know you are going back to work, come up with a pumping routine to ensure a smooth transition.
Even if you are staying at home with your infant, pumping after nursing will improve your milk production and will always ensure you have some milk ready. Pump at least eight times in a period of 24 hours. Set the pump to maximum because this is equivalent to a vigorous sucking and will likely give better results.
10 Use Proper Breastfeeding Techniques
You need to make sure your baby is getting most of the milk. Your little man needs to open his mouth wide enough and drop his chin for proper transfer of milk. His chin needs to touch your breast, and the tongue needs to be down. Make sure his lips are flanged on the areola to ensure the transfer of milk is efficient, and the baby is feeding well. If anything is off, you need to tweak your latch as this will help increase your milk supply.
Proper latching needs to be achieved if you want the baby to compress milk sinuses. When your young one is well-positioned, the areola will not be far enough in the mouth, and proper feeding is guaranteed.
If you find that you are having difficulty achieving the correct position, seek assistance from either a doctor or lactation expert. These two specialists should be able to diagnose any issues to make the process pleasurable.
Some of the things that you need to look out for are the tongue and lips. The lips need to be flared open while the tongue needs to stick out over the gums. When you achieve this, the nipple and areola should be inside the baby’s mouth.
With a good latch, nursing should be fun.
9 Loose The Pacifiers
Think about this, whenever your baby spends time sucking on a pacifier, that time should have been spent stimulating your milk production.
Using a pacifier can cause your baby to miss feeds. It can also affect your baby’s latch because a pacifier is different from a breast. Pacifiers are likely to confuse the little one because they are artificial nipples that familiarize him to the wrong sucking method.
These plastic devices take the place of a mother’s breast and deceive the child. Babies are supposed to suck real breasts because they need milk to grow and thrive. Sucking is also a way to soothe a baby. The concentration that babies put on sucking, the steady rhythm, and the pleasure they get from the process enables them to be less distracted and to get calmer.
Some mums even go to the extent of using a pacifier on newborns who have not mastered nursing on a breast. This is a recipe for trouble down the road.
Most importantly, using a pacifier interferes with a mother’s milk supply and affects the growth of the baby, in the long run. When a child spends more time sucking on a pacifier, there will less time devoted to stimulating the breast.
8 Take A Nursing Vacation
This does not mean a mother stops feeding her baby. A nursing vacation is when a mother and her little one spend more time cuddling, relaxing, and breastfeeding. This strategy is recommended when almost everything has failed.
A nursing vacation can mean spending an entire weekend in bed with the baby. There should be no interruptions, and the mother needs to switch-off from the rest of the world to dedicate all the time to the baby.
During this time, you are not restricted from taking part in relaxing activities like watching a movie, knitting, or reading a book. In fact, such activities become more enjoyable with your baby by your side. What is important is that you should have an uninterrupted skin-to-skin session with the baby. You also need to respond fast to any nursing needs.
A nursing vacation will help if you have a low milk supply and other methods don’t seem to work. While the time you spend with your baby can improve your milk supply, it can also improve the child’s development. Spend 2-3 days together and do nothing but nursing and resting.
7 Consume Lactogenic Foods
There are certain foods that can increase lactation. But before you choose these foods, consider the effects that they may have on your body. Some of the common foods include:
- Garlic – Sprinkle some garlic in your meals to boost your milk supply. Garlic has been used for a long time and is always beneficial.
- Oatmeal – Great for increasing your milk supply and is also helpful in lowering cholesterol. Oatmeal can also assist in regulating blood pressure.
- Carrots – They have beta-carotene that you need when you are breastfeeding. They will also boost your potassium and can help you lose some baby weight.
- Fennel – You can add it as salad if you like. It is an excellent It will also improve your digestion
- Lactation Cookies – As their name suggests, they are meant to enhance lactation.
- Nuts – The popular choices are almonds, macadamia, and cashews. They will increase your milk supply and will also provide you with necessary antioxidants and fats.
- Green Papaya – Another great food, but it is better when eaten raw
- Ginger - They are perfect for boosting your supply. If you want things to be less complicated, go for ginger snaps.
6 Try A Supplement
Supplements can help increase milk supply. However, you need to use supplements with caution as they may have adverse effects. It is advisable that you first check with your doctor before you take the plunge.
Some common herbal supplements that mums use on a regular include Red Raspberry, Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, and Brewer’s Yeast. Though mums have been using these supplements for long, there is no scientific proof that they are able to increase milk supply.
Regardless, some mums have reported an increase in supply, so they are generally considered safe. It may not hurt to try them out, of course alongside other methods. But as a mum, you need to have realistic expectations.
Fenugreek capsules can be taken three times every day together with Blessed Thistle tablets. These capsules can be taken alongside Brewer’s Yeast tablets and Red Raspberry tea. If you think they are too much, try taking Fenugreek on its own. It is known to be the most effective, but be careful not to take it in large doses.
It has not caused trouble to mothers, and mums usually detect an increase after one or three days. Fenugreek is a galactagogue that aids milk supply.
5 Avoid Hormonal Birth Control
Do not use pills. If you have to use birth control, go for condoms or hormone-free IUDs. The contents of birth control pills will have a negative effect on your milk supply. Doctors recommend that mums abstain until after the 6-week checkup. So, before your little one reaches six weeks old, you do not need birth control.
Some birth control pills can inhibit your milk supply and can make it even harder to feed your hungry baby. If, for example, you use a pill that has estrogen, you are going to produce less milk. Other pills may cause blood clots in the first few weeks after delivery.
IUDs are a better option if you are looking for non-permanent long-term birth-control. An IUD can be inserted in your uterus after you deliver, or later during one of your visits. An IUD is hassle-free birth control method that will ‘cover’ you throughout. A birth implant is also okay, especially if you do not want a device in your uterus.
The implant contains progestin, the same hormone contained in IUDs, and works to prevent pregnancy in a similar way. Women can get an implant or an IUD right after birth if they want to leave the hospital ‘protected.’
4 Feed The Baby At Night
Prolactin levels are usually high at night, and when you feed your baby during this time, you are going to produce more milk. Prolactin is responsible for building and maintaining milk supply. The more prolactin you have, the more milk you produce: so, it is better to make the nights your ideal feeding time.
One of the advantages of feeding at night is that you get to regulate your milk supply. When you accustom your little one to feeding at night, you will be feeding on demand and allowing your body to produce enough milk for your baby.
Some babies get more excited during the day and nurse less because they are interested with the surrounding. Such kids prefer to nurse at night and wake up their mums when they need milk. In addition, most babies wake up at night when they are 6 months old, so you need to manage your night nursing to ensure you and your baby get enough sleep. Babies can take as much as 30% of calories during the night, so feeding in the night is still important.
3 See A Lactation Consultant
This should be your first option before you think of trying anything else. A lactation consultant should be able to identify the reason behind your low milk supply and find a possible remedy.
These people help mums establish nursing relationships with their children. They are your friend and can attend to almost all your lactation needs, especially when you are a new mum.
Getting help as soon as possible can also go a long way in reducing problems because if you take too long your baby’s health may be affected. For example, if you child fails to get enough milk, he may stop gaining weight or thriving.
Breastfeeding troubles can quickly get out of control and can push a mother into seeking unreliable solutions. Mothers have a tendency of worrying that their babies are not getting enough milk. While this may be true, sometimes it is just paranoia and an expert advice can calm things down. A lactation expert should have the final word about whether your milk supply is low or not.
Just trust your baby because his brain is wired for survival and he knows what he needs. Don’t go setting alarms because you think you know the right time to feed Jason. If he takes long, let him!
2 Avoid Using Bottles And Nipple Shields
Most mothers think it is okay to bottle-feed the little one during the night. They do this because they want to get more sleep by avoiding breastfeeding. But this is wrong because a baby needs to suck on breasts, and not artificial nipples. Bottle-feeding, or the use of nipple shields, should only be allowed if they are backed by a medical reason.
If your baby uses a bottle, your body does not receive the message that it needs to manufacture milk, and this means your supply can be impacted negatively. Your only other option may be pumping, but you do have to go down this road?
In fact, mums should ditch any feeding routines and feed whenever the baby appears to want milk. The more the baby feeds the more your breasts will supply milk. When your child spends more time on the bottle, your nipples will be less stimulated and you will make less milk. Let your baby’s sucking needs to be met at your breasts.
1 Get Enough Sleep And Stay Relaxed
It is easier to try all the other methods and forget a simple solution like getting enough sleep and staying relaxed. When you have a newborn, it can be challenging to find enough rest time, but try your best because your body needs it.
Research shows that mothers are able to produce more milk when they are calm and relaxed. When the baby is napping, this is also your time to get a rest. Avoid activities that may keep you occupied and deny you the chance to get a good break. Subordinate house chores and listen to rhythmic music. Just have fun in the house and believe that you can nurse your baby.
Try as much as possible and reduce stress, and the simplest way to achieve this is to cut unnecessary obligations. Spend more time meditating, breathing, and laughing with friends and family. While it may be easier to be stressed out about your low milk supply, try to not think about it so much. Nothing affects your milk supply like being busy or worried.
Sources: TheBump.com, Kellymom.com, Bellybelly.com.au, Livestrong.com