Many people consider breastfeeding to be the gold standard to early motherhood. In reality, this isn’t the case. But the pressure to breastfeed is enough to make many new moms who have low milk supply more than just a little bit depressed.
Here, we’ve collected a few ways that you can cope with a low milk supply. First of all, we’ve listed some advice that may help you increase your milk supply so that you can exclusively breastfeed if you really want to. Second, we’ve listed some methods that you can get breastfeeding support online or in your area so that you can access the wealth of advice all over the world on breastfeeding. Finally, we’ve posted a few tips on simply accepting that not all moms are able to make enough milk for their little ones, and then dealing with that fact.
After all, the true gold standard to motherhood is not in your milk, but in the love you give to your child!
15 Frequent Feedings
If you want to increase your milk supply, one of the best ways to do this is to feed on your baby’s demand, which should be every two to three hours. You need not wait for your little one to cry it out, either. You might find hunger cues such as hand sucking and restlessness before your little one actually demands for milk out loud.
Basically, the more often you drain your breasts, the more often you signal your body to keep producing milk. Over time, this could increase your milk supply. It may help if you sleep with your little one close by, perhaps in a crib in your room. This can help you feed even in the middle of the night.
14 Pump if You Can’t Feed
If you’re working or if there other obstacles to getting your baby to feed every few hours, you might want to pump during these times instead. This can help you drain your breasts even without your baby. If you are able to freeze your expressed milk, it can also give you an extra breastmilk supply for your baby to feed on when you’re not around.
Pretty much the same principle applies for this: drain it to make it. Emptying your breasts stimulates milk production, after all. This is whether it’s done by a baby or a pump. So bring that pump with you everywhere!
13 Deal with Pain
Sometimes, one of the reasons you may not be able to breastfeed properly or regularly is because of pain during breastfeeding. This can be due to an improper latch, sore or cracked nipples or an infection. You might want to try out baby-safe nipple creams or, in the worst cases, nipple guards to help reduce breastfeeding pain.
If you suspect that the pain is due to an infection or something more serious, you might want to consult your doctor for appropriate treatment for breast pain. Serious breast pain usually comes with a fever or a red, sore spot on your breast.
12 Proper Latching
We’ve already mentioned that an improper latch can cause pain during feeding. One other thing that it can do is prevent proper draining of your breasts. This can often leave your baby unsatisfied after feedings, as he will not have access to all the milk that is actually in there.
A proper latch is basically one in which your baby’s mouth covers the entire nipple and where there’s suction between the baby’s mouth and your nipple. It may also help to change up your baby’s position to encourage draining of all portions of your breast.
11 Proper Nutrition
When you’re breastfeeding, you’ll also want to get adequate nutrition. After all, some of the nutrients you are taking in do end up in your milk. You’ll want to make sure that all the ingredients are all ready for the production line! This means eating balanced meals with plenty of vegetables, proteins and healthy fats!
Of course, just as important as food is water. It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re breastfeeding because some of the water is, after all, lost through breastmilk. If you’re dehydrated, your body may not produce as much milk in order to conserve water in your own body. Who knows? Maybe all it takes is for you to drink up!
10 Get a Lactation Consultant
One thing you can do that can help improve your chances of breastfeeding is to get a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can help you assess your individual situation and give you appropriate recommendations on increasing your milk supply.
Don’t worry if you think your milk supply is naturally low. A lactation consultant will not force you to exclusively breastfeed if it’s not working out for you. Instead, she will help you figure out the best feeding methods based on your situation.
9 Check Out La Leche League
One thing that may help you is to look for your local La Leche League community. La Leche League is an international organization that helps moms across the globe with breastfeeding through community activities and advice from breastfeeding professionals.
You will find that La Leche League communities can provide you with both breastfeeding advice and emotional support to help you through your breastfeeding troubles.
8 Weight and Health
You might feel that your milk supply is low, but this may not be the case. One way to determine this is to regularly check on your baby’s weight and general health. If your little one seems to be gaining weight and is alert and active, chances are, your milk supply is just right for him. In this case, there’s no need to worry.
To help you out, you can check growth charts to see if your baby’s development is in normal limits. Do note that some babies do develop differently from others. If you’re in doubt as to whether your baby is fine, consult his pediatrician to check if his weight and disposition is normal for his age.
7 Spend Time With Baby
One way you can cope with low milk supply, especially if you absolutely can’t get all that milk out is to just spend time with baby. It doesn’t have to be breastfeeding time either. You can just initiate skin-to-skin contact a la kangaroo care. Go out on peaceful early morning walks with your baby.
Now is a great time to enjoy the pleasures of motherhood so do make the most of it! Remember that time will pass and your baby will hardly remember whether you’ve fed him by bottle or breast. He will, however, remember all the good times you had together so bank on that!
6 Just the Way it is
Breastfeeding might frustrate you when you have low milk supply mostly because everyone else seems to be able to do it! While other people or you yourself might guilt trip you for not being able to produce enough milk, it’s important to know that it just might not be your fault!
Some women are simply born with a low amount of glandular tissue in their breasts. This is the tissue that is directly involved in milk production. If you’re among these women, you naturally won’t be able to produce enough milk for your child’s nutritional needs. Again, this is OK and not your fault. Continue breastfeeding your child what you can, and then simply supplement with formula.
5 It’s OK to Bottle Feed
Keep one thing in mind while you’re coping with all of this: it’s perfectly OK to bottle feed! Don’t think that the measure of good motherhood is getting a perfect latch or avoiding formula altogether. Even if you just can’t get your milk supply up, chances are that you have so many more qualities that make you a great mom!
Your fellow moms may be boasting about how their babies are exclusively breastfed, but just remember that you’re not them! There are so many factors that affect breastfeeding and just because the whole process isn’t convenient or possible for you doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. As long as your baby is feeding, whether it’s breastmilk or formula, you’re doing pretty good.
4 Dealing with Depression
Given that bottle feeding is perfectly fine, sometimes the more important issue is the negative emotions that you’re feeling. This can be confusing as you might think that having a baby should be one of the happiest experiences of your life. However, because of the dip in your hormones, this may not be the case.
Normally, postpartum blues go away in a few weeks as your body adjusts to the drop in hormone levels. However, if this persists for longer than that or if you’ve thought about harming yourself or others, you might want to consult a therapist. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that affects possibly up to a third of women after childbirth. In this case, you will need support from a professional and from your loved ones.
3 Take Time Off
Whether your little one is bottle or breast fed, it might help to take time off and relax. Motherhood can feel like a lot of pressure, especially if you’re a new mom or if the pregnancy was unplanned. While at this point you may be primarily concerned about your child’s health, it’s important to remember to take care of your own well-being.
Take some time off, whether with your baby or otherwise. You may have a few weeks left off of your maternity leave, so make sure to make the most of that. If not, a weekend at the spa might be just the thing to get you back in the mood. Some moms even find that their breastmilk supply increases when they stop over-pressuring themselves to breastfeed!
2 Call for Backup
If you’re feeling extreme pressure from wanting to breastfeed, being unable to produce enough milk and the responsibilities of motherhood in general, it’s important to know that you are not alone! Your partner, your family and friends are likely right behind you, just waiting for you to ask for a helping hand.
You might want a bit of help around the house, or with looking after baby, or perhaps even just someone to talk to. Many moms don’t call for help at this time because they’re worried that they might cause someone else trouble during this time. However, you’ll be surprised to find that lots of people are willing to give you extra time, effort and care. They know you’ve just given birth, after all, and that’s tough business.
1 Try a Milk Bank
If you absolutely want your baby to have the benefits of breastmilk despite your low milk supply, your inability to might upset you. However, there is still one way that your baby can still avoid formula milk.
Milk banks are institutions that receive breastmilk donations from moms who have milk to spare. These donations are then screened, pasteurized and then stored. Some milk banks are open to all kinds of mothers, while others particularly serve moms of babies with special needs, such as those that are born premature.