As a new mom, there are tons of things you worry about. Whether you have enough breast milk to keep your little one happy and healthy is often top of the charts. Is your baby’s weight lagging? Are there signs that she is not thriving? Besides seeking medical advice, it may be worthwhile considering whether your milk supply is insufficient. If that’s the problem, most often, only a little course correction is required to get your baby’s health back on track.
Causes For Low Breast Milk Supply
Nature ensures that breastfeeding mothers produce adequate milk – most of the time. In those instances where a mother’s milk supply is low, some of the typical reasons are:
- Infrequent feeding
- Not feeding long enough
- Not knowing if the baby is properly “latched on”
- Supplementary bottle feeds
- Use of pacifiers
Typically, in the first fortnight or so after the baby is born, the breast milk produced tends to vary in volume. Feeding the baby whenever she cries for milk or awakens several times a night is the best way to stimulate the breasts into producing more milk. These initial days are crucial to get into a steady routine.1 Less common reasons for low milk supply include:
- Mastitis: An infection of mammary gland tissue because of a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering through a break in the skin. If you have a hard, painful spot on your breast and perhaps other symptoms like a low fever and exhaustion, it’s time to seek professional advice. Mastitis is easily diagnosed and treated. Importantly, you need not stop breastfeeding while taking prescribed medication.
- Birth Control: Oral contraceptives containing estrogen could also be the cause of reduced milk supply. If you’re on the pill, speak to your healthcare provider on the best way forward.2
1. Try These Breastfeeding Techniques
Is your baby comfortably positioned and latching on to the breast correctly? If she is, her lips will be covering the areola, the dark circle around the nipple. These are important aspects in breastfeeding as they also help you avoid soreness and pain while feeding.
More often than not, incorrect feeding techniques are the reason why breast milk supply is low. Learning a few basic techniques will usually help an anxious mother resolve this problem:
Follow The Switch Method
Allow your baby to feed at one breast as long as she wants and switch to the other breast when she slows down or stops sucking. It’s all about demand and supply – the breasts will produce as much as the baby wants.3
Let The Baby Decide: How Much And How Long
During the baby’s growth spurts in the early months, she will want to nurse for longer periods. Follow her lead and your breasts will naturally respond with an increased supply of milk.4
Let the baby determine when she’s had enough. You will know this when she falls asleep or simply detaches herself after vigorously sucking for up to 30 minutes or less.
Try Double Feeding
As an alternative to the “switch” technique, you can try double feeding. Here, once your baby stops feeding, hold her upright against your chest and shoulder for about 15 minutes. If she’s swallowed any air, which is quite usual, she will burp, leaving room for additional milk. Let her nurse at both breasts again until she goes to sleep. This method also stimulates the breasts to let down more milk.
Tackle The Sleeping Beauty
Some little ones fall asleep within minutes of latching on. If your baby does this, switch her between breasts 2–3 times during a feed whenever you see her slowing down.
Understand: The More, The Better
The more you breastfeed, the more milk your breasts will produce. So feed baby exclusively on breast milk especially in the early months. Later, if you must use supplements, use a spoon or cup.
You can also encourage your baby to breastfeed well by limiting or stopping the use of pacifiers.5
2. Streamline Your Breastfeeding Routine
Breastfeeding isn’t only about providing milk to your baby. It’s also about her learning to enjoy your embrace and that mystery called love! These simple tips will help you.
Natural Weaning: If your baby is about 6 months or more and otherwise healthy, do remember that many babies start weaning themselves off the breast around this age naturally – in which case, there’s no cause to worry about decreasing breast milk.
Dressing Down Before Feeding
Before feeding, undress your baby completely except for the diaper. As for yourself, wear just a loose shirt open all the way in front. If she’s the kind who sleeps off within moments of being put to the breast, the gentle warmth from your skin will stimulate her to stay awake and nurse more enthusiastically. Cover her with a blanket so she doesn’t get cold.
Feeding In Bed
Take baby to bed with you. This is relaxing for both of you and helps promote more – and longer – feeding sessions, which will enhance your milk supply.
All-Day Body Warmth
When possible, keep baby in a sling against your body between feeding times and when she is napping. This lets her know her favorite food is never far away and stimulates her desire to feed. The more milk she demands, the more your body will provide.
3. Get These Diet Essentials Right
Paying attention to your own food requirements during the busy days and weeks after birth will help ensure adequate milk supply and, therefore, your baby’s wellbeing. While a normal, balanced diet is all that’s needed for a mother to produce and maintain the milk her baby needs, certain nutrients are essential to take special care of both the baby and your health.
Calcium, vital for bone health, is drawn from a mother’s own reserves to supply the baby’s needs through breast milk. It’s important, therefore, for a breastfeeding mother to consume sufficient calcium in her daily diet. Dairy products, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, or fortified cereals are all good sources of calcium. Your physician may recommend calcium supplements if you aren’t getting all your calcium from natural foods.
Vitamin D enables your body to absorb calcium from food. Exposure to sunlight is the most natural way to help your body make vitamin D but it is important to balance your sun exposure. Overexposure to sunlight could make some women vulnerable to skin cancer. Also, depending on where you live and the time of year, sunlight may not always be available. For these reasons, the medical community no longer recommends relying only on sunlight as the primary source for getting vitamin D. It’s wiser to also consider food sources such as yogurt, orange juice, fish (mackerel, salmon), and fortified cereals.
As for your baby’s Vitamin D requirements, breast milk alone will not provide what she needs. Your doctor may recommend Vitamin D supplements if they feel your baby needs them to prevent deficiency-related problems like rickets.
Protein, the body-building component of a healthy diet can be sourced from lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs. Vegetarian sources of protein include lentils, beans, nuts like almonds and pistachios. Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acid that helps baby’s brain and eye development.
Iron is needed to up your energy levels – get this mineral from dark green, leafy vegetables, fish, and fortified breakfast cereals. Your body better absorbs iron from meats than plant foods. Skip drinking tea when taking foods or supplements containing iron as it inhibits iron absorption. Foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits and spinach help your body absorb iron, so try combining these nutrients in your diet.
Folic acid is a must-have for breastfeeding mothers (for all women actually, through their reproductive years). During pregnancy, folic acid is taken to prevent birth defects. While breastfeeding, a mother needs 400 mcg folic acid every day to protect against birth defects. Natural sources of folic acid are meat, whole grains, citrus fruits, green vegetables and various types of beans.6
4. Use Galactagogues
Cultures across the world believe that some foods stimulate the production of breast milk. While their effectiveness isn’t often backed by scientific research, traditional use over centuries suggests they can be put to good use. While they are generally safe, do consult your doctor before trying out any of these herbs to check for allergies or adverse reactions.7
Some galactagogues you can try include fenugreek, ginger, moringa, among others. Read about them here. Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk
5. Leverage The Power Of Yoga, Pranayama, And Meditation
Yes, these ancient wellness systems may well help in a general way to improving breast milk production! With its slow, gradual stretches (or asanas), yoga can help enhance blood circulation around the breasts. Along with pranayama (yogic deep breathing exercises) and meditation, yoga gently nudges the nursing mother to find inner peace. This state of mind enables nature to take its course and allows her to breastfeed satisfactorily and confidently.8
|↑1||Milk Supply. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑2||Low Milk Supply. The royal women hospital.|
|↑3, ↑5||How Can I Increase My Milk Supply? La Leche League International.|
|↑4||How Can I Increase My Milk Supply? La Leche League International.|
|↑6||How A Healthy Diet Helps You Breastfeed. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑7||Galactagogues – Boosting your Milk Supply And Production. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑8||Wildan, Mohd., Kiswati Jamhariyah and Firdaus Primasari. Benefits of Yoga in Increasing Lactating Mother’s Breast Milk Production] Journal of Nursing and Health Science. Volume 4, Issue 4 : July-Aug. 2015.|