Blog, Lactation, Postpartum

Coping with Undersupply

A common fear among nursing mothers – low milk supply. When baby is still growing within his or her growth curve, milk supply is usually not an issue. So how do you know if you are dealing with low milk supply?

Possible Signs of Low Milk Supply

  • Baby is not gaining weight within their own growth curve (this is the percentiles that your doctor may tell you at each visit)
  • Baby is losing weight
  • Baby is not producing enough wet and/or dirty diapers

Things that Do Not Indicate Low Milk Supply

So often we think we do not produce enough milk based on signs that are actually quite normal for babies, especially the first days and weeks of their life. So if you are noticing any of the below you are more than likely dealing with normal behaviors or changes, but you can always follow up with a lactation consultant for further specialized care to verify.

  • Baby wants to nurse all the time
  • Baby has long feeds
  • Baby feeds quickly
  • Baby wants to be held constantly
  • Baby doesn’t sleep through the night or wakes often
  • Baby will take a bottle after nursing
  • Baby’s nursing pattern or habits have changed
  • Baby is fussy especially in the evenings
  • Baby has suddenly changed how often they are nursing
  • You don’t leak any milk or have stopped leaking
  • Your breasts no longer feel full or heavy
  • You don’t express much milk when pumping
  • You have small breasts

Increasing Milk Supply

If you have concerns about having low milk supply I highly recommend you seek out a professional like a lactation consultant who can provide you with individualized care. They would be able to further determine what may be the cause of your low supply and how to go about increasing it. But in general there are a few different ways some moms have found success in increasing their supply.

  • Pumping more often (pumping after nursing or even adding in extra pumping sessions)
  • Try more skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Yes, baby cuddles!
  • Don’t skip any nursing sessions. If you will be a part from baby be sure to replace that feed with a pumping session.
  • Try a hands-on approach with pumping using breast massage once your first let down of milk has started to slow.
  • Try hand expression after pumping or nursing.
  • Ensure baby is removing milk properly with a good latch and positioning.
  • Avoid pacifiers and bottles if possible – more stimulation can help send the message to make more milk!
  • Take a nursing vacation. Just you and babe relaxing and focusing on nursing.
  • Focus on taking care of you! Relaxation, hydration, and proper nutrition. That includes getting adequate calories to fuel yourself and to make milk. Forget about losing all that excess baby weight fast. It should come off in good time with a proper diet and exercise.
  • Try galactagogues or other milk promoting foods. This may be lactation cookies, teas, herbs, oats, or brewer’s yeast. Some moms do say they say increase others do not.

Causes of Low Milk Supply

Sometimes the cause of low milk supply is not easily determined. You may be dealing with low milk supply if you have any of the following:

  • Supplementing (whether it be with formula or breastmilk). When you skip nursing sessions routinely you are sending a message to your body to make less milk. While sometimes supplementing may seem like the solution it may actually make the problem worse if you are trying to increase your supply. If you are having to supplement due to a medical need or your baby is not growing properly you need to discuss a plan with your medical team to see if and how you can go to exclusive breastmilk if that were something you desired.
  • Infrequent feedings. Maybe your aunt advised you that the baby doesn’t need that much milk or shouldn’t be nursing that often. Well-intended advice can sometimes be disastrous when it comes to milk supply. It is typically best to follow baby’s lead and cues for when they are full or hungry.
  • Only offering one breast per feeding when baby is still hungry and you are not dealing with an oversupply.
  • Cutting feedings short when baby is not done. Yes, sometimes it feels like those feeds can go on forever and yes there are lots of things that need to get done around the house. But this is the time to sit back, relax, and just focus on you and your baby.
  • You have a medical condition that affects your hormones like PCOS, thyroid disorders, or diabetes. Hormones can throw your body for a loop when it comes to making milk.
  • Previous breast injury, surgery, or trauma.
  • Complications from birth.
  • Health complications or anatomical issues of the baby.
  • Heavy use of pacifiers, bottles, or nipple shields.

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