Questions and Concerns About Breastmilk Supply
I am concerned about not producing enough breastmilk to satisfy my baby. How do I know if he is getting enough when I nurse him?
First off, if you began nursing with a preconceived idea about how much, how often and how long your baby would nurse you should throw that out the back door. Each baby is different and the ways in which they attempt to nourish themselves are different as well. Be prepared, until time has helped you both create a schedule, to let your baby nurse unrestrictedly and on demand. Babies do not just nurse for the benefit of breastmilk, a feeding also helps them to meet their sucking needs and provide them comfort and familiarity in a new world full of ongoing introductions to their senses.
It is also important to note that this is a very common concern that new mothers have, especially within the first few weeks of infancy so you are not alone. The best way to determine if your baby is getting enough milk is to start a journal. You should log the time and length of each feeding as well as how often he urinates and has a bowel movement.
In the first few days of birth, your baby is only receiving colostrum and it is typical to report only one or two wet diapers each day. Once your milk has “come in” this number should increase to about five to eight wet diapers each day. If you are strictly nursing, even bowel movements (which change from the dark meconium to a mustard yellow after a few days) will be loose and wet. A well-fed baby should produce three or four bowel movements each day, this is a good indication that he is getting plenty of calories from your breast milk.
Additionally, keeping track of your baby’s weight gain can help you to determine if he is getting adequate nutrition though not as immediately as journaling. The average weight gain within the first three months is about 5-6 ounces a week. Your baby’s weight should be figured from his lowest point after birth in order to be most accurate. This reflects his true body weight after releasing the fluids and meconium stored in utero.
In general, Breastfeeding for an Adopted Baby takes a little more time for a mother to build a good milk supply due to lactation induction. If your are an adoptive mother nursing your baby be patient and diligent while inducing your milk supply. You will follow the same guidelines once your milk has come in for determining if your baby is getting enough milk.
How can I increase my breast milk supply?
When trying to increase your milk production you can employ one or more methods at a time to give yourself a boost. The goal is to have very well drained breasts and then to consistently keep them from becoming engorged or too full due to missed feedings. As you begin to wean your baby this is the way to do it but not if you want to continue to nurse successfully. Listed below are a few suggestions for increasing and maintaining well-established milk production.
- Frequent and unrestricted feedings for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. If your baby doesn't seem to want to stay on the breast for this long then continue to fully drain your breast with an adequate breast pump. A hospital grade pump, such as the Ameda Elite Breast Pump is certainly the most recommended however, an electric breast pump with adjustable suction can work as well, see Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump for comparison. Let the pump continue to work for about 5-10 minutes after the last drop to reinforce complete drainage. Using a double pumping method can help to stimulate Prolactin quicker which is the hormone that produces your milk.
- Be sure that your baby is properly latched on and sucking effectively. If your baby does not take enough of your breast into his suck then the glands that produce your milk will not compress enough to stimulate your hormones, therefore creating a low milk supply. If you cup your breast in your hand and then squeeze your areola between your forefinger and middle finger about an inch behind your nipple, you will get a good idea of how much needs to be taken in for healthy stimulation and production. If you hear a gulp after each suck or every other suck then your baby is probably swallowing enough breastmilk.
- Offer one breast at a time. Allow your baby to come off your breast on their own. This way they are receiving the hefty hindmilk, which comes at the end of your let down. If your baby still seems hungry after finishing the first breast, burp him and then offer him the other breast.
- Eliminate any other sucking options such as nipples, pacifiers and supplements. If your baby is satisfying his sucking and nutritional needs from other ways than nursing, his desire and motivation to nurse effectively will be challenged. Once you have established a decent milk supply and baby is healthy and happy then reconsider offering a pacifier occasionally. Most nursing babies are prone to the breast rather than artificial nipples after a while and your baby may refuse them.
- Do not introduce or encourage any other form of nutrition within the first six months. Once your baby gets to experience the exciting world of solids and fruit juice it may be difficult to get him to nurse at proper feeding times. He may still want to nurse first and last thing in the day but this is not enough to keep you full of milk. Before six months of age, any foods other than breastmilk or formula may increase the chance of allergy or digestion issues in your child.
- Be sure to meet your own caloric requirements each day with a healthy diet. Though an inadequate diet is not known to affect the quality of your breastmilk, in time it will affect the quantity. The lack of fuel provided to your body through food will eventually result in dehydration and fatigue if you are nursing. A nursing mother should be maintaining a daily intake of 1500 calories a day to stay healthy and nourished.
- Experiment with herbal teas and remedies. Herbs such as fenugreek, milk thistle, chamomile, alfalfa and fennel are said to help increase your milk supply. Be sure to check with your physician or herbal resource guides to establish the amounts recommended for each herb as a capsule or tincture and possible side effects. There are many tea producers that will combine these herbs into a tasty concoction for you to sip in order to receive the herbs in small amounts. Check out your local health food store for teas specifically made for lactating mothers.
- Prescription medication is also an alternative. There are certain medications offered in pill form that can increase Prolactin production while nursing. Be sure to check with your physician about all possible side effects and guidelines before choosing this method.
If you are concerned that your baby is not receiving enough milk and he is not thriving, you should contact your healthcare professional to seek assistance and advice as soon as possible.