You landed here because you are worried you may have low milk supply and you're hoping to find a fabulous trick to remedy the solution. Right?
If you are feeling like your milk supply is low or your newborn is not gaining weight well, please realize that while reading blogs may be somewhat helpful, NOTHING takes the place of getting face-to-face help from a lactation professional. There are many causes for low supply/poor weight gain, and a lactation professional can help you pinpoint what the cause is for you and help develop a plan for overcoming that hurdle.
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First things first. You *think* your supply is low... but is it really?
The following things are often mistaken for low milk supply, but they are NOT:
This is not a sign of low supply... this totally normal, it is simply what breastfed babies do! Breastmilk is digested more quickly and efficiently than formula, so babies become hungry again sooner than their formula-fed counterparts. This is especially true during the newborn period, as baby's tummy is very small and can't hold much per feeding.
Your baby suddenly increases the frequency and/or length of nursing sessions.Again, this is normal. Babies go through growth spurts, and will go on a feeding frenzy! This is normal, and even if baby seems unsatisfied, don't supplement! What baby does when she nurses so much is increasing your supply naturally.
Your baby does not nurse for as long as she used to.
As babies get older, they get more efficient at emptying the breast, so the time they spend nursing often decreases.
You can't pump very much.
The amount of milk you are able to pump is not a good representation of how much milk you are actually making. A baby is much more efficient at removing milk than a pump. Plus, there are many variables here, such as technique, type of pump, flange size, etc.
Your baby will quickly suck down a bottle of formula or expressed breast milk, even if she has just nursed.
Traditional bottle feeding is like shotgunning a beer. Baby can't tell that he's full because it is happening too quickly. Babies often over-eat (and then spit up!) when bottle fed because of this. The best way to bottle feed a breastfed baby is using a paced technique.
Your breasts seem softer, or no longer feel full/engorged.
This is normal and usually happens after the first month of feeding. This is often a sign that your supply has regulated and you are producing exactly the amount baby needs.
You don't feel a let down.
Some women do, some women don't.
The following are signs that your milk supply IS low:
Your baby is not gaining weight well.
A newborn should gain 1/2 to 1 ounce daily.
Your baby does not make enough wet/dirty diapers.
Your baby should give you at least 5 wet diapers daily. By day 4 of life, a newborn baby should give you at least 3-4 dirty diapers per day. Diaper counts are THE BEST measure of baby's intake.
Link out: Is Baby Getting Enough?
Potential Causes of Low Supply
Supplementing with formula or expressed breast milk.
Breastmilk production is a SUPPLY and DEMAND process. If baby demands more, your body will supply more! If you demand less by feeding with a bottle instead of your breast, you sent your body the message that you need it to make less milk. If you do choose to feed via a bottle, you *must* pump to make up for the lost nursing session to avoid repercussions to your supply.
Using a nipple shield.
Nipple shields can be helpful tools in certain instances, but they decrease the amount of stimulation to the breast and can ultimately decrease your supply.
When you left the hospital, they may have told you to "nurse baby every 3 hours for 15 minutes per side." This is not evidence-based, and can actually harm your breastfeeding relationship. Babies should be nursed on demand (whenever they want!) this may be more frequently than what the hospital told you to expect. You should not switch sides until baby has shown you they are finished on the first side. This may be more or less time than you expect. Trying to use a feeding schedule instead of following baby's lead may lead to infrequent nursing or shortened nursing sessions. On the flip side, if baby is a sleepy baby and wants to go more than 4 hours without nursing, you should wake the baby to nurse. You can't feed too often, but you can feed too little.
Not offering the other side.
Baby seems content after nursing on one side... that's great! Now offer the other breast. Usually, they will nurse some more. If you consistently only offer one side, this is considered "block feeding," which is a technique that is used to decrease milk supply.
Problems with baby.
A poor latch, a tongue tie, or jaundice can cause baby to be less efficient at emptying the breast.
Problems with mom.
Certain medications (such as hormonal birth control or decongestants) can decrease supply. Health issues such as anemia, retained placental pieces, hypothyroidism, and PCOS can affect supply as well. Another far less common cause of low supply is hypoplasia, also known as Insufficient Glandular Tissue.
There are lots of other potential causes for low supply, but these are the most common.
Ways to Increase Low Supply
Make sure baby is nursing efficiently.
If baby has a tongue tie or a poor latch, they will not remove milk well, which will in turn tell your breasts you need to make less. A lactation professional can help you tweak latch and make sure there is nothing abnormal about baby's oral anatomy.
Babies have a strong desire to suck. This is not always a result of hunger. However, if you are struggling with your supply, you should allow *all* of baby's sucking needs to be met at the breast. This will increase stimulation to your breast which will increase your breastmilk production.
Avoid supplementing unless medically necessary.
See my earlier explanation about supplementing.
The best lactation cookie recipe out there:
Remember. YOU are enough for your baby, and YOU CAN DO THIS!
Kellymom: Increasing Low Supply
The Leaky Boob: Help, my milk supply is low! Or is it?
Breastfeeding Basics: Increasing Your Milk Supply