Many mums worry at some point that they don’t have enough breastmilk for their baby. You can’t measure the amount of milk your baby is receiving so it can leave you feeling insecure and wondering.
There are a few myths surrounding this subject, so let us look at these first. The following are NOT indicators that you are producing too little milk;
- The feeling of ‘let down’ is gone. Not everyone feels a strong let down sensation; it doesn’t mean the milk isn’t there. Some mothers say let down can feel like pins & needles, others say it’s painful, or some experience nothing at all.
- If / when you pump milk you get very little. Babies are much more efficient than a pump so don’t rely on measuring the pumped milk as a guide to how much you produce.
- Your breasts feel soft/ softer than they did. Your breasts will adjust the supply to your baby’s needs, the feel of your breasts does not determine the amount of milk.
- Leaky boobs have stopped leaking. This can happen, as above, once your breasts have adjusted to the demand of your baby’s needs.
- Your baby suddenly wants feeding more frequently or seems hungry after feeding. This can be common especially during a growth spurt, they want more milk because they are growing, fast.
- Their dirty nappies are less frequent. This can sometimes happen to breastfed babies, it can mean that there is just no waste. The breastmilk is uniquely made for the growth stage they are at so they may just be using every ounce of it up for their growing.
What are the indicators you may have low breastmilk?
If your baby is not producing wet nappies and not gaining weight then it would be advisable to discuss this with your GP or Health Visitor.
How can you increase your breastmilk naturally?
The best way to improve your milk flow is to ensure you have a nutrient dense diet including lots of healthy fats, drink lots of water and rest as much as you can. These traditional herbs and foods are thought to stimulate lactation and are used in cultures throughout the world:
- Fennel seeds or fenugreek seeds soaked in boiling water to make a tea. You can also add these herbs to cooking sauces like curry.
- Snack on nuts and seeds for protein and healthy fats.
- Sesame seeds / tahini.
- Add warming foods like soups and stews to your diet. Well cooked meat or pulses with root vegetables will nourish you and help milk production.
- Porridge oats with added seeds and coconut oil.
- Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, cavolonero.
- Drinking lots of water through the day
Offer your breast often to your baby
Breastfeeding works by a supply and demand method. The more your baby suckles at your breast the more milk your breasts will produce. If you are worried about lack of milk then offer your breasts more often to give your body the signal to keep producing more milk for your baby.
Using a breastpump can be helpful to increase your milk. The stimulation will trigger more milk to be produced and ejected. This can be done directly after you breastfeed or a regular intervals inbetween. Speak to a lactation consultant to see what works best for your situation.
Skin to skin
Hormones have a huge part to play in breastfeeding. Holding your naked baby against your bare skin is relaxing for both of you and it can help stimulate helpful hormones. Prolactin helps your body produce milk and as you relax and enjoy holding your baby close the hormone oxytocin will help milk be released.
Stress isn’t good for anyone and when those niggles of doubt set in that you aren’t producing enough milk it can make you feel stressed. Cortisol, our stress hormone, doesn’t affect the amount of milk produced but it can impact the initial let down. So, if you find breastfeeding stressful and the let down isn’t triggered your baby may then fuss at the breast which in turn may make you feel more stressed. This negative feedback loop is common can impact on successful breastfeeding.
Oxytocin is responsible for inducing feelings of calm and supports bonding, amongst other things. The hormone is released when the nipples are stimulated by baby suckling, this induces the let down reflex and milk is ejected.
Check your latch
If you’re worrying about low supply do get your feeding position checked by a lactation expert. Your baby may be having problems with the latch and struggling to get milk out of the breast. Even the smallest adjustment can help. Lactation consultants can also check for tongue tie which may interfere with your baby’s latch.
So try whatever you can to feel relaxed. Snuggle in a comfortable position and hold your baby close. You are both learning how to breastfeed together so be kind to yourself, try to relax and breathe.