World Breastfeeding week is celebrated August 1st to 7th every year. This year we at Underpinnings are even more aware as our founder recently became a new mom for the second time and is once again experiencing the joys, and lets be real, the frustrations that can come along with attempting to breastfeed successfully.
In our last blog we talked about how you can enhance your nursing experience. We shared some tips on what you can do to make your experience a more positive one. In this post we speak about a topic that some mothers experience in their breastfeeding journey: worries about supply. At the start, many new moms may be worried that we don’t have a good enough supply to satisfy our child, but often we may just need to settle into a routine, consult our doctors, or break out of certain habits which may be sabotaging our attempt at breastfeeding.
First, let us talk about what are the signs we must look for that indicate that our supply is indeed low. One of the major indicators of low supply is a lack of weight gain. Typically, most infants lose weight after birth; in fact, full term babies may lose over 7% of their birth weight! However, within two weeks babies should at least return to their birth weight and begin to gain an average of 4 to 7 ounces each week. Once you are keeping up with your wellness checks for your baby, your doctor would make a note of if this is in fact occurring. This is also a great opportunity to obtain tips on ensuring that your latch is correct and your nutrition is on point. Many doctors may even suggest that you work with a lactation specialist. If you are in Trinidad and Tobago a great resource for assistance with latching problems or nursing issues for new moms is the Breastfeeding Association of Trinidad and Tobago.
What may cause low supply you may ask? Here are the top reasons:
Supplementing: Initially you may think that the colostrum is not enough, and your baby is constantly wanting to be fed. You may see this as an indicator of low supply (which it is not) and be encouraged to supplement. However, supplementing will cause your baby to breastfeed less frequently if formula has been introduced. Babies’ stomachs are quite small during the first few months of life and therefore they need to be constantly fed; be patient with your young one.
Infrequent feeding: When the time between feedings is too long (upwards of 4 hours for example), the breasts are not stimulated as they should be. This is a signal that the demand for milk is low and the end result is that you would not produce enough milk to adequately nourish your baby.
Short feedings: Feeding for less than 5 mins on each breast would cause the baby to not get the nutritious hind milk and prevents your breasts from being sufficiently drained. When they aren’t drained, they won’t be stimulated to produce more milk.
Pacifiers: The act of sucking on a pacifier may cause some babies to have less inclination to suckle at the breast. Less suckling means less stimulation and therefore low milk supply.
So, what can you do to boost your supply? Here are some easy to follow tips:
Feed on demand: Let your baby set the pace! Feed as often as they wish to feed within the first few months of their lives. This act will sufficiently establish your supply and get you on your way to being able to feed your baby well!
Avoid supplementing: Unless there is a medical reason indicated by your doctor to supplement, if you want to expressly breastfeed, avoid supplementing with formula. Many people suggest supplementing to get babies to sleep, or to fatten them up, however breastfed babies sleep and gain weight just as well as formula-fed babies. Be patient with your babe and follow their lead.
Limit pacifier use: As stated above, pacifiers mimic the act of suckling. This act is a soothing act for babies and if the breast is replaced with a pacifier then they are not stimulated enough to increase the milk supply.
Pump between feedings: Even stay at home mommies can pump! Pumping is an amazing advancement and addition to breastfeeding. It allows you to increase milk production, gives other family members an opportunity to bond with baby, as well as allows you to have a back up supply.
Get rest, eat well and stay hydrated: As we stated in our previous post this is very important. When you are well-fed, well-rested and well-hydrated the milk production increases.
However, if all else fails please talk to your doctor or a lactation specialist. A specialist will give you the support you need to ensure your latch and overall breastfeeding routine is right. Low supply is indeed a concern, but don’t think that you are alone. If it is indeed bothersome, talk to your doctor. In the meantime mama, remember that you are doing fine and are a great mom!