It’s common for first-time moms not to have enough milk, and this might be the main reason for not sticking to breastfeeding.
Every baby is different; how much and how long a baby drinks vary greatly. A newborn may drink anywhere from 40-90 ml of milk; at 4 months, they drink around 120-180 ml; and by 6 months, around 180-240 ml. The frequency of feeding also varies greatly, from 4 times to up to 13 times a day. And a nursing session can be from as short as 12 minutes to as long as an hour.
Worrying signs of low milk supply
Having small breasts, no leakages of breast milk, or not producing much milk from pumping do not mean you have a low supply. Low milk supply can be a concern when you see that your child is not thriving. Here are a few alarming signs:
- Your baby has not gained back the birth weight after 2 weeks
- Their skin tone turns yellowish — a possible sign of jaundice
- They produce very few dirty diapers, and the urine or stool are dark in color — a sign of dehydration
Ways to make sure you have enough milk for your baby
There are a few things you can do every day to make sure your body is producing an adequate supply of milk for your child to grow healthily.
- Consistent feeding: Your body normally will not start producing milk until 3-5 days after birth. However, it is important to stimulate milk production right after birth so there is milk to ‘come in’ in these next few days. Try to feed your baby often, preferably every 2-3 hours during the first few months. If the baby hasn’t learned to suck properly, you can start expressing milk early to stimulate milk production — options include the hand expressing method, a manual breast pump, or an electric breast pump.
- Drink water and eat healthily: Nursing moms are easily dehydrated, and the body burns extra 500 calories from breastfeeding. To make sure your body gets enough nutrients it needs to produce healthy milk, eat a variety of foods but keep to healthy diets. And to compensate for the water used to produce milk, drink plenty of fluids throughout the day — the rule of thumb is to drink 240 ml of water per nursing session.
- Rest and no stress: Being close to your baby makes your body release prolactin — the hormone that signals the body to keep producing milk. So, sleeping or even napping with your baby helps with milk production. Stress releases cortisol, which interferes with the production of the breastfeeding hormone, oxytocin. This hormone triggers the let-down reflex in your breasts. Without oxytocin, your breasts will not be stimulated to eject milk through the ducts. So, try to relax and avoid highly stressful situations, if possible.
- Empty breasts: In every feeding, your baby should feed long enough until a breast is empty, and if they need to, continue with the other breast. Empty breasts are important in maintaining milk production. Think of it like this: if there is less space to fill, there is less need to keep producing as much. When your baby is done with one breast, try to offer the second breast to see if the baby takes it. If the baby seems content after finishing the first breast, you can express from another side to keep the body producing milk and store that milk for later use. You can increase milk supply by emptying your breasts through feeding or pumping frequently.
If you continue to have problems with low milk production, talk to your doctor or a lactation professional — they may recommend alternative practices, such as breast massages, dietary recommendations, or some adjustments to your current routines.