You might wonder whether your baby is getting enough milk during the first few months of breastfeeding. When you bottle-feed, it is easy to tell if your child is getting enough milk and nutrients. However, if your baby is entirely nursing, you're estimating if they are drinking enough milk.
No matter how smoothly things appear to be going, you may wonder whether your milk supply is meeting your growing baby's needs at some point. In fact, your milk supply might be declining.
Below are some tips on determining when your milk supply is decreasing and what you can do if that is the case.
Signs Your Milk Supply Is Low
Before we discuss why your milk supply is low, you should know the signs of it. Some of the signs your child is not getting enough milk is below:
- Your baby is not producing enough wet diapers
- Your baby is not gaining weight (or is losing weight)
- Your baby is showing signs of dehydration
Now that you know the signs that your milk supply is low let's get into why it is happening.
Why Is Your Milk Supply Decreasing
There are plenty of reasons why your milk supply may be decreasing, and it can be a combination of factors. Below are the ten most common reasons why your milk supply is low.
1. You Miss Your Pumping Sessions
You might decide to skip a couple of your pumping sessions since you have some milk supply in the fridge. However, sometimes you have to skip the session due to going back to work, or you're just too tired to do it. Although if you continue to miss your pumping sessions, it can continue to decrease your milk supply.
2. Your Bundle of Joy Is Sleeping Too Much at Night
Your baby has finally started sleeping through the night, and of course, you're beyond excited about getting the much-needed rest that you deserve. However, your little one change in sleep schedule may be making your milk supply lower.
If, by chance, you stay up a little later than your child, then wake them up to have a small feeding session so your milk supply will remain full.
3. You're Pregnant Again
Sometimes women's first sign of pregnancy again is their milk supply is low. This is because the hormonal shifts of pregnancy cause a change in a woman's milk supply. If you're showing other signs of pregnancy, be sure to take a test to see if you are pregnant.
4. Your Child Is Eating Solid Foods
Who would have thought that your baby's milestones would cause your milk supply to change? For example, once your baby begins to eat solids, they will need less milk, so that the amount will decrease.
Often once they start eating solid foods, babies will begin to sleep more throughout the night. Around the age of six months, it is natural to see a decrease in your milk supply.
5. Underdeveloped Glandular Tissue
Sometimes a woman's breasts do not develop correctly and produce enough milk ducts to match their baby's needs. The milk ducts grow in pregnancy, and during breastfeeding sessions, it will stimulate the ducts to grow more.
As you will see below, you can do things to increase your milk supply, but you might have to supplement the low milk supply with formula. If this happens, don't feel bad, as even a tiny amount of breast milk will boost your baby's immune system and keep them strong.
6. You Are on Your Period
Just as if you were pregnant, the hormonal shift of your period can decrease your milk supply. Also, many women notice there is a decrease in their milk supply when their period comes on.
If you notice that your milk supply is reduced during your period, you might have a low calcium level in your body; you can overcome this by taking a calcium/magnesium supplement. You can start taking the supplement when your periods are about two weeks away, usually around the time of ovulation.
7. Your Child Is on the Pacifier
You make milk continuously, but how much you make depends on how empty your breasts are. So when your breasts are near bare, you'll make more milk, and when they're already full, you'll make less milk.
You will have fuller breasts for longer if your baby infrequently feeds, like if he is on a three- or four-hour schedule, or using a pacifier to extend the time between feedings. Therefore, milk production decreases.
Breastfeeding in response to the baby's cues results in shorter, more frequent feedings, and hence the breasts remain fuller most of the time, and they'll continue to produce a lot of milk.
8. You Are on a Hormonal Birth Control Pill
Sometimes, when a mother starts taking birth control, their milk supply is not affected by its hormones. However, some mothers' milk supply decreases when they take birth control.
If you know that birth control is the culprit of your milk supply being low, then consider talking to your doctor if you can change it. Mothers often boost milk production by stopping birth control use altogether.
9. Your Little One Is Struggling to Latch On
There's a chance the problem is not from a low milk supply, but it could be your baby is struggling to latch on properly. Maybe your baby is suffering from a tongue-tie that keeps them from receiving the milk and nutrients from your milk.
Because the baby's tongue is being held too tight by a thin membrane in their mouth, they cannot utilize it properly to extract milk with their mouth. You may not know but, a baby does not suck milk out of your breast. Instead, they compress the breast and force the milk into their mouth with their tongue.
Most babies' restricting membranes are visible, but some babies' restricting membranes are situated at the back of the tongue, making identification more challenging. Try to observe your baby sticking their tongue out and making contact with the roof of their mouth when they are crying.
10. Supplementing with Formula
A formula supplement will tell your breasts to produce less milk during the first few weeks after birth. This is because, in the early weeks, your breast will respond to how much milk is removed and produce what is needed. If less milk is removed, your breast will assume the milk is not required and make less.
How to Increase Milk Supply
As you can see, milk production is a demand and supply process. The key to speed milk production and increase the overall milk supply is to remove more milk from the breast and to do it frequently. Below are some of the ways you can increase your milk supply
- Make sure your baby is nursing efficiently
- Nurse frequently
- Be sure to offer both breasts to your baby
- Make sure to switch sides 3-4 times during feedings
- Avoid pacifiers and bottles when possible
- Try to give your baby only breast milk for the first six months of their lives
- Always remember to take care of yourself by eating healthy and drinking enough water
- Pump in between sessions
You can also use a milk supply booster to help naturally increase your milk supply. These are herbal supplements or foods you can buy at your local grocery store. You can eat oatmeal, fennel seeds, and lean meats to boost your milk supply naturally.
The Takeaway on Milk Supply
There's no need to give up breastfeeding if you note a decrease in milk production. Instead, observe whether it is decreasing, and apply some of the ideas above to begin combating any problems.
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