Why are we so obsessed with milk supply?
When it comes to milk supply, our society often has a “more is better” mentality. The truth is, a freezer stash of milk is not a requirement. It can be difficult to determine if you have a low supply, especially when hormones and anxieties are running high, sleep is running low, and you’re recovering both physically and mentally from your baby’s birth.
If you are worried about your milk supply, it is important to reach out for help as soon as possible. An International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can help you determine the cause of low supply and provide strategies to help you meet your feeding goals.
Honestly, the best way to increase your supply (and have a better overall infant feeding experience) is to get meaningful and individualized support! Low milk supply can be caused by MANY factors. An individualized assessment and care plan is second to none when it comes to achieving your goals.
Your meaningful support can come in the form of an IBCLC (ME!), a postpartum doula, a family member, or friend.
Here are my Top 3 GENERAL tips to Increase Milk Supply:
1: Increase milk supply by: That LATCH needs to be *chef’s kiss* comfortable for YOU
What I mean: don’t persist through a painful latch. When your nipples are bleeding, you are crying through the feed, and you dread every feed actually means your baby is not getting optimal amounts of milk and that you are suffering. Do not be a martyr to a painful latch!
When the latch is painful, unlatch, reposition, and relatch. Try different feeding positions, latch when your baby is still kinda sleepy (look for EARLY FEEDING CUES).
Get your baby assessed for anatomical issues (such as TONGUE TIE) that may be causing latch problems.
2: Increase milk supply by: FREQUENT of feeds/DEMAND feeds/”Watch the baby, not the clock”
You’ve heard it before: the more milk removed causes more milk to be produced. Most newborns breastfeed 10-12 times per 24h. These feeds are not equally spaced apart. Some will be 30min apart, others might be 3h apart. Each feed will last a different length of time. Some feeds last 10min, while others may last 30min. Cluster feeding is very normal, and it helps boost your supply. Some longer stretches between feeds help your baby (and you!) get much-needed rest.
If someone tells you to feed for 20min every 2h around the clock, no matter what: they don’t know what they’re talking about.
3: Increase milk supply by: Taking care of your MENTAL HEALTH
The hormone oxytocin is necessary for your milk ejection reflex (aka Let-Down). Stress, depression, anxiety, pain, and fear all prevent oxytocin from being released by your brain. Please reach out for help (these are very isolating times and your mental health matters!).
Some Important Notes a.k.a. What NOT to do
There is very little scientific data to support the milk-boosting claims of herbal supplements, lactation cookies, and shakes. You could eat an entire bag of cookies and take a bottle of supplements every day (don’t do this, though), but without frequent and effective milk removal, they will not boost production. Always discuss herbal supplements with your doctor before starting.
Breastfeeding and baby-tracking apps are available and promise to help you stay on top of feeding frequency, duration, milk volumes, and all other baby-related things. While these apps can be helpful for some people, they actually promote anxiety and obsessive behaviors in others. It is easy to become preoccupied with logging information in the app. Use these apps with caution. The most important daily numbers you need to be aware of are your baby’s pees and poops. This will tell you if your baby is taking in enough milk on a daily basis.
Is my Baby Eating Enough?
In addition to sufficient pees and poops, your baby’s demeanor is an important aspect to monitor. Does your baby wake for feeds? Are they spending time in calm, awake states? Or are they frequently lethargic, very tired, or very fussy? A baby who wakes for feed frequently, and (usually) seems content and satisfied after feeds is a great sign that you are providing enough milk.
Overall trends in weight gain are very important, and your pediatrician will help guide you. Generally, having your baby weighed once every week or two is sufficient.
There are several ways in which you can work towards boosting your milk supply. Your baby’s ability to latch and remove milk is necessary for continued production! Several other factors can influence milk production and it can take some detective work to figure out the cause of low supply. The most important thing is to be patient with yourself, reach out for help, and protect your mental health. Your baby needs a healthy parent in both mind and body!