Are you struggling to increase your milk supply?
Let me tell you something. You are not alone.
In fact, a recent study has stated that:
So, what do you do, then? Are you… taking milk-booster supplement, hoping that suddenly you will get overflow of milk?
Stop, you may have taken a wrong action.
There are primary and secondary reasons that may cause low milk supply. And without addressing the true causes, taking supplements won’t take you anywhere. Yes, you should addressing the causes first, before frantically taking all supplements that you could.
In this article, you will learn to identify what causes your low milk supply in breastfeeding.
Since it will be a pretty long explanation to cover it all, I’ve made this into a 4-part article series.
- Part 1: 5 things you do which may cause low milk supply in breastfeeding
- Part 2: 5 MORE things that you do which may cause milk production issue
- Part 3: Issues with your baby which may affect your milk production
- Part 4: Issues with your body which may cause low milk supply
Ok, let’s start by revisiting milk supply equation (if you don’t understand what equation is this, you should read this article first.
To have a good milk production, you need to have the following:
- Sufficient glandular tissue and intact nerves pathway and ducts
- Sufficient hormone and hormone receptors
- Effective and sufficient milk removal from breast
If any of this is lacking, you may have problem with your supply.
In general, there are two factors that can contribute to low milk supply:
- Primary factors, which are caused by your body or your baby’s body
- Secondary factors, which are caused by what do you do or what did baby do.
Fortunately, majority of low milk supply cases was caused by the secondary factors, and the good news is, most of them are curable.
Let’s list out some typical secondary causes that may be created by YOU.
Five things YOU do that may cause low milk supply
#1 Clock-based feeding
This include scheduled feeding, for instance, nursing baby every 3 hours, and timing how long baby should be put at breast, e.g. 10 minutes per breast.
If you read my last article on breastfeeding myths, I’ve given a clear example on why different babies would have different feeding schedules due to mother’s milk storage capacity.
Additionally, in the early days after birth, it is crucial to give baby all time access to the breast, so as to stimulate frequent milk removal and boosting up milk production.
How long a baby nurse in each session also varies across babies. It is not wise to stop nursing after 10 minutes, assuming that baby should have gotten all milk he needs.
Nancy Mohrbahrer, IBLCC give a clear example on her recent article about clock-based feeding.
She happened to check breastfeeding progress on two newborn babies (less than 1 week old) at the same day. One baby actually needs 10 minutes to get 2 oz of breast milk, whereas the second baby needs 55 minutes to get the same amount of milk.
Look at the difference!
10 vs 55 minutes for the same amount of milk!
Another thing you need to know is that every baby has different attitude when it comes to nursing. Some babies are highly effective nursers who finish feeding in 5 minutes, while some other are more laid back and prefer to ‘enjoy’ nursing session leisurely.
My daughter belongs to the second group. Therefore, I couldn’t rush her to quickly finish her feeding. She just can’t… It’s just the way she is.
If I can’t even ask my 21-month daughter to quickly finish nursing, how could you do that for much younger baby.
So again, remember to feed the baby based on his cue, not based clock*.
*Exception to be made is baby is too weak/to sleepy, you need to wake him up more often -e.g. 2 hourly- to get him fed).
#2 Skip night time feeding to get more rest
I can totally understand that a new mom needs a lot of rest. I recalled that early days with newborn is the most sleep-deprived phase of my life and having a good quality sleep is a luxury.
However, please be understand that your newborn needs to nurse regularly (most suggest every 2-3 hours). At night, he may sleep a little longer (perhaps a 4-hour stretch), but try not to skip his feeding.
Here are a few tips to make night-time feeding easier:
- Co-sleep with your baby. With your baby close to you, you are likely to wake up as soon as he starts crying for feed. You don’t need to go down from your bed to take your baby from crib and put him back again. Less energy spent.
- Learn nursing in side-lying position. I learnt my lesson with my first baby. I was afraid to nurse while lying down, the position was awkward, and I ended up falling asleep while sitting on sofa every night at the very first month, because the moment I put my baby in the crib, he would start crying. It.is.tiring, trust me. With my second baby, I was determined to learn nursing while sleeping right at the hospital. My baby still wanted to be in my lap at the first 3 day after discharging from hospital, but gradually she’s used to sleep on a bed with me. Win-win solution. I could easily nurse my daughter lying down and continue my dream.
#3 Unnecessary supplementation
Perhaps you’re worried your baby may not get enough milk from you. Or perhaps it is your family who pushed you to supplement your baby. Whatever the reason is, introducing unnecessary supplementation may ruin your milk supply. Baby feels contented with supplementation, yes, but then your breast receives less stimulation, signaling that it should produce less milk.
And if you continue to introduce more and more supplementations, don’t be surprised if your milk supply can diminish very quickly in a matter of days.
#4 Too busy taking care of other children or household chores
When you are the only one in charge of the household, you may be tempted to do ‘just one more thing’ before nursing your baby. And these ‘things’ get multipled, and suddenly you realized that you’ve passed one feeding session, less stimulation on breast, less milk produced.
Here are a few tips to juggle between nursing a newborn and taking care of other kids and household:
- Admit that your newborn needs you the most, especially at the first two weeks of his life. Anything else can take a back seat. Take a babymoon for these two weeks (the most important part of milk production stage is happening in this time) and focus on nourishing your newborn and yourself.
- Accept helps. From spouse, parents, neighbors, anyone. They offer you to make dinner? Yes, please. They offer you to take the big brother playing outside? My pleasure. It’s not the time of being a perfect mom that can do everything by yourself. Please, accept helps from others.
- Prepare anything ahead. If helps are not available, prepare way ahead. Before the baby due, prepare at least one-month worth freezer meals that you can simply take out from freezer, defrost, warm, and eat. If you have elder kids, prepare some activities to help them occupied while you are busy with the newborn. New toys, new videos, new books, it’s up to you.
- Learn nursing on baby carrier. This is my savior! When all else fails, your food has yet to be cooked or your elder child badly needs your attention, I’ll wear my baby using my favorite baby carrier and nurse her in it while entertaining my toddler. It may take some time to learn nursing in a carrier, but once you master it, you’ll be glad you know how to do it. I personally love using a short wrap (I have a hands-me-down wrap that my mom used to carry my 25-year-old younger brother), but I understand different mothers have different preferences on baby carrier. For newborn phase, stretchy wrap like Boba and ring sling are popular choices.
#5 Giving your baby pacifier
“This baby is just comfort suckling from your breast, she’s not actually nursing.”
Have you ever heard this comment when your baby constantly nursing at your breast?
Or maybe another one: “She uses your breast as a pacifier. Don’t let her do it. Give her a pacifier instead.”
Is that true?
How do you know that your baby is just nursing for comfort?
How do you know that your baby does not take any milk?
Will it justify your reasoning to just give baby pacifier because he’s actually not drinking milk?
Frequent nursing is often regarded as pacifying with breast.
But the truth is, as I said earlier, baby is telling mother’s breast to make more milk, adjusting to his gradual increase of milk demand.
So, please stop giving your baby pacifier in his early days. Let him tell you whether he needs more milk by nursing at your breast.
Alright, I’ve covered 5 things that you do that may cause your low milk supply. Read further on 5 more things that you do which may cause low milk supply issue.
Have you experienced low milk supply issue before? After reading this list, could you relate to any of the things I’ve listed above? If you haven’t found any, that’s fine. More things to come in part 2 of this series.