This is the second part of a two-part series on common breastfeeding fears. Last month, we tackled fear of pain relating to breastfeeding. This month, we are taking a look at fear of low supply:
There are so many causes of low supply. Sometimes, it’s missed feedings or inefficient feedings in the early weeks of milk supply development. It could be missed pumping sessions when mom is separated from baby. Sometimes, it’s a shallow latch, reducing milk transfer. It could be a sleepy baby or a baby with a tongue-tie. It could be related to a medical condition on mom’s part or insufficient glandular tissue. So many causes but an avoidable one is inefficient and/or inadequate feedings in the early days of milk supply establishment. Here are some tips to help build an ample milk supply:
Feed often and feed well: Newborns eat often. They are growing quickly and have tiny tummies. It is typical for a newborn to eat 10-12 times in 24 hours and feedings can last from 10-40 minutes. This frequency and length can make you feel like you are nursing all the time. But this is normal! Newborns eat this much to help with their growth! As their stomachs grow, the feedings will eventually start to space out. Also as they get older, they become more efficient at feedings and feedings do get shorter. For now, as tiring as it is, know that the frequent feedings are a good thing in building a solid milk supply.(If your newborn is nursing more often than this or the feedings are typically less than 10 minutes or more than 40 minutes, reach out to a lactation consultant as these can be red flags.)
Follow your baby’s feeding cues. For a newborn, this could include:
Chewing or sucking on hands
Licking or smacking lips
Rooting (when your baby turns his head towards a touch on his cheek or chin)
Feeding by the clock ignores your baby’s feeding cues. Your baby knows best as to when he is hungry. Making him wait until a certain time won’t teach your baby not to be hungry. It will just make him even hungrier
Avoid unnecessary topping off of feedings: Topping off feedings seems like a good idea: you can’t see how much your baby is getting from the breast, so giving an ounce or two of expressed milk or formula after every feeding can help with peace of mind. However, this can actually have a negative impact on your supply. When you do this, your body doesn’t realize that instead of 2oz, your baby ate 3oz. Now there’s a discrepancy between what your body thought was eaten and what was actually eaten. If this continues, you will end up producing less than what is actually needed.
Ensure a Deep Latch: A shallow latch can affect supply for several reasons. First, when your baby is just on the nipple, not as much milk can come out. It’s like trying to drink through a pinched straw. The milk ducts just aren’t being expressed properly. My new favorite video (https://globalhealthmedia.org/portfolio-items/attaching-your-baby-at-the-breast/?portfolioID=5623 ) shows exactly how differently milk is expressed between just the nipple and a deeper latch (you can see this around 50 seconds). Secondly, your baby is working hard to get the milk out in this less-than-optimal latch and tiring themselves out for very little return. Your baby might not finish a feeding because of how tired they have become. Because milk is remaining in the breast, your body thinks it is overproducing and lowers supply. It can become a vicious cycle.
If you have concerns about your supply, reach out to your local lactation consultant. Together, you can come up with a game plan and work together to build your supply if needed.