First-time and experienced mothers have plenty to be concerned about when caring for newborns or young infants, from sleeping through the night to hitting developmental milestones. One of these worries may be running out of breast milk, also known as low milk supply. Each baby is different, so even mothers who have successfully nursed other children may experience this issue, and brand-new mothers may not know what to expect when it comes to breast milk production.
The good news is that, while running out of milk is possible, it is not very common and is usually linked to a separate medical condition. Let’s look at some of the reasons you may think you are not making enough breast milk as well as signs to look for in your baby that may indicate your production is low.
The Usual Suspects
Breast milk functions on a supply-and-demand basis; the more your baby nurses, the more milk you should produce. Any time you may be concerned about milk supply, you may want to pay attention to you and your baby’s nursing sessions. Here are a few of the nursing issues you may be experiencing that could potentially affect your breast milk.
- Is your baby nursing often enough? Remember that newborns should be at breast every two to three hours, around the clock. Sleepy babies may need some encouragement to wake up and nurse to ensure enough is consumed.
- What about latching on? Babies who have difficulty with latching may not have enough intake, which may result in low milk supply. Check with a lactation specialist, nurse, or pediatrician if you have concerns about your infant’s ability to latch on.
- How long does your baby nurse? It takes around ten minutes or longer to drain each breast, so make sure your infant feeds long enough to get the rich, fatty hind milk that comes towards the end of a nursing session.
- What about growth spurts? Babies undergo rapid periods of growth around three weeks, six weeks, and three, six, and nine months. Those early growth spurts can be frustrating because your baby may demand to feed all the time. Rest assured that your body can keep up with the new demand, but it may take a few days for that to happen.
Luckily, these are all issues that you can identify and resolve quickly to get back on track with your baby.
What if you have addressed the above issues, but you still don’t know if you are running out of breast milk? Look to your baby for indications that your nursing is going well. You know your baby is getting enough milk if you are changing wet diapers regularly throughout the day and night. Is your baby alert and content? Does he or she have a healthy color and skin tone? When crying, does your baby have tears?
A baby that is getting enough to eat can still be fussy, so you should look for physical rather than emotional signs of adequate nutrition. Your pediatrician should track weight gain and growth to ensure your baby is getting the right amount of milk and nutrients. Any concerns with slow weight gain or growth could prompt your doctor to recommend a supplemental formula.
True Low Milk Supply
Some mothers may have medical conditions that impact break milk production, but again, these are the exceptions, not the norm. There may be treatment available that can allow you to increase your breast milk and continue to nurse. Your physician should monitor your health as well to determine if breast is best for you and your baby. Most mothers are not facing these circumstances and should have few if any medical barriers to nursing or breast milk amount.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Here’s one last bit of advice for you if you are unsure about your milk supply: just relax. Being stressed can inhibit your let-down reflex, which in turn can make nursing more difficult for your baby. Stay calm while nursing and know when to seek guidance or assistance if you are still concerned. Besides talking with your doctor or pediatrician, you can also join a nursing support group, schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant, or ask for help from your mom friends who have experience with nursing. With plenty of resources available to you, you should be able to overcome any nursing obstacles and find breast success.