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Low Milk Supply – Myth or Reality?

Every nursing mother worries about her milk production and at some point wonders if she has low milk supply. I did…multiple times.

Woman’s body has a perfect milk-producing mechanism build in. Baby's sucking trains this mechanism to work according to his/her nutritive needs.

It is a supply-demand system. More milk OUT, more milk IN. That’s why in most cases low milk supply is not a true problem and requires some minor adjustments in feeding routine or woman’s lifestyle.

If you question your milk supply, here is what you need to consider:

Find out how to test your milk supply

     Weight loss. During the first 7 days of life babies may lose up to 7% of their birth weight.* It is absolutely normal.

Babies are born with extra fat and fluids to help them transition from mom’s body into the world. These extra fat and fluids are discharged during the first week of life. Some of it leaves the body with meconium.

After this week consistent weight gain should be established:

  • birth weight is re-gained by the end of week two
  • then ½ to 1 ounce should be gained every day during the first 3 months
  • then ½ ounce a day should be gained between months 3 and 6

     Weight Percentile. When you take your baby for his/her first appointment with the pediatrician, the doctor will weigh your baby. He will tell you or give you a sheet with all the metrics, including weight percentile.

Weight percentile was my constant concern with my son. Read more here. However, it is not so much the percentile itself that is ultimately important. But that the weight follows a curve.

Ask your doctor to show you infant growth chart and explain how it works. My son’s percentile was dropping with every visit, but it was still normal, because it followed the weight curve.

     Wet diapers. During the first month your baby will have at least 6 wet diapers daily. The urine should be clear. Dark yellow color means that your baby needs higher liquid intake.

     Bowel movements. During the first month your baby will have at least 3 bowel movements a day. Most babies have bowel movements after every feeding.

After the release of meconium (baby’s first stool), the stool will change from black (meconium) to brown, and then finally to the color and consistency of mustard. It signifies the onset of high-calorie hindmilk.

     Breast Fullness. Your breasts should get full before every feeding. They may even start to leak.

     Swallowing. You should hear your baby swallow after every suck or two.

     Complexion. Baby should have a healthy looking skin.

     Behavior. Your baby should be alert between naps and seem satisfied after the feeding. It should demonstrate normal newborn behavior: eat, sleep, and cry.

     Feeding pattern. Feeding on demand comes highly recommended by breastfeeding experts. Even with that your baby will form a feeding schedule by the end of the first month. An average newborn eats every two hours.

Important: Keep in mind that your baby is going through regular growth spurts. During these spurts the feeding pattern changes and the baby nurses longer and more often.

This insures increased milk supply to meet the increased milk demand caused by the growth spurt. This is absolutely normal. Don’t interpret these periods as low milk supply!

If any of these points seem out of balance, do a quick check of the following:

  1. Position your baby correctly. Click here for instructions on how to do this.
  2. Do not supplement with water or formula.
  3. Do not give your baby pacifier (at least until lactation stabilizes).
  4. Nurse on demand.
  5. Let your baby nurse for as long as he/she wants at least until lactation stabilizes.
  6. Do not let anyone put any type of pressure on you. Ignore every negative and discouraging comment. Only you and your baby know best.

Test Your Milk Supply

If everything mentioned above seems in norm, but your milk supply is still low, test it.

Test 1

Weigh your baby before the feeding on an electronic scale. Feed the baby. Weigh the baby again on the same scale.

Make sure you don’t remove any clothing or change the diaper after the first weighing. The difference between two weights is how much milk your baby consumed.

Ask your pediatrician if this is a sufficient milk amount for baby’s age and weight.

Test 2

At your baby’s feeding time pump both of your breasts. Then feed pumped milk to your baby.

Ask your pediatrician if this is a sufficient milk amount for baby’s age and weight.

If all this makes you and your doctor suspect true low milk supply, here is what you can do:

Here is a list of methods to increase milk supply. 

Here is a list of non-traditional methods that I used and loved

* Source: "Caring for Your Baby and Young Child", by American Academy of Pediatrics

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