How will I know if I’m producing enough breastmilk?It’s quite normal to worry about your milk supply when you start breastfeeding. You’re not alone. Many mums worry about how much milk they are making, whether their baby is getting enough to his needs and how they can increase lactation.
The best indication that you’re producing enough milk is that your baby is putting on weight and growing along his growth curve. It’s normal for a newborn to lose weight in the first few days, but then start to put on weight again three to five days after birth. Babies usually go back to their birth weight by the time they are 14 days old.
How to Increase Lactation
Consume a minimum of 1,800 calories a day and drink at least 6 glasses of fluids while you are lactating. If you’re currently dieting, it could be decreasing your milk production. Unsurprisingly, what you eat has a big impact on the quality and quantity of the milk produced. Here are some general guidelines for you to remember about diet and breast milk:
- Find excellent sources of calcium. These will help your little baby’s little bones grow healthy and strong. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products (opt for organic dairy products, however), leafy green vegetables, and certain fish (sardines and salmon).
- Eat fruits and vegetables. Make fruits and vegetables a big part of your diet, as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Opt for complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs are healthier than processed carbs, which you may by and large avoid. Complex carbs include such things as whole-grain pasta and bread, as well as beans.
- Opt for lean meat. Lean meat is better than fatty cuts. Think skinless chicken breast, fish, low-fat dairy products, and soy products.
- Supplement feedings with pumping.Pumping is beneficial for two reasons. First, pumping allows you to store breast milk when your baby doesn’t need it, allowing you amass and store more expressed milk. Second, pumping stimulates the production of more breast milk
- Whether you are at work or at home, consider pumping for 15 minutes every couple of hours. Either that, or pump for 5 to 10 minutes after nursing. Pumping at least 8 times during a 24-hour period will help to quickly increase breast milk production. If you can’t pump immediately after nursing, try to pump halfway in between feedings.
- Pump both breasts at the same time. Pumping both breasts will give you twice as much breast milk twice as fast in addition to helping stimulate more production.
- Limit the use of pacifiers and bottles while you’re trying to make more breast milk.This makes sure all your baby’s sucking needs are met at the breast. As the baby gets older, it will be easier for him to go back and forth from breast to pacifier without you losing important breast stimulation. If you are using bottles for supplementing, try to replace those with a syringe or spoon.
- Loads of stress can hurt your ability to produce milk. Try to relax before pumping or breastfeeding by playing soothing music, looking at pictures that produce happiness etc.
- If you want to, try putting warm compresses on your breasts or massaging them for a short period right before you intend to pump or breastfeed.
- Allow your baby to nurse frequently for as long as he wants.The more often your breasts are stimulated, the more milk your body makes. At least 8 feedings in a 24-hour period is ideal, more if possible. If you normally feed on a set schedule, allow the baby to feed on demand to increase your breast milk production.
- Offer your baby both breasts at every feeding to let your body know to make more breast milk.Switch breasts as soon as your baby slows down. It’s best if you can switch again and offer each breast twice during a single feeding session. Let your baby nurse for as long as possible-until he falls asleep or detaches.
- Try taking a nursing vacation. For a day or two, take your baby to bed with you and do nothing but nurse when the urge hits your baby. Of course, you get to go to the kitchen and the bathroom and hit other motherly duties, but this vacation is all about you and your newborn.
- During this vacation, take advantage of nap nursing, which is exactly what it sounds: sleeping with your baby ever-close to his favorite food. This relaxes both mother and child. It also increases the stimulation of milk-producing hormones.
- Avoid solids:If the baby is younger than six months, avoid feeding her solids, water, and formula.
- Rest well:Besides eating well, rest well. Consume well-balanced diet and more liquids.
- Stay away from alcohol and nicotine: Alcohol and nicotine consumption are harmful not only during but also after pregnancy when you are nursing your little one. Nicotine and alcohol restrict the breast milk supply. These substances can pass into your baby’s body through breast milk and trigger developmental problems.
- Check your medication:If you are taking medicines, find out from your doctor if they are interfering with your milk production. Avoid using hormonal contraceptives right after your delivery.
- Use the right bra:Wearing a tight bra that compresses your chest region or one that is rigid around the band can affect milk flow. The wrong bra can lead to clogged ducts, blocking milk production.
- Breast massage:Massaging your breast will help open blocked ducts, besides loosening hardened areas or lumps. It does not increase milk production but allows easy flow of milk. It may even lessen the risk of mastitis. Massage gently on the breasts and do it yourself as you can judge the pressure applied:
- Nurse skin-to-skin:Go skin-to-skin while nursing . Take off your clothes from the upper part of the body and leave your baby in a diaper, while nursing. Wrap a blanket covering both of you together and begin breastfeeding. The technique promotes bonding and helps in releasing more milk-producing hormones.
- Drinking water and juices is supposed to boost lactation. It increases the total milk volume per feed.It prevents you from dehydration and replaces fluid lost during lactation
- Galactagogues-These are foods, herbs or medications that may help to increase breastmilk supply. The use of a galactagogue requires consultation with a lactation consultant and/or medical adviser.e.g Metoclopramide is a prescription drug used to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Metoclopramide has been used for nearly three decades to increase breastmilk production. However, it crosses the blood-brain barrier. This means that metoclopramide has the potential to cause central nervous system side effects such as restlessness, drowsiness, fatigue and depression.
Do I need to eat or drink more to make enough breastmilk?
That depends on whether you were a normal BMI before you got pregnant and how much weight you put on during pregnancy. If you were underweight or a normal weight before you got pregnant, you might be recommended to eat a little more than usual to meet the calorie needs of breastfeeding. If on the other hand you were overweight before getting pregnant and put on the expected weight during your pregnancy, you might not need extra calories at all. Your doctor will be able to guide you as to whether you need extra calories or not.
The general recommendation is to be guided by your appetite, and eat when you’re hungry. Your body is very efficient at producing milk and may have laid down fat stores during pregnancy that can now be used up in making breastmilk.
You only need to drink enough to satisfy your thirst while you’re breastfeeding. Drinking lots of water, or being thirsty, won’t affect your milk supply. Your body is very good at regulating its reserves to keep your milk supply going.
However, bear in mind that during breastfeeding your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel thirsty. So keep a glass of water nearby when you’re breastfeeding.
You should continue with the healthy and varied diet that you may have adopted during your pregnancy. This will provide you with most of the nutrients your body and baby need. However, lactating women are advised to take a daily supplements of iron, folic acid, vitamin B and calcium. Your doctor will advise you on which supplements you need after examining your diet and will tell you the right dose.
Things To Avoid:
Avoid gas-generating foods such as potato, pulses, raw mango and raw banana.
Other foods such as thyme, parsley, peppermint and cabbage leaves are also said to affect your milk production adversely.
If you are a vegan, take nutrient supplements to make sure that you and your baby are not falling short of the essential vitamins and minerals.
Here are other signs that your baby is getting enough milk:
- Breastfeeding feels comfortable and painless.
- Your newborn is feeding at least six to eight times a day and is content after a feed.
- Your breasts feel emptier and softer after feeds.
- You can see and hear your baby swallow while he is feeding.
- Your baby comes off your breast spontaneously when he’s finished.
- Your baby passes urine at least seven times in 24 hours and when he passes stool, it is yellow with little lumps of what looks like curdled milk. An exclusively breastfed baby can poo several times a day or only once in five days; both situations are considered normal.
In most cases of suspected low milk supply, the real problem is not about how much milk you have, but how much milk your baby is able to get. Make sure that your baby latches on well so that he is able to effectively extract the milk you have.
Breastfeeding your baby frequently and on demand is important in helping you establish and maintain good milk supply. If your newborn is very sleepy, you may need to wake him and gently encourage him to feed more often. This will stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
Your body adapts milk production to the amount being demanded. So if you start supplementing your milk with formula or other supplements, your milk supply will go down. The more you feed your baby, the more milk your body will produce.
If you are at all worried about your baby’s weight gain or feel that you are indeed not producing enough breast milk, it is best to speak to your doctor. She will be able to give you advice or offer treatment as required.