Low milk supply is a common occurrence for many nursing mothers. Some factors of milk production are outside a person’s control. However, others, such as ensuring your baby has a good latch and frequent breastfeeding, can maintain and increase breast milk supply. If you have a low milk supply or are worried about your baby’s weight gain, this article will answer questions about increasing your breast milk and ensuring you’re amply producing and pumping breast milk!
What is Low Milk Supply, and Why Does it Happen?
Low milk supply is when a breastfeeding mother isn’t producing enough milk to meet her baby’s nutritional needs. Even though many moms worry that they’re not producing enough milk, chances are your body is doing exactly what it needs!
Women who drink alcohol and smoke, have had breast surgery (cosmetic or medical), are sleep deprived, and take birth control or other medicines are at the highest risk of having low milk supply.
Additionally, introducing solids before your baby is 4-6 months old, using baby formula in place of feedings, and limiting your baby’s feeding sessions also increase the chance of making less milk.
It’s best to breastfeed babies on demand, but it’s hard to remember when they last ate and how much. Use the Baby Daybook Feeding Tracker to record your baby’s feeding sessions and how long they ate.
Lastly, babies who don’t develop a good latch, are not in a good breastfeeding position, or are one or lip-tied may lead to low milk supply.
Recognizing Low-Milk Supply
The number one indicator that your milk production is low is your baby’s weight gain and mood. If your little one is not gaining weight adequately and is showing signs of dehydration, it’s time to talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant.
Signs of Dehydration
- Tearless crying
- Extreme sleepiness (your baby is not waking up on their own to eat) or lethargy when awake
- Concentrated/dark urine
- Sunken fontanelle
- Sunken eyes
- Dry mouth
- Dry mucus membranes
- Dry skin
Another sign you might need to increase your milk supply is low diaper count. During the first three to four days of your baby’s life, there will be only a handful of dirty or wet diapers daily. By day five, you should see 3-4+ poopy diapers and 5-6+ wet diapers. Likewise, your baby will probably lose 7-10% of its birth weight the first few days; however, after a few days, around the same time their diaper count tics up, they should steadily gain weight.
The good news is you don’t need to stress at home and try to weigh your baby daily. Your little one will have a check-up three to five days after birth, then again at 1, 2, and 4 months old.
When Not to Worry
Some of the things women mistake as low milk production are natural occurrences in our changing bodies postpartum or our baby’s growth and development.
- Having a fussy baby (baby’s fuss even with a full belly)
- Your baby wants to nurse often. Frequent breastfeeding is normal with a newborn. Newborns commonly eat every 1.5-2 hours, but it can be as little as 45 minutes between feedings.
- Your breasts don’t leak any milk, or they suddenly stop leaking.
- Your breasts feel softer than they used to. Your breast will likely soften once your full milk supply comes in.
- When pumping breast milk after nursing, there is none or only a little milk left; the amount of leftover milk doesn’t indicate your overall milk production.
- Your baby suddenly increases their eating frequency. They could be experiencing a growth spurt!
Tips to Increase Milk Supply
If you need to increase your milk supply, the first step is to speak with your doctor or child’s pediatrician or seek professional help from a lactation consultant. The American Pregnancy Association advises it is unsafe to take any supplements without the express consent of your doctor since many substances can travel through mild to your baby.
If you do indeed need an increased breast milk supply, your doctor or lactation professional will work with you to address your specific needs, such as latch, positioning, and making sure you and the baby are both comfortable.
Your doctor or consultant may also recommend specific foods to increase breast milk supply.
- Blessed Thistle
- Sesame seeds
- Goat’s Rue
- Leafy green vegetables
- Garlic, onions, and mint may change your breast milk’s taste, encouraging your baby to suckle more, which will help boost your supply.
Additional Milk Boosting Tips
- On-demand feeding. Frequent breastfeeding can boost milk supply. Your baby should be eating 8-12 times in 24 hours. Use the Baby Daybook Feeding Tracker to ensure your baby is eating enough.
- Pump after your baby finishes eating or between feedings. Pumping breast milk in addition to what your baby needs can “trick” your body into thinking it needs to produce more milk.
- Promote skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby. It boosts your hormones and helps both of you bond.
- Offer both breasts at each feeding.
- Lower your stress levels and get adequate sleep.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking.
- Drink lots of water and keep a beverage nearby when nursing.
Worrying about milk supply is a common concern among new mothers. But thankfully, despite our fears, our bodies usually do just what our baby needs! If you notice your baby is cranky, lethargic, or not producing many wet diapers, it’s time to call a professional. Boosting your milk supply is often as easy as increasing the amount of feedings or fixing your baby’s latch!
American Pregnancy Association. Do I Have a Low Milk Supply? americanpregnancy.org [Accessed January 2024]
BabyCenter (2023). Your baby’s checkup schedule: What to expect at doctor visits. www.babycenter.com [Accessed January 2024]
Cleveland Clinic (2021). Lactation Consultant. my.clevelandclinic.org [Accessed January 2024]