You have heard that 'breast is best' when feeding your baby, and you are doing your best to breastfeed your baby. However, you may have concerns about being able to produce enough milk for your baby. What are your options if you think your baby is not getting enough milk through breastfeeding? Should you add the formula, stop breastfeeding, or take something to help you produce more milk? Continue reading to learn more about ways to increase breast milk supply.
Breast milk production is all about supply and demand.
More mothers think they have a breast milk production issue than actually do.
Stressing about not having enough milk can prevent your baby from getting your milk.
Many cultures use galactagogues, but food and herbs can be used as natural galactagogues.
There are many clues that indicate your baby is getting enough breast milk.
Doctors recommend that your baby be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. However, to feed your baby only breastmilk for the first six months, you need to produce increasing amounts of breast milk as your baby grows. Frequently breastfeeding is the best way to produce larger quantities of breast milk. Or, if necessary, you can pump to keep up your breast milk supply.
Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand situation. If the demand decreases, so does the supply. For example, if you are concerned that you are not producing enough milk for your baby and so start adding formula, you will begin to produce less milk.
Is my baby getting enough breast milk?
There are several ways to determine whether or not your baby is getting enough breast milk. For example, you can weigh your baby before and after breastfeeding. The weight change indicates the amount of breast milk your baby consumed. However, this is not recommended for several reasons. First, don't over-focus on your milk production — don't unnecessarily stress over the milk volume your baby is getting. That type of stress while breastfeeding can cause you to release less milk, and additionally, your baby can sense that tension, which can stop them from feeding well.
Also, the amount of milk your baby needs will fluctuate, which can introduce more tension to breastfeeding. Remember, you will need to produce larger quantities of milk as your baby grows. To produce more milk, breastfeed the baby more often until your supply meets your baby's needs. It is common for babies to require more breast milk while going through a growth spurt.
Growth spurts often cause the mother to worry that she is not producing enough milk — and in reality, she isn’t. This is why your baby wants to feed more often, so the milk supply increases to meet your baby’s needs.
However, one way to recognize if your baby is getting enough breast milk is if your baby outgrows their clothes. Additionally, if your baby has frequent wet diapers and several bowel movements every day, or if your breasts soften during breastfeeding and your baby seems content at the end of breastfeeding, your baby is getting adequate milk during breastfeeding.
Many breastfeeding mothers have concerns about producing adequate breast milk to feed their babies. Although research shows that there are situations where mothers are unable to produce enough milk for their babies, the numbers are far lower than most worried breastfeeding mothers think. For example, mothers unable to produce an adequate milk supply often have hormonal issues or underlying health conditions such as diabetes or thyroid problems. Furthermore, previous breast surgeries can affect how the breast produces and transports breast milk to the nipple.
Ways to increase breast milk supply
Many mothers around the world use food, herbs, and medications to improve their breast milk supply. These are called galactagogues. However, much of the research is inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of galactagogues.
Breastfeeding mothers in China, India, and Iran traditionally use food to increase or support their milk supply. Their cultures believe that specific foods are important to include in the diet of breastfeeding mothers to boost production levels. However, as these foods are part of their traditional diet, so they are eaten regularly, there is no way to determine the effectiveness of these foods on breast milk production.
Milk thistle, fennel, fenugreek, and anise are some herbs thought to increase milk supply. These herbs and supplements that contain them in combination are generally considered safe. However, no standardized quantities or manufacturing practices must be followed in the formulation of these herbs.
Two medications used to increase breast milk production are domperidone and metoclopramide. Researchers have determined that these medications possibly improve breast milk supply. However, in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved domperidone as a galactagogue due to concerns about heart rhythm problems. The FDA also cautions against the use of metoclopramide as a galactagogue due to the possibility of some effects on the nervous system.
When to seek professional help
If you have concerns about producing enough milk to meet the needs of your growing baby, you can bring it up at your regular baby visit. Your baby will be weighed at these visits, so you will know how your baby is growing.
If you are very concerned about your milk supply, make a separate appointment to discuss it with your doctor. That visit should put your mind at ease. If you do have a low milk supply, the physician can provide options for the best solution.
In addition, if your baby is having trouble latching onto your nipple, a lactation consultant can provide help, so your baby empties your breasts. This will help to keep producing enough milk to meet demand.
Difficulties or concerns about the levels of breast milk production are often only in the early stages of breastfeeding. Once breastfeeding routines are established, and the breasts are emptied frequently, your concerns about milk production should go away. An increase in the number of times your baby wants to breastfeed indicates a growth spurt which will increase the amount of milk you produce for your growing baby.