For many women, worrying is a routine part of motherhood.
We worry about vaccination schedules and negative reactions. We worry about fevers, coughs, rashes, and first teeth. And when our babies are new, we worry about breast-feeding.
Between engorgement, figuring out the latch, and adjusting to a demanding new nursing schedule, breast-feeding can be an intimidating experience. Many new moms also wonder, am I producing enough milk to nourish my baby?
While it’s a common concern, odds are good that your milk supply is just fine. Let your baby be your guide. Do they have alert and active periods? Are you changing wet and poopy diapers regularly? Is your baby gaining weight when you take them to the doctor?
Those are all signs that your baby is properly nourished.
As your little one grows, you’ll likely notice changes to your milk supply. You may no longer experience a feeling of fullness, or perhaps your baby only nurses for five minutes or so at a time. Changes like these are normal, and these fluctuations aren’t necessarily a sign of a decreased supply.
In fact, according to La Leche League International (LLLI), changes to your supply can be an indication that you and your baby are simply becoming more experienced and skilled at breast-feeding. Your body has adjusted to your baby’s demands, and your baby is becoming a little expert in efficient milk removal.
As long as your baby is thriving, you shouldn’t worry about inadequate milk production. Here are five tips to keep your milk supply steady as your baby grows.
Producing breast milk is a supply-and-demand scenario. Your body produces your milk supply in response to your baby’s demand. New mothers should breast-feed their babies as often and for as long as they want. As the LLLI puts it, the more your baby “tells” your body to make milk, the more milk you’ll make. Nursing on demand is likely the fastest way to boost your supply.
In the first few months, you might notice that your baby is cluster feeding, or wanting to nurse very often in a set period of time. Every baby is different, but the LLLI notes that you may notice an uptick in breast-feeding when your baby is 2 to 3 weeks old, again around 6 weeks, and again around 3 months.
If your baby is spending more time at the breast and nursing more frequently, they may be going through a growth spurt. Increased demand will let your body know to produce more milk to keep up with your baby’s needs.
Some new babies need a little coaxing to nurse frequently. If your newborn seems extra sleepy, try stimulating them with skin-to-skin contact and regular feedings to help establish your milk supply.
It’s important to drink plenty of water while breast-feeding to keep yourself hydrated. You won’t impact your ability to produce milk if you don’t get enough fluids, but you will put yourself at risk of things like constipation and fatigue. You don’t need to overdo it, so Dr. Sears offers these tips for getting the right amount of water to maintain hydration:
- Drink to quench your thirst, and then drink a little more. Thirst isn’t the most reliable indication of how much water your body really needs.
- Get in the habit of keeping a water bottle with you, and try to drink at least 8 ounces of water every time you nurse.
It’s easy to get caught up with other responsibilities. When you’re trying to establish or increase your milk supply, try to minimize distractions as much as possible.
The laundry and dishes can wait, so take the time to sit down and focus on feeding your baby regularly. This may mean that you have to lean on your partner or other family members for help around the house or with other children if you have them.
A professional lactation consultant can help you pinpoint latch and suckling issues. Even if you think your baby is nursing effectively, the support of a local breast-feeding group can have a big impact in the early days of nursing.
Check the La Leche League website for a local group or ask your doctor for a recommendation.
The Mayo Clinic warns that moderate to heavy drinking can decrease your milk supply. Nicotine can have the same effect, and secondhand smoke is harmful to your baby’s health. Certain medications, particularly those containing pseudoephedrine, can also decrease your supply. Consult with your doctor before taking any medication while breast-feeding.
Above all, try not to worry about your breast milk production. It’s very rare for women to produce an insufficient supply. According to the Mayo Clinic, most mothers actually produce one-third more breast milk than their babies drink.