Got questions about your breast milk supply, mama? We bet you do! It's totally normal to worry about whether you're producing enough milk or not. Here are some things you should know about your milk supply:
Supply and demand: In the beginning, your body may make more milk than your baby needs. But very quickly, it adjusts to make how much your baby drinks. In other words, it works on a supply-and-demand basis, supplying your baby with as much as he demands. It will even adjust as your baby goes through growth spurts or short periods when baby is not drinking as much. Keep in mind that growth spurts often occur at 6 weeks and 3, 6, and 9 months.
Filling baby's belly: When baby is drinking, you'll see his jaw working all the way back to his ear, and hear and see him swallowing. A nursing session should last at least ten minutes, and afterward your baby should look sleepy and satisfied—or even drunk on milk!
The importance of the pediatrician: Keep baby's well-baby visits—among other things, the pediatrician will weigh your child to make sure he's gaining weight, a sure sign that breastfeeding is providing the nutrients he needs.
The role your diet plays: Making milk can take a lot out of you! Specifically, it requires water, so you'll need to drink even more than you did during pregnancy. Keep a water pitcher on hand and drink all day long, but especially during nursing sessions. Also, eating healthy foods will give your body the tools it needs to produce a healthy breast milk supply. One big bonus is that you should lose your pregnancy weight without too much effort!
Uneven production of milk: According to Michele Hakakha, M.D,. most women have one breast that produces more milk than the other (especially if she has had surgery on her breasts like implants, large biopsies, or reductions). Similarly, in the early phases of breastfeeding, some babies prefer one breast over the other, making the less-used breast not produce as much milk. If you are just starting to breastfeed your newborn, Hakakha recommends feeding on both sides evenly and then trying to pump in-between feedings, particularly on the side that is making less milk, to increase demand.
Boosting production: Sometimes women truly aren't making enough milk and need to boost production. The standard advice is to simply nurse more often, or even add some pumping sessions into your day. This signals your body that there's a greater demand, and so it will increase the low milk supply. Beyond that, there are some herbal remedies that work for some women, such as teas and supplements made with the herb fenugreek. (Fenugreek should not be taken during pregnancy.) The prescription medication Reglan can also increase milk supply in most women.
Skipping feedings: For the first four to six weeks, your newborn should be nursing as often has every two hours around the clock. After that, you may be able to drop some nighttime feedings so that your child sleeps for four to seven hours at a stretch. However, until then, or if your baby is sleeping more than four hours during the day, wake him up to breastfeed.
Not drinking enough liquids: Your body needs a lot of water to make milk—and to keep you healthy as your recover from childbirth. Drink water all day long, as well as healthy beverages such as milk and juice. Drink sugary sodas and caffeinated drinks such as coffee in moderation, since they may not keep you as well hydrated.
Dieting: A breastfeeding mother needs roughly the same number of extra calories as a pregnant woman. You're still "eating for two," which means an extra 300 to 500 calories a day, or about the amount in a container of yogurt, a cup of cereal, and a piece of fruit. Dieting, or cutting back calories, is the opposite of what you need to do—you can hurt your breast milk supply and make yourself feel run down as well.
Stress and worry: Unfortunately, worrying can sometimes lead to a low milk supply. Nursing is both a physical and a psychological thing—if you can stay relaxed, think about the happy aspects of parenthood and your new baby, and remain confident about breastfeeding, you boost your chances of success.
Unsure if your newborn is really drinking enough? Check to see if he's:
Wetting 8 to 12 diapers a day. Not sure? Today's diapers are super absorbent! Place a piece of toilet tissue in the diaper and you'll be able to tell if it's gotten wet.
Soiling 2 to 4 diapers a day. Baby's stools will be soft and a mustard-yellow color, though dark stools (in the beginning) and occasional green stools are also normal.
Acting satisfied after a meal. It's logical enough! If baby looks content or even happily drunk after breastfeeding, you can be sure he's got a full tummy.
Gaining a half-ounce to an ounce a day in weight. If you don't have a baby scale at home, don't worry. Your pediatrician will gauge baby's weight at your well-baby appointments.