If you're a breastfeeding new mom, you've probably already discovered that nursing can be confusing and occasionally difficult. From getting your baby to latch on properly to mastering the football hold, there's plenty to stress out over—but few things make a new mom worry more than the topic of breast milk supply. Building, maintaining, and even increasing milk supply is just one piece of breastfeeding success, but it's certainly an important one—and one that's commonly misunderstood by moms and professionals alike. It's normal for new moms to have lots of questions about whether or not they are making enough breast milk to feed their babies. The good news is that the vast majority of mamas will create an appropriate supply just through breastfeeding on-demand and frequent skin-to-skin contact with their babies. Still, it helps to understand some of the factors that can negatively impact your ability to produce enough of that liquid gold. Surprisingly, these five things can reduce your breast milk supply:
If you've ruled out the factors above and are still worried about your milk supply, what can you do? For starters, continue to breastfeed your baby! Cindy Chavez, an international board-certified lactation consultant and state coordinator of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force, says that for most moms, simply increasing the number of times you breastfeed will help with increasing milk supply. "There's great comfort to be had in knowing that a mother's milk supply is based on supply and demand," she says. "Most babies throughout the first year of life need to nurse eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period. So the easiest and most effective way of producing more milk is to nurse more frequently."
Another option: Meet with a lactation consultant. "Many times moms get misinformation about how to tell if their baby is getting enough from health professionals, family members, or friends," says Felisha Floyd, an IBCLC and president of the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color. These people may mean well, she adds, but they're not required to have updated research-based information like a lactation consultant does.
With bottle-feeding, it's easy to tell if your baby's getting enough food; not so with the breast. "Breasts aren't clear and calibrated," says lactation consultant Nancy Hurst. Since you can't tell what's going in, the alternative is to watch what comes out. "I recommend the 'Rule of 4,' " says pediatrician Marianne Neifert, M.D. "By 4 days of age, a breastfed baby's stools should turn yellow and seedy; he should have at least four stools a day; and that pattern should continue for at least four weeks."
Also, he should urinate at least six times a day and the urine should be clear, not dark yellow. Your newborn should breastfeed at least eight times in 24 hours, and you should hear frequent swallowing while he nurses. Schedule an extra weight check if you have any concerns.