The most effective techniques to resolve low breast milk supply and to boost your breast milk production are those THAT ADDRESS THE MOST LIKELY CAUSES. In many cases, there will be a combination of causes, not just one.
There is, therefore, no one-solution-fits-all for low breast milk supply. Increasing breast milk production is rather personalised. Why? The causes for low breast milk supply vary from one mother to another. Hence techniques that bear positive results for one mother may not necessarily be suitable for another mother.
Causes of low breast milk supply
A few causes of low breast milk production are stated below (there may be many others).
Mother’s state and actions
Related to breastfeeding management
— Separation from baby.
— Rigid or strictly scheduled feedings – they interfere with natural baby milk demand and supply.
— Return to work – after maternity leave – plus stress associated with work.
— Using formula supplements – babies fed using these will demand breast milk less often.
— Using pacifiers regularly – may lead to addiction of the baby to the pacifier and preference of it over the breast.
Related to Mother’s health
— Illnesses and hormonal disorders e.g. pituitary imbalances, thyroidism, mastitis, flu, post-natal depression, yeast infection, others.
— Birth control pills (with both estrogen and progesterone hormones) and pregnancy during breastfeeding – both of these will affect your ability to produce breast milk.
— Past breast surgery.
— Heavy smoking.
— Taking certain medications.
— Status of your nipples and milk ducts – inverted nipples and painful sore nipples will hinder your letdown reflex and likely subconsciously make you delay breast feeding sessions.
— Status of your breast nerves – e.g. due to surgery.
— Unhealed Cesarean Section scar – that makes it physically difficult to holding baby in latching position.
- Poor latching – this will lead to less than optimal feeding and much lower stimulation of the breasts to produce more milk.
- Baby’s poor health (which reduces frequency of breastfeeding, sending signals to the body that breast milk production is not needed). A sickly or weak baby may not nurse appropriately.
The demand-supply principle of breast milk
Breasts are naturally “programmed” to produce milk based upon sensing “demand” for the milk. The first two to three weeks after delivery are crucial in programming this milk production. The more your baby suckles, or as you pump your breast milk out, the more the milk your breasts will start producing. If you are within the first three weeks post-delivery, do everything in your ability (breastfeeding, expressing by hand or expressing by pump) to get as much milk out of your breasts as possible. If you are past this period, however, there are things you can do to improve production.
Properly latching the baby during breastfeeding, and switching from one breast to the other, are two key considerations in effective breast milk extraction.
How to tell you are not having enough breast milk supply
- Nappy/diaper change — check the “wetness” of the diaper. Note: expect about four “susu” diaper changes and three “pupu” diaper changes per day for a baby that is up to six weeks old. Observe to see if the amount of waste is increasing or decreasing. A decrease or nearly dry “wet” diaper indicates the baby may not be feeding adequately.
- Baby weight monitoring — keep a weekly record / chart of your baby’s weight and ensure it is increasing, not decreasing or stagnant. Remember that in the initial few days the baby’s weight may “drop” typically by 5-7 % (due to extra birth fluids in the baby’s tissues and excretion of pre-birth accumulated stool), then steadily rise as weeks get by.
In general, there are two main avenues to pursue in the effort to increase breast milk supply: (i) Natural ways; (ii) Medication.
NATURAL WAYS TO IMPROVE BREAST MILK PRODUCTION
1. Physical techniques
These are based on the principle that more demand will lead to more supply. The body understands that. These techniques capitalize on frequency and effectiveness of milk extraction from the breasts, and stimulation of milk production.
Physical technique 1 – Relaxation
Breastfeeding is a special session between you and your baby. During this session, milk is produced and milk is dispensed. It is therefore important that you relieve yourself of stress before going into such a special session, since a stressed breastfeeding environment can diminish your milk production capabilities. Before you breastfeed your baby or express milk whether by hand or using a pump, take some deep breath, sit, relax.
If possible, have some soothing music you love in the background. You need to engage in things that make you happy at this time, rather than stressful work-related stuff or other soul-dampening preoccupation. You will for example do yourself no good reading a horror novel while breastfeeding. Relax your breasts using a warm, moist cloth. Remember that any cloth or item you use on your breasts must be germ free! Your breast is your baby’s feeding “plate” — it must be totally hygienic. If you are at home, taking a shower, sponge-bathing your arm pits, immersing your legs in reasonably hot water or washing your face with warm soapy water may all be some of the ways of getting yourself to feel refreshed and relaxed.