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Achieving Good Milk Supply (and Tips for Moms Who Think They Have "Low Milk Supply")

Before you rely on another mother to help supply milk for your little one, be sure that you have gotten good information. We are here to help moms in need, so please write to us with your questions and we will do whatever we can to help you improve your supply. Even if you have already sought the help of a doctor or lactation consultant, we can probably still give you some new ideas and we will make sure that you have gotten the most current reasearch-based information. First, we suggest that you read the following two articles: http://www.lalecheleague.org/NB/NBMarApr05p44.html

Then, please read these suggestions:
  • First and foremost, don't assume that your supply is low just because someone told you it must be or because you are pumping and not getting a lot of milk to come. The mind has a lot to do with how your body will respond, so you must believe that you are capable of making plenty of milk for your baby. In the first 6-8 weeks of life, calculating from the lowest weight, babies should gain about 4-8 ounces in a 7 day stretch. If your baby is in this range and you see that they are growing into and eventually outgrowing clothing, then they are getting enough.
  • Make the most of the first two weeks especially. Minimize any separation and allow your baby to nurse frequently. If you experience challenges or suspect poor latch (pain or soreness), seek help immediately to prevent the issue from worsening. Most challenges are resolvable with patience, information, and support. You should plan to nurse ten or more times per day (8 minimum in most cases). Most babies are designed to feed frequently and it is normal and healthy to do so, therefore you can feed on demand with confidence.
  • Have an "at home vacation!" Take time off to do nothing but breastfeed your baby as often as possible and rest. The increased stimulation and extra rest will help supply.
  • Focus on keeping life as simple as possible at this crucial time. Cut back on outside commitments. Ask for help with housework and childcare from the rest of the family to allow more time for feeding.
  • Make sure you're eating and drinking enough. And most important, get plenty of rest and breastfeeding time in when you and your baby are together. It is important to get good nutrition, adequate fluid, and lots of rest.
  • Avoid supplementary bottles and pacifiers. This encourages your baby to meet all his sucking needs at your breasts. Doing this will help to increase your supply. Family members do not need to feed baby with a bottle just to bond, as there are plenty of other ways that the rest of the family can bond with baby. Their job is to make sure that nothing interferes with nursing.
  • Nurse fully on one breast before switching sides and avoid timed feedings. Use breast compression, if necessary, while baby is nursing or during pumping to help more fully empty the breast. Though the breast is never completely empty, this will help to futher empty and will ensure that baby will get as much hindmilk as possible.
  • Attend a local La Leche League meeting. There you will meet other mothers and get lots of support for your situation (plus make friends!).
  • Ingeneral, supply = demand so the more frequently that you effectively breastfeed or pump, the more milk you will make overall.
  • If pumping to increase supply or when returning to work, use hospital grade pump and pump both side simultaneously, if possible.
  • Try using relaxation techniques, breast compression and massage, and warm compresses for a few minutes before nursing/pumping.
  • If pumping, more short pumping sessions are more efficient than fewer longer ones. Also small-breasted women should expect to nurse and/or pump more frequently than large-breast women. If you are concerned about how much you are able to pump and/or if pumping is hurting, you might want to try a larger flange size.
  • Working motherís night feedings can be a good time to build up your milk supply by keeping your baby in bed with you for all or part of the night. Keep your baby in bed with you during the night and learn to nurse laying down if at all possible.
  • If pumping seems to be ineffective, remember that babies are almost always much more efficient at emptying the breast (provided that there are no structural or suck issues), so the amount that you pump is never a good indicator of whether or not baby is gaining well. Also remember that most babies will take a bottle after nursing even if they are not hungry.
  • Do not assume that your baby is still hungry and not getting enough milk from you simply because he or she will take a bottle after nursing (most babies will if it is offered even if they are full). If a baby is fussy after breastfeeding, try other soothing techniques like burping, swaddling, checking diaper, rocking, etc. If baby still doesn't settle, put back on the breast (and, yes, more milk will be there even if you don't feel like it is there). If you REALLY feel like you must supplement, try supplementing with a half an ounce, then back to the breast rather than filling baby up with the supplement which will prevent baby from critical time at the breast. A small amount will calm a baby down (or calm mom down) so that baby can settle onto the breast again.
  • Working mothers can try to arrange to have baby brought to them during the day or to meet their baby during lunch. This will minimize any pumping.
  • Know that your breasts do not need to feel full to be making plenty of milk. Your breasts will feel different over time. In the beginning you may feel that your breast are very full and firm feeling, but months later this will not likely be the case and you may no longer feel your breasts letting down. There are many, many variations of normal.
  • If anyone tells you that your baby is allergic to your milk, don't believe them! Babies may be sensitive to foods that you have eaten and they can be easily eliminated from your diet. Dairy and eggs are common offenders to start.
  • Consider using an adjustable sling, such as the Maya Wrap, to carry your baby around and allow them to easily nurse on-demand throughout the day while you continue to get things done.
  • If you feel that you didn't get off to the best start, take comfort in knowing that most initial challenges are resolvable with information, dedication, and support. You can likely make up for lost time, but you shuld surround yourself with support to help keep yourself feeling good and strong in the process. It is possible for most moms (even with twins) and we are here to help!