Thursday's Tip: Breastfeeding and Low Milk Supply

 The most common questions La Leche League Leaders hear on phone calls, e-mails and at meetings are about milk supply and generally they are about the mother’s perception that she doesn’t have enough milk for her baby(ies). There are a lot of reasons that mothers may think they don’t have enough breastmilk which are not a low supply problem at all.

Here are some tips to help you sort out what is going on:

- You don’t necessarily have a low milk supply if baby won’t go the X number of hours between feedings that your baby book, mother, friend or health care professional says they should. Normal babies sometimes feed every 2 hours but they can also want to feed again after 20 minutes or 45 minutes or… If they are having a growth spurt they may want to feed every hour for a few days. They may cluster feed and then sleep for a longer stretch (this often happens in the evening). All of these feeding spacings are normal and a baby might do all of them in one day or over the course of a week.

- You don’t necessarily have a low milk supply if your breasts aren’t leaking anymore or if they feel softer than they used to. Around six to eight weeks after giving birth your breasts will no longer have the excess of lymph and blood flow that they had in the early days and they will feel softer. Some mothers never experience leaking and for those who did have leaking most find the leaking episodes decrease as their bodies get used to breastfeeding.

- You don’t necessarily have low milk supply because you have small breasts. The size of your breasts has very little to do with the amount of milk making glandular tissue. If your breasts grew during your teen years and grew again during pregnancy then it is very unlikely that you don’t have sufficient glandular tissue to support breastfeeding.

- You don’t necessarily have low milk supply because your baby won’t stay asleep if you put them down after a feeding. Babies often drift off to sleep at the breast and then wake up the minute you put them down. This happens because babies are happiest in their favourite environment (your chest). Many babies also like to take a short break, have a little nap, and then come back for the second breast. This is normal.

- You don’t necessarily have low milk supply just because your baby will take milk out of a bottle right after you have breastfed. The sucking reflex is so strong that babies will take milk if a bottle nipple is put in their mouth even if their tummies are full.

There are two things that may indicate that you that you have a problem with low milk supply:

- Weight gain problems: Babies almost always go down from their birth weight. Most babies have regained birth weight by two weeks and then continue to put on 150-200 grams per week. There can be some variation so getting support from someone who has a thorough understanding of breastfed baby growth rates and breastfeeding technique is important if you have concerns.

- Diapers: After the first week we expect to see 6-8 wet diapers per 24 hours and several poops that are at least big enough to cover a Loonie. If this is not what you are seeing when you change baby’s diapers then it is time to follow up with someone knowledgeable.

If you feel that you might have a low milk supply, or baby isn’t happily feeding, or for anything else about breastfeeding that concerns you contact a La Leche League Canada Leader to help sort out how to deal with your breastfeeding/caring for a newborn challenge. Breastfeeding isn't always easy, we're here to help.

To encourage, promote and provide breastfeeding, chest feeding and human milk feeding support and educational opportunities as an important contribution to the health of children, families and society