One of the biggest fears that accompanies the start of a breastfeeding journey is “am I producing enough milk?” Many new mothers worry that their supply is insufficient, but this is often found not to be the case.
So before you try to increase your supply, ensure you have consulted a health professional, such as your midwife, who will confirm if a genuine undersupply is occurring (losing up to 10% of bodyweight is considered normal and often does not equal a problem with feeding or supply). Remember that as long as your baby is gaining weight well, it is unlikely you have a problem.
My own experience with undersupply began with my Caesarean Section. I struggled to hold my baby well and I believe this affected her latch as she was not sucking for long and often fell asleep at the breast. She had jaundice and was also small born so when she lost 15% of her birth weight, I was concerned I was not nourishing her properly and would not be able to breastfeed. My midwife was very supportive and encouraged me to increase my milk supply, so that I could continue to breastfeed.
The first thing I needed to do was to help my baby regain her birth weight so she would be strong enough to latch more effectively, and this meant ensuring she took measured amounts of milk at regular intervals. I was encouraged to start pumping my milk, as this would tell my body I needed more and help increase my supply. Unfortunately the first few times I pumped I did not have quite enough so needed to top up with formula so my baby could eat well. I felt terrible about giving my baby formula milk, as this went against my ideals, but I knew she needed to grow stronger, and at least most of the milk was my own. However by following the steps below I was able to increase my milk supply quickly, eliminating the need for formula. Now my baby switches easily between bottle and breast meaning I can express for her if I ever want to, and I even have enough milk that I have been able to build up a small stash of frozen breast milk in case of emergency.
How I Increased My Supply
- Pumping milk often, every two hours (including at night) is best. I never missed a pumping session until I was sure I had enough to feed my daughter exclusively on breast milk.
- Fenugreek is a herbal supplement that helps increase milk supply. I was told it is even more effective taken with Blessed Thistle, but I found Fenugreek alone was enough for me, and it is readily available in health shops. Check with your midwife for the correct dosage for you.
- As soon as you can produce enough milk yourself, stop supplementing with formula. If you supplement with formula, your body thinks you need less milk and your supply will decrease.
- Waking my baby if she did not wake for feeds, even during the night. It is important to feed your baby often in order to establish a good supply.
- Taking care of myself was important. It’s easy to skip meals when you’re busy with your little one but not eating or drinking well can cause problems with your supply and could also make you feel run down.
Remember to always offer the breast before offering a bottle of expressed milk, as this helps baby retain familiarity with breastfeeding.