I meet a lot of mums who tell me they’re concerned about their milk supply. Often there are indications that something is not quite right with breastfeeding – either baby is fussing on the breast, doesn’t seem satisfied after feeds, or isn’t gaining weight as quickly as everyone would like.
Other times, there’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding, but mum might think her milk supply is dropping for various reasons, none of which actually indicate low milk supply.
In fact, many women who stop breastfeeding early on, do so because they believe their milk supply was inadequate. This often occurs in the first few weeks of feeding, which can be a time of uncertainty, and low confidence in your body’s ability to meet your baby’s demands.
The good news is, most women DO produce enough milk to feed their babies (even multiples!). However, with everything that goes on in the early weeks of feeding, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you don’t have enough milk.
Here are some common worries women have about their breastmilk:
‘My breasts no longer feel full’
Your breasts will have felt heavy and full while your supply was being established, but after around 3 weeks, you will notice your breasts feeling softer and less hard, which is simply because your supply has settled. This does not mean you have less milk, just that things have ‘leveled out’. And hopefully it means your breasts are more comfortable!
‘My baby is feeding very often’
It’s normal for newborns to feed at least 8 times in a 24 hour period, which translates to three hourly feeds. If your baby is feeding more often than this, he may be seeking your breasts for other reasons than food, such as comfort and reassurance. Putting your baby to the breast often will help your supply, so by all means, continue to do this if your baby seems happy suckling on you. I promise this won’t last forever – but believe me, being able to use your breasts to comfort your crying baby will serve you well, make the most of it!
‘My baby has periods of non-stop feeding’
Newborns go through periods of the day where they want to feed non-stop, or cluster feed from you, and this is not indicative of a low milk supply. Your baby may be going through a growth spurt or trying to increase your supply at a time when your milk has dropped slightly – such as in the evening. Again, this is all normal, so please don’t worry that you’re not providing enough milk for your baby. If your milk supply has been established, your baby can always get milk from you, even when you feel sure that he’s taken every last drop you had.
‘My baby doesn’t feed for very long’
Some babies take their time at the breast and others like to get in and out very quickly. As long as your baby is gaining weight, and is producing plenty of wet and dirty nappies, there is no cause for concern if he only feeds for a short time at the breast. Notice your baby when he finishes a feed – does he look content and satisfied? This can be a good sign that he has got all the milk he needs despite the short feed.
How to know if your baby IS getting enough milk:
It’s hard to know exactly how much milk baby is getting when he’s breastfeeding. But there are some reliable signs that indicate that things are going well in the feeding department. If your baby is demonstrating all these things, chances are your milk supply is serving him very well indeed. Of course, if you continue to feel worried, seek advice from your local Child and Family Health service for more reassurance.
Here are some signs that your baby is getting enough of your milk:
- your baby wakes for feeds by himself
- your baby is gaining weight
- your baby settles between most feeds (after feeds, baby seems generally content and satisfied)
- your baby has at least 6 to 8 soaked nappies (4 to 5 heavy disposable nappies) in 24 hours
- your baby passes a soft yellow stool (poo) at least once a day