Managing low breast milk supply

Knowing if you have enough breast milk to satisfy your baby can be tricky. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a guessing game. There could be many factors behind why you may have a low milk supply. We have a look at some of the common reasons and what you can do to help increase it.
Knowing if you have enough breast milk to satisfy your baby can be tricky.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a guessing game. There could be many factors behind why you may have a low milk supply.

Common signs include unsettled babies, low weight gain, babies with colic and mum’s intuition that something isn’t quite right.

Once you recognise your breast milk supply might not be enough for your baby, the easier it will be to manage and look at ways to boost your milk supply.

Reasons for low milk supply

There is no one obvious reason for low milk supply, but some common reasons include:
  • Premature birth
  • Medical reasons for both mum and baby
  • Sleepy babies, especially those who may have jaundice, which can lead to not enough feeds, or short or interrupted feeds
  • Poor positioning
  • Not emptying one side before offering the other side
  • Pain interfering with your breastfeeding
  • Complimentary feeding

7 Ways to manage low breast milk supply

Managing low milk supply varies from person to person, but here are some useful tips you can use as a starting point.

1. Positioning

Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally. It is a learned skill that might need lots of positive guidance and support before you get it right.

To manage your milk supply, make sure your baby is feeding efficiently, is latched on correctly and positioned well at the breast.

The better your baby’s latch, the better they feed, the better the stimulation which will then help to increase your milk supply.

2. Wellbeing

Anxiety related to pain and lack of support, is often a culprit for low lactation.

With pressures of breastfeeding, judgement and very little guidance with lots of push to breastfeed can actually be counter-productive.

Your lactation and the ease of producing milk is very dependent on how you are feeling.

A relaxed mum with no pain while feeding and who enjoys the experience of breastfeeding will produce more milk than a mum who has had a rough start, sore nipples, engorgement, sleep deprivation and feeling like a failure.

Get help from a trusted person who makes you feel confident, lifts you up and helps you along your breastfeeding journey.

3. Feeding times

When you feed your baby helps with milk production.

Making sure you feed every 3 hours during the day and night is a good start especially in the first 2 weeks.

Sometimes though this may lead to a very exhausted mum and an overtired baby. If this scenario continues for several weeks you may not have success increasing your supply at all because your wellbeing has been compromised.

Keep up with the 3 hourly feeds during the day, however, make sure you get more rest during the night. as your baby gets older the night time feeds can be less frequent.

4. Pumping or expressing

Pumping or expressing milk can be a great way to increase your milk supply.

The best way to do this is to pump on one side while you are feeding your baby on the other. This helps both with time management and having the hormonal exchange needed to help the let down and milk flow.

You may also find a good time is after you have finished feeding your baby and while they are having mat time or while your baby is sleeping.

Pumping while watching your baby sleep, looking at baby photos or videos also helps to release oxytocin.

To help you get the most out of expressing, find times of the day you are not rushed.

5. Teas and herbs

Both lactation teas and herbal potions are a great way to help increase your milk supply.

There are many brands on the market and it’s just a matter of what you like to drink or recommendations from other mums. You could even dunk a lactation cookie in your lactation tea!

Herbs such as Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Nettle, Raspberry, Goats Rue and Shatavari are also great additions to a good diet.

They are often included in lactation teas, but you can also buy them individually or combined in capsules or tinctures.

Try to buy organically grown ingredients if you can.

6. Essential oils

Some of the herbs in lactation teas can also be found as essential oils.

It’s important to use good quality essential oils that are 100% pure.

Never apply essential oils straight to your skin. They should always be diluted with a carrier oil such as almond oil, fractioned coconut oil or olive oil.

Apply the essential oils over the upper portion of your breast, being careful not to go near the nipple area where your baby will be feeding from.

Massage the area gently with either your hand or you could use a small comb to stimulate the ducts in a downward motion. This also helps blocked ducts.

Essential oils that are great for lactation are Clary Sage, Basil, Geranium and Fennel.

Caution with Fennel – only use for up to 10 days.

Generally you would only need to use essential oils for around 2-5 days to see a result

7. Tiger’s milk smoothies

Tiger’s milk is an unusual name, but it’s often recommended for breastfeeding mums.

The magic ingredient in Tiger’s Milk is brewer’s yeast.

Smoothies also provide a nutritional boost in one drink to add to your food intake.

For a tiger’s milk smoothie, try blending:
  • Cup of milk (any type of milk)
  • Protein powder (use one that is ok for breastfeeding)
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Tbsp of Brewer’s Yeast (more or less depending on your taste buds)
  • Optional is a Tbsp of peanut butter, flaxseed or other nutritional ingredients.

Source: This article was kindly written for us by Trish Martin – Baby Specialist. Providing support and advice for you and your baby.

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