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As a new breastfeeding parent, one of your primary concerns is whether you have enough milk. If you don’t bottle feed your baby, it can be hard to know how much milk they’re getting. Even if things are going smoothly, you may wonder at some point whether your milk supply is satiating the demands of your baby.
At times, you might suspect that your milk supply is decreasing. If you’ve been having these concerns, read on to understand your milk supply better and know what you can do to increase the supply.
Signs of Decreasing Milk Supply
Dehydration is one sign of decreasing milk supply. If your young one hasn’t urinated in a few hours or has no tears when crying, they may be dehydrated. If you notice these signs, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Lack of weight gain can be another indicator of decreasing milk supply. While a baby can lose some weight after birth, they should start gaining weight before they are two weeks old. The baby should steadily keep on gaining weight as they grow. If this isn’t the case, you might have a low milk supply, and you should contact your medical provider.
The number of wet diapers that your child produces in their first few weeks of life indicates how much milk they’re getting. A baby should normally produce between six to eight wet diapers a day. Breastfed babies will poop more than formula-fed babies, and you should expect their poop to go through a plethora of colours in a few weeks.
Signs That Don’t Indicate Milk Supply Issues
Besides knowing whether your milk supply is low, you should avoid making too many assumptions. It might seem like you don’t have enough milk at times, but you are actually normal. Some signs that don’t indicate milk supply issues include when your baby wakes up to the nurse. It’s normal for kids to wake up during the night for breast milk. They have small stomachs that need to be filled regularly.
If you aren’t pumping much milk for your baby, there might be a few reasons. The pump itself might need new parts, you might be stressed, or you might not be letting down enough milk due to the time of the day. Besides, even good pumps aren’t as effective as your baby suckling.
Causes of a Decrease in Milk Supply
When you notice a decrease in your milk supply, you might wonder what the issue is. There are multiple reasons why your milk decreases, like introducing solids to your baby. When you introduce your baby to solids, they might be less interested in your breast milk. Since they spend less time on milk, your supply may decrease. However, most babies will continue breastfeeding for most of their first year.
Illnesses or medications can also cause a decrease in your milk supply. Therefore, when fighting an infection, your body might not produce milk normally. This is a temporary problem, but it’s advisable to stop nursing until you recover. Hormonal changes are also known to decrease your milk supply. This might be due to physiological events like starting the period again or becoming pregnant again. Such occasions can cause a hormonal shift that will lower breast milk production.
Returning to work can reduce the time you breastfeed your baby. That’s because it can be stressful, thus decreasing your milk supply. Feeding issues can also lead to a low milk supply. If your infant doesn’t latch properly, they won’t fully drain your breast. This can decrease milk production and put you at risk of getting clogged ducts and infections.
Tips for Increasing Milk Supply
Breastfeeding more often can help increase your milk supply. When your baby suckles, your body produces more milk through a process known as the let-down reflex. This also lets your baby access milk once they latch onto the breast. By frequently breastfeeding your baby, you will make more milk. Therefore, you should try to breastfeed at least eight to 12 times a day, thus establishing and maintaining milk production.
Pumping between feedings can also help you increase your milk supply. You should pump whenever your baby gets a bottle of formula or breast milk, when they have missed a feeding, or when you have leftover milk after breastfeeding. To make the pumping process easier and more comfortable, you should try warming your breasts.
The use of supplements or milk supply products like Milk Dust can also help increase your current supply. Such products have proprietary blends of herbs and nutrients that offer your baby nutritional support and more milk. Such supplements are made by mothers for mothers, thus making them a safe and great solution for increasing milk supply. Besides using supplements, you should also maintain a healthy diet. This should include lactation-friendly foods like nuts, fennel, brewer’s yeast, oats, fenugreek, and unripe papayas. You can also try lactation teas and cookies.
Staying hydrated and getting sufficient rest can also help your body produce the hormones needed to release and make milk. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can also help get the necessary hormones flowing. If most of these tips don’t work, you can also speak to a lactation consultant. A professional will help you learn how to latch and help solve milk transfer issues. Furthermore, they can suggest some pumping schedules and highlight some tricks to maximize milk production.
Breastfeeding from both sides can help stimulate your breasts, thus increasing milk production. Therefore, you should feed your baby from both breasts during each feeding. Let the baby feed from one breast until they stop feeding or slow down before offering the second breast. Pumping milk simultaneously from both breasts can also help increase milk production while increasing the fat content in the milk.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby and Mother
Breastfeeding has a myriad of benefits for toddlers and mothers. The most common advantages for kids include:
- Breast milk has crucial antibodies which help the baby fight off bacteria and viruses. The milk is therefore crucial for the well-being of the baby. This also applies to the first milk, colostrum. It has high immunoglobulin amounts and many more antibodies. When the mother is exposed to bacteria or viruses, they produce antibodies that go into the milk, thus enforcing the baby’s immunity. These antibodies protect the baby from getting sick since they form protective layers in the baby’s digestive system, throat, and nose. The formula doesn’t offer these crucial antibodies, thus leaving most kids vulnerable to issues like infection, diarrhoea, and pneumonia.
- Breast milk also provides the necessary nutrition for babies. The milk contains everything that a baby needs for the first six months. The milk composition will eventually change depending on the baby’s needs. After birth, the breasts will produce colostrum, a thick, yellowish fluid. This milk is low in sugar and high in protein.
- Breastfeeding can help make your baby smarter. Breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores associated with eye contact, touch, and physical intimacy with the mother. Besides, the baby is less likely to develop any behavioural problems as they age.
- Breast milk also promotes healthy weight gain while helping prevent obesity. Breastfeeding your baby for more than four months reduces the chances of your baby being overweight. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of gut bacteria that affect fat storage. Furthermore, breastfed kids have more leptin in the system, thus regulating appetite and fat storage. Your baby can also self-regulate their milk intake since they only eat when hungry, thus developing healthy eating patterns.
- Breastfeeding also helps reduce the risk of diseases. Some of the diseases your baby will be safe against include diabetes, leukaemia, bowel diseases, allergic diseases, gut infections, colds, respiratory tract infections, and ear infections.
The advantages to the mother include:
- Women who breastfeed have a lower risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood fat, arthritis, and high blood pressure. Besides, the longer you spend breastfeeding, the lower the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding can also help the mother lose some weight. Feeding the baby burns calories, and after three months of lactation, you can experience an increase in fat burning. The difference might not be significant, but it helps your weight loss goals.
- The uterus grows immensely during pregnancy, and it can expand to fill the entire abdomen. After delivery, the uterus goes through involution, thus returning to its previous size. Oxytocin is the hormone that helps drive the involution process. This hormone increases during breastfeeding, and it can also help you bond with your baby. Its high production also encourages uterine contractions, thus helping the uterus contract to its previous pear size.
If you notice a decrease in breast milk production, you don’t have to stop breastfeeding. Instead, you should confirm whether there is a decrease and use the ideas above to resolve any issues. Breastfeeding has many ups and downs, and it should not be challenging for you. Instead, you should seek the help of a doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant when necessary.
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