Common Milk Supply Offenders
Your milk supply works on the principle of supply and demand. The more your baby empties the breast, the more milk your breasts make. Sounds simple but often women find that they don't have enough milk. Below are some common mistakes that lead to a low milk supply.
Let Sleeping Babies Lie
Many mothers are told to feed the baby "on demand," that is, whenever the baby shows hunger cues. This is fine in most cases but what about a baby who doesn't make demands. Most often this is a case of sleepy babies and of course we have been told not to wake a sleepy baby but some babies do need to be wakened. You will need to wake your sleepy undemanding baby every 2 to 3 hours to feed until he begins waking on his own. See our article on Sleepy Babies for more information.
Many of today's so called baby experts call for putting baby on a schedule. Scheduling how often baby eats, when baby eats or for how many minutes on each side interferes with your natural baby-driven milk production.
Some mothers feel that they need to "let their breasts refill" and will delay or even skip a feed until they feel full. Though this may work for a little while, soon the long delays and skipped feeds will cause your breasts to make less milk. Your breasts do not need to feel full to be full. As long as you keep your milk moving, there will be enough.
Very young babies do not always differentiate between the need to eat and the need to suck. It is possible to soothe a hungry baby with a pacifier and miss all or part of a feed. Especially in the early days, all sucking should be done at the breast to help establish a good milk supply. After the first few weeks, it is important to see if your baby is assertive enough to spit out his pacifier and demand more milk when he is hungry or if he will be content with non-nutritional sucking.
Though there are certainly times when supplementation is necessary, giving baby supplements when they are not needed is one of the main causes of low milk supply. Even the occasional bottle interferes with the laws of supply and demand, filling baby's tummy and leaving your breasts filled. If your baby really does need more milk than he is getting from you, it important to find out why he needs supplementation and to fix the problem. Merely giving a bottle of formula will make the breastfeeding problem worse.
At the Breast But Not Eating
Sometimes we seem to be nursing our babies, 24/7 and our milk supplies are still dropping. Probably your baby is nursing inefficiently and not really removing the milk. A board certified lactation consultant can help determine the cause of the problem and how to fix it.
See our article on More Milk Supply Offenders as well.