Low Milk Supply
If you are concerned about your milk supply, realize that more breastfeeding makes more milk. The two most important things to help your milk supply is stimulating your breasts more frequently and draining the breasts well. Think back to your magic number and make certain you are feeding or pumping that frequently. The magic number, as described by Nancy Mohrbacher in her book Breastfeeding Made Simple, is the number of times your baby breastfed in 24 hours when things were going well and you felt you had a full supply of breast milk.
- If your baby starts sleeping longer at night, he or she may need to feed more frequently during the day. Babies’ feeding patterns will change as they get older as many babies will sleep longer at night and cluster feed more during the day
- If you have been feeding on one breast, you may need to feed on both breasts. Also, consider adding in breast compressions and massage to help drain the breast
- If your baby used to feed 8 times a day but now only feeds 6 times per day and your schedule prevents more feedings, consider adding a couple of pumping or hand expression sessions per day to increase frequency. Many mothers add a pumping after the early morning feeding to make certain the breasts are well drained after the night. Other mothers pump at night right before bed.
Many women fear their milk has decreased when breast swelling naturally decreases, approximately one month after delivery. At this time your breasts may no longer feel full before feeding and may feel softer after feeds. If your baby is swallowing regularly, wetting, stooling, and seems content, your supply is probably just fine.
Growth spurts commonly occur at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months of life. During growth spurts your baby will feed more frequently for several days and then start to space out feeds. It is your baby’s way of increasing your supply to meet their increasing needs.
If your baby is fussy or you are concerned, we are always happy to see you. Please schedule a visit for further evaluation.
Are There Any Herbal Supplements I Can Take?
There are some herbs and medications that are thought to increase breast milk production depending on the reason for low milk supply. It is important to realize that there is very limited research and that none will help without continued focus on breast stimulation and emptying which is why increased feeding frequency, pumping and hand expression remain important.
Fenugreek is one of the most commonly known herbs to help with breast milk production. It is generally considered safe as it is on the U.S. Government “GRAS” list (Generally Regarded as Safe). As with all herbs it is important to get it from a respected brand. Look for brands that specify what ingredients are included and specific doses. Fenugreek is not recommended for women with a history of asthma or peanut allergy or those who are pregnant.
Typical starting doses of Fenugreek include:
- Fenugreek capsules: 2 to 3 capsules 3 times per day. The capsules typically sold are 500 to 650mg each.
- Fenugreek tea: 1 cup of strained tea three times per day.
Common side effects of Fenugreek include stomach upset or diarrhea. If this is a problem you can try lowering the dose for a couple of days and increasing it slowly back up. Also, combining blessed thistle may lesson these side effects. Low blood sugar may occur if taking higher doses of Fenugreek. You can decrease the chance of this by taking it with food.
Other common herbs include:
- Blessed Thistle which is often sold in a blend with Fenugreek.
- Mother’s Milk Tea offers a combination of herbs thought to promote lactation.
Click here for more information on low milk supply.
What Else Can I Do?There are additional approaches and herbals that help address low milk supply. Depending on your situation, however, one approach may be more appropriate than another. If basic steps to help with low milk are unsuccessful, we suggest you schedule an appointment for further evaluation.