Motherhood is full of confusion and concern and questions, and it starts early - like the day you give birth early. Don’t worry; this is normal and a sign that you care and want the best for your baby. But just because it’s natural doesn’t make the experience of feeling lost with your infant any easier.
One of the first sources of doubt that you’ll probably experience is around the topic of breastfeeding. Although it makes you feel closer to your baby than anything else, it’s also surprisingly opaque. After all, you can’t see through your breast to tell exactly how much your baby is eating. So that makes you wonder, “Is my baby getting enough milk?” which is another version of the eternal question, “Am I succeeding as a mother?”.
We know how frustrating it can be to be uncertain about whether you’re meeting your baby’s nutritional needs or not. So here’s a our take on a guide that will help you understand whether if your baby is getting enough breast milk to eat, as well as tips for increasing your milk supply.
Signs Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
Generally speaking, a well-fed baby is a happy baby. In the same way that you’ll feel content and food coma-like after a satisfying meal, you can expect more or less the same response from your baby. Specifically, here are some telltale signs that your baby is getting enough milk and is perfectly content.
- • By day four, baby has bowel movements three to four times a day
- • By day five, baby’s stool is yellow, loose, and seedy
- • Baby urinates more frequently with each day until day 5, when they should have wet nappies about 6 times in 24 hours
- • Baby nurses frequently, typically between 8 and 12 times in a 24-hour day
- • While feeding, baby sometimes gulps and sucks rapidly
- • You can see baby swallowing while feeding
- • You can see breast milk in baby’s mouth while feeding
- • Baby seems relaxed and content after a feeding
- • Baby initiates the end of a feeding on their own
- • After nursing, your breasts feel softer and less full than they did before the feeding
- • Baby sleeps between feeds (and doesn’t just nap for ten minutes)
- • Baby gains weight at a normal pace (about 150-250g per week until four months old)
- • When awake, baby is alert and active
- • Baby meets developmental milestones like smiling and rolling over at the appropriate stage
Signs Your Baby Might Not Be Getting Enough Milk
Just like there are plenty of signs that your breastfeeding baby is getting enough milk, there will also be things that might signal you that your baby isn’t getting as much to eat as they need. These include:
- • Baby has low energy and often seems sleepy and lethargic
- • Baby sleeps for four or more hours at a time
- • Baby takes too little time during feedings
- • Baby falls asleep shortly after beginning to feed
- • Baby takes too much time during feedings - around 30 to 40 minutes or alternatively just 5 to 10 minutes
- • Baby does not latch well
- • Baby hasn’t regained their birth weight by two weeks
- • Baby’s weight gain is slower than approximately 150-250g per week
- • Baby is not having enough bowel movements (three to four a day by four days old)
- • Baby’s urine is not pale
- • You see reddish-brown “brick dust” in baby’s diaper
As you can imagine, the best course of action, if you are concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk, is to check with your doctor.
What if I Don’t Have Enough Breast Milk?
Unfortunately, many mums who are unsure or worried that there might be a problem or that they don’t have enough breast milk stop breastfeeding and go for formula instead. But the truth is that there are many other things you can try before you give up on breastfeeding completely.
Firstly, speaking with a certified (IBCLC) lactation consultant is always a great way to get a professional’s opinion on what is going on with your breastfeeding and whether something might be going wrong. A tight tongue band may be giving baby some trouble latching on properly, which may lead to not strong enough stimulation on the breast, which may lead to a smaller quantity of produced milk. According to Lola&Lykke’s lactation expert, tightness in the tongue band rarely presents by itself: there may be tightness elsewhere in baby’s body too. Talking with your midwife or even a specialised reflexologist may be helpful.
If indeed, you discover that you aren’t producing as much breast milk as you like, there are several potential solutions you can try.
More breastfeeding related questions? Ask Our Experts, free of charge!
How Can I Increase My Breast Milk Supply?
The truth is that you don’t need a freezer stock of breast milk to feed your baby. But we do understand that increasing milk supply is on the mind of a lot of breastfeeding mums. So how can you do so?
To help your body figure out how much milk your baby needs you to produce, especially early on, it’s helpful to practice something called responsive or on-demand feeding, which is feeding whenever your baby shows signs of being hungry. This is as opposed to feeding in accordance to a set schedule. The idea is to watch your baby, not the clock.
Chances are you’ve heard of the many great benefits of practicing skin-to-skin contact with your baby. What’s even better is that it can help increase breast milk supply, too. By stimulating oxytocin and prolactin, two important hormones in making breast milk, skin-to-skin allows you to boost your breast milk production while getting in quality time with your baby. Doing it is really quite simple. Undress your baby down to the diaper and hold him or her against your bare chest. A blanket can keep everyone warm and cosy. Nursing while baby is swaddled may make them sleepy and discourage latching.
Add Pumping Sessions
While the best way to establish a strong supply is to breastfeed on demand from the start, after about four to six weeks, you can start pumping to increase milk supply. This works because breast milk production follows the rule of supply and demand. The more milk you release (AKA demand from your body), the more your body will supply you with. To that end, increasing the amount of milk you remove from your breasts will signal to your body that your baby needs more food, teaching it to make more milk. A good way to get started pumping milk to increase supply is to add a pumping session approximately thirty minutes after breastfeeding.
How to Pump Breast Milk
To stimulate the milk ejection reflex, start by massaging your breasts before a pumping session. Continue doing so while pumping to keep the flow going. Because while milk may come out through your nipples, it’s actually produced much further back in the breast tissue, so massage or compression of that tissue can improve pumping results. Conveniently, this will also help to increase your milk’s fat content, which supports your baby’s brain and nervous system development.
Power or super pumping is often recommended for nursing mums trying to increase their milk supply. A definitive advantage of it is that you don’t need any supplements or medications, and anyone can do it. Essentially what it is, is mimicking cluster feeding, but with a breast pump.
You’ll want to sit down and get comfortable. You can choose an interval that works for you – such as 20 minutes first then 10 minutes off and on, 12 minutes on and 8 off, 15 and 5, and so on. The amount of time doesn’t need to be exact – cluster feeding babies don’t nurse exact times either! Do get through your first letdown before resting, and if you are in the middle of letdown, keep pumping until you’re finished before resting.
Tip! If you’re power pumping and nothing is coming out, keep pumping! The goal is to get another letdown, which will give you more milk.
One power pumping session replaces one of your regular pumping sessions, so you don’t have to worry about adding another session to your already busy day – you’ll just need the time to pump for longer. You can do this 1-3 times a day. Once a day is enough for many, and realistically you might not have time for three hour long pumping sessions each day for, say, two weeks. That’s fine. Remember, you deserve a life too and baby deserves a mum who hasn’t burnt herself out with pumping.
Use a Breast Milk Collector
Remember, that you can pump while you’re breastfeeding! This is because oxytocin stimulates milk production from the milk ducts in both breasts at the same time during a breastfeeding session, often resulting in a wet nursing pad and wasted milk. A breast milk collector can help resolve this problem by applying gentle suction to silently collect milk from one breast while your baby comfortably latches on to the other.
Take Care of Yourself
We know that your primary concern as a new mum is for your baby, especially if you’re worried that they might not be getting enough breast milk. But don’t allow this to lead you to neglect your own health. First of all, it’s important to take care of you and your well-being, even (especially!) as a new mum. And secondly, taking care of yourself and getting good nutrition can also have a positive effect on breastfeeding. Make sure you’re eating enough food to provide those extra calories you need as well as staying hydrated, as dehydration can reduce your breast milk supply.
Keep Your Baby Awake
One final one of the breastfeeding tips that might help you get a fussy eater to nurse more, especially if your baby is the type to feed for five minutes and then fall asleep, is to tap on your baby’s bottom and talk to them in order to make sure they’re awake and encourage them to keep breastfeeding. For some babies, this works like a charm, keeping them nursing for up to half an hour rather than five minutes. And if you’re really lucky, they will fall asleep with a properly full belly and snooze for hours!
Should I Use an Electric Breast Pump or a Manual One?
One question you’ll have to answer if you do decide to pump as a way to stimulate breast milk production is whether you want to use an electric breast pump or a manual one. And this is a personal choice based on a few different factors.
To help make you a decision, take a close look at your lifestyle, your finances, and what your pumping needs will be. Talk to friends and family who have pumped before, as they are often your best source for tips about what works and what doesn’t when pumping.
Generally speaking, manual pumps are best for mums who won’t need to pump very often. Because while they are often cheaper, they also don’t offer the same range of functionalities as electric pumps and require you to use both hands whilst pumping.
The most important thing is to choose a breast pump that works best for your needs. If you pump regularly, exclusively, or will be away from your baby for several hours a day, then an electric breast pump will probably better suit you.
The best electric breast pump you can choose is a smart electric pump with many different functionalities. Consider the make and model of the breast pump, too. Some are heavier or bulkier to carry around than others. Many electric pumps require an electric outlet while others require batteries.
By choosing a quiet electric breast pump like the Lola&Lykke Smart Electric Breast Pump, you can enjoy functionalities such as wireless use, which will allow you to move around more freely and to pump whenever you need to.
The Lola&Lykke portable breast pump operates in two phases: one to stimulate the let-down of your milk, and the second for efficient expressing of the milk. This electric pump is surprisingly light with a multitude of functions, so you may also want to take this into account, as it may make it easier to start pumping milk at work or away from home.
Another main consideration is compatibility between different pump bottles and the ability to easily store your breast milk. The Lola&Lykke breast pump is compatible with many standard baby bottles and storing expressed breast milk is easy with the handy adapter, which allows you to pump directly into the milk storage bag and even to feed your baby directly from it.
How Often Should I Pump When I Breastfeed?
A general rule of thumb is that mums should pump at the same times that their babies would normally feed in order to signal your body to keep making breast milk based on your baby’s needs.
However, if you're trying to build up a stash of breast milk, try adding a pumping session after your first feeding session of the morning. You may not express much at first, but your body will quickly respond, and you'll be able to start storing milk. It's important to be consistent, though, because if you start pumping a few times a day to boost your milk supply and then stop, you may end up with plugged ducts, which aren’t too pleasant.
You’ve Got This
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember about breastfeeding and pumping is that you are doing a wonderful job. Whether your body naturally produces oceans of breast milk or you need a bit of help from a lactation consultant or a breast pump, the most important thing is that you and your baby are happy and healthy.