Worrying about if your baby is getting enough breast milk is a concern as old as the human race. It’s hard to tell just how much milk your baby is getting and can leave you wondering if you are making enough. Nipple shields add to the worry as they can lead to a lower milk supply. This article will help clarify things and give some great tips on keeping your milk supply up while breastfeeding.
Most every woman’s body has the ability to produce enough milk for their baby but there are a few things that can cause your milk supply to drop. Your milk supply is based mostly on demand but researchers are still studying exactly what can cause it to fluctuate.
When baby drains your breast it triggers your body to make more milk. But there are a few culprits that cause the demand go down which leads to your supply going down.
CAUSES OF LOW MILK SUPPLY:
- Not feeding baby often enough – Don’t worry about a feeding schedule, when your baby acts fussy and hungry, feed them. Babies go through spurts of feeding more often and even if it seems like they just ate, allow them to latch and suckle to help trigger your body to produce more milk.
- Not feeding baby long enough – Again, ditch the schedules and timers. Allow baby to feed as long as they need. Having your breast fully drained is what triggers your body to produce more milk. When the breast is not drained it does the opposite and tells your body to slow down on the milk production.
- Supplementing – this can be the worst enemy for milk supply and can start a vicious cycle which is hard to break. It’s tempting to supplement with formula when you have a crying baby and you feel like they aren’t getting enough from you but allowing baby to suckle and feed on your breast will trigger the production vs supplementing will not trigger your body to increase your milk supply causing it to continue to not be enough for baby causing you to have to continue to supplement.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO ABOUT LOW MILK SUPPLY?Fist things first, talk to your pediatrician and lactation specialist as soon as you can if you think you are not producing enough milk or if your baby’s is not gaining weight. Most cases of low milk supply can be remedied with a just few steps.
Boosting your milk supply while using a nipple shield
- Choose the right nipple shield. Traditional nipple shields are full coverage and block the connection between mom and baby. This can effect important signaling your body needs to trigger it's milk production. The new Natural Connection Nipple Shield is open-ended which allows the tip of your nipple to come in direct contact with baby's mouth and saliva triggering your body to produce milk. It also allows milk to flow more freely which can help baby better drain your breast. It's a real game-changer as far as feeding with nipple shields goes.
- Avoid supplementing with formula (unless instructed specifically by your pediatrician or lactation consultant). As illustrated above it can start a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
- Feed your baby on demand. This can mean every 1 to 3 hours in the first few months and even more often if baby is cluster feeding to get ready for a growth spurt.
- Make sure you are using the nipple shield correctly with a proper latch. You can also get help from a lactation consultant for this.
- Allow your baby to feed as long as they want so they can drain each breast. Don’t set a time limit as using a nipple shield can cause it to take longer for baby to empty your breast and get full.
- Keep baby alert during feedings by tickling their feet and switching them often back and forth between each breast.
- Stay hydrated. Breast milk is 90% water so drinking extra liquids is necessary to help keep your milk supply up. This article recommends 120 oz a day. A good rule of thumb is to drink while your baby is drinking.
- Eat enough calories. Your body is making food for another human and that process takes lots of calories. Being tired and worn out can cause you to lose your appetite or forget to take time to eat. Keeping high calorie healthy snacks you can munch on while feeding your baby is a great way to boost your supply. Some swear by these milk-boosting cookies. Or if you don't want to make your own, here's a list of the best milk increasing snacks.
- Pump between breastfeeding sessions. If you aren’t too tired or exhausted, pumping for 10 – 20 minutes a few times a day between breastfeeding can increase your milk supply not to mention give you a breast milk stash. Watch a favorite show or read a great book while you do it to help the time pass. Remember the amount of milk you produce while pumping does not represent the amount of milk you are actually producing for your baby (babies are better at emptying the breast than a pump).
- Weaning your baby off the nipple shield as early as possible with help baby get milk more effectively and lead to a nice balanced milk supply. This is the Fastest Way to Wean Off Nipple Shields.
Worrying about milk supply is one of the most common concerns among new and seasoned moms. You are not alone in that worry. Lactation consultants are a great resource for all your questions. Remember to give yourself a break and most of all give yourself a huge hug and pat on the back for doing your best to care for your baby – no matter what that looks like.
For some extra tips, check out our Nipple Shield Dos and Don'ts