Do I have enough milk supply?

expressing is not necessarily an indicator of low supply

Do I have enough milk supply?

It can be hard to tell how much breast milk you actually produce. Often comments from people who have never breastfed leave you with doubts about supply. So it is common for new mums to ask, “Do I have enough milk supply?”

There are many myths surrounding breastfeeding, particularly about supply. Comparing your breastfed baby’s feeding patterns to a bottle feeding schedule is not an accurate way of finding out if you are producing enough milk. However, many myths have come about by doing just that!

mum breastfeeding newborn

How do I know if my supply is low?

Diagnosing low milk supply is not as simple as it sounds. No one sign indicates low milk supply. It is a combination of a number of factors displayed by your baby that indicate that your supply is low. These can include:

  • Low urine output from your baby or dark smelling urine. Low urine output can be indicated by dry nappies and infrequent changing.
  • Hard formed bowel motions. Your baby’s bowel motions should be yellow and soft.
  • Baby is frequently not satisfied after a feed and cries for more. It is normal for a baby to do this sometimes, but after every feed can indicate that your baby is not getting enough milk
  • Your baby has signs of dehydration including irritability, dryless tears, dry mouth, sunken eyes and fontanelle.
  • Weight loss or infrequent weight gain.

You should always consult with your maternal child health nurse, GP or paediatrician if you are concerned about any of these indicators.

check your baby's nappy for supply indicators

Things that don’t necessarily indicate low supply

  • Your baby has short feeds. Some babies are very efficient at breastfeeding and can be quick and still be getting plenty of milk.
  • Your baby’s feeds are close together. They seem to just want to be on the breast all the time. This is called cluster feeding and often occurs in the early evening or when your baby is going through a growth spurt.
  • You don’t get much milk when you express. Not every woman gets much milk when they express. It varies considerably from woman to woman. A baby is much more efficient at removing milk than a breast pump is so its not generally an indicator of low supply.
  • Your breasts feel soft or softer than they used to be. Your breasts will adjust to your baby’s feeding habits as your baby grows so while you may have felt engorged in the early days between each feed, this will settle down as your milk supply adjusts. Soft breasts do not mean low milk supply.
  • Baby wakes up all night long. Unfortunately, some babies are less settled and wake up frequently. This is not a sign of low supply in the absence of other symptoms. There may be other reasons your baby is unsettled at night, so its best to raise this with a health professional.
  • My baby will drink a whole bottle after a breastfeed. Bottles are much easier to feed from than a breast. The baby has less work to do and if the teat on the bottle is too fast a flow, the milk can be pouring in at a rate that is too fast for your baby. A breastfed baby only ever needs a newborn teat so they don’t get used to a faster flow. A baby can drink a whole bottle with a faster flow than they do if they breastfeed. However, they may then have a larger interval between feeds and this can affect your supply if this is a regular occurrence.

two made to milk pink breast milk storage bags

The amount you express is not necessarily an indicator of your supply.
Reusable Breastmilk storage bags by Made to Milk.

What causes low milk supply?

Low milk supply can be temporary and can be corrected with changes. Here are some reasons for a temporary drop in milk production.

  • illness in mother or baby,
  • changes in feeding patterns,
  • baby not attaching properly. This may also result in nipple pain and damage,
  • you have started taking the contraceptive pill,
  • you’ve started mix feeding with formula,
  • you’ve started taking new medications that may affect your supply,
  • your baby is not feeding effectively and not draining the breast properly,
  • you smoke cigarettes.

For others, low milk supply can be physiological, meaning there is a physical or medical reason for the low supply. Here are some more permanent reasons for supply issues.

  • Insufficient glandular tissue. Some women’s breast tissue doesn’t develop properly leaving them with fewer milk ducts to meet their baby’s needs.
  • Hormone or endocrine problems such as thyroid disease, diabetes, PCOS, hypertension.
  • Previous breast surgery. Both breast reductions and enhancements can affect the milk ducts.
  • Tongue Tie in your baby. This can cause poor attachment and lead to insufficient stimulation causing low supply.

breast surgery can impact milk supply

Breast implants can have an impact on milk supply

Increasing milk supply

The good news is, that even those who have a physiological reason for low supply, they can boost or improve their supply with many of the same techniques for those that have temporary supply issues. Read this article on Ways to Increasing Your Milk Supply to find ways to boost your supply.

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