For the first few days, moms and babies are adjusting to their new life. Baby’s stomach is the size of a marble, and Mom is producing drops (not ounces) of colostrum. Baby needs time to learn how to coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing, so this small amount of milk is perfect! Mom’s body needs lots of stimulation, so that the breasts know how much milk to make. Baby may be eating quite frequently or may be very sleepy the first few days.
Get a Good Latch
If baby doesn’t latch deep enough, though, he won’t move milk out of the breast, and he can leave the nipple damaged. Watch for that tell-tale “lipstick shape” nipple when baby comes off. If you see that (or cracks or blisters), baby needs to latch on deeper. Watch a YouTube video, like “Your Baby Knows How to Latch On,” or get some in-person support to improve the latch. More milk follows a good latch.
If your baby is not waking to feed every couple of hours, hand express drops of colostrum hourly, and put it on baby’s lips or tongue. This keeps baby’s blood sugar more stable, and tells your body to start making milk. Again, if you are having trouble hand expressing, watch Global Health Media’s “How to Express Breastmilk,” on YouTube or get some one-on-one help.
How do you know if your baby has had enough?
Some people mistakenly believe that every cry means baby is hungry. Sometimes babies cry because they’ve had too much to eat. They also cry when they are hot, cold, or tired. How can you tell if your baby has eaten enough? Two clues will help you: output and weight. Most babies lose a little weight in the first few days, just in shedding excess fluids. They can lose up to 10 percent of their body weight before we start to worry about them. By the fourth or fifth day, though, Mom’s milk supply increases, and that weight should start to go back up. That’s why it is important to get a weight check after leaving the hospital. Babies who aren’t getting enough milk drastically slow down their wet and dirty diapers. By day six, a normal breastfed baby should have at least two dirty and six wet diapers each day. They may have fewer dirty diapers after the first month or so.
Keeping Your Supply Up
Some moms who go back to work struggle with supply. By the time you go back to work, you will want to have a couple of days’ supply of milk in the freezer. This doesn’t mean that you want to use it up the first day! You want to pump as often as baby feeds, if possible. Remember that frequently emptying the breasts tells them to make more milk. Leaving milk in the breast for over three hours signals the body to slow down milk production.
As baby gets older, milk volume does not have to continue to increase because the nutrients change with baby’s age. More calcium is available when baby is six months old compared to a newborn. By one year of age, the fat content has jumped up in breast milk as well. Most breastfed babies continue to take 3-4 ounces every 2-3 hours as the months go by.
Aside from addressing these common issues, some women find that getting a nap during the day helps with milk production. Prolactin is made when you sleep! Some breastfeeding women use natural remedies to help as well – some swear by eating more oatmeal or other fiber-rich foods. (If you can find someone else to make you the food while you take a nap, you’ll get double the benefit!) The book The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Lisa Marasco and Diana West is a great resource for ways to boost milk supply after adjusting for latch and sufficient emptying of the breast.
Concerned you’re not making enough milk?
Before you decide you don’t have enough milk, be sure to talk with your lactation consultant or pediatrician to make sure that you are judging the situation clearly. Some moms with hormonal imbalance, insufficient glandular tissue, or other concerns may just not be able to make enough milk, but a lactation consultant is your best resource for finding out if that is the case for you.
Lactation Assistance Resources:
U.S. Lactation Consultants Association – find a local lactation consultant
UofL Hospital Lactation Center: 502-562-6081
Appalachian Breastfeeding Helpline (4:30 p.m. – 8:30 a.m.) 1-888-588-3423
La Leche League International